Forget the French pharmacy, the best skincare coming out of Europe right now hails from the United Kingdom. And there’s something to suit every taste: Brands like Dr. Jackson’s are bringing its all-natural line to the States after a knockout run at Net-A-Porter, while Aenea is peddling a cutting-edge approach. Using the science of epigenetics-aka how genes are read by cells-founder, Damien Zannetou teamed up with Bergdorf Goodman on a stand alone beauty counter late last year, and has plans to roll out a larger scale operation with a secret retailer this coming fall. According to Zannetou, American customers are more open to trialing new brands, which works to his advantage. At home in London, “clients stick to what they know,” he tells CR. “I actually prefer the US market. Sales are growing month on month, and there’s a balanced mix between physical retail and online purchases here.”
Elsewhere, Skin Design London is making a play for space in American beauty cabinets after racking up impressive global growth in only two years. The brand calls itself “designer cosmeceuticals,” and already counts Olivia Culpo amongst its devotees. “There is good chemistry between UK skincare brands and US clientele,” says Fatma Shasheen, who launched Skin Design London after over a decade of running an aesthetic clinic in the city. “The UK is just starting to become interested in incorporating retinol and AHAs into their skincare regimen, but the US is ahead in terms of using active ingredients. For any skincare brand the US market is always the goal.” Shasheen’s best sellers include a retexturing and hydrating serum, which retail for $125 each at Neiman Marcus. Next up, she’s launching a cleanser. “We are not trend led, we launch only what our client’s skin needs.”
On the prestige end of the luxury spectrum, you’ll find Orveda-a fully vegan offering of masques and contouring oils founded by an ex-Lancôme exec in 2014. After four years of steady growth at home, CEO Sue Y Nabi brought her lineup across the pond last May. Here, she was met with unprecedented success: The US is now Orveda’s strongest market. “People here love our products in terms of efficacy, and we have the most amazing brand advocates,” says Nabi who cites a number of Hollywood celebrities along with designers Giambattista Valli and Riccardo Tisci as fans. Echoing Zannetou, Nabi credits a willingness to try new products as a standout feature of American consumers: “US customers typically have a five step regimen, which falls below the Asian average of 10, but significantly above the UK where two products, plus soap, is the norm.”
Clean beauty emporium Credo has been onto other non-toxic British brands-like Evolve Organic Beauty, Aurelia Probiotic Skincare, and BYBI-with friendlier price points from the start. Beuti Skincare’s Beauty Sleep Elixir is one of its all-time best sellers, and is known to be a favorite of none other than Kate Middleton. “French brands have been a little more challenging for us to source as we haven’t seen a lot coming to market with a strong, clean ingredient story or marketing that easily translates to the US customer,” explains Credo’s director of merchandising and planning, Michelle Connelly. “So far, we’ve seen many beautiful and successful skincare brands from the UK, so I am looking to find additional British brands in other categories, like haircare and color cosmetics, moving forward.”
Elemis-a skincare industry veteran with 28-years of business under its belt-moved its headquarters from London to New York three years ago. “The brand DNA is still in the UK, and will always be at the core, but our approach had to change. Since the move we’ve evolved the way we talk to the US consumer through before and afters, clinical trials, and user trials. Americans demand immediate results from their skincare in a way that we’ve not seen our consumer vocalize in other markets. They are educated, demanding, and drive us to deliver real results, fast,” says the brand’s president and co-founder, Noella Gabriel. At present, Elemis counts its US consumer base at 4.5 million.
Another British old-timer reinventing the wheel is Ren Skincare. The 19-year old brand has outlined ambitious plans to be a zero waste company by 2021, and launched 100% recyclable packaging and refillable bottles made from reclaimed ocean plastic this Spring. With the help of TerraCycle, the backbone of its circular system is a pioneering shopping model, called Loop. Initially announced at the World Economic Forum as a solution to the world’s over-reliance on single-use packaging, Ren is the first skincare brand to adopt such an environmentally-friendly practice. As of today, it offers six of its most popular body care products and cleansers in refillable containers which are delivered and collected in a concierge-meets-subscription style service right to your front door.
According to Connelly, It’s hard to say exactly how far the trend for British skincare will go in the States long-term, but the market for it is growing fast whether customers are aware of a product’s origin-or not. “Ultimately, it doesn’t matter where a brand is from as long as they are operationally prepared to support business in the US,” she says. After the UK and Australia, her next destination to watch-at least in terms of non-toxic skincare-lies in Asia. “Korea has been at the forefront of innovation for a long time, but we are keeping our eyes on Japan now as well.” Watch this space.