Professional Brands Are Taking Back the Beauty Industry

Celebrity beauty brands are officially on their way out.

You know that the celebrity beauty brand boom is over when even the celebrities themselves admit that they're not into it. "I've never really been interested in beauty products," Jared Leto recently told Vogue about his new 12-piece skin- and body-care line, Twentynine Palms.

The celebrities are tired. Consumers are over it, big time. The market is oversaturated, and everyone knows it. Celebrity beauty brands are officially on their way out — but that doesn't mean the beauty business is slowing down.

The global cosmetics market is expected to grow from $382.88 billion in 2021 to $643.03 billion by 2030. With everyone rooting against celebrity beauty brands, though, who will beauty consumers look to for innovation? The answer is the same source that celebrities themselves have always relied upon: the hairstylists, makeup artists and estheticians that they employ to get them ready for red carpets and keep them informed about what's trending.

Authenticity is the new currency, and unfortunately for the celebrities, the people just aren't buying it from them anymore. According to NPD data, celebrity beauty brands only account for 7% of sales in the U.S .beauty market.

"It's just glorified merch at this point," says Dulma Altan, TikTok creator, consultant and founder of the business podcast Due Diligence. "It's not enough anymore for the products to be good. If they're not doing anything interesting, it's still a bit of a cash grab, and a lot of people can feel that. That's going to be a liability."

Even the celebrity beauty brands that supposedly do it right (Altan cites Hailey Bieber's Rhode Beauty as a recent example) still have trouble escaping the cloud of doubt that's cast over the entire genre. The truth is that there are more disappointing celebrity beauty brands than promising ones, and inevitably a few bad lip glosses will ruin the whole bunch.

<p>Photo: Courtesy of Rhode</p>

Photo: Courtesy of Rhode

As the celebrity beauty brand empire wanes, consumers will seek out brands that they can trust to deliver on their claims. Celebrity beauty brands have had their 15 minutes of fame and will soon be replaced by professionally-developed formulas backed by sound science and decades of real-world experience.

Makeup brands like Jones Road (from veteran makeup artist Bobbi Brown) and Danessa Myricks (from the makeup artist of the same name) are making artistry more accessible, while hair-care brands like Frédéric Fekkai, Andrew Fitzsimons and Act+Acre are bringing healthy hair education to the masses. When compared celebrity-helmed brands, these companies are positioning themselves as better suited to meet the demands of the new consumer.

Professional brands have been around long before celebrity business managers sought to diversify their clients' streams of income. The rise of celebrity beauty brands mimics the rise of celebrity perfumes in the '90s and early 2000s, when Glow by JLo and Curious by Britney Spears reigned supreme — but that same era ushered in brands from makeup artists like Brown, François Nars of Nars and Kevyn Aucoin, to name a handful. Back then, the world was obsessed with supermodels and the artists who transformed them for magazine covers and runways; it wasn’t long before the products used backstage went mainstream.

"Their formulas were genius," says Christine Cherbonnier, celebrity makeup artist and former assistant to legendary makeup artists Rose-Marie Swift and Pat McGrath (who each went on to found their own makeup lines, RMS in 2009 and Pat McGrath Labs in 2015). "Paula Dorf was one of the first to take technical products that makeup artists used that you could previously only find in a theater store or a makeup store to the mass market. They basically gave up their tricks and traded products to sell to us."

In addition to her work as a makeup artist, Cherbonnier is also the Design Executive Officer of Mothership Materials, a green commodities manufacturer that helps develop formulas for the next generation of beauty and wellness brands. She founded the company after having a negative experience with cosmetics manufacturers while trying to develop a line of natural products, which ended up costing her $45,000. In the end, she walked away from the entire process without releasing a single SKU. Now, she works with beauty professionals to bring their creative visions to life.

All of Mothership Materials' brands and formulas are founded by industry professionals with deep industry expertise, which Cherbonnier says gives them an edge over celebrity-founded beauty brands: "They have such a clear perspective. Not one of them wants to make the same thing, and I think that's what's so fascinating in an industry where we're constantly seeing the same thing with a different brand over and over again."

<p>Photo: Courtesy of Jones Road</p>

Photo: Courtesy of Jones Road

Makeup artist Bobbi Brown and hairstylist Frédéric Fekkai both play a unique role in this resurgence of professional beauty brands. Both creatives launched their namesake companies in the '90s to much success, and have since gone through their own brand evolutions. Bobbi Brown left Bobbi Brown Cosmetics in 2016 and founded Jones Road Beauty in 2020, while Frédéric Fekkai bought back his brand from Proctor & Gamble in 2018 after selling it to the conglomerate in 2008 and relaunched Fekkai in 2019, aiming to merge sustainability with salon-grade products. Both have weathered decades of change in the industry as artists and entrepreneurs, which makes them exceptionally well-poised for this professional beauty brand renaissance.

"Before becoming an entrepreneur and launching either of my beauty brands, I was a makeup artist, so I had deep product knowledge," Brown tells Fashionista. "I knew what worked and what didn't, and I knew what products I wish I had in my kit but that didn't exist yet, so I made them. When I launched Jones Road, I had decades of beauty and business experience under my belt, so I knew exactly what products to make and how to launch a successful business."

Fekkai feels similarly that the experience of being a working beauty professional is paramount to his success.

"The hands-on, in-depth knowledge gained from practicing your craft day-in-and-day-out gives you invaluable insights into the needs of all different types of hair," he says. "When you touch thousands of heads of hair, you then know how the products need to perform to deliver the styles or benefits the guest is looking for. A celebrity is an expert on their specific hair type, a good professional stylist is an expert on all hair types."

<p>Photo: Courtesy of Andrew Fitzsimons</p>

Photo: Courtesy of Andrew Fitzsimons

Celebrity hairstylist Andrew Fitzsimons is a new founder, coming into the space as both an influencer and celebrity stylist for Kim and Kourtney Kardashian, Joan Smalls, Ashley Graham, Madonna and Bella Hadid. He launched his eponymous line earlier this year and believes that professionals are unparalleled when it comes to providing education, which he argues is what this generation of consumers really wants.

"They see the work we do every day via social media, so there's a trust there that you can use these products to achieve similar results, [without] photoshop or filters," says Fitzsimons. "Access to great information is a game-changer, and being able to relay that education to consumers is where experts can really shine."

While celebrity brands are often just a flash in the pan, professional brands can have staying power without remaining stagnant, as evidenced by Brown and Fekkai's abilities to evolve their own brands over time. Like celebrity perfumes of the '90s and early 2000s, it's likely that only a handful of celebrity beauty brands will stick around longer than a few years. Consumers may buy it once for the novelty, but they'll return to professional brands for innovation and results.

"While celebrity-founded brands often garner buzz around launch, few have been able to scale and mature successfully, and provide consumers with the quality they’re looking for," says Helen Reavey, certified trichologist, celebrity hairstylist and founder of hair-care brand Act + Acre. "Consumers often find themselves going back to those credible brands whose focus has always been on the efficacy of their products."

Reavey carved out a niche within the broad hair-care category with Act + Acre, focusing on scalp heath as the most important factor ​​for promoting healthy hair growth. Now, we're seeing other hair-care brands take the same approach and come out with scalp-targeted products. Danessa Myricks brought a similar innovation to the makeup category with her Yummy Skin Blurring Balm Powder, an innovative balm-to-powder formula that we'll no doubt see other brands incorporate into their complexion products in due time. As consumers look for innovation in a sea of sameness, they'll turn to artists for direction and to set trends, rather than simply cash in on them.

Celebrity beauty brands also provide a glimpse into the ethics of employment, if you look closely: Being a celebrity is a business, and the celebrities themselves may be the face of that business, but they have an entire team to help shape and refine that face, including beauty professionals like hairstylists and makeup artists. When these celebrities launch their own beauty brands, they're not just selling their own image — they're selling the polished façade that these artists and experts helped create. Not only are celebrities taking credit for work that isn't wholly theirs, they're also directly profiting off of it.

"I do see the injustice of that," says Altan. "To me, that's just a microcosm of the broader issue with capitalism and ownership, which is that people who have advantages accrue greater advantages through the form of equity and ownership because they already had that leg up, and then it just snowballs from there."

The relationship between a celebrity and their glam squad can be symbiotic, but it's up to the celebrity to give credit where credit's due.

"If the celebrity is leaning on their makeup artist or hairstylist for expert advice, I believe it can be a mutually beneficial situation," says Reavey. "I do believe it's important for the celebrity to give credit to those who have helped shape the brand along the way and have lent their knowledge and support."

<p>Photo: Courtesy of Haus Labs</p>

Photo: Courtesy of Haus Labs

While the ethics of celebrity beauty brands are murky at best, some celebrities are doing it better than others. Lady Gaga launched Haus Labs in collaboration with her longtime makeup artist Sarah Tanno in a first-of-its-kind partnership. The move lends an added dose of credibility and artistic vision to Haus Labs, which helps it stand out amongst a growing number of celebrity brands. Partnering with an industry expert is one way that celebrities are bolstering themselves ahead of the backlash that many celebrity brands are getting these days. Hailey Bieber, for her part, ​​tapped cosmetic chemist Ron Robinson, founder and chief executive officer of BeautyStat, to be Rhode's chemist-in-residence and help with product development ahead of its launch earlier this year.

Beauty professionals launching their own brands is one way to balance the scales of justice. As the landscape becomes more saturated (and arguably more scammy), brands with built-in credibility will come out on top, whether that's through a partnership or the artists striking out on their own.

As the line between beauty professional and influencer gets more blurry, Altan advises professionals to prepare to leverage their network if they want to beat celebrities at their own game, just as celebrities tried to do with them: "It's going to be the professionals with both the credibility and their own following that are impenetrable."

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