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4 Unexpected Brands Getting Into the Beauty Game

As big companies buy up buzzy young beauty brands, there’s even more competition building in the space. Unexpected retailers are expanding into beauty in a race for young consumers’ self-care spending…


Young consumers’ focus on wellness has intensified—and their spending has grown with it. Their self-care-fueled purchases have helped to cause a boom in the beauty industry. According to YPulse’s research, 29% of 13-36-year-olds increased their spending on skin care in 2018, and 58% of 13-36-year-old females say their skincare routine has become more elaborate in the last year. Gen Z and Millennials have an estimated spending power of $5.5 billion on skin care alone. While NPD group reports that prestige makeup sales have fallen 7% over the last year, skincare has increased 7%.

And the beauty industry is in a race for young consumers, who are looking outside of department and drug stores to find their new favorite beauty brands. Makeup and skincare are at the top of the list of items that Gen Z and Millennials have purchased because of an influencer. It’s no surprise then that Coty Inc.’s $600 million stake acquisition of Kylie Cosmetics—owned by pro-influencer Kylie Jenner, of course—made headlines this week. The global beauty company, who owns brands like CoverGirl and Max Factor, has suffered from weak sales, and according to the Wall Street Journal, Kylie Cosmetic’s skincare and online business were especially attractive. Kylie Cosmetics is on track to $200 million in sales this year and YPulse’s ongoing youth brand tracker shows that celebrity beauty brands have been stealing attention, and sales, from traditional brands. Independent brands’ sales grew 24% in 2017, so big companies struggling with young consumers are buying the competition.

But indie brands aren’t the only ones crowding the beauty space. As young consumers’ spending on beauty and wellness increases, brands with no previous stake in the industry are starting to launch their own lines of skincare and makeup. Just one example: ’90 mall staple Express is launching an online wellness brand to appeal to younger shoppers, who aren’t interested in their career clothes. Instead the new brand, UpWest, will sell comforting and cozy loungewear, alongside CBD creams, jade rollers, and crystals, according to Fast Company.

Of course, pivoting into the beauty industry is not a sure bet. Forever 21’s beauty brand Riley Rose was seen as the fast-fashion chain’s potential savior in the retail wasteland, since the Instagrammable stores were stocked with beauty brands that young demos can’t find, let alone try on, in drug stores—including K-beauty lines. But locations began to close earlier this year, with Business of Fashion reporting that Gen Z shoppers just weren’t spending enough to keep the brand afloat, and all stores are shuttering in the wake of the brand’s bankruptcy.

But that’s certainly not stopping others from jumping into the beauty and wellness pool as they race to get a piece of young consumers’ self-care spending. Here are four sometimes unexpected brands making a big bet on beauty:


Birkenstock is getting in on the wellness craze with cork-based skincare. According to Fast Company, the brand known for its sandals is taking advantage of their resurgence in popularity in the Cult of Ugly era by expanding in a totally new direction. They’ve launched a line of products that include shampoo, anti-aging creams, oils, and more that boast what Birkenstock is betting will be the next big skincare ingredient: cork oak bark. Cork, or course, is a major component of their sandals, and the brand is hoping that their young fans will be interested in using the ingredient on their faces too. Their CEO explains that premium skincare is “a category that is consistent with our consumers’ lifestyle,” and the brand’s Instagram announced the line with a post declaring, “Health and wellness are kind of our thing.”



American Eagle

Ok, it’s not unheard of for a retail brand to launch wellness products—every Millennial who bought perfume at GAP in the ‘90s knows that—but American Eagle’s new beauty line has a somewhat surprising twist for a brand targeting teens: cannabis is a key ingredient. When the line was announced, the brand’s CEO declared, “we’re going to surprise everybody,” and called the move a “big opportunity for us to get into the beauty business.” They made that move official in October with the launch of Mood, a line of 45 CBD-products sold in American Eagle stores young consumers. Each of the skincare and self-care focused items, which include pillow mist, bath soak, and face oil, includes CBD oil and is intended to help users achieve a different state of mind—like focused, energized, or soothed. Of course, CBD is a major trend all its own, with YPulse finding 57% of 18-36-year-olds are interested in trying a product with CBD in it. 




Funko toys are more popular than ever—but its Millennials, not kids, that are collecting them. The company appeals to Next Level Fandoms, no matter how niche, by turning an ever-growing archive of 1,100 licenses into coveted bobbleheads called Pops. Funatics (their Brandom) gather at exclusive events to grab early-release and exclusive Pops—and resell the $15 toys for thousands of dollars. Funko’s sales have surged from $516 million in 2017 to $686 million in 2018, and they’re predicting sales of up to $850 million this year—and now they’re expanding into new territory. CNBC reports that the brand is getting into makeup with a Disney villains-themed collection, based on The Little Mermaid’s Ursula, Sleeping Beauty’s Maleficent, 101 Dalmatians’ Cruella De Vil, and Snow White’s Evil Queen. The packaging features the villains as Pops, making them potential collector’s items for fans of both the movies and the toys themselves. Makeup could diversify their appeal to the older generation—and shows that almost every brand wants in on the beauty space.




Lululemon is getting in on the self-care boom with Sweat Life personal care products. According to MediaPost, the athletic apparel store has been making the switch to overall lifestyle brand by rolling out men’s stores, a loyalty program, and now self-care. The Sweat Life line is designed for gym-goers that want to go “from sweat to life,” and so far includes face lotion, dry shampoo, deodorant—described as “Hot yoga face, HIIT hair, [and] Eau de burpees.” Lululemon’s Instagram feed is full of videos of brand ambassadors touting the products to their fitness-obsessed followers, and explaining how the products are designed for post-workout beauty routines.