UPDATE: July 15, 2019: On Thursday, Sephora updated its clean beauty "formulated without" list to include over 50 ingredients, up from 13 in 2018, a company spokesperson said. Banned ingredients now include: BHA, carbon black, mercury and mercury compounds, aluminum salts and lead, among others. The “Clean at Sephora” assortment now hosts 68 brands, compared to 61 last year, including Lord Jones, Glow Recipe and Lululemon’s new self-care line.
Sephora is launching a "Clean at Sephora" category on June 1, which will include cosmetics, skincare, haircare and fragrances that all uphold clean beauty standards, according to information provided by Artemis Patrick, chief merchandising officer at Sephora.
All products categorized as "clean" will be free from ingredients including sulfates SLS and SLES, parabens, formaldehyde, phtalates, mineral oils and others. Fragrance brands must comply with an even longer list.
The line will include over 50 brands and 2,000 SKU's, which will feature a "clean label" on product packaging. Sephora will also add a "clean" landing page for customers to shop at online.
Sephora's most recent move capitalizes on a larger trend in the beauty industry toward organic and health-focused products. According to Patrick, the new beauty line will clarify what counts as "clean" at Sephora," in turn, creating a point of view that clients can navigate, learn from and shop with [a] sense of comfort that the work has been done for them."
Brandless launched a similar line in October of last year, which also adhered to a list of banned ingredients, and Target announced a more transparent chemical strategy in January 2017. While both Brandless and Target cater more to the mass side of the beauty industry, Sephora is well-known as a seller of higher-end, prestige beauty products that come at with higher price tags. The retailer is also accustomed to customers who are willing to pay more for the experiential store formats and tight-knit beauty communities it fosters.
In an industry that has been faring exceptionally well, the move makes sense on several fronts. Not only does it allow Sephora to reach a more niche audience, but it also comes at a time when customers are more interested in social issues like product sourcing and sustainability.
Indeed, customers are becoming more and more accustomed to brands taking political stances on meaningful issues, and Gen Z is leading that charge. Over half of the youngest generation choose to shop at brands that are eco-friendly and socially responsible, as well as brands that understand them as an individual.
Sephora has worked hard to stand out on the latter front as well, with personalized marketing that often hits the mark and helps to distinguish the specialty retailer from the likes of online retailers like Amazon creeping into the space.