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Beauty Brands Bet on Kitchen Ingredients

New entrants to the industry are relying on olive oil, coffee, teas and apple cider vinegar to appeal to shoppers.
Brands such as Beauty Thinkers and Kosterina are launching beauty products featuring kitchen staples. Courtesy Kosterina
Brands such as Beauty Thinkers and Kosterina are launching beauty products featuring kitchen staples. Courtesy Kosterina.

Medicine cabinets are increasingly resembling the kitchen counter.

After years of beauty brands positioning their competitive advantage around high-tech trends like biotechnology, scientific compounds and buzzy gadgets, there’s a move back to basics, with new entrants using everyday foods in beauty. These brands are launching products — or entire labels — featuring hero ingredients like coffee, olive oil and apple cider vinegar.

A number of players, both new and established, are tapping the kitchen to find ingredients. Beauty Thinkers, a line founded by former Tod’s executive Claudio Castiglioni, centres its brand around extra virgin olive oil and launches this month. Meanwhile, Kosterina, a consumer product goods company that makes high-end olive oil, vinegar and chocolates, is rolling out skin care products after founder Katina Mountanos saw customers buying the brand’s olive oil for its health benefits. This summer also saw the launch of Testament Beauty, whose main ingredients are derived from coffees and teas. Earlier this year, DPHue, a hair care company sold at Sephora and Revolve, added a new apple cider hair rinse to the arsenal of vinegar products it’s been making since 2014, while salon products company Fekkai debuted an apple cider vinegar collection.

Using superfoods in beauty products isn’t new: Frank’s Body coffee-infused scrub was an early Instagram favourite, while beauty brands like Upcircle and WonderValley, which use coffee and olive oil, respectively, as key ingredients, have been best sellers for years, said Michelle Connelly, vice president of merchandising and planning at Credo Beauty.

But industry experts believe shoppers could welcome a new wave of food-based brands at a time when there’s fatigue around other beauty trends like “clean” beauty. The kitchen sink approach to beauty is an antidote to the clamour around science-sounding ingredients like hyaluronic acid and squalane. Ingredients like olive oil and apple cider vinegar are not only familiar to customers but have a healthy reputation, too.

“I think the idea of using something familiar ... will come as a relief to a lot of people out there,” Sophia Chabbott, Testament Beauty’s founder, said.

Brands interested in using food ingredients must decide if their products will include a blend of more scientific ingredients as well. But regardless of the ingredient breakdown, beauty buyers say brands can best connect with shoppers if they’re able to bring them into the story of how their products are made, from the harvesting of the ingredient on a farm to the science of how it’s extracted.

Food for Your Face

Entrepreneurs like Chabbott and Mountanos believe beauty products that highlight coffee, vinegar and olive oil could entice consumers who already embrace them for their health and wellness benefits.

“Tons of people on Instagram share their apple cider vinegar supplements or olive oil shots, so it makes sense that people will want them for topical skincare,” said Leigh Quilhot, senior director of merchandising at Bluemercury.

Mountanos added that it’s important to bring the historic perspective of the ingredients’ usage as well, to demonstrate to customers of the ingredients’ efficacy.

“[Olive oil] has been used on hair and skin in Greece for thousands of years because it has potent healing properties,” she said. “It’s the antithesis of the high-performance scientific active.”

Brands using food ingredients should be sure to use top manufacturers, even if it means spending more money, in order to avoid diluting an ingredient in favour of performance, said Donna Miller Pohlad, founder of DPHue. That ingredient, she added, may be the reason a consumer is seeking the product out. With her own brand, Miller Pohlad heavily researched vinegar manufacturers in the US before settling on an artisanal vinegary in Nebraska.

“The colour, the smell, it’s all really important,” she said. “The awareness factor has grown tremendously and a great appreciation has developed for the hero ingredient, so there shouldn’t just be a dash of it.”

“[Olive oil] has been used on hair and skin in Greece for thousands of years because it has potent healing properties. It’s the antithesis of the high-performance scientific active.”

Food Science

To stand out against the countless face oils on the market, Mountanos wanted to stick exclusively to food ingredients, creating a product that’s a blend of extra virgin olive oil, squalane pulled from olives and mastic gum, a sap pulled from a tree that’s native to Greece.

Others, however, are taking a more hybrid approach. Beauty Thinkers wanted its olive oil products, which include a $113 moisturiser and a $78 face oil, to be more scientific than others on the market. Its main ingredient is hydroxytyrosol, an antioxidant ingredient that’s developed when olive oil is being extracted.

“Olive oil is [popular] worldwide, but we felt the challenge was to take this ancient and noble ingredient and bring it into the 21st century by using biotechnology to transform these compounds,” said Jeffrey Matsumoto, Beauty Thinkers’ co-founder.

Testament Beauty also blends its food ingredients with popular beauty compounds like ceramides and niacinamide. As sacred as coffees, teas and oils are in health and wellness circles, Chabbott said she didn’t feel it was enough to rely on them alone.

“You want your beauty products to feel different for shoppers, but you also want them to work,” she said.

Focusing on the science and efficacy of a product will help appeal to the camp of shoppers who are interested in the “why” behind skincare, said Connelly.

“When there was focus on retinol or vitamin C, [brands] had proven the science behind them,” she said. “Where kitchen ingredients can get interesting is the story behind them, because the science of beauty is still a strong trend.”

But to get consumers excited about beauty’s new food-focused entrants, a focus on science will not be enough. Buyers recommend brands loop shoppers into the full process of how ingredients are harvested. Brands like Kosterina and Beauty Thinkers — both of which produce their oils from family-run olive farms in Greece and Italy, for example — intend to highlight the full cultivation process on social media.

“The consumer … wants to know the credibility of the resource and understand its production end-to-end,” said Quilhot. “A brand can tout an ingredient, but the story of how it all ends up in the bottle will be the most convincing.”

Related Articles:

Can Beauty Ingredients Be Brewed Like Beer?

How Beauty Brands Can Navigate Rising Google Ad Costs

Beauty’s Next Big Opportunity: Ayurveda

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