The Unbranding of Beauty Care


We estimate the average person pays at least 40% more for products of comparable quality as ours. And sometimes up to 370% more for beauty products like face cream. We’re here to eliminate BrandTax once and for all,” declares the website of Brandless, a highly aesthetic, yet utilitarian, brand that touts its thrift and organic, gluten-free, vegan, non-GMO and kosher certifications. All products on the site, which include beauty care SKUs such as hair care, body wash, feminine hygiene, facial products and more, retail for just $3.

Like BeautyPie before it, Brandless is seeking to circumvent traditional models by cutting out what it sees as unnecessary expenses, such as marketing, distribution and long supply chains. Here’s how:

  • Limited options: As with Sephora’s recent small-footprint Boston store, Brandless prides itself on a limited, curated product selection. Brandless takes this maxim to the limit by offering one SKU per category. There aren’t 12 shampoos; there’s just one. Same for facial cleansers and body wash.
  • Low price: Brandless sells everything for $3, reportedly due to its more direct supplier > brand > consumer supply model.
  • Quality & safety: Brandless touts the safety profile of its products on front of pack, using a checklist motif. The company claims it has “banned” more than 400 ingredients from its products, including usual suspects such as parabens, phthalates and sulfates.
  • Giving back:The brand reinforces its positive messaging by partnering with Feeding America to donate a meal every time a consumer shops on Brandless.

On the higher end of the price point spectrum, Public Goods claims to have also simplified the traditional supply chain by cutting out retailers and distributors, resulting in safer, more affordable products.

“Most brands go through four suppliers before selling you soap,” the brand’s site claims. “That adds cost at every step. But we’re changing the supply chain: One flat annual membership fee gets you zero markups.”

Like Brandless, Public Goods favors minimalist packaging designs that evoke hassle-free simplicity. “Call us snobs, but we can’t stand the badly designed, bright bottles that most brands use,” Public Goods says. “They look like that because they’re made to stand out at the drugstore, not sit beautifully in your bathroom. Our packaging is clean and simple—designed to complement your space, not visually assault it.”

A recent Mintel analysis reported that, “Just 10% of U.S. personal care consumers agree higher-priced personal care products work better than less expensive ones.”a While BeautyPie, Brandless and Public Goods are still in their early stages, it’s clear that they’re tapping into consumer anxiety and distrust of traditional marketers.


aJana Vyleta, “New Online Retailer Sells Premium Personal Care Products at Cost.” October 11, 2017;

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