Friendly Beauty: what new terminology means for brands and formulators

By Deanna Utroske

- Last updated on GMT

© Getty Images \ (stockfour)
© Getty Images \ (stockfour)

Related tags Indie beauty expo Indie beauty Marketing Term trust

In an effort to reach consumers looking for safe, effective, knowledge-based beauty, cosmetics and personal care products are being marketed as ‘friendly’. While investors and retailers are looking for a ‘beauty brand she can believe in’.

Expressions like ‘environmentally friendly beauty’ have commonly been used as synonyms for (or perhaps more nuanced versions of) ‘sustainable beauty’ or ‘green beauty’ for some time now.

And the term ‘microbiome-friendly’ has become fairly common place in the last couple of years, as research advances and claims experts and marketers look for ways to talk about how ingredients and products do or don’t act on skin microbiota.

But lately, friendly beauty seems to be showing up everywhere. At last month’s Indie Beauty Expo (IBE) in Los Angeles, California, Cosmetics Design spoke with brand leaders showcasing, for instance, personal care that’s friendly to sensitive skin, that’s menopause-friendly, or that’s hormone-friendly.

What’s the corollary to ‘friendly’ beauty?

Calling a beauty product or brand friendly does not seem to be a passive aggressive move positioning other products and brands on the market as unkind beauty, but rather a language choice meant to signal that many mainstream products were perhaps developed for a common consumer—one with no remarkable health concerns or life-stage variances, an idealized sort of consumer that perhaps exists in parallel to Western beauty norms.

Without going the personalized products route, friendly beauty brands are catering to the specific experiences and requirements of un(der)-served consumer segments.

How are indie brands using the ‘friendly’ beauty concept?

At last month’s Week of Indie Beauty in Los Angeles, California, Cosmetics Design heard about several ‘friendly’ beauty brands.

In conversation with Anna Perkins, Founder of Juniper & Pine Organics​, this publication learned about the brand’s soon-to-launch Aloe Elixir that’s “crafted with kindness” ​and “friendly to sensitive skin.”

The brand Nicole Hawthorne founded, NHCO Botanical Bodycare​, was also exhibiting at IBE LA. And, Hawthorne also spoke about her brand at BeautyX as part of that event’s Deskside Domination pitch competition. What she began working on in 2018 is now a body care brand with a portfolio of products formulated without potential endocrine-disrupting ingredients. NHCO is, according to Hawthorne, hormone-friendly.

And the menopause-friendly brand Ayr Skincare (pronounced ‘air’) was also at IBE LA last month. It’s worth noting that this brand is not broadcasting its ‘friendly’ status too loudly. Instead, Ayr Skincare is about cruelty-free antiaging products with a Southern California vibe​.

And what about ‘beauty she can believe in’?

If ‘friendly’ personifies beauty, another newly popular turn of phrase is deifying it. At recent industry events, Cosmetics Design has heard several insiders use phrases like ‘a brand I can believe in’ or ‘a beauty brand she believes in’.

This terminology seems to be taking consumer (and industry) trust to a whole new level. Where investors, retail buyers, and consumers were once seeking out authentic brands, they are now on the look out for brands they can ‘believe in’.

This expression seems to suggest that a brand concept, founder, and operational strategy are sound, viable, and at once self-aware and agile. Speaking at last week’s Stella Rising Growth Forum in New York City, for instance, both Andrea Van Dam, CEO of the marketing and digital media agency Stella Rising, and Chris Payne, CEO of the Jane Iredale brand, spoke about the currency of ‘beauty brands you can believe in’.



Deanna Utroske is a leading voice in the cosmetics and personal care industry as well as in the indie beauty movement. As Editor of, she writes daily news about the business of beauty in the Americas region and regularly produces video interviews with cosmetics, fragrance, personal care, and packaging experts as well as with indie brand founders.

Deanna will be traveling next to the Personal Care Product Council’s annual meeting; if you’ll be there too and have beauty business news to share, feel free to contact her at qrnaan.hgebfxr@jeoz.pbz

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