David Tyrrell
David Tyrrell is Global Skincare Analyst at Mintel. He analyzes consumer skincare needs and behaviors, ingredient and product assessments and competitive insights.

US mass retailers and Amazon are embracing the clean concept by initializing and executing on their own clean brands. Amazon has entered beauty on multiple fronts. The retail giant showcases indie brands on Beauty Shop, spotlights emerging beauty brands on Amazon Accelerator and launched its own clean beauty brand.

Once exclusive to specialty retail, clean beauty has extended across all retailing sectors, including large drugstores and grocery.

Online: Amazon

In 2019, Amazon generated 47% of total US online sales and just over 5% of total US retail sales. The leading ecommerce retailer is making multi-strategic investments to become the major beauty retailer. Amazon will increase investments to expand influence and share in the segment. Here are some developments:

  • It launched its clean brand Belei, which is cruelty-free, free from parabens and sulfates, uses recyclable packaging and is priced $9-40.
  • Amazon’s Indie Beauty Shop showcases beauty products and indie “natural” brands. At least 50% of these are not available at major retailers (eg Ulta Beauty or Walmart).
  • Amazon Accelerator has created a new avenue for indie brand launches for the Amazon community; it adds new selections and is priced affordably.
  • The company is able to use a wealth of personal consumer data to send new product samples to increase the likelihood of product conversion.

Amazon is the place to shop for US Millennials

According to Mintel research on beauty retailing, nearly half of US Millennials shop on Amazon for beauty products. With the uncertainty and health alarms over COVID-19, expect the percentage of consumers purchasing online to increase across generations. The movement to more online shopping will help boost awareness of Amazon’s beauty initiatives along with its skincare brand, Belei.

Amazon social media

Amazon does minimal promotion for its clean beauty line, Belei, though it announced the line on Instagram and has used Twitter to showcase press for its award-winning products.

Mass retail: Target

The retailer promotes the clean beauty concept across BPC categories. The Target Clean symbol lets customers know which products do not contain certain ingredients. For beauty, the banned list includes: propyl-parabens, butyl-parabens, phthalates, formaldehyde, formaldehyde-donors, oxybenzone, sodium laureth sulfate, retinyl palmitate, hydroquinone, BHA and BHT.

Target also showcases natural, clean start-up brands. Expect Target to expand this section, which will attract more young consumers looking for unique, yet affordable, brand stories and experiences.

What’s happening on social

Target utilized Instagram Stories on its @targetstyle account to educate followers on Target Clean and established a new logo specifically for Target Clean products. The retailer’s Instagram Stories have also featured the clean skincare line, Versed. These stories are available to followers at all times in the account’s Story Highlights.

Mass retail: Walmart

Walmart has an ecommerce section that lists clean beauty brands promoted as, “mindful beauty” but without the fanfare. Consumers can expect a greater emphasis on the clean beauty theme in-store and online with the introduction of Walmart’s private label brand, Earth to Skin.

Similar to other clean brand stories, the products do not contain the usual suspects such as parabens and sulfates, that consumers look to avoid. Expect Walmart to be more aggressive with clean beauty promotions.

What’s happening on social: Walmart

Along with its new clean beauty line, Earth to Skin, the retailer has also specifically featured products that use “natural” ingredient language in its Instagram Stories.

Drugstore: CVS

CVS pushes a clean beauty theme and promotes clean brands which include a CVS-exclusive brand Beauty 360, stressing free-from ingredient claims with a focus on being free from parabens, phthalates and formaldehyde donors.

Source: CVS Instagram, Twitter

CVS extends the ingredient ban to organic sunscreens octinoxate and oxybenzone for CVS Health-branded sunscreens. These ingredients have received bad press for the negative impact on coral reefs, and will be banned in Hawaii and Key West, FL, in 2021.

What’s happening on social: CVS

CVS has promoted its clean skincare brand selection using general awareness posts, giveaways, special promotions and shoppable tags on Instagram. The drugstore chain also uses Twitter to promote press on CVS Clean.

Drugstore: Walgreens

Walgreens does not have a dedicated clean beauty section. However, the drugstore chain is revamping the in-store beauty experience.

Walgreens has partnered with Birchbox, a subscription box service that will be featured in 500 stores. This will include the shop-in-shop Birchbox subscription boxes and products that are designed for the more casual consumer, instead of beauty enthusiasts. Walgreens’ dedicated Birchbox section connects online services and consumers in person and elevates the beauty purchase experience.

The store creates a fun and convenient Build Your Own Birchbox (BYOB) station, which allows the customer to “pick and choose five samples” to bring home in a creatively crafted box.

What’s happening on social: Walgreens

Walgreens’ online accounts do not focus heavily on clean beauty. The drugstore retailer has only one mention of clean beauty in an IGTV video about the clean beauty and household brand Honest.

Grocery: Whole Foods

The specialty grocery with a focus on wellness is well regarded for high-quality natural and organic foods. It’s quickly moving ahead with plans to provide high-performing natural and organic beauty products. Whole Foods advocates for clean beauty requirements in bodycare and has banned over 100 “harmful” ingredients found in mainstream body care products.

Expect new narratives that tie in the holistic health benefits of high-quality natural and organic foods, clean beauty and beauty supplements to increase “clean” purchases by the brand’s health-conscious clientele.

Source: Whole Foods Instagram, Twitter

More aggressive pricing discounts on clean beauty skincare and “green” sponsored events are on the way, such as the “Whole Foods Market Better Beauty Swap.” Expect an expansion of the number of clean indie skincare brands to engage the specialty beauty purchaser.

What’s happening on social: Whole Foods

Whole Foods used Instagram to promote its annual ‘Beauty Week,’ including partnerships with clean beauty experts, makeup artists and beauty influencers. The grocery store chain also used its Twitter account to amplify press dedicated to Beauty Week.