Thought Leadership

Transparency in beauty & wellness: why 2020 will be a breakthrough year

Published on
February 20, 2020

Table of Contents

Trust has been on a journey in the beauty space. What will the next generation of brands do to solve this and support a healthier, more sustainable industry? Let’s talk beauty from the inside out when it comes to the true makeup of our products and their impact.

Want to learn how to use transparency to pioneer new standards in 'clean' beauty and beyond in 2020?

A brief background on the trust problem

For most of the 20th century, the titans of the beauty space were in a one-way communication flow with their audience. Like most industries, they made their claims and wowed us with their advertising. It was very difficult for people to have a discussion outside of their immediate circle around any positive or negative feedback.

Enter the web and how it took shape in the early 2000s. Suddenly, there’s a dialogue. Here we see the rise of customer reviews. People can leave public comments about their experience with a particular product all over the Internet, shedding light on another viewpoint outside of just the brand’s.

Then, a decade on, people start to question those reviews. There’s a lot of noise from random people. Trust breaks down again. Reviews start being taken with a grain of salt. However, the need for more information is still there, so the trend turns to “influencers”.

Here, we see a rise in the need for a ‘trusted’ beauty reviewer to help curate the ever-growing list of product types and brands. A gate-keeper is needed to shelter shoppers from the spam and let them know what these complex ingredient lists actually mean and what will give them the desired results.

Unfortunately, the beauty and lifestyle influencer category has grown into its own business. Influencer marketing as an industry is slated to be worth up to $15 billion by 2022, up from $8 billion in 2019, according to Business Insider Intelligence. And since it’s funded by those same brands that shoppers have been trying to get honest information out of all along – we’re now back at the start.

So, what’s up next for the new decade?


“Millennials drove brands to be purposeful, but Gen Z are demanding proof." – Consumer Goods Forum 2019

For beauty and wellness, this means proof that:

  • Your ingredients are safe and effective.
  • You don't test on animals
  • Your packaging has limited (or better yet, a positive) impact on people and planet.
  • You are genuinely having a positive social impact in your production and ingredients supply chains.
  • You are supporting causes, but also doing more to ensure your product’s production doesn’t damage the environment.

Just as technology evolved to create dialogues and whole networks that could seek out information and share, it’s now able to connect all that data and make it transparent and available at the point of sale.

89% of shoppers think brands should actively be talking about if their products are sustainable and ethical. – The Honest Product for Cosmetics & Personal Care, 2019

And in beauty, this has long been hidden. From clinical trials showcasing results to transparency around why those complicated ingredients are even there – there’s a lot of talk and no real evidence to back it up.

“When a product says it is all natural, they (customers) do not expect to see mineral oil or petrolatum on the ingredient list. They want integrity of claims between what is promoted on the front label and the ingredient list. Well, here is the problem and the opportunity,” says Bernhard Schroeder, Director at the Lavin Entrepreneurship Center, San Diego State University in his Forbes article on the opportunities in the global beauty industry.

As a leading brand, you should have all of the proof – so sharing this with the people who put your products on their body or ingest them as a direct result of what you’ve sold them is the expectation (particularly with younger shoppers).

69% of shoppers find it difficult to trust a brand’s claims about their own sustainability. – YouGov Affluent Perspective 2019 Global Study
Shopper concerns from The Honest Product for Cosmetics & Personal Care, 2019
Shopper concerns from The Honest Product for Cosmetics & Personal Care Report, 2019

Note on this from Louise, our Head of Enterprise at Provenance: “If your business can’t provide this level of detail, then it’s probably more of a brand licensed model which doesn’t own the formula and doesn’t have any insight into where the ingredients are sourced from. Our recommendation would be to address this as a priority in 2020. These ‘shell’ brands cannot be allowed to set the standards for the industry since they’re currently ignorant to their own impact.”

What even is “transparency” in beauty?

Transparency is honesty. In the case of beauty or wellness, it’s providing the full disclosure on processes and ingredients to customers in a way that’s clear. And in particular – about the things that matter the most to them.

94% of shoppers say there is a need for more honesty and transparency from brands on their product ingredients. – The Honest Product for Cosmetics & Personal Care, 2019

The whole industry’s obsession over the word ‘clean’ is really just because we don’t have any insight into what’s going inside those little containers of product. We think this can be sorted through transparency by disclosing:

  • All ingredient information (translating into easier descriptions and stating their purpose)
  • The processes you use across the board
  • How this has been tested
  • What the impact is (including from your packaging) both socially and environmentally
“Brand transparency and an avoidance of misunderstanding around every aspect of their businesses and products, together with a responsible eco-ethical mission, will become critical, and this will propel the ‘clean beauty’ trend to evolve even further.” – Cosmetics Business, Global Beauty Trends report, 2019

That said, transparency and proof go hand in hand. Disclosing something without proof is essentially just a marketing line – it doesn’t carry any weight. If a business wants to make a claim about quality or wants to tell a story about how something is made – it should be backed by evidence.

Image credit: REN’s new 100% recycled bottle, containing 20% ocean plastic in collaboration with TerraCycle
Image credit: REN’s new 100% recycled bottle, containing 20% ocean plastic in collaboration with TerraCycle

How it’s valuable to a brand

“Brands must take the sustainable development shift immediately, because in two years’ time it will be too late” – Arnaud Meysselle, CEO, Ren Clean Skincare

This year kicks off a new decade. It’s a fresh start for businesses to take stock of their impact and map where it’s heading.

The beauty market today is making a lot of noise about what’s not included rather than talking about something more meaningful. As brands, you are creating products that have an impact, so the decision you are making from sourcing to packaging matter. At Provenance, we believe that this information – when shared transparently with credibility – will enable us all to buy better.

"Our sustainability goals are inspired by our vision “to create a world in which the health and beauty of mankind and nature constantly unfold,”" – An Driessens, Head of Global Marketing, Weleda

Where to start

The journey to transparency is just that – a journey. But as a beauty brand, you can start peeling it back layer by layer.

We know from our work in the space recently with Cult Beauty and 30 beauty brands (and growing) that opening up to show your ingredients and processes is a great first step to proving your product efficacy and brand values. This is also what sets you apart and allows you to stand out in an increasingly crowded and fragmented marketplace.

While some incredible challenger brands are all in and leading with transparency across the board, it’s still the early days, so even sharing a little will put you ahead of the pack.

What challenges are you facing with your ambitions to be a transparent beauty business in 2020?

Click here to learn more about Provenance's solutions.

Find eco-conscious partners for your next social campaign

Read our curated list of sustainability-focused social media personalities in beauty and well-being, household and food and drink.