It was a busy as ever year for the beauty and wellness industry. The definition of “beauty” has been slowly expanding for years, and in 2022, it came to encompass sexual wellness, dubbed “Intimate Care” by Sephora and “Intimate Wellness” by Ulta Beauty. Both retailers added vibrators and lubricants to their product assortments this year. The year also held countless acquisitions, with movement within the “clean” space proving especially compelling. And some may say 2022 marked the end of DTC, particularly thanks to Glossier’s announcement that it would enter Sephora. With the rising cost of customer acquisition and much discussion of iOS updates impacting sales, it came as no surprise that brands chose to diversify their products’ availability. And finally, the ubiquity of celebrity brands continued — but not without backlash. From Kim Kardashian’s debut of SKKN by Kim to Brad Pitt’s launch of Le Domaine, more stars played in the beauty space — and TikTokers and beauty brand founders responded accordingly. Read on for a closer look at the five moments that defined the beauty industry in 2022 and why they mattered.
Sexual wellness enters nationwide retail
In February, within its bath and body category, Sephora debuted an “Intimate Care” section dedicated to sexual wellness brands Maude and Dame. Products at launch included vibrators, of course, but also massage candles, bath products and lubricants. Sephora’s approach was different from other retailers playing in the sexual wellness category, as it started with only two brands and sold almost every product they make, totaling around 30. Retailers like Goop and Violet Grey were early into merchandising sexual wellness, but it was a defining moment for the category to be embraced by one of the biggest and best known beauty retailers in the country. The move soon trended, with Ulta Beauty‘s September announcement of its own Intimate Wellness assortment, representing a new sixth pillar of the retailer’s larger wellness assortment. Ulta’s products include body and pleasure oils, lubricants, bath salts, and sexual wellness devices by brands including Foria, Vush, Unbound, Smile Makers and Crave. In total, 35 products were sold at launch. Sephora and Ulta Beauty are exclusively selling these products through their e-commerce channels, but it’s likely they’ll make their way to store shelves in the near future, in keeping with the retailers’ prior category rollouts.
Ilia gets acquired by Clarins’ parent company
As it was one of the early clean makeup brands to become a household name, Ilia’s acquisition in February served as a harbinger for the clean makeup category. It was acquired by the Courtin-Clarins family holding company, Famille C, which also owns the Clarins brand. At the time of the acquisition, the 12-year-old company had earned approximately $100 million in 2021 sales, a revenue milestone often positioning brands as prime targets for acquisition. According to prior Glossy reporting, Lynda Berkowitz, CEO of Ilia, said complexion products make up more than 50% of Ilia’s sales and that over 50% of new customers purchase the brand’s Super Serum Skin Tint. Furthermore, “loyal” Ilia customers use over five of its products. Ilia has a broad customer base, namely “millennials and their mothers,” said Berkowitz.
“[Ilia’s acquisition] validates the business model of environmental, social and governance-focused companies, when they may otherwise face skepticism. It also suggests that bigger companies believe [a focus on] ESG goals is the future of their growth,” said Sucharita Kodali, a retail analyst at Forrester. Famille C has previously invested in U.K.-based Pai Skincare, a clean skin-care brand predominantly targeting those with sensitive skin. And there are plenty of other clean makeup brands that read as acquisition targets, including Lawless Beauty, Westman Atelier, Lys Beauty, Kosas and Saie. Ilia’s exit only validates their exit potential.
Glossier products will not show up on Sephora shelves until early 2023, but the announcement from the famously steadfast DTC brand sent ripples through both the beauty and DTC consumer industries. It was a culmination of an eventful year for Glossier, which included layoffs in its tech department, a strategic pivot away from a vaguely understood community-focused platform, CEO and founder Emily Weiss stepping down, and the naming of its first celebrity brand ambassador, singer Olivia Rodrigo. But as one of the earliest proponents of the DTC model, Glossier’s move into Sephora affirmed the hegemony and value of wholesale retail. It was also a watershed moment for the downfall of DTC. With rising online ad costs and customer acquisition costs, plus new ad targeting issues caused by Apple iOS privacy rules, DTC has struggled over the past two years. Plenty of one-time DTC brands are now simply regarded as “digitally native.” Among then are Hims and Hers, Harry’s, and Hero Cosmetics.
Kim Kardashian re-launches her beauty empire
At the end of June, Kim Kardashian launched SKKN by Kim, a nine-piece skin-care collection (total value: $575) housed in minimal, neutral-toned packaging reminiscent of Kardashian’s minimal, neutral-toned house. It was the first we’d seen of Kardashian’s next era, following the shuttering of KKW Beauty in July of 2021 and ceased availability of KKW fragrance and makeup collections. In 2020, COTY purchased a 20% stake in Kardashian’s beauty business. Given that the name behind the brand is Kim Kardashian, it was met with strong, mixed opinions — the hashtag #skknbykim has 86 million views on TikTok. It particularly got flack for its “refill” system, which was criticized for using nearly as much material as the original products. Kardashian plans to relaunch her makeup and fragrance collections, stating in the past that all will be shoppable under the umbrella of one company.
Celebrity beauty brand fatigue reaches a boiling point
The end of September marked the announcement of Brad Pitt’s beauty brand, Le Domaine, in Vogue. In the interview, he answered, “Have you always had a good skin-care routine?” with the following: “[Very long pause.] No.” The day prior, Travis Barker had announced a skin-care-focused expansion of his brand, Barker Wellness. Shortly thereafter, in mid-October, Jared Leto announced his own skin-care collection, Twentynine Palms. The backlash was swift, even prompting a group of beauty founders to set up the URL notanothercelebritybrand.com, though it’s currently “under construction.” The website they created was covered by outlets including Beauty Independent and Dazed Beauty. Dazed Beauty quoted a section of the introductory letter, which read, “You, dear celebrities, have NO experience in this industry. … We can’t waltz into your industry and star in a movie. If we could, we would so you would know how this feels.” Regardless of how one feels about celebrity beauty, launches into the realm don’t seem to be slowing down. In 2022, Ciara launched a skin-care brand called OAM (short for ‘on a mission’), Peyton List launched Pley Beauty, and Idris and Sabrina Elba launched S’able Labs. And, for better or worse, more are set to debut in 2023.