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Clout Control

Updated: Jul 11, 2021

How the influx of celebrity beauty brands is warping the market

Lady Gaga for her brand, Haus Laboratories. Credit: Pinterest

Last week, the Business of Fashion announced that Naomi Osaka is launching her own beauty line, KINLÒ Skin, which will focus on helping “protect and rejuvenate people of color [with] darker skin tones,” according to her Instagram post. Osaka’s launch, while unexpected, is also unsurprising. As the beauty industry heats up, celebs are flooding the market, eager to cash in on their clout. However, in starting their own brands, celebs are also warping the beauty market, manipulating shelf space and placing established brands at risk for the sake of their own short-term success.

Thanks to quarantine, Zoom, and the rise of clean beauty, the beauty industry has become more competitive than ever before. New brands hit the market nearly every day, fighting for shelf space and social media engagement in an already-overcrowded arena. In the last few years alone, upwards of twenty celebrities have launched their own skincare and makeup lines, touting everything from brighter skin, to cleaner ingredients, to greater product inclusivity, and capitalizing on their fans’ desire to look just like them.

Of the dozens of celebrities who have ventured into the skincare and makeup space, some of the most notable include: Rihanna (Fenty Beauty), Selena Gomez (Rare Beauty), Kylie Jenner (Kylie Cosmetics), Jennifer Lopez (J Lo Beauty), Victoria Beckham (VB Beauty), Millie Bobby Brown (Florence by Mills), Lady Gaga (Haus Laboratories), Kim Kardashian (KKW Beauty), Jessica Alba (Honest Beauty), Miranda Kerr (Kora Organics), Drew Barrymore (Flower Beauty), Pharrell (Humanrace), Rose Huntington-Whitely (Rose Inc.), Halsey (About-Face), and Lauren Conrad (Lauren Conrad Beauty).

Because of their popular appeal, celebs have a unique ability to manipulate the highly competitive battle for shelf space. While it takes years for most brands to even be considered by, much less make it into Sephora and Ulta, celebrity beauty brands don’t face these high barriers to entry. Other skincare and makeup lines must go through the arduous process of getting Sephora’s attention, pitching their products, building a relationship with the company, and “beta testing”—short-term contracts to test consumer responses. Celebrity labels, on the other hand, bypass most of these steps due to their name recognition and cult following.

However, celebrity beauty brands usually experience only short-term success. Though they rake in massive profits in the first few months of business, largely thanks to the hype around the brand’s launch, these profits quickly fall off as consumers retreat to their mainstay brands. Essentially, as a result of our society’s obsession with celebrity, everyone wants to own a piece of their favorite celeb’s beauty line when it drops, whether it’s a lip gloss or a facial roller. However, very few consumers are willing to replace every product in their skincare and makeup routines with those of a celebrity line. As a result, most of a celebrity brand’s profits come from one-off purchases by one-time customers, rather than loyal consumers. In fact, Rihanna and Kylie Jenner are arguably the only two in the above list who have proven this wrong, maintaining consistent profits and building loyal consumer bases.

Fenty Beauty's shelf space has grown thanks to proven sales. Credit: Yelp

This bubble of success has warped the beauty market. By giving celeb beauty brands prime shelf space usually reserved for brands with more loyal followings, retailers like Sephora are driving profits toward flashier, niche celebrity lines and away from more well-respected, iconic brands. And, while their profits are typically short-lived, they still take away market share from more established brands, damaging their profits and popularity in the short-term.

A Sephora poster advertising 4X points for buying J Lo Beauty. Credit: Glossense

Despite this, more and more celebrities continue to pour into the beauty market, hoping to capitalize on their name. In fact, according to CR Fashionbook, Cardi B, Hailey Bieber, Kendall Jenner, Khloé Kardashian, and Serena Williams have all reportedly filed trademarks for beauty businesses, and just today Zara announced the impending launch of its own beauty line.

A teaser for Bieber Beauty. Credit: Global Cosmetics News

Ultimately, celebrity beauty brands are boom and bust, creating too much turnover in an overcrowded and highly competitive space, and taking away short-term profits from better, more iconic brands. And, while they’ve become ubiquitous assets among the Hollywood elite, it’s time for celebs to stop overcrowding and disrupting the beauty industry—it’s time for some clout control.

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