How Brandless Is Democratizing Access To Quality Skin Care

You don't have to be a millionaire to have glowing skin

Photos courtesy of Brandless

When it comes to skin-care products, it's not too uncommon to get attached to a product with a huge price tag—actually, it's seen as acceptable to shell out a big sum of cash for a product with a good reputation, or one from a brand that everyone obsesses over. My own collection of skin- and hair-care products used to cost a bit more than I'd be willing to admit until I stumbled across Brandless products in my girlfriend's bathroom. Each product rings in at only $3, and they're responsibly sourced and high-quality.

I wrote a love letter to Brandless' conditioner about a month ago, which is the only hair product that has effectively calmed my wild mess of a mane. And not only do I love it for the work it does to fix my frizz, but I'm also obsessed with the fact that I can pronounce each word on the ingredients label. Since then, pretty much my entire skin-care routine has been switched to Brandless products, which all offer astonishingly high quality at an astonishingly low price.

Tina Sharkey, Brandless CEO, told me that she started the company to bring awareness to the fact that people were paying way too much for quality goods: "If people really understood what things cost to make versus what they paid for them," she says, "they would realize that price and quality should not have that relationship, and that everyone deserved better." Since its debut 15 months ago, the brand has amassed a devoted following who loves Brandless' commitment to making quality products available to everyone. And it's specifically notable within the skin-care line, where purging the ingredients list of synthetic or harmful additives was a must.

Sharkey notes that the brand's main focus when it comes to its beauty line is "not what is in the products but, more importantly, what isn't in the products." To that end, she and her team devised a list of things that would not appear in their beauty products—a list that totals 400 ingredients. And, according to Brandless' Chief Merchant Rachael Vegas, that list is still growing. Vegas notes that the brand takes into account European standards for skin-care products "because there is a lot more regulation outside the U.S., and they're a lot more stringent there." The company also draws influence from the standards that other reputable brands have, noting "how consumers were responding to them."

The result? A line of clean skin-care products that don't have a long string of unpronounceable ingredients on the label, at an actually affordable price. And customers are coming back—Vegas says it's "because it's so much more affordable than something with a comparable ingredient label." Sharkey adds that many of the banned ingredients are still used by other brands who may not have such stringent rules on quality.

Things that we don't even think about, such as the ingredient that gives shampoos and soaps that lathering effect, have been replaced in Brandless' products with what Vegas calls a "'better for you' substitute." "We work very closely with our manufacturing partners to co-create and understand what the implication is if we get rid of an ingredient," she notes. "We don't use synthetic fragrance, for example, it's all derived from natural sources."

Even though the brand's values of quality are so admirable, it's hard to become someone's go-to skin-care brand. When it comes to these types of products, people are often loyal to a few brands or specific products, no matter the cost—and, once you start to think this way, it's hard to stop equating higher price with higher quality. How, then, would loyalists to certain products convert to Brandless products? "When you're creating products that have such an accessible price point, the key is trial," says Sharkey. "And so it really lowers the barrier to entry so that people can try our products."

According to Vegas, this has proven feasible. "To date, the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive on the quality of the product and the experience using it, and customers are coming back," she tells me. "Especially in beauty, probably more than any category, we've seen that repeat purchase, that dedication and loyalty."

This appreciation for the customer's voice is built into the brand's DNA—products have been created and integrated into the beauty aisle after feedback from the customers. Vegas says that "before we even launched shampoo and conditioner, 'shampoo' was one of the most searched terms on our site," which let them know that people were looking for a Brandless-grade product. Sharkey notes that "we didn't originally have our organic coconut oil in our beauty department, but it found its way there because we heard from our beauty community that they were using it to take their makeup off, they were using it to moisturize their skin, they were mixing it with our organic brown sugar to make a lip exfoliant."

According to Vegas, "one of the best sort of testaments to our entire assortment is how much our team uses it; my entire shower is legitimately only Brandless products." Sharkey echoes this statement: "In a blind hair test with me, to try and convince me to not use my Brandless products would be very hard because I actually like them more than the ones I used to pay way more for."

Products don't need to be expensive to work wonders, and quality products shouldn't only be available to people in a certain tax bracket. Brandless is on its way to making sure that every single brand follows its lead, only offering the best to its customers, and knowing they'll return for more.