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Who will win the clean beauty race to the top?

Update July 14, 2020:

Today, Ulta Beauty took another step by announcing Conscious Beauty at Ulta Beauty™, a new program that will in part highlight products in Ulta stores free of chemicals on its Made Without List, including parabens, phthalates, and ingredients from more than 25 chemical categories.

We welcome this news. This will help make it easier for consumers to identify products without certain toxic chemicals such as phthalates.

However, the company has not fully disclosed the list of chemicals on this list. Transparency is essential, and we urge Ulta to be more transparent about the chemicals in this program. Ulta Beauty should also take the next steps by making a public commitment to phase out toxic chemicals in beauty products and ensure substitutes are actually safe. Its competitor Sephora has set a goal to reduce its chemical footprint by a whopping 50% over a 3-year period. If Sephora can take this action, surely Ulta can too.

The company has also committed to improving the sustainability of packaging, committing to: “ensure 50 percent of all packaging sold, including the Ulta Beauty Collection, will be made from recycled or bio-sourced materials, or will be recyclable or refillable by 2025.” As part of that effort, Ulta should also ensure suppliers’ packaging doesn’t contain toxic chemicals, such as phthalates, or fundamentally hazardous plastics such as PVC and polystyrene. A circular economy must also be clean.

We look forward to continued progress from Ulta Beauty in the year ahead, especially with our fifth annual Who’s Minding the Store? retailer report card coming out this November.

Original post published June 17, 2020:

Yesterday, Ulta Beauty announced an exciting partnership with clean beauty retailer Credo Beauty. The partnership will start with a Credo Beauty endcap at 100 Ulta locations.

The companies stated: The clean beauty collection will premiere with eight exciting clean beauty brands, including EleVen by Venus Williams x Credo SPF, Innersense Organic Beauty and One Love Organics, among others, across 100 Ulta Beauty stores and on this fall.”

Ulta Beauty’s Chief Merchandising Officer Monica Arnaudo explained:

“As a trailblazer in ingredient authenticity and transparency, Credo Beauty is the perfect partner for us as we continue to evolve our clean beauty offerings for guests. We know ninety percent of Gen-Z shoppers intend to buy clean beauty products in the next year1; this first effort together, a clean collection handpicked by the experts at Credo, offers amazing products and more beautiful, clean possibilities for their needs.”

This is definitely an important step forward, which will help bring safer beauty products to the hands of consumers. We congratulate Ulta on this important partnership with Credo Beauty, which has very stringent safety standards and adopted an industry-leading fragrance transparency policy last fall.

Ulta must not stop here—it needs a full makeover

For the last few years, Ulta Beauty has lagged behind Sephora and other top retailers in our annual Who’s Minding the Store? retailer report card, the annual evaluation of the safer chemicals programs of the largest retailers in North America.

So Ulta’s announcement is welcome news. But does it go far enough?

For one, this new initiative only applies to 100 of its 1,264 retail stores, about eight percent of its total store count. Ulta stated: “As the partnership grows, Credo Beauty and Ulta Beauty will leverage their collective expertise to continue pushing this important space forward.” We hope Ulta will extend this program to ALL of its stores in the months ahead. Surely, all of their customers deserve the same access to clean beauty products curated by Credo.

And more importantly, all products should be free of harmful chemicals and radically transparent, not just a handful of brands at the end of a store aisle. Ulta’s new initiative falls far short of Sephora’s safer chemicals policy, Clean at Sephora program, and goal to reduce its chemical footprint by a whopping 50% over the next three years.

Sephora also just announced a new partnership to bring clean beauty pioneer Beautycounter to its customers beginning online this July and in stores starting in August. This is also an exciting development!

Driving a competitive race to the top

It’s clear the race is on to see which beauty retailer will be the leader in bringing safer products into the hands of consumers and drive toxic chemicals out of the beauty industry. At a time when more and more consumers are clamoring for clean beauty products, it’s clear retailers are listening.

Ulta’s new announcement signals it is upping its game which is welcome. But will it catch up to Sephora and launch a safer chemicals policy and chemical footprint reduction goal? And what about Sally Beauty? It’s the nation’s other leading beauty retailer, and it still lags behind both Ulta and Sephora. And how will retailers address the disproportionate impact of toxic chemicals in beauty products marketed to women of color? So far, no retailer has made a commitment to address these products.

We can’t wait to see how all this shakes out, especially with our 2020 retailer report card coming out this fall. Grab your popcorn folks—this is getting interesting!