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The next step of the Farm-to-Face movement could happen in your own backyard

With the natural beauty market in constant evolution, and new brands being launched every single day, the commercial advantage of the so called “plant-based” cosmetics is becoming less of a differential factor for the product, and more of a basic attribute, one that is already expected by the conscious and green-minded consumer. Such is the case that even Unilever has managed to launch a vegan beauty brand, proving that this trend has definitely achieved mainstream status.

In order to stand out from the crowd, some natural beauty companies took the “farm to table” concept, used by restaurants that produce their own food, and smartly adapted it to their own businesses. The result is a handful of brands, such as Tata Harper, Farmacy, and Jurlique, that produce their own ingredients in organic farms owned by their founders. This allows for the brand to harvest high quality and home grown organic ingredients, which are used to create products with super-fresh extracts for maximum potency.

Farmacy line of natural cosmetics. Photo: FarmacyBeauty.com

This rising trend in the beauty industry, known as “Farm-to-Face”, is not necessarily a novelty – Tata Harper herself, one of the first entrepreneurs to adopt this concept, founded her eponymous brand almost ten years ago. Since its beginning, the brand offers skincare products made with 100% natural ingredients, which are harvested from Harper’s 1,200-acre farm nestled in the Champlain Valley of Vermont. In her website, Harper explains that not only do they grow their own natural ingredients, but they also have a factory inside the farm, so that all of the formulas are mixed and bottled on site, and that this vision has been at the core of their DNA since they launched the brand. “We are obsessed with being the freshest possible” tells Tata.

Tata Harper at her farm in Vermont. Photo: TataHarper.com

The Farm-to-Face trend is helping to increase the public’s awareness around the origins of skincare ingredients, and its next step could be joining forces with another concept related to this idea, one that gained huge popularity a few years ago: the urban gardeners movement.

A poster about the urban farmers movement, in the Vila Madalena neighborhood (São Paulo). Photo: @CherryGloss

Led by young people who, moved by ideals, purpose, or even by a wish to live a happier and healthier life, decided to grow their own food in an abandoned urban site or even in their own backyard, this movement started a real green revolution. Even small apartment owners jumped on the trend, thanks to the smart and creative inventions of brands like the Portuguese-based Noocity, which sells small self-irrigated and easy to assemble “Growbeds”, and the American Back to the Roots, which, with their cleverly designed gardening kits, allowed for anyone to become an urban gardener.

Noocity’s Growbeds. Photo: Noocity.com

As I carefully look at the two concepts – both of which I’m deeply fond of – I can see a clear possibility of their combination generating a new trend, one that could gain some popularity in the next few years. Imagine that: young people, living in urban areas, starting to grow their own cosmetic ingredients. Maybe we could call it… the “grow your moisturizer” movement?

Leaving the name behind, what is really interesting about this idea is that it presents countless possibilities to raising a new awareness about the power of natural ingredients, its connection to our wellbeing, and its mindful approach to our skincare routine. The recipes to create cosmetics with your own kitchen supplies are already abundant on the Internet – just type “homemade cosmetics” on Youtube, and you have hundreds of results – so why not make these creams and masks with your own, apartment-grown and fresh ingredients?  Wouldn’t that be cool – and oh so Insta-worthy, perfect for an era where everything is instantly shared?

With the growing attention to self-care, aligned with concepts such as beauty rituals and natural beauty, I really believe it is possible that the next green beauty revolution could start in our own backyard.

Homegrown aloe vera face mask, anyone?

My own Aloe Vera, planted in my apartment’s balcony. I’m hoping for it to grow a little bit more, so I can start making my own masks 🙂

Can crowdsourced beauty products kill innovation?

On a January 2015 post on the beauty blog Into The Gloss, Glossier’s CEO Emily Weiss asked: “What’s Your Dream Cleanser?”. More than 400 comments later, the millennial brand had a recipe for what would be the perfect face wash. A couple of months later, it’s “Milky Jelly Cleanser” was launched, with huge sales and a lot of great reviews. That was one of the first times that a famous beauty company turned to the masses for input, and it definitely started the worldwide trend of crowdsourced beauty products.

Since Milky Jelly’s story hit the news, the amount of beauty companies claiming to develop products in collaboration with their costumers – whether be it through Instagram messages, blog comments, or any other form of communication – has grown exponentially. Some recent examples include Korean skincare e-commerce Peach & Lily, asking its fans what type of sheet mask they wanted, and Volition Beauty, a San Francisco-based company that took this concept to a whole new level, and only launches products after they are voted by consumers (it takes 500 to 1,000 “yes” votes for an item to be manufactured). Besides being a way to draw attention to a new product, making it more appealing to the audience (since they have actually contributed to its creation), the crowdsourcing approach to beauty products also closes the gap between consumer and brand, which is crucial in the digital age. However, as though as this concept sounds like a guarantee of good sales, it can also have some considerable disadvantages.

One of them is that, if you proudly claim that your brand listen to its costumers, you better listen to EVERYTHING they are saying – and not just what YOU want, and what suits your company’s needs. Otherwise, you might as well don’t ask for their opinion in the first place. This was the case with the most recent Glossier launch, the “Glossier Play” line, which is a collection of fun and colorful makeup items. One of the most talked about items of the collection was a sparkly multi-purpose glitter gel called Glitter Gelée, which aroused huge online controversy due to its non-biodegradable glitter (one of the worst types of microplastics polluting our oceans today). Furthermore, the whole Glossier Play line comes wrapped in unnecessary packaging, a problem that is generating thousands of complains online, gaining huge traction through Instagram accounts like Estee Laundry (one of the “watchdogs” of the beauty industry).

A print screen of Estée Laundtry Insta-story, showing its disapproval of Glossier Play’s excessive packaging

Since Glossier is a millennial-focused brand, and one that has always pride itself for listening to and learning with its audience, its decision to launch a product that is so disconnected with its costumers environmental concerns was a huge mistake. And one that shows just how risky the “tell us what you want and we’ll make it” approach can be in the beauty industry.

The other problem with crowdsourced beauty products is that, a lot of times, consumers might want something that’s simply not feasible. On an interview with Glamour magazine, Pink & Lilly’s founder Alicia Yoon said that, when they were crowdsourcing for a new sheet masks, their customers would ask for impossible things “like a cellulose sheet mask that adheres super closely to every nook and cranny of the face with high quality ingredients for $1.50, or a sheet mask with only organic ingredients and a shelf life of three years.” This shows that a lot of times, the customer can do more harm than good, expecting something that is clearly impossible to create.

The third disadvantage of these community-driven products – and for me, particularly, the most important of all – is that this approach can lead to decrease in innovation in the beauty industry. When you ask for the audience what type of product they want, aren’t you loosing your brand’s authority and knowledge in the process? Where is your creative voice among all of this? As I think of that, some of the most groundbreaking creations of our time, like the iPhone (and iPods before it), immediately come to my mind. If Apple’s developers had asked, 12 years ago, what did people wanted on a cell phone, would they have came up with the iPhone? After all, a lot of the best inventions of our era are of things that people didn’t even know they wanted in the first place.

So, maybe, if your brand wants to truly innovate, its better to know how and what to listen – and, like all of us should be doing once in a while, to leave social media a little bit aside, giving room for the innovative thinking to flourish.