One of the most interesting product trends in the natural Cosmetics and Toiletries (C&T) market now is “do it yourself” (DIY) beauty: customising face creams, body lotions, bath additives or shampoos to match individual skin care requirements.
The popularity of "clean beauty" combined with steadily growing consumer demand for transparent product formulations, natural ingredients and ethically sourced or created cosmetics have played a key role in the development of this trend which started a few years ago.
The customisation trend has already hit the conventional C&T market. Last year, US brand Kiehl's started to offer personalised skin care serums in its domestic stores while L'Oréal-owned Lancome successfully launched its foundation concept Le Teint Particulier in the US.
Doing it yourself - naturally
However, "kitchen beauty" is particularly popular in the natural and organic cosmetics market. There are several reasons for this.
As a rule, organic consumers tend to pay close attention to the ingredients used in the formulation of a product. They are well-educated about ingredients and certifications. Transparency in a brand or company is of vital importance to this demographic, as is the quality of ingredients and where a product is manufactured.
Often, consumers are switching from conventional to organic cosmetics because they suffer from a skin condition, such as allergies, excessively dry skin or acne, and cannot find suitable products amongst the conventional beauty brands or pharmacy skin care labels.
These customers want cosmetics that are fragrance-free or made without synthetic preservatives. Alternatively, they might prefer products manufactured without alcohol or glycerin. Sustainability is also a major concern: increasingly, organic consumers are looking for cosmetics that are manufactured regionally (or at least in their own country) with, ideally, locally-sourced ingredients.
Most "kitchen beauty" companies are small and independently owned businesses and do not belong to any of the large multinational consumer goods manufacturers. This trait is another important aspect for eco-conscious consumers.
The market for "kitchen beauty" is becoming increasingly diverse, catering to different customer requirements: you can purchase individual ingredients to make your cosmetics from scratch, subscribe to DIY beauty kits which include everything you need, or design your ideal shampoo or face cream online and have it delivered to your doorstep.
Creating cosmetics digitally
Fresh cosmetics manufacturers like Saltskrub from Denmark or Cremekampagne and Mix my Shampoo from Germany offer their customers the chance to personalise products online. You choose the base formula of a product and then add your preferred ingredients or fragrances. The company will then manufacture the product according to these specifications and ship it directly to your address.
Saltskrub was one of the pioneers of clean beauty in its native Denmark. The company specialises in products for skin suffering from eczema and psoriasis, and their product line-up is simple: salt-based skin care scrubs, shea butter, and plant oils. Saltskrub sells its products in Copenhagen and London, but the range is also available online: the scrubs can be personalised with one of five different fragrances or left unscented.
Birgit Raether founded Cremekampagne in 2009 because she suffered from skin allergies herself and couldn't find suitable skin care products. She decided to launch her own beauty brand, offering artisan, high-quality and locally produced cosmetics.
Cremekampagne is especially popular amongst customers with multiple skin conditions since almost every product formula can be individually tweaked - adding or subtracting ingredients or substituting one active for another - until the optimal product formula is reached.
Because Cremekampagne manufactures its cosmetics in small batches, most of the goods are available in a preservative-free variant. Berlin-based Cremekampagne does not operate its retail store; distribution is almost exclusively online although the company also sells some of its products on various Berlin markets.
An intriguing newcomer in the natural DIY sector is Mix my Shampoo, a Munich-based start-up founded by Lisa Sobotta, Markus Peetz and Hicham Najjari in 2015. As the name indicates, Mix my Shampoo allows consumers to create their shampoo online.
Starting with the preferred shampoo basis (there are three variants - dry hair, normal hair or oily hair), customers then decide one of four colour-enhancing extracts (chamomile for blond hair, walnut for brown, chestnut for red or sage for gray hair) and add whichever extra ingredients and fragrance they want.
Mix my Shampoo offers more than fifty different organic extracts, plant oils and butter and some 20 essential oils that can be added to the shampoo base. Alternatively, customers can fill in a detailed hair questionnaire and have a specialist from the company blend their shampoo. All products are manufactured by hand and in small batches in Munich and shipped directly to the customer's address.
Naturally kitted out
If you prefer to stir up your beauty products, you can purchase DIY kits online or in-store and mix up the cosmetics right there in your kitchen. The kits will typically include everything you need to make the product: ready-prepared ingredients in the correct amounts and detailed instructions.
US company Loli Beauty, founded by Tina Hedges in early 2015, offers a subscription model for organic DIY beauty boxes. Customers can order a single box or purchase a three-month deal (one box per month). Each kit contains all the ingredients necessary to blend several different beauty products: there are individually packaged product bases, mix-ins, and booster ingredients. And every month, the box features different products. Eventually, Hedges says, customers will also be able to choose boxes with specific themes, like cleansing products, skin type-specific beauty treatments or nourishing goods.
All of Loli Beauty's food-grade ingredients are ethically sourced from local businesses or fair trade certified companies. At the moment, the beauty boxes are only available online, but Loli Beauty is already planning to expand their e-commerce model by branching out into the real world - with pop-up beauty blending bars in bricks 'n mortar stores and D2C (Direct-to-Consumer) strategies like party selling (selling products at social events). For each parcel that is shipped out, the company donates 1 USD to charity.
Berlin-based Coscoon was founded in mid-2016 by Sonja Steberl and Aino Simon. At its Berlin store (and online) Coscoon sells DIY beauty kits for bath truffles, solid body butter, and lip balms. There are refill sets for each DIY kit as well as themed DIY beauty boxes: Rendezvous for Two, for example, also includes a candle and a small bottle of sparkling wine. Alternatively, customers can purchase freshly made finished cosmetics like bath salts, lip balms, and body lotions.
Finally, for those consumers who prefer to develop their beauty products, some stores sell all the necessary individual beauty ingredients - product bases, essential oils, actives, extracts, and fragrances.
Aroma Zone in Paris is one of the best-known DIY beauty stores in France. Founded by Anne Vausselin in 2000 - initially as an online store selling aromatherapy products - Aroma Zone's product portfolio expanded steadily. In 2009, Vausselin opened a retail store in Paris. Aroma Zone sells hundreds of product bases, plant oils, hydrosols, essential oils, emulsifiers, tensides, active ingredients and herbal extracts as well as containers, jars and pump dispensers.
Canadian company Planet Botanix was one of the DIY beauty pioneers in its home city of Ottawa. Founder Heather Garrod had been manufacturing and selling natural body care since the mid-1990s. In 2005 she opened a retail store in Canada's capital. Planet Botanix sells around 100-150 SKU of natural cosmetics, including 50 SKU of a hand-made face and body care. Also, customers can buy ingredients to create their cosmetics, including over 100 different essential oils.
In the UK, Beauty Kitchen has a similar concept. Established in 2010 by Jo-Anne Chidley, the company's products are stocked by UK retailer Holland & Barrett's outlets throughout the UK. Beauty Kitchen sells finished natural beauty products, individual ingredients such as essential oil blends, and DIY kits for lip balms and bath bombs. At the Glasgow flagship store, customers can attend workshops on how to make beauty products and of course all goods and recipes can also be purchased online.
And US aromatherapy brand Aura Cacia sells a broad range of single essential oils, oil blends and plant oils which are available online or via natural wholesale distributor Frontier Coop. Aura Cacia is Frontier Coop's natural beauty brand; the brand's website offers DIY recipes for face care (such as face masks, hydrosols, and creams), body care (lotions, butter or shaving products) and bath additives (salts, oils, and soaps). The aromatherapy ingredients are retailed under the Aura Cacia label, while other ingredients such as herbs and spices are available for retail in suitable glass containers under its Simply Organic brand.