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The 10 most innovative beauty companies of 2022

L’Oréal, Dior, Boy Smells, LoveSeen, and others are busting out all sorts of unexpected new looks.

The 10 most innovative beauty companies of 2022

Explore the full 2022 list of Fast Company’s Most Innovative Companies, 528 organizations whose efforts are reshaping their businesses, industries, and the broader culture. We’ve selected the firms making the biggest impact with their initiatives across 52 categories, including the most innovative style, wellness, and design companies.

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In 2022, the world’s idea of beauty is—wonderfully and refreshingly—more all-encompassing than ever before. And the beauty industry, comprising makeup, perfumes, skincare, and haircare, has been inspired to take note. Innovative companies new and established are celebrating all colors, genders, shapes, and styles, and demolishing outdated norms and boundaries in the process. Boy Smells is a gender-blending company that refutes the binary of male and female in every aspect of its branding, pairing its “boyish” name with signature pink packaging and refusing to classify products with any allusions to men or women. Atticus, a skincare company, caters to the oft-neglected market of men who want to pamper their skin and chase that dewy glow. And Eadem created a dark-spot serum specifically formulated for women of color, who often struggle to find products designed for the unique concerns of melanin-rich skin. The industry also made strides this year in its ongoing mission to become greener, more ethical, and more sustainable. Beauty giant L’Oréal unveiled a new hair-wash system for salons that could save up to a billion gallons of water per year. Hourglass Cosmetics, meanwhile, engineered the first-ever vegan, cruelty-free replacement for carmine—a ubiquitous ingredient that gives makeup a brilliant, rich red hue—which was historically made by killing and crushing thousands of female insects. Companies are even exploring beauty in the digital realm. Legacy company Dior helped lead the charge, becoming the first to partner with metaverse platform Zepeto to release a line of all-virtual makeup looks for avatars.

1. Eadem          

For formulating a skincare serum uniquely for women of color

Eadem was founded in 2020 as a skincare brand for women of color by women of color. It was the brainchild of Alice Lin Glover and Marie Kouadio Amouzame, who met while working at Google. While trading beauty tips discovered in French pharmacies and Asian markets, they realized just how hard they had to look to find products suited for their specific skincare needs. In May 2021, Eadem (Latin for “the same” or “all”) launched its flagship dark-spot serum with “Smart Melanin” technology, formulated specifically for more melanin-rich skin tones. While hyperpigmentation and sun spots are often top concerns for people of color, many products that claim to treat these aren’t tested on skin with melanin or use harsh bleaching agents and other toxic chemicals, which women of color are exposed to at higher rates than white women. Eadem offers clean beauty that’s tested on a range of skin shades. Black- and Asian-owned, Eadem has already earned awards from Glossier, Sephora, and Johnson & Johnson with Neutrogena’s funding and incubator programs.

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2. L’Oréal

For helping hair salons save water with every wash

At the 2021 CES convention, the beauty giant unveiled its L’Oréal Water Saver, a sustainable haircare innovation that upgrades the cherished hair salon ritual of an indulgent shampoo and conditioning. The problem is that washing customers’ hair traditionally consumes considerable amounts of water, with a significant amount of waste. By incorporating high water velocity and micronized haircare products that connect to—and flow directly through—the water stream, the L’Oréal Water Saver can cut water usage by up to 80%. Engineered through a collaboration between L’Oréal’s Technology Incubator and Swiss environmental tech startup Gjosa, the system is powered by rocket-engine technology and uses just 2 liters of water per minute—compared with the household standard of 8 liters—and creates droplets that are 10 times smaller than normal, which absorb better and rinse faster. The system has already been installed at more than 300 salons in France, and is set to roll out to tens of thousands more globally in 2022—potentially saving up to a billion gallons of water per year. But crucially, as the company says, whoever’s sitting in the salon chair isn’t able to tell the difference. 

3. Virtue Labs

For shedding light on the under-illuminated issue of female hair loss

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Female hair loss doesn’t get a lot of attention, and that’s a shame. It’s an issue that, according to the American Academy of Dermatology, half of all women will experience in their lifetimes—40% of them by the age of 40. Yet most products on the market still treat hair loss as a primarily male affliction. Haircare brand Virtue Labs launched its new Virtue Flourish line in April 2021, created specifically to address female hair thinning and hair loss. The line offers two regimens, including one with minoxidil, the only FDA-approved ingredient for hair growth in women, and another that’s 100% drug-free with a botanically based “density booster” for those who want to keep it natural. But perhaps even more importantly, Virtue Labs—which has a celebrity fan base including Jennifer Garner and Reese Witherspoon—is shining a light on the issue. The product was already making up 10% of Virtue’s total business within just months of its launch. Repurchase rate for a three-month regimen is more than 40%.

4. LoveSeen

For getting users aflutter over faux lashes through its direct-to-consumer store

Founded in 2020 by fashion designer and former J.Crew creative director and president Jenna Lyons, LoveSeen makes selecting and applying fake lashes—one of the biggest beauty trends of 2021, amid post-lockdown makeup euphoria—a user-friendly experience. Lash addicts might be familiar with the pain of plucking one-size-fits-all falsies off the shelf and then making the best of it with heaps of glue and a pair of scissors. But LoveSeen offers customization, with a spectrum of lashes from natural to glam, as well as a range of colors to match various lash shades—something its competitors lack. LoveSeen, which forged a retail partnership in April with Goop, also offers a quiz to help users select the perfect pair, which factors in eye shape and skin tone; during development, the lashes were fitted on people of varied ages and ethnicities. Plus, the faux lashes are all cruelty-free and come in biodegradable trays with 98% plastic-free packaging. 

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5. Heat Free Hair

For creating haircare designed for extensions

Heat Free Hair began innovating within the haircare space a decade ago when founder Ngozi Opara, then juggling two jobs—as a financial analyst and the owner of a hair salon in Washington, D.C.—began to draw a clientele of professional women at a time when a movement to embrace natural hair textures was gaining ground. Spotting a gap in the market, Opara quit her job and relocated to China to open a factory producing the first 100% raw, ethically sourced human hair extensions that match the natural hair textures of women of color (at the time, most on the market were methodically straightened with hot styling tools). A decade later, Heat Free Hair has continued to break ground as the market for hair extensions has grown to nearly $10 billion, with 34% of women globally using them regularly. In September 2021, the company released the first haircare collection specifically for extensions. The kits—which were in development for four years and are designed for a range of textures, from straight to wavy to curly—contain shampoos, conditioners, mousses, and serums that are meant to extend the life of any brand’s extensions by up to six months. Revenue rose 45% from 2020 to 2021, and the company boasts a 42% returning-customer rate.

6. Hourglass Cosmetics

For achieving the perfect red, without cruelty 

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In 2021, Hourglass Cosmetics—a cruelty-free, vegan beauty brand owned by Unilever—strengthened its commitment to animal welfare by developing the first-ever vegan replacement for carmine, a vibrant red pigment found in most color cosmetics on the market. Carmine, which is composed of thousands of crushed female insects, has been used for centuries since its bold, brilliant hue has been virtually impossible to replicate. But its toll on wildlife is heavy, with up to 70,000 insect carcasses required for just one pound of carmine, meaning as many as 1,000 insects could go into a single cake of blush. After three years of research and development, Hourglass, along with Unilever, engineered a groundbreaking substitute and released it in March 2021 in a refillable vegan lipstick in the shade “Red 0.” (The packaging is adorned with a bright red beetle, signaling zero animal by-products and zero insects harmed.) Unilever says it’ll continue rolling out the patent-pending carmine replacement within its collection of makeup brands over time, and has suggested it will open-source the ingredient. Hourglass is part of Unilever’s “Prestige” division, which includes Dermalogica, Living Proof, and others; its sales were projected to reach $1 billion in 2021, and $3 billion within the next few years. 

7. Landing International

For leveraging the power of tech to boost minority-owned businesses

Landing International, a platform that connects emerging beauty brands with retailers (and allowing them to avoid trade shows), has been working since its 2016 launch to even the playing field for minority-owned businesses. It offers tech services that can help otherwise under-resourced businesses break into retail and scale, including a flagship digital marketplace that connects growing Black-, Asian-, and woman-owned brands with buyers from major and midsize retailers, including Ulta, Urban Outfitters, and Anthropologie. The platform costs $2,000 per year to join, with zero commission taken or hidden fees. In September 2021, Landing International leveraged its marketplace to secure retail placement for 17 minority-owned indie beauty brands as part of the new JCPenney Beauty experience, set to roll out across all 600 JCPenney locations by 2023. Landing International also created two new products in 2021: a web-based training tool that lets brands engage with and educate retail associates in a matter of minutes instead of weeks, and an ingredient checker that lets brands know which clean beauty standards they qualify for, a process that can be confusing and opaque for small companies. Both of these tools are included in Landing International’s yearly subscription, which also offers brands unlimited product visibility on the platform. Over the course of the year, it experienced a 350% increase in new brand sign-ups—its client base is 70% minority-founded overall—and more than doubled its revenue from the previous year to nearly $10 million.

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8. Dior 

For making the metaverse look its best

In 2021, the company was among the earliest in its industry to enter the metaverse, becoming the first beauty brand to partner with Zepeto, a fast-growing, South Korean 3D virtual universe where users control avatars that can be styled and dressed with millions of digital items from real-world brands like Nike and Disney. As of last summer, that included virtual makeup from Dior Beauty, which released a collection of nine avatar looks featuring its iconic products and crafted by the brand’s creative director, Peter Philips, marking the first time the company has offered mascaras and eyeshadows never meant to grace a human face. The move builds on Dior’s virtual efforts over the past few years, which include creating a website with its own immersive, online beauty boutique. Visitors can navigate the store’s digital shelves and click to order physical makeup. Dior also created a stunning virtual replica of its flagship Paris store located along the Champs-Élysées that visitors can stroll through from anywhere in the world and helped create another of an IRL pop-up shop the company set up inside Harrods, in London. In September 2021, the fashion house offered virtual designer duds for the avatars offered by cross-game avatar platform Ready Player Me. 

9. Atticus

For giving the skincare industry a masculine face

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Basic self care—like treating your skin well—is an idea that’s often feminized. Atticus stands out with its mission to empower men to love their body’s biggest organ, too. Launched in summer 2021, Atticus is a dermatologist-approved “skin health” brand with a line of nine products that are clean and ethically sourced, including an anti-acne kit and moisturizers with reef-safe sunscreen. The company says that 90% of sales thus far are for its three-step personalized routine, which indicates that men (who make up 70% of its clientele) are choosing products that they feel are tailored specifically for their needs. What’s perhaps most refreshing is its commitment to destigmatize skincare for men, complete with sleek photo shoots of men with glowing faces and featured reviews that highlight “what guys are saying.” The company also understands that getting into skincare can be mystifying for newbies, which is why it offers a quiz to discover a personalized routine as well as a descriptive ingredient glossary. In the first three months of launch, Atticus sold 10,000 products. 

10. Boy Smells

For throwing labels out the window with gender-fluid branding

This year, more than ever before, the notion of gender has been broken down and rebuilt in myriad ways. Boy Smells was created with that idea in mind. It launched in 2016 with a line of candles that blend traditionally masculine and feminine scent notes—all wrapped in Boy Smells’ signature pink packaging—and then expanded into underwear, with collections sorted not by “men’s” or “women’s,” but simply by “flat front styles” versus “pouch front styles.” In 2021, it cracked the beauty industry with its release of Genderful Fine Fragrances, with scent compositions that further the brand’s mission to shatter the binary and refute outdated expectations surrounding identity. And that seems to have struck a chord with the coveted Gen Z demographic: Boy Smells says that the brand has the highest social engagement among 13-to-18-year-olds, above that of competitors such as Diptyque and Byredo. Total sales are up 71% year over year, with the Genderful “exploratory” fragrance set being the highest-selling item on the site. The fragrance line is also being sold by such retailers as Nordstrom, Bloomingdale’s, Saks, and FastAF, with wholesale sales up 305% year over year.

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