This has been a banner year for beauty. Sales are soaring and consumers are more engaged in the category than ever before. The 45 brands here aren’t just benefiting from the buzz, though: They’re creating it. To compile this list, which is divided into The Establishment, The New Guard and The Originals, Beauty Inc looked at a wide array of quantitative and qualitative data to assess who’s winning and why. Here, the originals.
They may be the newer kids in class, but these brands are not afraid to stand out from the crowd. Wise beyond their years, their future leadership potential is clear, with a distinctive point of view that combines community, purpose — and, of course, products.
More from WWD
Long before luxury lip oils took over TikTok, there was Ami Colé, whose hero lip treatment spoke to Black consumers craving no-makeup makeup who didn’t see themselves represented in beauty aisles. Now, the brand, founded by Dhiarra N’diaye-Mbaye, has expanded both its footprint and categories, with a several hundred-door Sephora partnership and an assortment of skin tints, powders and brow and lash products that are quickly becoming cult classics in their own right. Ami Colé’s Lash-Amplifying Mascara, for example, took home an Allure Best of Beauty award. Industry sources estimate the brand to reach $2.5 million in sales this year.
It takes guts to pioneer a new category, particularly one that makes others seem obsolete. That’s what Allison Conrad and Jay Small have done with Arey, their line which aims at thickening hair and reducing gray hair growth. While the category is in its nascency, it’s top of mind in innovation – and investment. Last year, the L.A.-based brand doubled its investment target when it closed a $4 million round after seeing 1,100 percent growth since its founding.
With decades of cosmetic chemistry experience under his belt, BeautyStat founder Ron Robinson brought his brand to market in 2019 with a 20 percent vitamin C serum that debuted at Violet Grey. That product has since snapped up countless awards and several patents for its encapsulated delivery system, meant to maintain the product’s potency. Now, BeautyStat has a full range of products including a cleanser, moisturizer and SPF, and has expanded into all Ulta Beauty doors. In a moment where science is the buzzword for an increasingly educated skin care consumer base, Robinson’s expertise has translated into one of the hottest brands around.
Data-driven and community-minded, Bubble Skincare has its finger squarely on the pulse of what its young consumers want. It recently hit the million-follower mark on TikTok, which has helped Bubble take market share from established mass brands at retail partners such as Ulta Beauty and CVS. Sales are expected to hit $85 million this year according to sources. Brand awareness has reached 48 percent of consumers under the age of 25 thanks to ambassadors like football star Justin Jefferson. The kids are alright.
After closing a $10 million series A round this year, led by Sandbridge Capital, Ceremonia founder and chief executive officer Babba Rivera took her products’ clean, hair health-geared focus to Sephora. Each formulation pays homage to her Swedish and Latine roots — most recently, a reparative shampoo, conditioner and salt spray highlighting guava. That conditioner, which just launched, already boasts hundreds of five-star reviews on Sephora’s website, and its strength is translating IRL as well. The brand has opened its first stand-alone location in New York City and is a staple at Credo Beauty, too.
Content creator and licensed aesthetician Charlotte Palermino sought to democratize no-frills skin care formulations in Gen Z-friendly packaging. The result, Dieux — which Palermino cofounded with chemist Joyce de Lemos and branding expert Marta Freedman — has taken the internet by storm. After debuting with Deliverance, a soothing serum replete with niacinamide, the brand now encompasses eye masks, an eye gel and a barrier-healing moisturizer called Instant Angel. And for smart, young consumers who want advice they can trust and efficacious formulations to boot, Palermino is truly heaven-sent.
Fragrance’s boom and the “clean” beauty movement have become key drivers of the beauty industry writ large, but when Bee Shapiro founded Ellis Brooklyn, sophisticated fragrance offerings that adhered to clean standards were few and far between. A decade later, the brand — among Sephora’s Clean + Planet Positive brands — is holding its own against a variety of entrants. Bee and Sun Fruit are among the top fragrance sellers in that program, with the latter boasting more than 100 five-star reviews. That pioneering spirit continues: Ellis’ newest innovation? Body mists out this summer.
Fable & Mane
Hair care boomed during the pandemic, but when Fable & Mane launched in spring 2020, the category’s fate was uncertain. Fable has helped lead the charge. The brand, which debuted with a treatment oil inspired by Ayurvedic scalp massages, has garnered nearly 1,000 five-star ratings on sephora.com alone. Since then, the brand has expanded into a scalp scrub, a leave-in conditioner and a hydrating oil mist, and shown itself adept at connecting on social, with EMV up 74 percent year-over-year, according to Tribe Dynamics.
Bobbi Brown is TikToking her way back to entrepreneurial success. Jones Road, which the beauty and business veteran introduced in 2020, caught the eyes of millions — literally, Jones Road has 205 million views on the platform — with tongue-in-cheek videos and how-tos from its famed founder. The brand unveiled its first brick-and-mortar stores in New York City, the Hamptons and Montclair, New Jersey, earlier this year. Sales were said to exceed $60 million last year, according to industry sources, who anticipate those figures to double in 2023. Second time’s the charm, after all.
Five years after its founding, armed with $15 million in funding from Monogram Capital and Unilever Ventures, Deepica Mutyala’s Live Tinted has garnered heavyweight support from its Ulta Beauty retail partnership. Editors are also as bullish, with LiveTinted’s signature Huestick gaining an Allure Best of Beauty award last year. The brand has sold more than 1 million units since its launch and EMV is up 11 percent, per Tribe. Now, LiveTinted is in expansion mode, both with new categories and geographies as it enters Sephora Canada.
A pioneer in premium sexual wellness, Maude founder Éva Goicochea is no stranger to spicing up the taboo. Maude, which offers a bevy of sexual wellness and grooming products for all bodies, was among the elevated takes on the category championed by Sephora when the retailer went into the category. Now, its aloe-based personal lubricant, Shine, is a top seller in the segment, alongside two vibrators from the brand. For the less adventurous, though, it introduced a shaving oil and ingrown hair treatment oil earlier this year. The brand is just as attractive to investors, having closed a series A round led by True Beauty Ventures last year.
Sustainably minded and community-sourced, Saie’s grassroots approach to product development has resonated with shoppers and investors alike. In the latter camp, Unilever Ventures, G9 Ventures and Gwyneth Paltrow have all invested in the brand, while in the former, Glowy Super Gel Lightweight Dewy Highlighter is a facial makeup bestseller at Sephora, and the tinted SPF, Slip Tint, boasts more than 600 five-star reviews. Digitally, Saie’s EMV has risen 160 percent to $85 million, according to Tribe. That all ladders up to founder and CEO Laney Crowell’s purpose-driven imperatives, such as tapping more than 30 brands for The Every Body Campaign, which supports women impacted by abortion bans in the U.S.
With Calvin Quallis’ knowledge he gained from his barbershop on one hand and the grooming boom on the other, nontoxic grooming company Scotch Porter has been able to nab retail partners from Walmart Inc., Target Corp. and Macy’s Inc. since the brand’s 2016 inception. Scotch Porter’s clean formulations have broadened to encompass body products this year, though it’s the beard wash, balm and conditioner that are billed as top sellers in men’s shaving, per Target’s website.
One of beauty’s fastest-growing brands continues to rise and rise and rise. Tower 28, which launched in 2019, now entails clean makeup and skin care products that perform as well as category mainstays while being safe enough for eczema-prone skin. It’s been quick to nab celebrity fans including Olivia Rodrigo and Khloé Kardashian. That cross-generational appeal has garnered its hero lip gloss more than 1,000 five-star reviews on sephora.com. The digital appetite remains high, too. Weekly Google searches are up 57 percent, according to Spate, while EMV has swelled a full 100 percent to $74 million, according to Tribe.
After creating content about fashion accessories for nearly two decades, Tina Chen Craig, aka @bagsnob, took her discerning eye to beauty with the launch of U Beauty. Just as luxurious (and efficacious) as her followers would expect, Craig’s distribution incudes Violet Grey, Bergdorf Goodman and BlueMercury. Last year, when Sandbridge invested in the brand, sales were expected to top $15 million for that year. If Craig’s growing assortment, which now includes a body care extension of hero product the Resurfacing Compound, as well as tinted iterations of the famed Plasma Lip Compound, are any indication, she has no intention of slowing down.
Makeup artist Gucci Westman’s namesake brand is still skyrocketing into new growth opportunities. The brand took its skin-first ethos into skin care with the Skin Activator, a product that took five years to develop, and is a bestseller at Sephora mere months after launch. Industry sources say the business is on track to reach $100 million in sales this year — no surprise that rumors of a sale swirled earlier in the spring. Westman is doing just as well on social media, having seen a 69 percent spike in EMV year-over- year, per Tribe Dynamics, and its Vital Foundation Stick won an Allure Best of Beauty award last year.
WWD Beauty Inc consulted a variety of sources to compile our list of beauty’s most powerful brands, including our own reporting throughout the year.
Domestic and international sales
For the prestige and mass markets in the U.S., we considered rankings of the top performers and highest-growth brands, provided by Circana. Globally, we consulted Euromonitor International on sales rankings for 2022, in addition to the WWD Beauty Inc Top 100, an annual ranking of the world’s largest beauty companies.
To see the brands with the highest digital traction, we consulted data from Tribe Dynamics, Launchmetrics and Spate, in addition to bestseller pages on sephora.com and ulta.com.
Agility and innovation
We considered our own reporting when looking at product innovation, trend leadership and agile responses to the factors that have most impacted 2023 thus far. As far as figures for donations and philanthropic endeavors, we relied on companies’ own reporting.
We looked at 2022 winners of the Allure Best of Beauty awards, the 2022 Beauty Inc awards, the 2022 CEW Beauty Creator Awards, the 2023 Fragrance Foundation awards and the 2023 Marie Claire Prix d’Excellence.
Launch Gallery: Inside Beauty's Most Powerful Brands: The Originals
Best of WWD