Since the advent of the first luxury beauty brands in the early 1900s, with signature red lipsticks pioneered by Elizabeth Arden, consumers have been drawn to quality skincare, cosmetics, and hair care, allowing them to achieve higher beauty standards.
Arden’s lipsticks were followed by the rise of more extensively available cosmetics in the 1940s led by brands like Estee Lauder.
“Luxury beauty brands earn their designation through a commitment to high-quality products, superior experience, and exclusive ingredients. Most importantly, luxury products must deliver on their promises,” says former L’Oreal executive Nicolas Krafft. Krafft also remarks on the sought-after texture, whether richer or creamier, of luxury cosmetics lines, adding that most people can tell the quality of the product by its touch and smell. Most importantly, these luxury beauty products bring results — smoothing lines and wrinkles, providing firmness, and a dewy complexion. It’s not just one hero, one rare or exclusive ingredient, that makes a product luxurious, Krafft says, but the entire experience.
Luxury brands give customers the feeling of being pampered, of owning something special. Maybe you can’t afford this season’s Chanel coat you’ve been drooling over, but chances are that you can probably afford to snag Chanel’s Le Volume De Chanel mascara. This brand extension into luxury beauty has historically boosted the accessibility of premiere fashion houses, with the luxury cosmetics market being valued at $52.7 million in 2018.
Consumers want to look like the celebrities they admire and are willing to pay a premium to don a star’s sworn-by brand. This was made evident in the 80s with the rise of iconic famous supermodels becoming the faces of most luxury brands and remains true today with the ascension of social media influencers.
With the rise of social media, consumers are not only in-tune with the luxury cosmetics brands that are familiar from department store makeup counters, but they have now the ability to better connect with these brand’s spokespeople in real life and not just on the cover of a magazine.
Social media has changed the game and opened a window into the personal lives of our icons and their personalities. The relationship of luxury brands with their spokespeople will continue to change in the future and give way to new types of partnerships beyond the traditional million-dollar marketing campaigns.
Dermatologists and Luxury Skincare
A number of luxury skincare brands were developed by dermatologists who use their expertise formed through years of treating patients for everything from wrinkles, to blemishes, to scars, and pigmentation. This medical endorsement connects with customers by leveraging the dermatologist’s scientific expertise. It is one thing for a brand to make a claim about their product in a vacuum, but when a brand can get an endorsement or sign-off for its product from a medical professional, it lends credibility to those claims.
Dr. Barbara Sturm is a line of luxury beauty products named after a German aesthetics doctor known for her non-surgical anti-aging treatments. Sturm’s mother was a chemist and her grandmother was a pharmacist, and she says she learned at a young age about the cosmetic properties of medicinal herbs and roots that can be found in the forest. Her background and experience with natural beauty ingredients and academia paint a picture of a well-sourced, highly effective line of cosmetics, drawing customers in.
Accessibility to Dr. Sturm through social media is next level as she regularly provides product tutorials on her Instagram. Additionally, Sturm’s celebrity influencers, like Courtney Trop of Always Judging, who has nearly 350K Instagram followers and is praised for her fashion and skincare expertise, help expand Sturm’s reach.
Makeup Artists, Hair Stylists and Luxury Cosmetics
Social media, which is being used to great effect by celebrity spokespeople and luxury brands alike, has also brought makeup artists and hair stylists to the forefront as the leading experts on the latest makeup must-haves and trends. As makeup artists have become household names, they too have launched their own best-selling luxury lines.
British makeup artist Pat McGrath has risen to near-legendary status as she has been dubbed the most influential makeup artist in the world by Vogue magazine and was included among TIME magazine’s 100 most influential people in 2019. Huda Kattan has risen to prominence in recent years with her Huda Beauty cosmetics line, which started in 2013 by selling a collection of false eyelashes. Kattan’s client list includes names like Eva Longoria and Nicole Ritchie, and she has since grown her Instagram community to a whopping 26 million followers, making hers the most popular beauty account on the social media platform.
As with makeup, top hair care products are often associated with big name stylists. OUAI (pronounced: “way”) started by celebrity hairstylist Jen Atkin, a close friend of the Kardashians, has risen to prominence since it began in 2016 for that very reason. OUAI was created to help give women an easy, efficient, effective, and curated routine to achieve their desired hair health and aesthetic. Thanks to Atkin’s close ties to A-list celebrities, her 1.5mm followers on instagram, and the fact that the New York Times named her “The Most Influential Hairstylist in the World”, the brand is doing just that. Now, based on its success and close ties to Atkin, the OUAI brand is sold at premium retailers around the world.
Celebrities and Luxury Cosmetics
With the rise of social media, brands and celebrities have completely changed the nature of their partnerships. Building on their millions of followers, celebrities and influencers alike are making their mark on the luxury cosmetics industry by partnering with established brands or starting their own.
Kylie Cosmetics, launched by Kylie Jenner, the youngest Kardashian, as an independent brand and built into a powerhouse by relying heavily on star power to bolster its name recognition among the younger beauty shoppers and create a generation of committed consumers, is one such example. Kylie Jenner being attached to the line makes the entire product line that much more desirable and yes, luxurious. But beyond being just the face of the company, Jenner is personally connected to the brand and can therefore promote it on social media platforms with a much higher level of credibility. The high acquisition price paid by Coty, which currently holds a 50% stake in Kylie Cosmetics, reflects the power and potential of social media celebrities and their potential role in co-creating brands.
LVMH went a similar route with Fenty Beauty which has been a huge hit since it launched in 2017. To reach a more diverse audience they decided to partner with A-lister Rihanna not just as the face of the brand but as a co-creator. This process has opened the door for Rihanna, and other celebrities, to open up their beauty world to their followers, making the brands themselves more authentic.
Yves St. Laurent (YSL) has been able to continue its double-digit growth trajectory thanks to the power of its influencers. L’Oreal is another brand that has been turning to the influence of social media as Marc Toulemonde, L’Oréal USA chief digital and marketing officer, said: “We are excited to exclusively partner with a group of Pinterest creators to bring innovative looks and tutorials to our consumers. With the recent revival of makeup routines, we value our ability to leverage the latest marketing capabilities to inspire interactive engagements and creativity among the vibrant beauty community on Pinterest.” Platforms like Instagram and Pinterest have bridged the gap between ordinary make-up users and celebrities who all use similar products at home. Being able to watch tutorials featuring celebrities engaging in their daily makeup routine makes the products not only more alluring, but more accessible, inclusive, and authentic.
In the new digital age, brands can no longer afford to put any model/celebrity name on their products as consumers are looking for authenticity, representation, and honesty. The consumer base of the cosmetics industry is incredibly diverse and if brands want to solidify themselves as top-sellers in the market, not only do they have to have a spokesperson to help them get there, they need to have the right spokesperson and define the right partnership to engage their audience.