Fed up of attempting to navigate the beauty world one false claim at a time? We feel you. In a recent poll, over 20,000 Cult Beauty shoppers highlighted the importance of transparency when deciding which products to splash the cash on. And they’re not alone. As the demand for sustainable, efficacious beauty products grows and grows, so too does the amount of marketing claims that brands are making. And those claims aren’t always clear. From cruelty free to vegan and recyclable to coral reef safe, the legislation around brands being allowed to make certain claims isn’t as tight as you might hope. So what can be done to make shopping for beauty more transparent? Enter blockchain.
If you’re clued up on Bitcoin and other types of cryptocurrency (anyone?!), you might have heard of blockchain before. But, for ease, we’re going to go ahead and assume that, much like us this time last week, you’ve never heard the term ‘blockchain’ uttered by anyone in your life – let alone know what it is.
In short, it’s a techy system that maintains a record of all transactions made using a certain cryptocurrency. Sounds fun, right? Most importantly, a blockchain is incorruptible – kind of like a digital ledger. Luckily, we don’t need to know the ins and outs of how the technology works to understand the ways in which it could help revolutionise how we shop for beauty. It makes for a super trustworthy way of verifying information from a brand and its supply chain.
For the first time in beauty history, blockchain technology is being used to provide total proof-point transparency while shopping, as online retailer Cult Beauty partner up with tech-platform Provenance. Co-Founder of Cult Beauty, Alexia Inge says: “Transparency has always been at the heart of Cult Beauty; in fact, our whole raison d’etre was a reaction against the pseudoscientific marketing mirages that drove the beauty industry at the time. We are always looking for ways to empower our customers with the information they need, without drowning them in beauty admin.”
So what exactly does all of this look like? Well, it’s actually quite simple. Provenance uses a combination of blockchain and open data to share key product information. For example, if a brand makes claims that it is ‘vegan’, when shopping for that brand on Cult Beauty, a ‘Vegan’ proof point will appear on the page with a click-through to exactly what this claim means, alongside a document of proof. This proof could come in the form of a statement of assurance from Provenance themselves, lab test results or official letters or documentation, to name just a few.
Not only does this accessibility of information make for a much more transparent shopping experience for the customer, but crucially it puts pressure on brands to ensure the claims they make can be backed up by hard evidence. Current proof points live on the site include, but are not limited to: vegan, cruelty free, recyclable, coral reef safe, family-owned business, supports charity and vegetarian.
Alexia explains: “There are currently 10 brands enrolled onto the Provenance program on Cult Beauty including Oskia, Sana Jardin and REN Skincare. The list is always growing and we are consistently working on enrolling new and existing brands to the list once they are able to provide full information.”
So what’s the catch? Well first of all, so far Cult Beauty are the only beauty retailer to be using Provenance’s blockchain technology. The more retailers that get on board, the more pressure put on brands to think twice about adopting misleading claims on new products. Another issue that risks presenting itself is relying on the willingness of brands to co-operate. Although a huge amount of brands are more than happy to hand over their full ingredients lists and welcome the addition of proof points with open arms, there is a risk that some will be far less willing to co-operate. Moving on from this, the complexity of securing evidence for claims is understandably not a straight forward one and can be extremely time-consuming. At the moment, Cult Beauty has 10 brands with data-driven proof points, and although they have plans to continue rolling them during 2020, the industry is still a long, long way from total transparency.
But baby steps, hey? And it’s certainly a step in the right direction. In the short term, we hope that these proof points act as motivation for brands to want to do better. And, in the long term, we pray that with the handy help of evidence-led proof points, we can finally shop for beauty products with no scepticism.