Historically a niche segment, natural beauty is growing in popularity among a wide range of consumers. From Q3 2017 to Q3 2018, monthly searches for clean beauty keywords surged by 88%, according to Gartner L2’s Digital IQ Index: Beauty.

As a result, e-tailers are rapidly expanding and repositioning their existing product assortments to prioritize natural and clean beauty. For example, Sephora launched a clean beauty boutique in May. The boutique features dedicated category landing pages and product badges that communicate which products are free of banned ingredients.

Interest in natural beauty retailers is also on the rise. Branded search volume for key players Goop, Credo, and Follain has increased by 49%, 83%, and 83%, respectively.


The natural beauty category is unique in that it emphasizes searches for ingredients excluded from products, as opposed to more traditional beauty categories, where ingredient benefits are spotlighted. That said, official exclusionary clean definitions vary significantly. Across the five most visible clean beauty retailers, definitions referenced 38 unique banned ingredients, only two of which — parabens and phthalates — were included across all definitions.

Search behavior reveals an education gap in beauty consumers’ understanding of which exclusionary ingredients they should search for. While year-over-year search volumes for educational queries like “why are parabens bad” grew by 44%, exclusionary product terms did not see a similar lift. Even broad exclusionary terms like “non-toxic makeup” didn’t see a boost in search interest.

Consumers seem to be more informed in product discovery via exclusionary terms in the hair category. Searches for terms like “sulfate and paraben-free shampoo” increased 89% year over year, while beauty corollaries like “paraben free makeup” and “non-toxic makeup” were stagnant. As brands aim to tap into growing interest in clean beauty, it will be important to resist concentrating efforts on exclusionary terms and to continue monitoring how consumers begin defining clean beauty for themselves, separate from the rigid exclusionary definitions provided by clean retailers to date.

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