Natural skincare has grown exponentially as a category within the last decade, but until now many of us have equated better ingredients with higher price points. Direct-to-consumer brand Fleur & Bee wants to dispel the notion that natural and ethical skincare can’t also be affordable.
Their current line of seven products (Vitamin C serum, cleanser, eye cream, detox mask, moisturizer, hand sanitizer, and rose water toner) packs powerful botanicals, never tests on animals and uses sustainable packaging. Each product costs less than $30, and for every order placed, 1 percent of sales goes to Days for Girls, an international organization that provides access to menstrual care and education to girls in need.
I spoke to founder Matthias Hug about why he decided to enter the skincare market from a completely different business, how the company developed his current roster of high-impact natural products, and where he sees the brand going in the next five years.
What made you decide to start Fleur & Bee?
Matthias Hug: I also own another company that I’ve been running for six years. It’s in a completely different field and the company is called Totallee. We make minimalistic accessories for your phone and it’s a direct-to-consumer model as well. I’d been looking for a new challenge to start something else. My wife mentioned how her skincare products are getting more expensive and that made me wonder if there’s something that we can kind of do with our model that we know from Totallee, selling directly to consumers and offering really good value at a better price. That was our initial challenge that we decided to pursue.
How did you come up with the name?
I’m doing this with the same group of people I’m running Totallee with. We wanted to come up with a name that implies our cornerstones as a brand—natural, affordable, ethical, and transparent.
Since you weren’t in the field before, how did you immerse yourself in skincare?
It was definitely a learning process for us. One thing we wanted to make sure because we already had a very successful company was to have a company with a net positive impact. It was important to us to build something eco-friendly, sustainable with suppliers who share our values. The first thing we did was look for labs and manufacturers, which was a very long process—it took us almost a year to find someone with the same standards and shared values. We wanted someone who produces with renewable energy. It was an educational process and we also put out a lot of content for our customers and our community along the way. We rely on our manufacturers and our lab for chemical compositions to make sure our products are effective as well as natural.
You bill yourself as the “Netflix of Beauty.” What does that mean?
The idea is to be a little bit disruptive in a very established and entrenched business. I think Netflix came around and shook up the movie business by selling directly to consumers and bypassing a lot of gatekeepers. We’re trying to do something similar by selling directly online, which allows us to not share our margins with a middleman. In the beauty industry, they can be in the 50 to 70 percent range. We can pass those kinds of savings on to our customers by reinvesting in our business to create better products. That’s where the analogy comes from, just going directly to our customers and offering them what they enjoy. In the beauty industry, there a few conglomerates that own hundreds of companies. If you look under the hood, it’s very similar to the six or seven companies that own a lot of media and studios. We’re a small indie brand competing with bigger guys.
How has your brand been funded thus far?
We’re self-funded out of the profits that we’re making with Totallee and we’re growing organically.
How is your price point unique?
I think generally in the consumer space the trend is towards green products, but we wanted to make something that’s also affordable and accessible to as many people as possible. We priced our products very competitively.
Tell me more about your formulation. How do you encapsulate green beauty?
It’s important for us to be transparent. Natural is a tricky term and can mean what you want it to mean. We have a holistic approach; we don’t test on animals and none of our ingredients are animal-derived. Our eye cream has squalene which some companies derive out of shark liver, which you can still call natural. We want to stay away from anything that harms animals. We have a great relationship with our manufacturer and 30 percent of our ingredients are organic, something we’re trying to increase as we go along without increasing the price. We try to include all the good stuff and stay away from things that aren’t as good. Sometimes that’s also about what we don’t include—for us that’s parabens, sulfates, and any sort of fragrances, which is a catchphrase for a whole bunch of things. We want consumers to know what’s in their skincare.
Our toner has only two ingredients: water and rose flower oil. With our eye cream, which is our most popular product, you get 0.6 ounces in the jar that only costs you $22 and lasts three to four months. It contains squalene, caffeine, Vitamin B3, Vitamin E, and matrixyl3000, which is a natural peptide. For our face cream, we have a lot of hydrating ingredients: organic aloe vera, glycerin, Vitamin C. Our serum has 15 percent SAP (Sodium Ascorbyl Phosphate), Vitamin C, and we also use clary sage, which is a cool ingredient, because if you have oily skin it can make it a little bit drier but if you have dry skin it can make it a little oilier. It’s kind of a magical ingredient.
Please tell me about your newest products—what are their functions and ingredients?
We recently launched a detox mask and a hand sanitizer. The detox mask is meant to complement our line of essential skincare products by offering a charcoal mask that naturally draws out impurities and cleanses pores while also nourishing and protecting your skin. The star ingredients are kaolin clay, bentonite clay, coconut charcoal powder, organic aloe, organic reishi mushroom extract, and organic green tea leaf extract, along with many other good-for-you ingredients. All ingredients were hand-picked to maximize results. As always, all ingredients are natural, clean, vegan, and cruelty-free. The full list of ingredients can be seen on our website. We also launched a hand sanitizer spray that is formulated following guidelines from the CDC and FDA and is made using a 75% isopropyl alcohol formula.
Did you create a hand sanitizer in response to COVID-19? How has this product fared during the current climate?
Yes, we launched our hand sanitizer Dis-Mist in response to COVID-19. We noticed a shortage of hand sanitizers on the market and decided to offer this product for a limited time to help our customers stay safe. We sell our sanitizers in 3-pack bundles for $18. We were mentioned in several publications like Women’s Health, which helped us get additional exposure. We are grateful that people have been responding well and are keeping us busy.
How do these products round out your skincare range?
While all our other products are meant to be used daily as part of your natural skincare routine, our detox mask, Prince Charcoal, is something you might only use once or twice a week or whenever your skin needs some extra TLC. It’s formulated to work in harmony with all our other products. Adding our detox face mask to your regimen can help clean your skin from impurities while at the same time calming and soothing stressed skin.
The hand sanitizer is a temporary product for us to help out our customers while sanitizers were hard to come by (and sold out everywhere). Now that hand sanitizers are becoming more readily available again, we will most likely discontinue this product in a couple of months and focus on our core offering.
As the green beauty space becomes more crowded, how does Fleur & Bee stand out?
We’re trying to grow organically, doing the right thing, and over time we can get exposed to more people who like what we’re doing. We’re definitely not looking to compromise our values or the quality of our products for short-term gains. I think what sets us apart is that we are more affordable than other players. Other players at our price point are not as transparent or deliberate with their ingredients.
Please tell me about your new retail partnerships.
Our products are now available online at Urban Outfitters. We are also a couple of days away from finalizing a deal with a national big-box retailer. Fleur & Bee will be available in 1,000 of their stores starting September 2020.
Where do you see the brand growing next year? Where in five years?
Our goal is to find ways to incorporate more organic ingredients over time. Hopefully, by year five, we’ll be all organic and still be able to offer our product at the same price. That’s a little bit of a challenge, but one we’re proud of working on. And then in the long term, we’re also looking at being more eco-friendly and finding ways to use recyclable packaging, making sure we don’t leave too much of a local footprint.
What has been your biggest lesson as a beauty entrepreneur thus far?
I think one of the lessons learned is that the stuff that happens behind the scenes is very important. Having a really good team in place, customer surveys, and having a good relationship with your suppliers might take a while to find but it’s definitely worth just combing through all the options until you find someone you like.
Photo: via Fleur & Bee