In the last few years, the movement in cosmetics toward “clean” products has been steadily forward — even if the definition of a clean product varies of seller to seller. Sometimes it means cruelty-free (no animal testing), sometimes it means staying away from certain common chemical preservatives like parabens that have gotten some bad press in recent years for being potential carcinogenic, sometimes it means sustainably sourced and produced. It can mean some combination of these things — or in some cases it means none of them, and the “clean” label affixed to the bottle is nothing more than marketing material.
Plus, as NakedPoppy CEO and Co-Founder Jaleh Bisharat said in an interview with TechCrunch, finding suitably sustainable, cruelty-free and natural preservative avoiding cosmetics is really less than half the battle. The customer also has to wear the makeup, which means it actually has to look good on their skin.
And there is the search to grab a product, or the right selection of products to check off all of those boxes, she noted. For some makeup consumers, she said, the thrill is in the hunt. They want to watch all the YouTube videos, sample everything on the shelves at Sephora and on the whole fully dedicate themselvs to the project of the perfect cosmetics combination.
But, according to Bisharat, that is not the experience most busy women are looking for. The firm's newly-launched site, NakedPoppy, is meant to create a place in the market for that busy woman, she said — “The one for whom it’s not entertainment to go shopping for makeup.”
The goal, she said, is to help use digital technology and artificial intelligence (AI)-screened data to turn makeup into a “set-it and forget it” kind of setup. To accomplish that, NakedPoppy uses a patent-pending personalization algorithm to help move customers to the right makeup as fast as possible. That requires the customer fill out a three-minute questionarre and submit a phot of their wrist. The wrist photo is there to help the computer best pinpoint what the consumer’s base skin color actually is. The algorithm, when it considers its recommendations, takes in information like skin type, skin color, skin undertone, age, eye color, hair color, allergies, sensitivities and beauty goals, among others.
Over top of the AI selection process, the goods for sale on the site are curated. Heavily.
According to Bisharat, the firm uses chemists to screen each product it sells for to make sure it only contains the 700 ingredients it deems acceptable for use in makeup. That 700, incidentally, is out of a possible 12,500 chemicals that are available for use in personal care products. It may sound extreme, but according to Bishra, it only sounds that way because most people have no idea of the things that are actually in their makeup. If they knew, she said, very likely they would be a lot less excited about putting it on their own face.
“Conventional makeup is considered hazardous waste by the EPA,” Bisharat noted. “You can look better and go clean. For us, it’s a personal passion and an area of information asymmetry, like most people know that with the food you eat, you should try to eat organic or as healthy as you can, but you’d be surprised how few women — they just assume the FDA protects them,” Bisharat said. “The idea is to educate the world and help women move toward new solutions.”
NakedPoppy is a very new site — it launched less than two months ago with with $4 million in venture capital backing, and has just rolled out its first private-label product — liquid eyeliner. The reviews thus far of the product have been quite high — the term “hero product” has showed up in a few reviews.
The challenge now is to bring the market to them — in a world crowded with cosmetics startups offering data-based, algorithm matching and clean products. How does the firm plan to do that — partnerships with social media influencers, more Instagram promotion, physical stores all their own? Mum's the word from NakedPoppy.
But that is more is coming, they were quite happy to affirm. We’ll all just have to wait and see what that more is going to look like.