Private equity giant Carlyle Group values Beautycounter at $1 billion in bet on 'clean' cosmetics

Beautycounter launched a direct-to-consumer business in 2013, selling through its own website and web of consultants, of which it has more than 65,000 today, many on social media.


Private equity giant Carlyle Group is taking a majority stake in Beautycounter, best known for its “clean” makeup and skincare products.

Carlyle’s backing officially labels the beauty brand a unicorn, valuing it at $1 billion — more than double its last reported valuation of $400 million in January 2018, according to PitchBook data.

The investment comes as venture funding into private start-ups like Beautycounter soared to a record $64 billion in the first three months of the year — the highest amount ever for a single quarter and equivalent to 43% of all the venture money raised in 2020.

It also comes as more consumer-facing companies like Beautycounter go all-in on long-term e-commerce solutions and direct-to-consumer efforts that have been largely validated throughout the pandemic.

Headquartered in Santa Monica, California, the company launched as a direct-to-consumer business in 2013, selling through its own website and web of consultants, of which it has more than 65,000 today. Many of these consultants are better thought of as influencers who tout Beautycounter’s merchandise to their social media followers and can receive up to 35% commission on their retail volumes if successful.

The company was first founded in 2011 by CEO Gregg Renfrew, who today is often lauded as a pioneer when it comes to transparency in the makeup industry.

“I’m proud that we were able to navigate through the pandemic with a digitally-native mindset, fast-tracking our efforts to find new and innovative ways to enhance the online shopping experience,” Renfrew said in an email statement to CNBC. “We’ll continue to do so as we enter this next phase of growth for the company.”

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Beautycounter founder Gregg Renfrew lobbies in front of Congress for better government regulations on personal-care products.

Source: Beautycounter

As an advocate for better government regulations on personal-care products, Renfrew’s company has a history of lobbying members of Congress for better laws to keep harmful chemicals out of the items that women and men are putting on their bodies daily.

Beautycounter has published a list of 1,800 questionable chemical ingredients, dubbed The Never List, that the company vows will never be put in its products. Some of these include the disinfectant benzalkonium chloride and coal-tar hair dyes, a byproduct of coal processing. 

“ESG considerations play an increasing role in our investment processes and Beautycounter has authentically integrated these values — including sustainability, ethical sourcing, and diversity — into its brand, its products and into the way it conducts business,” Carlyle Group’s Jay Sammons, head of global consumer, media & retail, said in an email statement to CNBC. “We believe Beautycounter will continue to differentiate itself and serve consumers’ needs well into the future.”

With their majority stake, Carlyle joins a roster of Beautycounter investors that include the U2 frontman Bono and private-equity firm TPG Growth, which the Wall Street Journal reports is exiting as part of the deal.

Beautycounter ranked No. 48 on last year’s CNBC Disruptor 50 list of private, venture-backed start-ups that are positioned to transform industries.


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