‘You don’t drive change by standing outside the main conversation’: Five Dot Botanics lands Lookfantastic deal

By Kacey Culliney contact

- Last updated on GMT

British indie brand Five Dot Botanics offers a small range of vegan-certified, natural skin care products made using just five ingredients per product (Image: Five Dot Botanics)
British indie brand Five Dot Botanics offers a small range of vegan-certified, natural skin care products made using just five ingredients per product (Image: Five Dot Botanics)

Related tags: Indie beauty, minimalist beauty, natural beauty, Natural skin care, inclusive beauty, The Hut Group, e-commerce, skin microbiome, skin barrier

British indie brand Five Dot Botanics has secured listings with The Hut Group on two of its mass beauty sites Lookfantastic and Mankind – a move set to take the natural, minimalist skin care conversation mainstream, its founder says.

Established just two years ago, Five Dot Botanics offered a small range of vegan-certified skin care products made in Britain using just five ingredients per product, including a clay mask, face mist, eye cream and serums. The brand was primed to launch into scale care within the next three months and add a multipurpose product to its offering as well.

Available via its direct-to-consumer website, Holland & Barrett and a range of boutique stores across the UK, Five Dot Botanics most recently made its first foray into mass beauty retail – launching on The Hut Group’s Lookfantastic and Mankind beauty websites earlier this month.

Sephora support to upscale on The Hut Group

Zaffrin O’Sullivan, founder of Five Dot Botanics, told CosmeticsDesign-Europe she had been loaned the funds from Sephora’s social division Sephora Stands to enable such a scale-up, after being part of its accelerator programme in the US last year.

O’Sullivan said this was particularly powerful, given Sephora could be considered a stark competitor to The Hut Group. “It’s great, isn’t it? (…) It’s run out of the social department in Sephora, it’s not the merchandisers making that decision, and they’re here to support what are great outcomes for beauty brands, in terms of founder inclusivity, proposition, people who are building sustainable brands from the beginning, who are already formulating with green sciences and obsess with packaging and challenging things. They loaned [the funds] to me; to support me as an ethnic woman, Bangladeshi female founder.”

Zaffrin O’Sullivan, founder of Five Dot Botanics
Zaffrin O’Sullivan, founder of Five Dot Botanics

Without this loan, she said it would have been almost impossible to accept the deal with The Hut Group.

“To take on The Hut Group was a massive step-change for us.” ​Conversations around logistics, fulfilment and mass shipping across Europe was a significant change to how Five Dot Botanics had conducted business thus far, she said, but the move opened “so many doors”.

Five Dot Botanics ‘probably the smallest brand’ Lookfantastic has ever taken on

Asked about how Five Dot Botanics might fit into an arguably mainstream beauty site, O’Sullivan said: “Lookfantastic historically felt very mainstream, but they’ve done what I want beauty retailers to do – pause and think about their portfolio.”​.

Five Dot Botanics had been listed under Lookfantastic’s growing natural section, she said, and was “probably the smallest brand” ​it had ever taken on, but natural, clean, genderless, inclusive beauty was what consumers were demanding.

During a conversation in the run-up to the deal, she said The Hut Group had said they wanted to “offer consumers the power of choice”​ – a concept that strongly aligned with O’Sullivan’s thinking.

“The reality is, if you want to have a conversation about what beauty is and does (…) you don’t drive change by standing outside the main conversation. You have to be in the main conversation to say: ‘this is my point of view’.”

So, what was Five Dot Botanics’ point of view in the bigger beauty world?

Simpler routines for a healthy skin barrier is here to stay

“Beauty is subjective. So, all these products that offer beauty as an end goal we don’t care about; we care about health – that’s objective. A healthy, strong skin barrier. So, we are sort of an uneasy beauty brand because we see us as part of a holistic approach to wellbeing and health,”​ O’Sullivan said.

Five Dot Botanics offers consumers minimal, natural skin care (Image: Five Dot Botanics)
Five Dot Botanics offers consumers minimal, natural skin care (Image: Five Dot Botanics)

“…We only really have one ticket: our products are designed to give you a strong, healthy skin barrier.” ​And importantly, she said the root achieving this with a minimal selection of natural ingredients.

“Simpler routines, minimalist skin care and the rise of ‘skinamilism’” ​was set to stick, she said, as consumers continued to embrace what naturally healthy skin looked like. And this was being propelled by a rise in skin irritation linked to many factors, including lifestyle, over-use of products and the massification of potent skin peels, exfoliators and retinol, O’Sullivan said.

Five Dot Botanics aimed to counter all of that. “We sort of inhibit this space where we are a personal cosmetic but we’re also not. We’re part of a gang of other products that help you live a healthier life.”

For Lookfantastic, currently, the brand was “very, very different”​ to other beauty offerings – “sort of like nobody’s friend at a party”, ​she said, though it wouldn’t be that way for long.

Lookfantastic ‘shoring up the future’ – think sustainability and ingredient choice

Lookfantastic was “not standing still”,​ O’Sullivan said, and had a great content plan that was set to fast evolve, expanding offerings,  drawing more focus on sustainability, offering consumers a recyclability programme, and thinking more carefully about ingredients.

“They’re shoring up the future. They know it’s not there now, but they’re wise enough to see that for them to be successful, they need to evolve for the consumer we already sell to and consumers who are changing their behaviours.”

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