Is Aesop Natural?
Is Aesop natural?
— Understanding the brand’s ethos.
We explore why consumers assume Aesop uses natural ingredients despite their corporate transparency.
✎ Kat Guerrero
We love a cult beauty movement just as much as the next skincare-obsessed company. When a company not only provides a good product, but a marketing strategy that leaves people wanting more, all we can say is: respect.
And at the forefront of cult skincare? None other than Aesop, an Australian line known for its sharp products, no-nonsense ingredients, well-informed staff, elegant reputation and beautiful storefronts. Their whimsical pop-ups, apothecary vibes and quirky approach to traditional skincare feels fresh.
Aesop provides a basic line of beauty products – think shampoos, sunscreens, skin formulations and serums. Their ethos revolves around combining plant-based and laboratory-made ingredients of the finest quality. But the way they brand themselves and have created a reputation is impressive. Why? Because they don’t push advertising campaigns. Instead, Aesop uses word of mouth, social media, knowledgeable staff, and stunning design to push their products.
Their business model is interesting because while they provide a product, their company culture transcends the beauty realm. Interviews with interesting artists, collaborations with the Paris Review, pieces on literature and history, and an obsession on creating spaces that represent the artistic vision of Aesop are truly what the brand relies upon to build an ideal audience of pseudo-intellectuals with great pores. According to Aesop, the strength in their brand is that of cultural exchange, not just beauty.
That charming ethos, in conjunction with the architectural and visually alluring design of their storefront makes for a cult brand that has customers begging Aesop for more.
But, is Aesop natural?
That’s the grey area. As discussed in previous pieces, ‘natural’ is an easily convoluted term. Aesop is pretty transparent by “refusing the questionable promises often made in the beauty industry.” According to Stuart Miller, Aesop’s North American General Manager, the company steers away from the organic trend and believes in the power of science and nature. It’s reported that the words natural and organic are verboten at Aesop.
There’s power in disrupting an industry filled with company touting ‘natural,’ ‘organic’ and ‘plant-based products’ by stating that yes, natural products are good, but sometimes science can play a role in formulating products that work. All of Aesop’s products are efficacy-based, meaning that the ingredients are strategically blended to create goods that intentionally target an issue or result in an intended outcome. Efficacy-based implies some science-magic and lab work to create ingredients that are effective.
Aesop’s labeling reads:
“We recognise the benefits that organic and biodynamic farming have for the land and for our health, but we are practical about how realistic it would be for us to use only organic ingredients. Sometimes they are not available, sometimes there is not enough of a particular ingredient, sometimes the air miles required to import it would generate an environmental concern of its own.”
The company makes their case by stating that preservatives are necessary in products to maintain their integrity and ensure that the blends don’t rot. Giovanni Lepori, Aesop’s president, coined the term ‘intelligent skin care’ to refer to the practice of using better ingredients, regardless if they are man-made or natural.
That’s not to say that Aesop doesn’t believe in the power of botanical extracts and plant-based ingredients. They just celebrate science - and blend high-quality natural products with man-made ingredients to make the products they are best known for. Common ingredients found in Aesop products include sulphates and palm oil. Packaging includes recyclable glass, plastic and cardboard, assuming the integrity of the products aren’t compromised.
So to answer the question - no, Aesop products aren’t natural. They aren’t organic and they aren’t as green as other competitors. The minimalist environment and aesthetic Aesop employs for their brand allows consumers to believe that their entire line is clean and presumably natural. But, they are not.
To be fair, Aesop is beautifully transparent about their ingredients and philosophies behind using man-made substances.
Understanding the difference.
Aesop, a successful company whose products are revered by beauty editors and skin enthusiasts internationally, instigates an interesting conversation about our relationship with skincare. The sole purpose of effective skincare is to achieve a sustainable and visual effect on the epidermis. Some natural products work for individuals, while others have no direct and measurable effect.
So why is there such a war between natural and unnatural skincare lines? In theory, natural products are ideal to preserve skin integrity in the long term. After all, the more natural the product is, the less harm is can cause to the skin. But science and specifically formulated mixtures created to target skin issues do have a role in the skincare industry.
If a company marries natural products and efficient lab-created ingredients to produce useful goods that work well, where does that leave the conversation about natural skincare?
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