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A beauty industry secret: Who really makes your cosmetics?

Karen’s concern: I always understood that among the cosmetic brands that there are sister companies like L’Oreal is made by Lancome, etc. If this is true, how does the quality/effectiveness of the drug store brand compare to the more pricey department store brand? While we’re at it: Are the drug store brands, including house brands, made by bigger name companies to make more efficient use of the factory?

The Right Brain’s response:

You’re close Karen, but you’ve got it a little bit backwards. It’s actually cosmetic giant L’Oreal that makes Lancome. But don’t feel bad, it’s easy to get confused when figuring out who makes what.

Who’s who

We’ve blogged before about who’s who in the beauty biz. Monster companies like L’Oreal, Unilever, and P&G own many smaller companies and even more brands so it’s hard to tell who your products are coming from. For example, L’Oreal makes the L’Oreal brands like Vives, Preference Hair Color, and Studio Line. They also make other mass market brands like Garnier (Fructis) and Softsheen (ethnic hair care aka Carson Products). They also make several salon/department store brands such as Kerastase, Kiehl’s, Lancome, Matrix, and Redken.

Twisted sister

Does that mean all these “sister” companies sell the same products? Sometimes yet, sometimes no. There are plenty of differences across the L’Oreal brands but there are some sneaky similarities too. Take a look at the ingredients in Loreal’s Kerastase Nutritive Oleo-Relax Smoothing Hair Masque and L’Oreal Vive Pro Smooth Intense Conditioning Treatment and you’ll see they are are almost EXACTLY. For more details read our post on How Kerastase Kills Your Cash.

Doin’ drugs

As far as drug store brands and house brands are concenred, that’s a different story. Drug store brands are made by all kinds of different companies like those listed above as well as small “mom and pop” companies. House brands (also called Private Label or generic brands) are made by contract manufacturers. These are companies that specialize in making product for OTHER companies. There are good and bad products from all companies so you can’t over generalize, but products from contract manufacturers don’t always go through the same rigorous testing as products from those companies that make their own. So, be careful when experimenting with house brands.

What do YOU think? Do you stick to the big name brands or do you go for house brands? Leave a comment and share your thoughts with the rest of the Beauty Brains.