Do Our Beauty Products Work?

Madeline Kaplan
4 min readOct 6, 2022


My first goal since joining Selva Ventures is to expand our mission into beauty: to invest in brands that make their consumers’ lives better. I see exciting opportunities everywhere for healthier brands to deliver better outcomes to the consumer. As part of this effort, I will be writing about themes we are excited about in the space, starting with Clinical Beauty.

What Is Clinical Beauty?

Clinical Beauty has two components: first, scientific innovation that improves outcomes; and second, tangible proof that the product works. This includes everything from skincare and haircare to vitamins and supplements.

Some of the most iconic and successful brands of this generation have brought Clinical Beauty to their respective categories. Olaplex’s patented ingredient Bis-Aminopropyl Diglycol Dimaleate restores damaged and compromised hair; Nutrafol’s patented Synergen Complex improves overall hair health; Biossance’s eco-friendly, bio-fermented squalane strengthens the skin barrier and helps the skin retain moisture for all skin types. Beyond big financial success, what do these brands have in common? Tangible proof that their products deliver the outcomes they promise.

Why Should We Care?

Products that work — seems obvious, right? Why is that controversial? Well, over the past five years, we’ve really only heard about which ingredients should not be included in our products. The “Clean Beauty” movement began with good intentions: to raise the safety standard for the products that we put on our bodies; but from there it took us down a rabbit hole of confusion. With no consistent definition of “clean”, retailers like Credo, Sephora and Ulta have developed their own set of conflicting standards. Now, ask ten beauty shoppers to define Clean Beauty and you will get a different answer from each one. Nobody wants to put toxic ingredients on their skin, but nobody can agree on what is actually toxic.

Somewhere in the process of protecting consumers we seem to have lost our way. Rather than encouraging brands to prioritize safety AND efficacy, we have gone to extreme lengths to avoid many ingredient types altogether. The industry standard should be high-quality ingredients, transparently sourced, with thoughtful formulations and appropriate concentrations. Today, some of these ingredients may even be considered toxic by some of our favorite retailers.

I want to be clear: Clinical and Clean Beauty are not inherently in conflict. There is clear overlap in the Venn diagram of what is proven to work and what is safe for consumers; the next generation of iconic brands will live in the center. We can already see the consumer focus changing in the 2020s: instead of asking what are the ingredients in this product, consumers are beginning to ask: is this product solving my skincare needs in a safe and effective way?

Clinical Brands to Watch

We have already seen some exciting emerging brands bring this vision to life. K18, launched in 2020, in collaboration with a bio-engineering professor, offers a patented peptide technology to repair hair damage and restore strand strength. The brand’s content goes in depth on the science behind their technology and efficacy. Though most consumers will not spend the time to read everything K18 publishes, their haircare expert friend probably does read it and is the one recommending the product to them.

Images from K18’s website on the science and efficacy of their product

OneSkin, launched in 2021 by four Brazilian PhDs, uses a patented peptide “OS-01” to address skin health at the molecular level, targeting the root causes of skin aging. The brand has been recognized by leading longevity experts, like David Sinclair and Dave Asprey, for its breakthrough technology in skincare. The brand has run successful clinical studies proving their efficacy in improving skin condition within 12 weeks.

Data from OneSkin’s clinical study as shown on their website

In Summary…

Brands that are able to deliver consumer outcomes in a safe, tangibly proven and effective way will stand the test of time. Their scientific rigor in innovation will provide the credibility to engage with skincare experts and appeal to early adopters. Their product efficacy will drive the consumer loyalty and evangelism that we see in generational brands. At the end of the day, we’re all just trying to look and feel the best we can and the easier it is to find those products, the better.

Stay tuned for my next post where I will discuss another Selva beauty theme.