Top 5 beauty sites leading the way in ecommerce

Top 5 beauty sites leading the way in ecommerce

The beauty industry is rapidly expanding every day, and there are certain brands that all newbie founders aim to emulate.

Beauty brands that have been setting the standard, leading the way and consistently dominating the industry for years.

Each and every brand featured today has had a huge impact on the beauty industry, particularly in the e-commerce realm, and can teach us all some tips to grow our own beauty brands...






After 4 years of dominating the blogging-industry with, Emily Weiss approached venture capitalists with an idea to expand Into The Gloss into a curated e-commerce platform. After successfully raising $2 million in seed funding, Glossier was born as a back-to-basics, beauty brand that creates products to compliment their customers needs and wants. Launching with four products: a cleanser, a face mist, a sheer skin tint, and a moisturiser, Glossier made steady strides into domination.

After seven years, what has changed? Well, Glossier now has over 2 million followers, 75 SKUs, and three brick and mortar stores across the globe! Oh, and they’re also valued at more than $1.2 billion. We’d say quite a lot has changed!

It’s no secret that Glossier is dominating the beauty industry. They know their target audience incredibly well and cater directly to the beauty minimalists who want to enhance the beauty they already have, creating products that are attainable “must-haves” based on customer needs and wants.

How did they do it? Unlike most other brands who start from the ground up, Weiss had already built a strong, engaging bond with her audience through Into The Gloss. Positioning Glossier as an off-shoot brand meant that Weiss and her team could focus on developing the brand, whilst the advertising came directly from the blog and social networks.


Why do we love Glossier?


Glossier’s website reflects the brand ethos and values, clean, minimal, and easy to use. It’s that simple. User experience can often get overshadowed by bold branding, complex sitemaps, and trendy designs, but Glossier keeps their site simple to allow the products to shine. 

We especially love Glossier’s swift checkout process,including subtle upselling, free sample adding, and express checkouts with Google Pay and PayPal which makes the customer's journey seamless and interactive. 

Learn more about the importance of usability in ecommerce here.


Huda Beauty


Huda Beauty


Keeping in line with the blogger-turned-entrepreneur success story, we have to talk about Huda Kattan’s namesake brand, Huda Beauty.

Before the launch of Huda Beauty, Huda Kattan was a growing influencer with a large social following on her Instagram and namesake blog, where she regularly reviewed makeup products, shared DIY tips, and her beauty struggles. It was then that Kattan’s sister, Alya Kattan, spring-boarded the idea for Huda to start her very own beauty brand, loaning $6,000 to kickstart the brand.

Initially launching with her faux mink lashes, which sold out on their first day, Huda Beauty was born. However, it wasn’t until Kim Kardashian voiced her admiration for the brand that Huda Beauty saw international success. By the first year’s end, Huda Beauty saw sales hit 1.5 million. 

Now with 140 products under Huda Beauty and three sub-brands, Kayali, Wishful, and GloWish, Huda Kattan is a full-fledged beauty mogul, with her corporation valued at over $1 billion. 


Why do we love Huda Beauty?


Huda Beauty are on aim to become a one-stop-shop for all things beauty, and by including all sub-brands under, they’re ensuring all traffic is pointed to one single e-commerce instance.

Huda Beauty have powered YotPo onto their site, which allows users to earn points when making a purchase. Bonus points can also be earned when you shop Huda Beauty's sub-brands too, a great initiative for users to support the whole Huda Beauty ecosystem. 


Fenty Beauty


Fenty Beauty


You didn’t think we could write about brands leading the way without talking about Fenty Beauty, did you? We could write an entire thesis on how Fenty Beauty changed the beauty industry, but alas we’ll keep it brief.

Fenty Beauty took the industry by storm when they launched in 2017 with 40 diverse shades of foundation, now expanded to 50. It is a feat which many brands could never afford to do, let alone as their very first launch. Fenty Beauty was playing no games with their message, Fenty Beauty is for everyone, regardless of ethnicity.

Fenty Beauty’s commercial success set a new standard in the beauty industry that a diverse shade range is non-negotiable. Fenty Beauty’s success was not in vain, it was the start of a global discussion, with brands now launching 50, 60, and even 100 shade collections, always trying to outdo one another. 

To say that Fenty Beauty changed the beauty industry wouldn’t be an exaggeration. Many could say that the success can be attributed to its founder, one of the best selling artists of all time, Rihanna, in case you didn’t know, and the backing of billion-dollar corporation, LVMH. Yet, Fenty Beauty is much more than a “celebrity brand”, they’re a powerhouse of inclusivity and accessibility.


Why do we love Fenty Beauty?


We love Fenty Beauty's addition of a 'virtual try on', which gives users the opportunity to try on products before purchasing them. This is a great initiative for conversion, and also especially handy in an age where we can no longer go in store to try! 


Kylie Cosmetics


Kylie Cosmetics


Now you may be wondering how a Kardashian, or Kardashian-adjacent, made it to this list. However, we wouldn’t be doing a list about e-commerce success justice without talking about Kylie Cosmetics.

In 2017, WWD announced that Kylie Cosmetics raked in $420 million in sales in just 18 months and purely from her Shopify website. It’s been reported that due to the success of Kylie Cosmetics, Kylie Jenner became the world’s youngest self-made billionaire, but let’s start from the beginning…

Kylie Jenner is the youngest member of the Kardashian/Jenner dynasty, and after starring in the hit reality TV show Keeping up with the Kardashians, Jenner began to build up a desirable following of dedicated fans on all social media platforms, seeing her become a global influencer. 

Jenner’s inspiration for the line came from her obsession with Youtube tutorials and her desire to have fuller-looking lips. After initially launching her beauty brand in November 2015 with a $29 lipstick and lip liner duo, aptly named Kylie Lip Kits, Jenner saw instant success. The full collection sold out in minutes, no doubt breaking the internet. 

It’s worth noting that Jenner didn’t employ thousands of people, wholesale her products, use paid advertising, or even invest in retail space. Instead, Jenner used Shopify to manage her business and Instagram to promote. Until recently the only way to get your hands on an infamous Kylie Lip Kit was to purchase directly through her Shopify store.

Fast forward to 2021 and Kylie Kenner has sold a 51% share of Kylie Cosmetics to beauty giant Coty Inc., in a deal valued at an eye-watering $1.2 billion. However, this came at a price. Under the new deal, Kylie Cosmetics could no longer operate using formulas created by former manufacturer, Seed Beauty, due to a ‘trade secret’ clause in the original contract. Okay, so what does this mean? Well, it means all those lip kits, eyeshadow pallets, and concealers belong to the original manufacturer, and so Kylie Cosmetics has to start again…

If you were to visit, you would find that there’s nothing to purchase. Even on their social media platforms everything has been deleted. Instead, Kylie Cosmetics is preparing for a summer relaunch featuring all new branding, new formulas, and new products.

Alas, this doesn’t take away from the massive amounts of success Kylie Cosmetics has seen in the past few years, and by success, we’re talking billions of dollars.


Why do we love Kylie Cosmetics?


We love the attention Kylie Cosmetics brought to the e-commerce industry, particularly the Shopify platform. Previously, brands would either spend hundreds of thousands of dollars building their own ecommerce platform, or put that money to retail space.

However, since the ‘Kylie-effect’, brands are more aware of the power of Shopify, and invest more money into design agencies such as UnderwaterPistol, who are experts at building incredible Shopify sites.


The Inkey List


Inkey list


The INKEY List is a young, British skincare brand that cuts through complex beauty jargon to deliver straightforward, wallet friendly skincare. You won’t find anything over £15 in their arsenal and with an aim to provide premium-grade ingredients and no-frills formulas packaged in stellar beauty products, they are fast becoming a favourite. 

After launching exclusively online in 2018, The INKEY List has sawn to intense heights with one product sold every 30 seconds. After partnering with Sephora, Boots, and Cult Beauty, The INKEY List are currently on track to be the #1 budget beauty brand in the world.

However, the digital space is where the brand truly dominates, with 335,000 followers on Instagram, a 24/7 online consultant, and a bespoke ‘Recipe Builder’, an online quiz which links directly to their Shopify website to provide customers with personalised, bespoke skincare routines. Things are looking great for The INKEY List.


Why do we love The Inkey List?


We especially love the brand’s Recipe Builder. The Inkey List is putting customer’s needs at the forefront of their business, and it’s a fantastic initiative to ensure every shopping experience is tailored for that specific customer. 

Each and every one of these brands has brought something unique to the e-commerce industry. Whether it’s hundreds of thousands of visitors or bespoke customer experiences, there’s one thing for sure, they’re all leading the way.  


What’s next?


Found this interesting? Want to know how we could help your beauty or ecommerce brand become as successful as the brands above? Get in touch today for an in-depth discussion with the team at Underwaterpistol to understand how we can serve your requirements for an effective ecommerce design, build and digital strategy project. You can also check out our work here.