Function of Beauty is a beauty company which sells customisable hair products and has recently branched into skincare. I was fascinated by their unique business model and had seen them for many years on social media websites but never fully looked into them, so decided to test if their most famous product, the shampoo and conditioner, matched up to the online hype. Overall, I don’t think I could recommend this product to consumers because the picture is so mixed and the products don’t seem to work for everybody. I was impressed by the ingredient transparency and their production model, but less so by the company’s general honesty towards its customers and the mixed experiences I read online given the high price point. If you are willing to spend more money on hair products and take the risk, this is a pretty environmentally friendly product, but there are simply too many caveats for me to wholeheartedly recommend it.
Whilst most hair products would have a singular ingredient list for me to analyse, this isn’t the case with Function of Beauty products. Instead of ordering a standard product, customers take an online quiz where they give details such as their hair type, what they want from their shampoo/conditioner, and customisable options including colour and scent. The company’s algorithm then creates a unique product suited to your needs which is shipped to your door with an optional subscription.
Although I do think this is a very smart idea, there are pros and cons to this model. Firstly, if the customer has individual health concerns such as allergies, the customisable aspect of the shampoo is ideal. I saw many reviews stating the scent and dye free options as the reason why customers opted for this brand. Secondly, in theory – I will elaborate on this later in the review – the products are accessible to all ethnicities and hair types, which isn’t the case with other shampoos or conditioners. I also really appreciated their interactive ingredients page, which provided me with a list of the different ingredients they could use in their products, their purpose and their benefits. However, this only included the customisable ones, not the ‘base’ ingredients which go into every shampoo, and I would have liked to hear more about those too. All ingredients are vegan, cruelty-, sulphate-, and paraben-free with the option to also go silicone-free; this is great to see. However, some combinations of ingredients will be inevitably less sustainable than others due to differing environmental impacts. Coconut oil, for example, is associated with high levels of deforestation whilst by contrast, jojoba oil requires little water and grows naturally in the desert. You can see your individual ingredient list at checkout and I appreciated this transparency.
Regarding the packaging, the company switched from virgin plastic to recycled PET for its bottles, which reduced their emissions by 45% as PET is highly recyclable. Customers can also opt out of being sent plastic pumps. However the caps are made of virgin aluminium – aluminium is recyclable already but I wonder if they could make the full switch to recycled aluminium, which would have a lower carbon footprint. If they’ve switched to recycled bottles already then why not recycled caps too?
Function of Beauty has one production facility based in Pennsylvania. The company worked with Bluebird Climate to explore how they could better improve their sustainability practices and overall I thought this was a genuine attempt to become more environmentally aware although as always there is still room to grow. Their supply chain is co-located, which means the formula, filling of bottles and shipping all take place close to one another or in the same facilities, thus reducing transport emissions. The overall transportation distance is 880 miles between production and packaging – this obviously isn’t a small distance, but it’s a lot smaller than other companies who manufacture or package their shampoos abroad. I marked the company down a little because I would have liked to know more about what goes on inside the facilities, such as the factory’s energy consumption or individual processes in making each shampoo.
I really liked the page linked on their website leading to Bluebird’s analysis of the shampoo and conditioner’s total carbon footprint and the carbon contribution of each stage of the manufacturing process. This felt very transparent as it was compiled by a third party and they found that overall compared to a typical shampoo/conditioner, Function of Beauty products produced 60% less carbon and 16% less waste. However this calculation doesn’t include shipping to the customer so I would urge those not located in the US to search for alternatives as their location would greatly increase the overall carbon footprint.
I was very happy to see that out of the three founders of Function of Beauty, two were people of colour! I love seeing diversity in companies especially in the beauty industry where products can be inaccessible for people of colour with darker skin or different hair types. Because their production facility is based in the US I feel that I can trust there are more stringent labour laws compared to where other companies choose to make their products – mostly in developing countries – for the sake of cheaper labour.
However I was a little cynical about all the raving reviews online as I had seen Function of Beauty sponsor many influencers whose opinions I didn’t feel I could fully trust. It felt to me like a very effective PR campaign and I wanted to figure out if the reviews were genuine. Unfortunately despite the thousands of 5-star reviews on their official website it seems that many people have in fact did not have a positive experience with their products, particularly women of colour with curly hair. I wouldn’t expect a singular product to work for everyone, but I was surprised because the whole point of these products is that the formulas are personalised! On top of that it costs £39 for a shampoo and conditioner set which is very expensive. I watched a few unsponsored YouTube reviews and read various comments from customers who reported everything from hair loss and tangling to no difference at all to massive improvements! It seems that these are unreliable products and one YouTuber in particular complained about the poor customer service. Overall I’m getting the sense that the company’s PR campaign is excellent at obscuring the negative experiences of quite a few consumers. I don’t feel that this company is totally honest, transparent or open to being held accountable by its customers.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vjs9OUXhweg - A NON-SPONSORED FUNCTION OF BEAUTY REVIEW: Have these influencers been lying to us!? (Simone Nicole)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=50hzcTowjdU *NON-SPONSORED* FUNCTION OF BEAUTY REVIEW – is it actually worth it? (JUDY)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oWXCRjI_hLE TESTING FUNCTION OF BEAUTY | UNSPONSORED, BRUTALLY HONESTY REVIEW | WORTH THE MONEY? (Jenhasago)