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1. April 2020
Cosmetics Lifestyle Regulation Trends & Insight

Market Insight: New Standards Represent a Blueprint for CBD Retailers

Market Analysis | Insight & Trends

US skincare retailer Sephora recently announced a new set of standards that the company would be applying to its CBD products, in a bid to increase the trust and authenticity associated with the brands the retailer sells.

Sephora’s steps are an innovative move that represents a strong blueprint for other CBD retailers. By ensuring that the products they stock are reputable, traceable and accurately labelled, proactive retailers are in a position to future-proof their CBD lines against changing regulatory impact. 

The move is significant as it comes at a time when regulators around the world are looking to tighten controls on CBD retailers. Companies that are willing to be submitted to increasing consumer and regulatory scrutiny are also likely to win out from a financial perspective.

Consumers are increasingly looking for authenticity when it comes to CBD related purchases. Recent market surveys consistently highlight the growing demand for education and information around the CBD products that people are choosing to use.

Sephora views their recently introduced standards as a subtle, yet effective way to educate customers on CBD-based product decisions.

Although there is an increasing interest in topical CBD, our clients acknowledge that they aren’t fully confident in shopping that category,” Cindy Deily, Sephora’s VP of skin care merchandising at Sephora, said in an interview with HuffPost. “So Sephora saw an opportunity to clarify and breakdown the information out there.

Search for CBD on has increased over 1000 times since 2018, so there’s clearly client interest in these kind of products. As customers are looking to navigate this growing category, we saw the need to provide transparency and quality assurance,” she continued.

Sephora has been devoting significant time and effort into the CBD industry, pursuing partnerships with small, and large companies, in order to sell those products as legitimate beauty compounds. Recently, Sephora announced that they would be enforcing standards on the CBD products in their stores, ensuring that all of their products are trusted and of high quality.

The CBD Standards

CBD products must now meet the Clean at Sephora standard, a rule that was implemented in 2017 requiring that all Sephora products are clear of more than 50 ingredients that don’t meet their satisfaction. In addition to this rule, CBD beauty brands sold by Sephora must now ensure:

  • They contain full, or broad spectrum, CBD
  • That their CBD oil is grown domestically
  • Brands will need to show that their product testing has been conducted by a third party and that all batches have been tested at least three times for quality and purity
  • Finally, all products must be able to produce a Certificate of Analysis (COA) upon request that supports any label claims

One of the biggest areas of distrust with CBD skincare brands has come from companies marketing a product as containing CBD when it is actually made with hemp seed oil, a common ingredient that doesn’t contain any cannabinoids. Following the introduction of the standards, brands sold at Sephora that advertise themselves as containing CBD, need to actually contain CBD.

CBD products will also have to pass potency, ingredient quality, and sourcing tests. This solves a huge issue around lack of transparency when it comes to the production of CBD ingredients, including where it’s grown and how it’s extracted.

We’ve seen clients’ demand for transparency continue to grow, and it’s important to Sephora that we are a trusted resource,” said Deily. “With the amount of products flooding the market, there can be confusion and mistrust. As part of our research and client listening, our clients told us they weren’t fully confident in shopping the category. Therefore, we saw an opportunity to have a point of view for the benefit of all—much like we did with our Clean at Sephora standards that launched in 2017.


With no clarity on CBD regulations from the FDA and the government in the United States, it all comes down to stores and how they choose to take on these challenges.

Sephora’s standards will, no doubt, help protect the company from some potential lawsuits and from grey areas within the law. As CBD lawsuits grow in the US, companies that have taken an active response to self-regulate will be in a much better position to demonstrate that they have executed the required duty of care towards their customers.

A similar picture is emerging in the UK and Europe CBD markets. Recent studies that have tested CBD-based brands have shown that there are often significant variations in CBD content compared with advertised labelling.

By requiring brands to take a similar stance to Sephora when it comes to adopting self-regulating standards, retailers will have a much better chance of building a loyal consumer base, increasing market share, and mitigating the impact of any regulatory changes.

Commercial Savvy

Introduction of standards of this nature will help give Sephora an edge over competitors in a market that is increasingly becoming crowded. Consumers currently struggle to differentiate between CBD products and by signposting their customers to this type of data Sephora is likely to see increasing levels of sales from CBD newcomers, as well as building trust among the company’s existing consumer base.

From a marketing perspective the move also has benefit. A simple Google search for CBD skin care will produce hundreds of options, all purporting to represent high quality. By implementing a clear set of standards and articulating those to both their suppliers and consumers, Sephora has instantly increased the authenticity throughout the company’s supply chain. It is clear from a consumer perspective that buying a CBD-based product from the retailer comes with a significant level of trust that is both documented and enforced.

Sephora has been expanding on the partnerships with Lord Jones, Saint Jane, and Flora + Bast, distributing their products in locations throughout the United States while also making them available online. Recently, the company partnered up with Prima, another beauty company that utilizes hemp.