Op-ed: “Accessible beauty has hit its stride” – Jaimee Lupton, Monday Haircare founder

In 2020, Kiwi entrepreneur Jaimee Lupton did the unthinkable by putting out a premium line of haircare with an affordable price-tag

Nearly four years later, we ask the Auckland-based beauty founder why she chose to pursue accessible beauty in a market enamoured with niche and luxury, and what continues to interest her about the Monday Haircare customer, and the space they inhabit.


Back in 2019 when I was doing research for what would become MONDAY Haircare, the beauty world was in ‘peak Glossier’, and almost everyone you knew had at least one dropper jar of The Ordinary in their bathroom cabinet. However, there were barely any brands in the haircare space doing what was being done in the skincare space – quality products with modern values, at a moderate price point. What’s more, there were basically none in the supermarket or drugstore that a discerning beauty consumer would be proud to have in their bathroom, while also delivering on results.

That’s now largely changed. In a recent Circana study, two-thirds of people agreed that, “[beauty] brands at drug stores or mass merchandisers are as good as higher priced department store brands.” An overwhelming number of discerning beauty consumers now recognise that price isn’t directly proportional to quality.

While many people might have known this already, singing the praises of the beloved sub-$10 face wash they’ve used for the better part of a decade, the idea that a product with fancy packaging and a hefty price tag is by default superior to its ‘drugstore’ alternative has long persisted in the beauty industry.

Excitingly, we’re seeing that assumption being quashed more and more, and across more categories in the industry. That’s good news not just for your beauty cabinet, but for up-and-coming entrepreneurs and independent beauty brands who now have a blueprint for success when it comes to brands that tick boxes across not only sustainability and diversity, but when it comes to efficacy and price point, too.

The global beauty and personal care industry is worth a little over US$625 billion in 2023, which is expected to grow annually by 3.32% over the next five years. Despite global economic turbulence, the industry is still experiencing an upward trajectory, and has proven time and time again to be resilient amid global economic crises. In the haircare industry especially, mass products lead sales revenue for the sector. More and more, we’re seeing accessibly-priced brands provide effective, clean and sustainable formulas at price points that are both appealing for consumers, and increasingly manageable from a business perspective.

Monday Haircare bottles with loofah

Researching the market while developing MONDAY, it became clear there was a huge gap when it came to haircare brands that were cruelty-free, sustainably minded, and conscious of not only premium ingredients, but less desirable ones such as sulfates and parabens. So many treasured household names in the haircare aisle simply didn’t meet these benchmarks.

And while there were a lot of brands making quite genuine and admirable strides in the sustainability space, I found those brands were, more often than not, at a hugely inflated price point. I believed the ‘sweet spot’ could be found where people didn’t have to pay more for the values they held dear, which is what the brand has come to be.

Along with our little pink bottles being fully recyclable, MONDAY is Leaping Bunny approved, which is the international gold standard for commitment to cruelty-free beauty, and brands must meet this criteria in full across product development, supply chain and distribution (their website is a great place to start if you’re looking to use more cruelty-free beauty products). But it goes beyond the environmental footprint. Our ingredients are ethically sourced, and our manufacturing partner holds certifications that ensure ethical standards and integrity across areas such as product safety, and worker conditions and pay.

While we all wish we could shop and act according to our values at all times, this isn’t always possible. As the reality of the cost of living crisis sets in, consumers across every category are faced with weighing up a more ‘sustainable’ purchase with one that’s more in-line with their budget. My hope is that in the future, this doesn’t have to be a trade-off.

Some of the ‘affordable’ beauty brands I’m most excited by in the cruelty-free and sustainable space include the aforementioned Glossier and The Ordinary, alongside relative newcomers Versed, pitched as “the cleanest drugstore skincare brand”, and Naturium, a brand I have loved for a while that is now going viral with its range of targeted yet affordable skin and body care. Naturium was recently acquired by E.l.f. Beauty for ​​US $355 million.

Another micro-industry that’s a testament to the popularity of affordable beauty is K-beauty, an umbrella term for the brands and trends out of the skincare mecca that is South Korea, renowned for their emphasis on high-quality ingredients. The K-beauty industry was valued at a little under US$92 billion in 2022, and is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 9.3% from now until 2030 (far outpacing the beauty industry’s CAGR of 3.32%).

The joy of K-beauty (aside from the efficacy for the price point) is that innovation is baked into the industry, meaning that while you might be putting something on your face that you’ve never heard of (snail mucin, anyone?) you’re not paying a premium to experiment with buzzy new ingredients before they trickle down into the wider beauty industry. Some trends to keep an eye on in this space are an increased focus on barrier repair, fermented ingredients, and ‘patches’ going beyond pimple treatments to categories such as sun protection and treating hyperpigmentation.

With popular brands including Beauty of Joseon, Cosrx, Amorepacific, Dr. Jart+, Laneige and Innisfree, many of this category’s ‘hero’ products come in at under $20. (Considering many K-beauty routines consist of around 10 distinct steps two times per day, paying anything more than this would send you broke). Some of my personal favourite K-beauty products include the Beauty of Joseon Relief Sun: Rice + Probiotics sunscreen; Laneige Water Sleeping Mask for skin and Sleeping Lip Mask for lips; and the Peach & Lily Glass Skin Refining Serum, for all-over glow.

While the K-beauty industry admittedly has some strides to make when it comes to cruelty-free certification and sustainability measures overall, their commitment to quality and innovation in ingredients and formulas is admirable.

The democratisation of the beauty space over the past several years has meant that you’ll now find your favourite beauty steal listed in the ‘best sellers’ section alongside cult big-ticket items. MONDAY is now the #1 haircare brand on TikTok (over heritage brands such as L’Oréal and Olaplex) proving that you don’t have to be a long-established brand to gain popularity with Millennial and Gen Z consumers.

In just under four years, we’ve also secured distribution in around 33 countries, sold in 50,000 doors with more than 100 of the world’s biggest retailers, including Walmart, Target USA, Amazon, Tesco, CVS, H&M and Ulta Beauty. We’re looking to take this success to new brands in other categories, so watch this space.

There’s little doubt that affordable and accessible beauty has hit its stride, and I’m incredibly excited to see where this leads for the industry as a whole and what that means for the products lining our bathroom shelves. With disruptor brands coming in to challenge what brands of all shapes and sizes can do when it comes to sustainability, innovation, effectiveness and affordability, we can and should expect more and more from our top shelf over the coming years.

Images: Supplied, Facebook