Gregg Renfrew, the founder and clean beauty pioneer of Beautycounter, has bought back the brand she founded in 2011, pulling it out of foreclosure.

Renfrew, who is freshly back in the CEO seat as of January at the skin, makeup, and fragrance brand after stepping down post-sale to The Carlyle Group in 2021.

In a statement, the company said Beautycounter’s holding company, Counter Brands LLC, is winding down. As a result, Renfrew is creating a new entity and has entered into a separate transaction to buy the business, continue the brand’s business, and support advocacy efforts for safer beauty. Formulations, packaging, and company name will remain the same.

“Returning Beautycounter to its founder puts it back in the hands of a person who cares, but in a different business environment versus the environment of Beautycounter’s birth, on the marketing, financial, and consumer front. Gregg has the passion to distill Beautycounter to its essence and put it on a path for success. She likely has the tolerance for modest growth that a PE firm doesn’t,” said Marie Driscoll, Professor of Funding, Fashion, and Beauty at The New School.

Industry veteran Marc Rey was tapped as CEO in early 2022 to pump life into the brand, especially as more beauty companies entered into the clean beauty space.  He expanded the direct-to-consumer brand into Ulta Beauty, where the brand remains an anchor of its Conscious Beauty department. At the time of the expansion, Ulta Beauty’s Chief Merchandising Officer, Monica Arnaudo, said Beautycounter served to give the retailer’s shoppers what they are passionate about.

Renfrew founded the company 13 years ago and launched its first products in 2013, well ahead of the clean beauty movement. Back then, raising concern over questionable or potentially dangerous ingredients was unheard of. She often noted that only 30 ingredients were banned in the U.S. versus 1,400 ingredients in the EU.

To that end, Renfrew developed a ‘Never List’ with more than 2,800 ingredients she didn’t use in her products. She has been a fixture in Washington, D.C., crusading for legislation, and was instrumental in the passage of MoCRA (the Modernization of Cosmetics Regulation Act), the first significant update to industry regulations since 1938.

Beautycounter launched a direct-to-consumer distribution strategy. Although there have been layoffs, the company is said to have retained its direct sales associates. Two freestanding stores in New York and Denver are slated to close, with a seasonal store in Nantucket expected to remain open.

“Over the last three years, Beautycounter experienced significant market and channel headwinds. We undertook every effort to support the brand, including by increasing marketing spend, driving innovation to broaden the product portfolio, and enhancing the omnichannel strategy – and investing additional capital into the business to support these initiatives along the way,” a Carlyle spokesperson said. “However, the business continued to lose ground. With the backdrop of significant near-term capital needs, we determined that exiting the business through a sale back to Gregg was in the best interest of all parties and ensured business continuity. We look forward to following Beautycounter’s next chapter and wish every success to Gregg and her team.”

An industry expert said the Carlyle Group since last year has been noticeably steering away from the retail and consumer industries to pivot to technology and financial services.