Jean-François Harpes, CEO of IL Cosmetics: “We aim to become a leader in the complexion segment and are planning acquisitions”
July 3, 2024

IL Cosmetics, one of the beauty industry’s top contract manufacturers, took advantage of the MakeUp in Paris 2024 show to reveal its new identity. The event was an opportunity for the Luxembourg-based company to announce—and to consolidate—its ambitions for expansion and diversification, particularly in the facial products category.

CEO of IL Cosmetics, Jean-François Harpes makes no secret of his ambitions. “We want to become one of the leaders in the complexion segment within the next few years” he tells Formes de Luxe. “We’ve been working in-house for several years on the face category with plans to launch foundation in 2025 followed at a later stage by powders and correctors“.

a strategy of diversification

Historically specialized in nail polish ingredients, IL Cosmetics gradually turned to full-service before beginning its diversification in 2003 into the eye category (mascaras and eyeliners), followed by the lip segment in 2010. This strategy has accelerated over the last five years, notably as nail polish sales declined in the face of the growth of semi-permanent products, previously available only in the professional domain. Nails now make up 45% of IL Cosmetics’ sales, while eye products account for 40% and lips, 15%. “Being a single-product contract manufacturer can be a risky enterprise,” notes Harpes. Hence the plans for complexion, a fast-growing category.

To consolidate its positioning, the company—with sales of €130m in 2023 and a workforce of around 700—unveiled a new visual identity at MakeUp in Paris 2024, in line with all of the categories it now covers. Its website has also been redesigned to reflect this positioning.

launching a semi-permanent gel for retail

The company continues to invest in the nail segment, however. Leader in the long-wear category since 2016, IL Cosmetics’ new patented technology—G’last boost’R—is said to increase long-wear performance without compromising on shine, and is suited to both its bio-sourced and photoreactive formulas. But the flagship innovation is undoubtedly the launch of a semi-permanent gel whose formula is compliant with European legislation for retail sales.  “There is a craze for nail polish brands offering solutions that comply with current regulations,” notes Aurélie Ignaccolo, IL Cosmetics Marketing Director. The company has responded by offering a formula free of DI HEMA, TPO and MeHQ, the three molecules prohibited by European law for sale in retail outlets.

The challenge was to come up with a solution offering virtually the same performance. We succeeded in developing a gentle formula that lasts for 18 days, compared with 21 days for a professional grade, but with the same finish and with the potential to be even glossier than a professional gel” explains Ignaccolo. As for nail polish removal, it’s said to be easier: “It comes off with traditional acetone in 10 minutes, and with classic nail polish remover it takes a little longer, around 25 minutes, but it’s doable,” she assures.


focus on the us

Geographically, IL Cosmetics aims to build its presence in North America, which today accounts for just 5-7% of business, compared with 15% for Asia and around 10% for South America; the remainder of sales are generated in Europe. “The potential of the US market is huge, especially as our share there is smaller. While nail polish is in decline in the region, eyes and lips are doing very well. And once we’re ready, we also see great potential for complexion,” explains Harpes. After setting up a sales team in the US in 2023, the company is looking at the different options for a production facility.

As it develops new categories, IL Cosmetics is also targeting the Italian market: “We are in the process of choosing different options for commercial and industrial locations, because make-up subcontracting expertise is highly concentrated in Northern Italy,” notes Harpes. He is also banking on external growth to drive its complexion and lipstick business. “We’re currently working on two possible acquisitions, and we’re confident that one of those will be confirmed very quickly,” Harpes confirms.

increased production capacity

In the meantime, IL Cosmetics is expanding its existing production facilities. For the 2023-2024 fiscal year, the company has invested more than €12m to boost its production and packaging capacity. In the packaging segment, its two plants, in Poland and in Bulgaria, have a capacity of between 230 and 250 million units, all products combined, with further potential capacity of 30%.

In addition to expanding the original site in Luxembourg, a new make-up production facility for the lip and eye categories—at the same site—is scheduled to be operational from the second half of 2024. “From the perspective of bulk make-up production for eyes and lips, we will be doubling capacity,” affirms Harpes. He concludes: “After Covid, supply chain problems led to longer delivery times and to the building up of safety stocks during 2023. This situation has finally returned to normal, and we’re seeing destocking across the entire chain. For contract manufacturers, who work upstream in the chain, this will lead to a year of consolidation in 2024”.  Look out for new developments as early as 2025!

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Catarina Lanca