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Fluidity of expectations impact emerging beauty trends

These three category trends were emerging in 2017, and will continue to impact the beauty category into the new year.

The cosmetics category, which is inclusive of skincare, hair care, make up, toiletries and deodorants, and oral cosmetics, generates $445 billion in sales, according to Forbes. This segment of the market is feeling the impact of trends created by the fluidity of consumer expectations and desires across category lines. Here are a couple notable examples of how this cross-pollination of consumer desires and interests impacts emerging beauty trends in particular.


Beauty on the inside, outside

The line between wellness and cosmetics has been slowly disappearing over time, and the pace of this seems to be accelerating this year. Influenced by consumer trends around wellness rising to the forefront, there’s increasing awareness of what you put on your body as being as important as what you put in it.

The recent rise of charcoal is a good example of this. Long heralded for its detoxifying characteristics as a food ingredient, charcoal is finding its way into beauty products as well. This is an example of beauty and wellness coexisting in the mind of the consumer. Wellness experts, and wellness “not-so-experts” (think Gwyneth Palthrow’s Goop), have found ways to incorporate the benefits associated with ingesting charcoal into cleansing rituals, marketing it as an ingredient for maintaining and brightening the skin as well. There is a rise in facial sponges, such as the Konjac line from pureSOL, that claim to exfoliate the skin and draw out toxins at the same time, as well as facial masks that promise increased glowing vitality for the skin. The efficacy of charcoal is still under debated, however, the fact that it has crossed the barrier to be viewed as beneficial for both internal and external use is worth noting. It’s part of a larger trend we see across categories related to cleanliness.

Beauty consumers want products that are or offer “clean”, whether it be limited ingredients, or the effects of the product on the body. The same key themes and words we see in food – safe, healthy, clean, organic – have come to the world of beauty, and it has changed the perception of the role of cosmetics for consumers. This truly is an example of the idea of “beauty on the inside” being adapted and coming to the fore.


Category crossover driving consumer desires

Consumers’ passion for health and wellness also means that beauty products’ packaging has had to change to stay relevant. The idea of “active beauty” refers to consumers seeking ways to achieve healthy living through a balance of their physical, mental, and emotional health. Beauty brands are acting on this trend by formulating and packaging their products in a way that will aid consumers on their quest for health and fitness. Established brands such as Birchbox introduced Arrow to offer a solution targeting active women, giving them the tools to feel cool and confident from a morning gym visit through a late night in the office. As a response to this trend, there is an influx of brands are are addressing on-the-go beauty practices, adapting the sizes of their products, changing their formulas, and simplifying application. e.l.f. Cosmetics introduced their Active line of sweat-proof products in October, and brands such as Stowaway Cosmetics have emerged, offering “right-sized makeup” for on-the-go and at the gym.

Additionally, much like the crossover in benefits from nutrition to beauty, there is similar crossover in packaging. Beauty packaging has always been about luxury, but what luxury means to the beauty consumer is different, because the beauty consumer has been rapidly changing. Emerging beauty trends show that millennial tastes are driving changes in the way we think about the category; it’s less about gold and more about good. Beauty brands are finding ways to tell ingredient stories through their packaging, mirroring many food brands, and they are bringing luxury to the consumer in new ways. Sustainability practices in packaging, such as Burt’s Bee’s inclusion of recycled materials, is also on the rise. Incorporating recycled materials, or natural elements like glass, in packaging is a trend we see continuing for the long-term.


40 shades of Rihanna

Inclusion has become a hot topic for brands, irrespective of category, and Rihanna’s Fenty beauty line does more than play to consumers expectations, but it is the brand’s reason for being. It’s not capitalizing on a trend in beauty as much as playing a role in addressing the cultural movement toward inclusivity. This is important everywhere, but it’s perhaps the most visible due to the nature of this category. Fenty’s genesis was Rihanna’s own difficulty finding makeup that worked for her particular skin tone and type. She recognized a gap in the industry and filled this void with a wide range of products for skin tones that are traditionally hard to match, and with formulas that work across all skin types. She built a brand around this pain point, but it’s a lesson for beauty brands about bringing the voice of the consumer into their product development and innovation space. The industry can expect to see more companies follow Rihanna’s lead.

The brands that stand out from the crowd in the cosmetic category are the the brands that get ahead of – instead of responding to – these emerging beauty trends, and other emerging trends in adjacent categories. New start-up brands that are able to nimbly take advantage of opportunities to pivot and disrupt in the marketplace have an edge. The predominance of the pursuit of wellness and active lifestyles, and the need for increased inclusiveness have already had an impact on the direction the cosmetic industry is heading, and it has opened the door to new players as well. These trends are bigger than just beauty. The lines between people, channels, and categories are blurring more every day, and brands must pay close attention to what is happening in both adjacent and seemingly unconnected trends impacting consumers in order to uncover unexpected need states and innovations that meet the needs of consumers early on.


Chief Executive Officer, Consumer & Retail Brand Experience