For the first time in a very long time, the skincare industry is growing faster than the $300 billion makeup industry. Much of this growth has been driven by an increased awareness and desire for natural and organic ingredients. United by the power of social media, well-informed, engaged consumers with money to spend on products they believe in have been pushing for change, and welcoming innovators to the market. For some of the established global brands such as Estee Lauder and L’Oreal, adapting has been slow but determined. For new challenger brands, it’s a chance to shine.
The clean revolution
With the wide-sweeping popularity of ‘clean eating’, the latest buzzword in the cosmetic and skincare industry is ‘clean beauty’. This remains something of a broad term, which means different things to different consumers, and indeed different things to those who market them. At its simplest, a ‘clean’ skincare product could be free from parabens (preservatives) and sodium laurel sulphate (SLS) which allows products to foam and clean; these are the ingredients which most commonly cause skin irritations and allergies. However, the term can also include products which are vegan or sustainably sourced. As such, ‘clean’ isn’t always the most helpful label to look for.
The beauty of natural skincare
Natural skincare products tend to be more hands-on; they are formulated using nutrients found in nature which are more gentle on skin, and since they are chemical-free, they cause fewer irritations and breakouts. One study by market researchers NPD found that a growing number of American women - nearly 50% - now consider their skin to be sensitive, and therefore look for products which are hypoallergenic, organic and fragrance free. Natural skincare products are also seen as a more eco-friendly choice, since their ingredients are often sustainable and their production is thought to create less of a negative environmental impact.
Calling for change
Another factor driving the growth in the natural skincare market is the perceived lack of transparency in non-natural skincare ingredients. With studies suggesting that American women use on average 16 products a day on their face, containing numerous unspecified chemicals, demand has grown for better information regarding those ingredients. At present, the American skincare industry is self-regulated, meaning that only around 11 chemicals have been banned from use, compared with thousands in other countries. As American consumers become more knowledgeable and better connected via social media, pressure has grown on the industry players to provide either better information or better alternatives.
With savvy consumers asking for more from skincare brands, the industry is rising to the challenge. Brands which are able to adapt or innovate to offer natural alternatives are thriving, especially since social media is enabling their reputation to spread without significant marketing spend. While the broad ‘clean beauty’ label isn’t hugely helpful to shoppers, studying the label to be informed as to a product’s contents is always worthwhile, especially if you have sensitive skin or are prone to allergies. Skincare is having its moment in the spotlight; and it’s glowing.