Consumers are beginning to choose beauty and skincare brands that correspond with their healthier lifestyles. They have realised that looking good is all part of a bigger picture. Myree Tydings discusses why holistic beauty is becoming the new normal and how brands are capitalising on this shift in consumer behaviour.
Hearing ‘you are what you eat’ bandied around as a child, I took its meaning literally. However I never associated it with skin or beauty, even though looking back now it’s kind of obvious – of course what we put in, and indeed on, our bodies is reflected in our appearance. ‘Healthy glow’ really does ring true.
We’ve seen a rise in health-conscious food bloggers and celebrity chefs, all touting the benefits of superfoods and healthy eating. Instagram is full of the beautiful plugging their latest health-focused recipes, workouts and products… and people are lapping it up. Why? Because consumers are starting to think of beauty holistically and to understand that processed foods, chemicals, pollution and stress has a direct correlation with our skin. When it comes to cosmetic choices, consumers are more educated than ever before on harmful ingredients.
As our populations become increasingly urbanised, we also have a big pollution problem that’s being reflected on, you guessed it, the skin. Anti-pollution is fast becoming one of the biggest beauty trends for 2017, alongside probiotics and organic/sustainability. So, what’s all the hype about?
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), many UK cities are breaching the EU limits on air pollution, with London topping the list (diesel fumes are a big culprit). Pollution has been a concern in the South East Asian region for quite some time, but because the UK was never as heavily polluted, we got a little too complacent about growing levels on home turf.
Our skin is a big, porous organ that absorbs most of what it comes into contact with. Even though we can’t necessarily feel it, in the big cities it’s is soaked in pollution every day. Dermatologist Dr Goldfaden says, “Pollution can cause uneven skin tone, dehydration, dryness, dark spots, accelerated ageing, wrinkles, and a deterioration of collagen.”
It’s now possible to find a number of anti-pollution products on the market, with everyone from industry leader Sarah Chapman to high street favourite Bioré, offering products to combat harsh city life. It’s just a matter of time before anti-pollution ranges become as sought after as anti-ageing and anti-breakout lines.
Now, let’s take it back to ‘you are what you eat’. Gut health is also integral to today’s beauty approach. With all of the new information around the balance of good bacteria and its direct link to our physical and mental health, it’s not surprising to learn that it’s also beneficial when applied directly to the skin.
According to New York City-based dermatologist Whitney Bowe, MD, “Research has shown that bacteria in your gut interact with your immune system, which leads to changes in your skin. I always tell my patients to incorporate foods and drinks that are rich in probiotics. Using a topical (applied directly to skin) probiotic is beneficial, as it offers a protective shield and triggers the production of natural moisturises in the skin.”
Consumers demand for probiotic-based products is increasing. In response, brands are already queuing up with their probiotic-based offerings. Both the medical community and beauty brands are maximising this by looking towards more personalised probiotic skin solutions. For the beauty brands this is not only engaging and experiential for the consumer, but it adds value to the product and encourages more brand loyalty as the product is formulated specifically for the customer’s skin microbiome.
Richard Gallo, chair of the Department of Dermatology at the University of California explains, “For the field, this is a first—we show clear cause and effect. We selected specific strains of the bacteria that are deficient on patients’ skin, expanded them, placed them in lotion, rubbed them on the skin, and decreased the Staph colonization (i.e. bad bacteria) in these patients.”
This is really big news. Not only is there clear medical evidence of probiotic skincare’s efficacy, a recent Mintel survey found that a whopping 72% of consumers use or are interested in using products featuring probiotics. With Johnson & Johnson investing in this area, it’s likely beauty’s other big hitters will be following suit.
Natural, Organic and Results Driven:
We have already had an awakening to the effects of chemical-laden products when it comes to inner health, however there is now a growing sense of mistrust towards unnatural products and the affect they have on our skin. As consumers are becoming more aware they want to take back control and are seeking natural ingredients.
This brings me to the phenomenon that is the Korean cosmetics analysis app ‘Hwahae’. It helps the user find products based on ingredients and reviews. It has 1.1 million active monthly users, with an ingredients information database of more than 2.8 million and 1.9 million user reviews of 79,000 Korean and international products – pretty impressive stuff. K-Beauty (read our report on it here) has been a thing for a while now, and this is an example of the innovation we can look to as an indicator of future trends.
It also illustrates the powerful combination of natural, safe ingredients and user reviews. So when it comes to beauty and skincare, natural and organic is in demand, but (and that’s a really big but!) we also need results.
Katie Brindle, founder of wellness company Hayo’u says, “It’s no longer beneficial to just be natural. Consumer interest in natural beauty has grown exponentially but innovation needs to underpin its mainstream progression. Natural brands need to celebrate their ingredient and brand integrity but not lose sight of fundamental consumer needs”
There has long been a perception that natural and organic is less effective than their chemical rivals, but this is no longer the case. Olivia Crighton, of organic London salon, Glasshouse Salon says, “These products tend to be more concentrated with higher quality ingredients that perform better and last longer. For instance, most of these brands use key active ingredients, each chosen for a purpose – whether it’s red raspberry seed oil for UVA protection or quinoa protein to strengthen hair.”
So how are retailers and brands tapping into the shift towards holistic health and beauty?
We are seeing holistic features and services increasingly becoming part of in-store experiences. For instance, fitness apparel brand Lululemon has an organic café and offers wellness and yoga classes and beauty brand Lush makes much of its healthy, organic products with spas in its flagships. Lush also organises a yearly summit that covers topics such as the effects of chemical-laden products on our inner health, skin and general appearance. This type of transparent conversation between brand and consumer is becoming increasingly important especially with the gen-z and millennial consumer.
Another company nailing transparency is makeup and skincare brand Glossier. Born from the blog Into the Gloss, Glossier stays true to the blog’s honest tone of voice, body-positive messaging and equal focus on internal and external health (e.g. this post on the pollution-fighting skincare hack or this interview with a holistic facialist). The full list of each product’s ingredients is not just signposted but celebrated with illustrations and easily digestible copy outlining the benefits. This refreshing, honest way of talking about ingredients is reflected in the brand’s campaigns that feature real women, not models, are un-Photoshoped and often photographed in the subject’s actual homes. Glossier’s new ‘body hero’ campaign is a good example of this.
When it comes to beauty products customers want to know what is the hero ingredient, what is its source and how does it address their health and beauty concerns. These crucial questions are helping to shape the new beauty normal and all brands will not only need to answer them, but do so authentically with honest storytelling and transparent messaging.