How is Gen Z shaping the future face of beauty?

As part of our D&P loves beauty series, Senior Creative Strategist Alix Hope divulges how Gen-Z is making its mark on the industry.

Alix Hope
By Alix Hope
Posted 29. 09. 2017
Beauty gen z 09

Beauty is having a moment. Over the last year we’ve seen the launch of many beauty brands and concepts, from Bloomingdale’s Instagram beauty concept named Glowhaus, to self-loving lipstick brand, Ainsel. These brands are all a major hit with teens, so we have looked at decoding just why Gen Z is choosing to spend their (or their parents) hard earned cash on beauty.

Beauty today in context

Ten years ago, ‘beauty’ was all about covering up imperfections through mattifying your face with layers upon layers of foundation (remember Dream Matte Mousse), and applying and re-applying copious amounts of Rimmel’s Jelly Gloss.

This was at a time where skinny was ‘in’ and imperfections were out. Fast-forward and today’s directional teens are taking a very different approach to the way we look at beauty. The backlash against this flawless look has forced brands to think differently about the way we communicate beauty today.

An example of the new face of teen beauty

We’ve taken a look at three key drivers in the beauty industry – beauty is imperfection, beauty is bold and beauty is Instagram.

Beauty is imperfection

Gen Z is living in an age where finally, brands are telling you it’s ok to be you (and not have to look like the years hottest celebrity). Part of this change has been driven by the rise of influencer culture. We live in a world where we learn and make trends through peers. Gen Z tells Gen Z how to look like the best version of themselves. Just look at any teens Instagram feed and you will see it filled with tutorial videos on how to apply the latest trend, or a brand ambassador heralding the message of gender neutrality – makeup is for everyone. Brands are tapping into this desire for self-expression and the need to break down gender barriers.

Milk Makeup' shades of femininity campaign

Milk Makeup is a brand built on self-expression and collaboration. It lives by a manifesto that screams rule-breaking, experimentation and self-loving, no matter who you are. Its innovative products challenge the perceptions of everyday beauty, from a holographic stick to sunshine oil, there’s something for everyone. This is a brand that welcomes all types – something that massively appeals to a Gen Z audience. This is best demonstrated through #LiveYourLook, whereby the brand talks to consumers from all walks of life, under a message of unity and defiance.

Recently established brand Ainsel is using a strong message of ‘self-love’ to sell its range of cruelty-free lipsticks. Their tone of voice is anti-photoshop, pro visible pores and all for self-acceptance – so much so that you almost forget they are selling lipsticks. The consumer is sucked into the brand’s way of life before they realise they can buy into their business ethic. This healthy approach to makeup is very much the opposite of the approach we saw back in 2007. Instead of telling teens to cover up, the brand tells teens to embrace what they have.

There’s a clear shift in what is deemed ‘beautiful’ today. As teens start to gain more spending power, we expect to see more brands taking on this expressive, no-nonsense approach to beauty.

Beauty is bold

Gen Z was born into a world of poverty, war and economic crisis. There’s a shared desire for a better world amongst this audience. Gen Z actively looks for brands that are making changes in the world, and brands that are taking a stand for what they believe in. These brands become badges of value – for example, if I am seen to be shopping at Lululemon, I am seen to be someone who embraces mindfulness and lives an active life. If I am seen to be wearing something from Missguided, I am seen to be someone who is confident, fashionable and a true babe.

Teens flock to brands that have a strong opinion

But how is the beauty industry doing this?

When it comes to beauty, we are seeing teens flock to brands that have a strong opinion, be it on politics or on gender stereotypes. American brand Lipslut aims to empower women, defining their brand as ‘fashion, subversion, and a middle finger to the current political landscape’. They only sell one product – a strong pink lipstick with the words ‘F*ck Trump’ emblazoned on the packaging. What’s more, they donate 50% of their earnings to a women’s charity chosen by the consumer. This collaborative stand against American politics is a clever route to capturing the minds of today’s activist teens.

Lipslut's anti-Trump campaign

Fenty Beauty by Rihanna is one of the first celebrity beauty brands that has really tapped into the minds of this audience without coming across as self-promoting. What draws Gen Z to it? It’s cruelty-free, and won’t even ship to China, as Chinese regulations require beauty products to be tested on animals before they can go to market. It’s this kind of open and honest talk that gets Gen Z on your side. What’s more, the brand has shown that they understand the huge lack of diversity in foundation colours across the industry. Fenty Beauty has made a stand against this by delivering a range of 40 colours, under the label ‘beauty for all’.

Back in the day, beauty was seen as vain, self-important and fake. Today, with brands like Lipslut and Fenty, beauty is gaining a new meaning. It gives wearers a voice, a point of view and the feeling of standing together, something that’s becoming vital for teens today.

Fenty Beauty's range of foundation

Beauty is Instagram

Instagram is now as much part of the beginning of the beauty buying process as it is the end. Teens are finding inspiration from influencers on the social media platform, going to store to purchase the product whilst sending regular updates to their Instagram ‘stories’, and then completing the circle by posting an image of the product to their profile.

For teens, a brand with a store that provides Instagram moments is appealing. If you take a look at the beauty landscape, more and more stores are providing these Instagram-worthy moments. With its concrete walls and neon signage, WAH nails (read our review of WAH here) makes the store environment as exciting as the product. Take a look at Deciem, and you’ll see the perfect Instagram backdrop, complete with bold slogan statements such as ‘beauty doesn’t rinse off’. Over in New York, cult beauty brand Glossier has created an entirely pink store, with appropriate signage to encourage a snap.

WAH nails being shared on social media

In Sephora, New York, consumers can take a seat by a screen, follow a beauty video tutorial and then upload a selfie of their newly made up look to a large digital screen in the middle of the store. A great retail service that understands the importance of online tutorials, and offers instant fame (your face on screen) for those wannabe teen influencers.

Sephora's interactive makeup tutorials

Bloomingdale’s have taken Instagram one step further, by creating a beauty concept based around Insta-worthy brands. Named ‘Glowhaus’ (even the name comes from the glow beauty trend seen on social media), it promises to be a space ‘to browse and play in a low-pressure environment, anchored by a play table to hang out around, try products at, and take selfies’.

Glowhaus stocks the sort of brands you expect to find on Instagram, from Winky Lux to Frank body. The store is a great representation of how much of an impact Instagram is having on the industry. And when you look at stats that show that 46% of Instagram users are under the age of 24 (https://www.slideshare.net/buzzoole/buzzoole-yms-a-snapshot-of-uk-gen-zers-research), it becomes clear that it is a channel not to ignore. Glowhaus really have brought Instagram’s beauty glitterati to life for Gen Z.

Young consumers are looking for brands who encourage them to play on their imperfections

What we’ve learnt

Beauty is an exciting topic in the industry, as we see a huge shift happening in order to ensure we are playing to the needs of a younger, and rapidly more powerful consumer. This consumer is no longer looking for ways to perfect their look – they are looking for brands who encourage them to play on their imperfections, and what makes them, them.

For budding beauty brands, it’s important to have a strong purpose, so that our Gen Z consumer can clearly see what role the brand plays in their fast-paced world. Once you’ve found a strong purpose, it should be delivered through Instagram-worthy retail spaces, bold brand TOV and innovative product. We must consider all touchpoints, and moments that teens could spend with the brand. Teens don’t want beauty jargon. They want straight talking brands with a point of view on the world. The days of Dream Matte Mousse and ‘covering up’ really are over. Beauty is not what it once used to be, there is no ordinary – consumers are taking charge of what’s beautiful today.

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