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Beauty Shifts: Beyond Skin Deep

Helen Yeardsley is an independent communications consultant providing PR, marketing and business management support for brands and agencies through her company Y Consultancy. She has represented many of the industry’s leading aesthetics, cosmetics, healthcare, skin care and wellbeing brands, and is regularly invited to contribute thought-leadership and insights on the trends, opportunities and challenges facing the beauty sector.

Beauty Industry Expert, Helen Yeardsley looks back on 2018 to review the campaigns making waves in the natural beauty space, and the trends being driven by Generation Z…

This year will undoubtedly be hailed the year of the woman, with the worldwide #MeToo and #TimesUp movements leaving women more empowered than ever to speak up and demand equality. What’s also clear in the wake of #MeToo is that traditional perceptions of masculinity no longer resonate with today’s society.

Driven by Generation Z (and, more specifically, the digital natives of Generation D aged 16-24), Genderless is perhaps where this redefinition of stereotypes is most apparent. “Genderless” fragrances and skincare products became this year’s most significant men’s grooming trend, and Vismay Sharma, UK MD of L’Oréal confirmed that male-targeted department store counters will probably soon be a reality.

Another welcomed trait of Generation D is ethical awareness and demand for vegan-friendly, cruelty-free and natural, organic, paraben and sulphate-free products. But it’s not just the teens demanding change – ethical consumerism is a growing trend across all consumer groups.

Evidence of ethical values is even more crucial for beauty sector newcomers – Kat Von D Beauty, for example, built a strong and loyal following through shared vegan, animal friendly values.

Ethical considerations remain closely connected to perceptions of natural and organic, but most of us (well, 73% according to Mintel) cannot quantify brand ethics. Amid calls for a new universal ethical rating, green champion Weleda recently became one of the first two brands globally to gain the new Union for Ethical Biotrade (UEBT) certification.

This label acts as a clear marker of ‘sourcing with respect’ and provides a recognised standard for sustainable sourcing. A worthy initiative, however the lengthy accreditation process means it’s unlikely to provide the support needed to help consumers navigate the ethical minefield at least in the short term.

Many brands are pledging their support to local community initiatives to gain credibility by association and turn their ethical beliefs into relevant actions. REN skincare’s Clean initiative – in partnership with Surfers Against Sewage – saw the brand stage a US and UK-wide beach clean-up to demonstrate their commitment to securing healthy, plastic-free beaches, and remind us of their environmental commitments such as zero waste by 2021 #PlasticFreeCoastlines #CleantoPlanet and #CleantoSkin

And from clean beaches to clean beauty, today’s beauty consumers understand the link between health, beauty and wellbeing like never before, and as a result we are seeing the ‘clean’ and ‘free from’ trends which started in food move firmly into the beauty arena.

Although not a new concept, ‘Clean Beauty’ is becoming an increasingly popular way of describing this truly holistic approach, with consumers choosing products to improve overall wellbeing, as well as opting for formulas stripped of undesirable ingredients. SpaceNK became the latest retailer to champion clean beauty with its #CleanDecoded campaign.

An interesting reaction to our always-on lives is the rise in mindful practices, and while this isn’t something beauty brands can package and sell directly, influencers’ Instagram pages reveal the many products launched over a morning yoga or meditation class.

It’s not just yoga giving beauty editors a natural high – the latest ingredient causing a buzz is Cannabis. Holland and Barrett became the first UK high street chain to sell cannabis oil for benefits ranging from pain to appetite, and in skincare cannabinoids will increasingly be used to reduce inflammation, irritation and sebum production, as well as for their antioxidant, anti-defying effects.

What’s most encouraging for me in today’s tech-obsessed world is that we are increasingly reminded that the simplest, most effective solutions can be found in nature. And consumer consciousness means we are all making a few more of the right choices – not just for ourselves, but more importantly, for our planet.

The Red Tree is the UK’s leading international beauty brand consultancy and a powerhouse of ideas, insight and inspiration. For an informal discussion on how we might help you, please contact us.

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