The beauty industry is being remodelled by many exciting changes that will continue to affect grooming habits and shape cultural perceptions of beauty for years to come. 

In light of wider societal and technological shifts, impacting virtually every industry, the beauty market is adjusting accordingly. Yet, industry players are adapting at different rates and with varying levels of success. 

Brands making the most headway are those actively listening and responding to the changing needs and demands of their customers. At the root of their success is an understanding of what today’s beauty buyer expects from brands, and the changes they want to see across the beauty industry more generally. 

A custom survey we carried out among beauty buyers last month reveals four key consumer attitudes. Also offering an explanation for recent developments in the modern beauty landscape, these shifting expectations indicate why the industry is still due a much-needed makeover.

1. They want the industry to be more inclusive. 

The beauty industry is known for catering to younger demographics, thereby tying our perception of beauty to youth. Half of beauty buyers in our baby boomer category (aged 56-64) think their age group should be better represented by the beauty industry. 

Chart showing beauty still has a long way to go

What’s surprising, though, is the prevalence of this sentiment among millennial buyers (aged 23-36), 4 in 10 of whom share this opinion. Clearly there is a gap in the world of advertising that needs to be filled, and a call for the beauty industry to better celebrate the concept of aging gracefully. 

Several brands are working to address this gap by encouraging an “anti-anti-aging movement” – an inclusive beauty trend inspiring older demographics to further participate in the beauty market. Better Not Younger, a direct-to-consumer brand that launched in March 2019, is a perfect example of the wider move toward embracing, rather than shunning, the beauty of age. 

The exclusion of people of color and the LGBT+ community is an opinion held more commonly by younger demographics. 

3 in 10 Gen Z and millennial beauty buyers would be interested in using gender-neutral products in the future. 

A growing number of beauty companies are proudly LGBTQ-Owned; and, with over half (56%) of beauty buyers in the U.S. and UK wanting brands to be authentic, it’s clear that consumers seek reassurance that a company’s decision to be socially responsible comes from the heart. 

Gender also affects the extent to which consumers think certain groups are excluded by the beauty industry. Unsurprisingly, 4 in 10 male beauty buyers think men should be better represented, compared to 2 in 10 of their female counterparts.

Likewise, 43% of female beauty buyers think plus sizes are currently underserved by the industry, compared to 27% of males. 

But, gender aside, a large portion of buyers believe the beauty industry is currently too one-dimensional.

2. They want to know more about what they’re putting on their skin.

Half of beauty buyers in the U.S. and UK agree that a brand’s reputation is important when purchasing beauty products. This opinion is influenced by several factors; and, while the significance of a brand’s reputation increases with age (rising to 54% among those aged 55-64), the qualities supporting this judgment often differ between demographics. 

Chart showing beauty buyers value brand's reputability and transparency.

The desire for ethical credentials remains consistent across all ages, but the importance of sustainable or recyclable packaging peaks among millennials. 1 in 4 beauty buyers in this age category prioritize this attribute when buying beauty products. 

Gender is also a good predictor of certain attitudes, which are likely to affect how each individual evaluates a brand. 

Among beauty buyers in the U.S. and UK, females are around 50% more likely than males to say they’re interested in vegetarian food. This is reflected in their purchase drivers: they’re 73% more likely to say that vegan or organic ingredients increase their likelihood of buying a beauty product. 

As the food and beauty industry entwine further, attitudes toward ingredient transparency in one will continue to affect the other. 

Having a clear list of ingredients on beauty products is important to 36% of beauty buyers.

As the market for “clean beauty” has expanded, many brands have opted in on the trend and, last year, Juice Beauty became the first farm-to-face brand to have its ingredients studied by academics. Since then, Clarins has also joined the farm-to-face movement, upon purchasing 200,000-acres of land. 

The need to experiment and innovate grows as the clean beauty space becomes more crowded. While some question whether these products are a “pointless indulgence”, the evolution of the clean beauty economy is undeniable and not likely to wither away anytime soon. 

3. They want greater overlap between the beauty and wellness industry.

One explanation for the rising demand for ingredient transparency is consumers growing more wary of the connection between the food they eat, their overall well-being and their complexion. 

Therefore, alongside the clean beauty economy, the wellness-focused beauty market is thriving. 

With skin sensitivity and fears of irritation becoming more common, the popularity of probiotic skin care is unsurprising. 

Today’s consumers are increasingly concerned about chemicals stripping away the body’s natural oils. So, despite the recent explosion of organic skin care products, a third of beauty buyers still say they want beauty brands to use more plant-based ingredients in the future. 

While plant-based ingredients are being applied topically on a more regular basis, the beauty industry is also starting to realize the potential of ingestible skin care. 

Among beauty buyers, the most desired wellness-focused beauty products are vitamins and supplements (e.g. for clearer skin, weight loss, healthier hair), with 4 in 10 saying beauty brands should offer more of these in the future. 

A quarter of beauty buyers want beauty brands to create more CBD-infused beauty products.

The emergence of cannabis-infused beauty is also likely to disrupt the wellness-beauty space, as CBD products promise to support “a holistic wellness plan, generating beauty both from outside and from within”.

The boundary between food, beauty and health is ultimately becoming more fluid; as brands in all these categories attempt to cross-over into related industries and create the ultimate lifestyle product. 

Influencers are key in the beauty category, and a useful way of creating a basis for these links. 

Our data shows that the most popular types of influencer content among consumers in the U.S. and UK are food (43%), fashion (40%) and beauty/personal care (39%). A well-known lifestyle blog, nominating the best UK-based bloggers in its category, highlights the difficulty in assigning influencers to one category, when “lifestyle” often encompasses many. 

This means that influencers in the beauty segment are well-placed to discuss their attitudes toward food and health, making them perfect for marketing wellness-focused beauty products. 

What’s more, men engage with influencers just as often as women. So, as well as inspiring purchases across these related categories in the future, influencers will also have a hand in welcoming more men into the beauty space. 

4. Enthusiasm toward beauty tech exists and is set to rise.

Though beauty might not be the first industry that comes to mind when thinking about digitizing the buying experience, there’s a reason why many cosmetics giants are either looking to, or have already, invested in tech.

Chart showing there is a market for beauty tech.

In short, the global beauty devices market is forecasted to surpass $34 billion by 2024, and many players want in on the action.

Adding to the conversation around beauty tech, our survey reveals a burgeoning interest among buyers in integrating smart technology into their personal beauty regimes. 

The biggest predictor of interest in beauty tech relates to income. For example, 11% of beauty buyers in the bottom 25% income group are interested in voice technology offering beauty advice, which doubles to 22% among those in the top 25%. 

Gender has little effect on the appeal of smart mirrors and voice tech, but skin-scanning devices and augmented reality makeup apps tempt more female buyers. 

As many as 41% of female beauty buyers are interested in skin-scanning devices that are able to customize skin care regimes, such as those pioneered by L’Oreal at the beginning of last year. 

While China is leading the charge on AR/VR-related beauty experiences, there’s clearly scope for this kind of technology in other parts of the world – as 30% of female beauty buyers in the U.S. and UK also find the idea of using AR apps to try on makeup appealing. 

Realizing the potential of beauty tech, the brand HiMirror is now expanding its distribution across Europe and the Middle East. Their smart mirrors do everything from applying virtual makeup to analyzing skin and offering personalized recommendations, with mini versions of these mirrors coming to high-end retail stores across the region. 

This technology will therefore become more commonplace in the luxury retail environment. The question is whether it will develop into an everyday aspect of people’s lifestyles in the future. 

Global adoption of beauty tech is still very low. While a significant number of beauty buyers say they’re interested in using these products, this doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll follow-through when it comes to buying. 

Several factors could deter them. 

For starters, two-thirds of beauty buyers say affordability is important to them when purchasing beauty products, rising to 73% among females. Often seen as premium or luxury items, the challenge for technology-backed beauty companies is changing perceptions of these products. 

Beauty brands must also demonstrate their trustworthiness. 

Although levels of trust toward the beauty industry might be higher than for other markets, 7 in 10 beauty buyers are either undecided or uncomfortable with beauty brands being able to access their personal data. It’s early days, but these devices still have a long way to go before they enter the mainstream. 

One thing we can be sure of is that the beauty landscape will need many more retouches if it’s to keep up, as consumer expectations continue to remould against a backdrop of dynamic technological and social change. 

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Written by

Shauna is a Junior Insights Analyst & Content Writer at GlobalWebIndex. Shauna produces a wide range of assets including reports, infographics and blogs, with a particular interest in food and travel trends. Before joining GlobalWebIndex, Shauna was studying Politics and International Relations at the University of Exeter.

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