Beauty futures: What’s new and next in beauty?


As you might have gathered, I love knowing what’s new and next when it comes to brands and retail and one of my favourite information resources is LS:N Global. The trends and insight network from The Future Laboratory covers global innovation from design, retail and lifestyle sectors and has a free blog called Seed *. Even better than the online content are the regular insight forums held at The Future Laboratory HQ in Shoreditch. Recently, I was invited to cover Beauty Futures, a jam-packed forum that focused on the beauty industry. Over six hours the LS:N Global team unpacked the emerging trends that will affect the way we shop for beauty over the coming years. Here’s my breakdown:

We all know the men’s grooming market is booming – the stats say it all. Thanks to the rise of the emerging markets, the male skincare sector is growing three times faster than women’s with India boasting 32% growth in men’s grooming. Meanwhile in China (where metrosexual males are known as City Jade Men), sales of male beauty products are growing 30% a year. Put it this way, it’s no longer a big deal for men to wear concealer, foundation and even a little Advanced Night Repair (in fact I hear that the brown bottled serum is a cult secret weapon among men).

The main reason? Aspirational young urbanites regard good grooming as a crucial contributor to workplace success, where first impressions count for a lot. But while millennial males (think late 20s) are driving much of the growth, there’s also a rise in fiftysomething baby boomer groomers. Boomer men want to stay in the job market longer and believe that looking the part will help their cause. So while some may scoff at Tom Ford and co with their male-targeted bronzers and serums, the evidence suggests they’re onto something. Not that it’s all about looking obviously pretty. ‘Mandustrial’ packaging (below) is a trend identified by The Future Laboratory that suggests men want their own macho-looking products, or at least de-gendered ones that don’t scream ‘borrowed from her dressing table’.

This brings me to the latest developments in olfactory trends. As gender blending continues with men and women dipping into each other’s products, the same applies to fragrance. LS:N Global identifies a growing trend for smoky, oud-like fragrances. Scents are becoming an intellectual pursuit, with unusual notes proving more appealing than the generic florals we’re all too familiar with. A scent like tobacco is considered suitably sophisticated, suggesting strength and character with a narrative element. This might sound like marketing mumbo jumbo but guess what? I’ve found myself leaning towards the very same gentlemanly, smoky scents, especially when it comes to niche, artisanal fragrances houses (think Byredo and Nasomatto, plus the wonderful Fornasetti scented candles and incense). As the scent-savvy Alexia Inge from Cult Beauty pointed out to me, a smoky fragrance instantly conjures up the sexy but masculine image of YSL’s Le Smoking as realised by Helmut Newton. There’s your proof right there – what better example of sexy sophistication could you possibly ask for?

LS:N Global’s research shows that post-recessionary women are investing more in their bodies and want natural, eco-friendly ingredients deployed in scientific ways. Looking just at this year’s crop of luxury make-up launches, there’s an abundance of wholesome plant-based ingredients matched with hi-tech skincare that delivers results. It’s a holistic approach that’s not just about looking good or being useful but both. As women become more educated about products (perhaps thanks to beauty bloggers?), they’re less fazed by science. Products that work on the mind and body are key, with research showing that modern life is the top cause of skin conditions including acne, eczema and psoriasis. And wait for it, following BB and CC creams, a prototype EE (energy enhancer) cream for mind and body-conscious millennials is waiting in the wings. Conclusion: today’s overworked woman needs products and rituals to counteract her stressful, always-on lifestyle. (Amen.)

The ‘fashionisation’ of sport is one of my current hot topics and the same is happening in the convergence of beauty and sport. As well as sports personalities employed as spokesmodels for beauty brands, we have bodycare products created by athletes (such as the Spanish brand Fisix, below). Even sweat has been reframed as sexy and empowering rather than icky and taboo. Expect to see much more of the beauty-fitness crossover with retailers marketing holistic workout classes to luxury beauty consumers (and lazy-ass types like me).

Giving people what they want, how they want it is a key trend underlined by an even bigger trend, giving consumers the tools to do it themselves (or near enough). It picks up on the interest of ‘show your working’-type marketing in which luxury brands including Hermes and Jaeger-LeCoultre demonstrate their craft in a public, how-to format. Customers appreciate knowing the provenance and craft behind their favourite products and when it comes to beauty, we’re seeing an emerging lab-style workshop approach in retail. Stores like Aesop (below) lay out products in a help-yourself environment reminiscent of a beauty science lab. Crucially though, the effect is interactive and inviting rather than clinical – the laboratory being seen as a seductive place where magical alchemy happens.

Coupled with this is a logical step towards hyper-personalisation. What was once a service limited to luxury, monied customers is about to go mainstream in a big way. LS:N Global (whose forum delegates included reps from Estée Lauder, M&S, Net-a-Porter and Burberry) highlighted skincare brand Sepai, make-up brand BITE Beauty and hair care brand Concoction as examples of beauty companies who let you play the creative scientist by customising their products to your own tastes and needs. This will be especially significant for ‘Generation I’ (those born after 2002), who are growing up with the option to hack and mash products at will. Customers are willing to pay for an interactive retail experience as well as the product itself, enjoying the preparation and creative process as much as the end result.

As with do-gooder fashion companies (Gucci’s Chime For Change campaign and LVMH-backed Edun spring to mind), beauty brands are encouraged to broadcast the good they do. Millennials have an ethical approach to consumerism coupled with disposable income, so brands who broadcast their ethical credentials alongside their fancy products stand to do well. My favourite example is We See Beauty, a non-profit outfit supporting women-led, worker-owned cooperatives. Its make-up line, MAKE has stunning, gorgeously-packaged products and gives customers an extra feel-good glow by donating 33% of sales to the We See Beauty foundation.

LS:N Global broke down its key age demographics, spelling out the important behaviours and recommendations for each generation. Generation I (those born after 2002) are the digital natives who don’t differentiate between online and offline. This is the generation who expects to customise, hack and personalise its products. Meanwhile, Generation D (defined as teens to 20-year-olds) is social, digital and highly connected. Apps like Eyedoll Chatter (which lets girls experiment with make-up digitally) appeal to young female consumers in this demographic.

There’s a lot going on with millennials (largely those born between 1982 and 1991) who are predicted to be the dominant luxury consumer group between 2018 and 2020, eclipsing baby boomers. Millennials are described by LS:N Global as curators, entrepreneurs, collaborators and social shoppers with a hi-lo approach. (Wait, that sounds like me! In fact, a recent article by Fashion’s Collective describes ‘millennial’ as an attitude as well as a demographic. I’m inclined to agree.) Birchbox and & Other Stories (below) are the type of brands that appeal to millennial women, while the millennial male is generating big growth in male grooming, meaning now is the time to target them.

Generation X (age 35+) is the generation worst hit by the financial crisis and is summed up as a cautious consumer who mixes affordable staples with premium quality brands. Simplicity, local and mass-tige are the values that resonate with this market. Think sophisticated but affordable as well as indie and artisanal. Even on a budget the Gen X customer appreciates quality and beauty.

Finally, Baby Boomers (born between 1945 and 1964) are a fascinating demographic because they have been overlooked for so long. The main beauty takeaway here is that the median age of the population is rising, so global spend on anti ageing is rising too. In particular, high SPF cream sales are on the up, with 80% of UK foundations now containing SPF. It’s not all about fighting the ageing process though. ‘Age management’ is a phrase I like as it sounds positive and doesn’t suggest fighting a losing battle. According to the Beauty Futures forum, profitability will come from making ageing look acceptable. Already brands like No7 are giving us the positive face of ageing, while showing the story and character behind the face is also becoming more important. Bottom line: baby boomers have resilient wealth so will spend on products that help them age well. They’ll invest in premium health and youth-maintain skincare as well as hi-tech gadgets, but don’t wanted to be marketed to just by age. Marketers take heed!

For daily insights from LS:N Global, check out the blog at SEED or subscribe to the full LS:N Global service here.

(*Full disclosure: I sometimes contribute to LS:N Global’s reports and its contributing retail editor Alison Bishop is also a regular contributor to Disneyrollergirl.)

[Main photo: & Other Stories by Polly Braden]