Three Trends Impacting The Future of Clean Beauty

As we close out Earth Month, we want to shed light on the beauty industry.  The current climate crisis has sparked an awareness of and demand for sustainable solutions that expand beyond packaging. In 2018, 120 billion units of cosmetics packaging were produced globally, most of which came in plastic. That same year, the Environmental Protection Agency estimated just 8.7% of the plastic discarded in the US was recycled.

According to Statista Research, the clean beauty industry is growing by almost 10% each year. It’s projected to reach $22 billion by 2024 and $54 by 2027. With sales in the clean beauty industry over-indexing growth in the mass market, brands and retailers are finding ways to improve their practices for the good of the people and the planet.

A recent study by Power Reviews revealed that 76% of consumers plan on buying beauty products that are sustainably made in the future. Gen Z (86%) and Millennial (80%) shoppers are most likely to purchase sustainable beauty products. To capture this growing cohort of consumers, brands are creating low-impact products and communicating them with more transparency.

Ahead, three ideas evolving consumer demand for a more sustainable future.

As consumers increasingly pledge to reduce their single-use plastic consumption, the shift toward sustainable solutions is spurring new business models. Brands and retailers are strategically looking for ways to reduce their impact beyond recyclable packaging programs to better align with consumers’ mission to buy clean beauty products.

StyleSage – this chart analyzes the assortment of products labeled refill or refillable across beauty categories at Ulta Beauty, Sephora, and Nordstrom.

Major beauty retailers are increasing their availability of refillable packaging solutions. Products on the market have spiked 100% between January 2020 and March 2022, an indication that the sustainable packaging model may be ready for its mass-market moment.

  • BLUE BEAUTY: The waterless beauty trend is hitting the mainstream. In April 2022, Kate McLeod’s waterless body moisturizer launched at Sephora. Solid moisturizers don’t require wax, preservatives, synthetics, or stabilizers. The Body Stone carries the “Clean at Sephora” seal. By removing water from its formulas, the brand created sustainable, plastic-free packaging and reduced its carbon footprint.
  • REFILL & REUSE: Various beauty verticals are embracing refill models. Myro and By Humankind allow users to refill deodorant, while Versed, SBTRCT, and Augustinus Bader allow consumers to restock their skincare. In Versed’s case, they give consumers another avenue to recycle their empties with their ship-back recycling program. Dieux Skin’s Forever Eye Mask lets consumers turn their favorite eye cream into an eye mask with reusable medical-grade silicone.
  • DISSOLVABLE BEAUTY: Redefining what it means to be zero waste, dissolvable beauty has emerged as an innovative answer. Conventional makeup wipes take almost 100 years to biodegrade, so Conserving Beauty set out to create the world’s first dissolvable makeup wipe. Another brand releasing dissolvable beauty, Plus body wash packaging is made from wood pulp from FSC-certified forests and a thin layer of biodegradable polyvinyl alcohol that completely dissolves upon contact with water.
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The buzzwords surrounding clean beauty—think natural, non-toxic, green, eco-friendly, zero-waste—that brands slap onto their labels can be confusing. In a survey of 7,500 adults worldwide by the Capgemini Research Institute, almost half believed that they did not have the necessary information to verify product sustainability claims, and 44% said they did not trust these claims.

Specialty retailers like Ulta Beauty and Sephora and major retailers like Walmart and Target have created their own definition of clean beauty to cut through consumer confusion and build confidence. Ulta Beauty has named 24 ingredients or ingredient categories that can not be in a product to be labeled clean, while Sephora has 35 on its list. Credo’s Sustainable Packaging Guidelines require brands to share disposal instructions with consumers and have eliminated single-use products and packaging, which means no more sheet masks, makeup wipes, or sample sachets.

StyleSage – this chart analyzes the assortment of products with certifications in the descriptions like PETA, vegan.org, and USDA

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Forward-thinking brands are rethinking their websites and product labels to offer more transparent information around pricing, ingredient sourcing, and production methods. Between January 2020 and March 2022, the assortment of products with ethical certifications, like PETA, vegan.org, and USDA, rose 64% at major beauty retailers.

Cocokind and Isla are taking a full-frontal approach to product development and how they communicate those choices so consumers can make more informed decisions. Apoterra Skincare has developed a unique batch number system; so shoppers can learn more about the date of production, country of origin, and ingredient certifications.

Searches for clean beauty hit a 15-year high in May 2020, as the pandemic made consumers more conscious of what they put in and on their bodies and how it impacts their overall health. After years of vague claims and greenwashing, beauty consumers are turning towards science-backed brands. There are 6.6K average monthly searches for dermatologist acne treatment, +110% to LY and +209% from 2020. Additionally, searches for glycolic acid toner are +89% to LY and +189% from 2020.

StyleSage – this chart analyzes the sold-out product % of products from brands like Augustinus Bader, Murad, and Dr. Dennis Gross.

In March 2022, we saw a 10% sold-out rate of dermatologist brands like Augustinus Bader, Murad, and Dr. Dennis Gross, the peak of the last nine months. In 2022, we will continue to see consumers focus on expert authority and trusted clinical claims.

Synthetic lab-grown ingredients are also gaining traction, as they put less strain on the environment without compromising on efficacy. In 2021, Ginkgo BioWorks announced it would go public with a $17.5 billion SPAC deal and has genetically engineered yeast fermentation to produce rose oil with new and unique scents without relying on expensive rose petals.

The main bioactive ingredient in Circumference’s Daily Regenerative Gel Cleanser is an olive byproduct (meaning otherwise unusable) from a family-run farm in California. Circumference utilizes the olive leaves to carefully and with a chemical-free method extract potent actives, then returns the mulch to the farm to be used as compost for a circular production system.

As the sustainability crisis continues to impact consumer purchasing patterns, StyleSage offers the analytics needed to react to market changes, minimize loss, and capture wins. Get a demo and learn more about our tools for competitive market positioning here!