The Future Of Clean Beauty: Here Are The 8 Biggest Trends For 2020
There's been an explosion in the natural, clean, and sustainable beauty space that few could have seen coming—or few could have seen coming at this scale and rate of growth. But mindbodygreen did so with many trends: Ancient traditions of ayurvedic beauty are now smartphone-friendly. Waterless formulations are going mainstream. Adding ingestibles to your beauty routine is about as common as adding an eye cream.
So what were some of the year's biggest trends that we'll likely see explode in 2020? Read on to find out, and consider yourself an early adopter.
Beauty gets serious about using less.
As we entered "The climate decade," we now know that simply recycling might not be enough. That's why brands are moving toward refillable, reusable, and biodegradable, and, on the consumer front, just using less in general.
The most innovative was Terracycle's Loop program. People in New York, London, and Paris are able to order products from participating brands (like one of our faves, Ren), which arrive in more eco-friendly packaging, like glass bottles. Once you're done, you send the packaging back to the facilities where they're washed, refilled, and sent out again, totally eliminating single-use plastic. And smaller, natural-leaning brands have launched refillable glass jars (Follain and Bathing Culture come to mind) with an option to refill in store where available or order a refill pouch in bulk.
Olay started testing out refillable pods that you can pop in and out of the larger package. This means that people need to purchase the larger jar only once and then can keep refilling it with less-plastic options. "It seems very obvious, a refillable pod, but it does not exist for mass brands," says Anitra Marsh, who is the associate director of brand communications, global skin, and personal care brands at P&G (Olay's parent company). Marsh also leads the global sustainability task force for the brands. "The accumulation of plastic in our environment is everyone's problem. We know that the challenges we face in reducing plastic waste are complex. This offers one important step that we are looking toward, but really we're going to need a multipronged approach to really improve the sustainability of the skin care market."
But if people can't commit to a circular system, some mass brands are almost fully committing to recycled plastic. A few months ago, all of Dove's brands announced that by year's end, almost all of their packaging would be completely recycled plastic. And their parent company, Unilever, has hinted at more developments to come in the new year.
And for consumer? In a pendulum swing away from 10-step routines and closet-sized personal beauty stashes, women are opting for less. Anecdotally, people are just fed up with too many steps and generally just doing too much. Call it beauty minimalism. If you want further proof, we even saw the trend in the beauty influencer world (which is about as much proof as you'll need). It's being dubbed the anti-excess movement. Influencers and vloggers like YouTubers Samantha Ravndahl and RawBeautyKristi are all eschewing the overabundance of products. Ravndahl went off PR mailing lists entirely. "I felt I was producing a lot of waste, what with the shipping and packing materials—and on top of that, the gifts that came with it. So many of these, too, I couldn't recycle," Ravndahl said in a video, who also noted she was starting a three-month "no-buy" cleanse. "It was getting more and more over the top, so I finally was like I'm going to step away. I've been really happy with my decision."
Less is really starting to look like more.
Beauty addresses disability access.
Social media has acted as kindling for a long-needed conversation in beauty: how we address access and representation.
A few years ago, you might remember the conversation around foundation skin tones. Nearly overnight, Instagram set a standard in inclusivity in makeup hues, and makeup brands followed offering ranges north of 40 shades. (Call it the Fenty Beauty effect.) And now, anytime a brand launches a campaign that's not diverse, they're often rightly called out on these platforms.
And finally, we're seeing a larger push for disability access and representation: There are 61 million adults in the U.S. who have a functional disability, and many are creating a flourishing community for themselves on Instagram and YouTube.
One of those people is Instagram influencer Madison Lawson (aka @WheelchairBarbie), who dons some of the best eye looks I've ever seen—she's a master of bold color. "It all started when I had this incredibly painful surgery that had a long recovery time," she tells me. "And they try to teach you ways to cope with the pain, and I found trying to master that a cat-eye flick was a way for me to do something other than thinking about what I was going through."
Soon, she was collecting Instagram followers who said they saw themselves in her—as well as just loving her makeup looks. "Social media is such an incredible tool. You can find people to connect to and bond with—it brings me so much joy to see women like me thriving," she says. And there's the added element that it feels more genuine and authentic, she notes: This isn't a campaign with the token girl in a wheelchair. "I always longed to see women who looked similar to me, and I found that through social media," she says. "And it's such an honor to be that person for other girls too. I'm grateful for it."
I'd be remiss not to include Franceso Clark, the founder Clark's Botanicals, who was severely injured in his early 20s, leaving him paralyzed. His natural skin care company is beloved in the industry for its efficacy, and Clark himself has amassed a crew of editorial fans (largely due to his wit and charm). He actually started his career in fashion editorial and is now a beauty founder and insider—so he's seen firsthand how much the industry has changed.
"It's really a product of user-generated content on these channels like Instagram, Twitter, and TikTok. Now there is power in being a consumer that didn't exist before," he says. "It used to be that you'd see an ad, and in an instant your thought would be, That's beautiful, but I'll never look like that. It happened in a split second. But now you can find people on social media that look like you. And brands are tapping into that too."
As for the brands doing something about it? There's Herbal Essences, who introduced tactile markings on a number of their bottles so sight-impaired consumers can identify what product they're using. And it all started because Procter & Gamble (the parent company) employee Sam Latif, their accessibility leader, pushed for change. She, herself sight-impaired, encouraged her co-workers to experience the world as she did. "She opened our minds and hearts to ways we could make her life more enjoyable and easier to navigate, even if it is just a simple shower. Sam has shown us that designing with diversity and inclusion in mind benefits everyone," says Herbal Essences' beauty scientist Rachel Zipperian. From there, the brand started looking into what can be done to make their packaging more accessible to everyone. And in January 2020 they are rolling out phase two: Every single shampoo and conditioner bottle will come with tactile markings.
Or when Clark started his own brand (this was years ago that he started making his own products), formulating multitasking products with functioning packing wasn't just priority—it was a personal need. "This is less a trend and more a way of life; the simple truth is that it takes me longer to get ready in the morning than normal people, and I need products that aren't going to take a long time," says Clark. "Making an effective, multiuse product easier to use for people with dexterity disabilities isn't just good for the people who need it, it's better for everyone."
"There are actually a lot of products and technologies that began as tools for people with disabilities—like Alexa or Echo—but became mainstream products because they were just useful," he aptly notes. Making better-functioning products is just good business.
And as Lawson tells me, it's usually just little things that Big Beauty might be overlooking. "Things like magnetic closures go a long way. You might not think about it, but take eye-shadow palettes: Some types will snap shut and I can't get them back open. I'm not afraid to ask for help, but makeup is one of the few things that I can do totally alone, and that independence is important to me."
And a few new, smaller brands are popping up to address it too. There's Kohl Kreatives, a U.K.-based brand of brushes created for a line specifically for those with motor disabilities, like hand tremors: The line is more flexible than standard makeup brushes. Or Grace cosmetics, which makes makeup basics with easier-to-hold handles and thoughtful designs, is looking to launch soon, a rep from the brand noted on social media.
It's just a start—but a promising one at that.
Clean embraces bold color.
Lots of clean makeup brands are moving away from "barely there" and stepping into bold. Why? Well, makeup trends are never an exact science, as fads are dictated more by mood and aesthetics than numbers and research.
But if I had to wager, I'd say this: As more and more women start dabbling in clean and natural products, that also means there's a brand-new clientele group and a new set of needs and wants.
"The space is expanding because today's consumer is more savvy. New standards are being set," says Sheena Yaitanes, founder of makeup brand Kosas.
One survey from Ispos found that 59% of women in the U.S. would be interested in trying new brands if they were clean, and an astonishing 66% said they'd be interested in trying a new brand if it was natural. That's a lot of natural- and clean-curious customers to account for. And some of these new consumers are likely the type of beauty fan that dons a smoky eye, loves a lacquered lip, or wants a full-coverage foundation.
"There are a lot of women out there who want high pigment formulas that are rich and luxurious. You can always dial it down and sheer it out, but daring to use unadulterated, bold color? It has an element of confidence," says Kristine Keheley, Vapour co-founder and clean makeup formulator.
I'll use myself as a prime example: Recently I wrote about how when I would wear a red lipstick, I always defaulted to the more traditional beauty brands (the Armanis and MACs of the world). But as I started playing with these newer, cleaner, and extremely sophisticated formulas from natural-leaning brands, I finally made the switch. Not only can clean do bold, but it does bold very well.
"Clean beauty brands are now leveling the playing field. By achieving amazing color pay-off and luxury product performance, we are now competing with long-established conventional brands and are less and less relegated to the eco-sideshow," says Kehely.
Now when you scroll through clean beauty retailer sites, you'll see naturally pigmented hues and saturated finishes of all kinds: Honest Beauty launched a Longwear Matte Liquid Lipstick that rivals any liquid lip you'll pick up at the department store—in terms of color and staying power (they use a blend of clays to get hold, the brand tells me.) Jane Iredale's Liquid Matte Foundation does not mess around: The mineral-based liquid gives you medium-to-full coverage and a velvet finish. Kosas launched a 10-Second Liquid Eyeshadow in eight vibrant shades, including one cobalt blue so rich it'll make other blues jealous. And finally, there's the Vapour's relaunch: The brand not only went nearly waterless, but they punched up the pigments in their shades, from lipstick to blush.
Classics make a cleaner comeback.
The first beauty product I remember falling in love with was my mother's Guerlain Meteorites Highlighting Powder Pearls. My parents came home from a weekend away, and she had a very special package with her. These, she told me, were a very fancy treat that I was not to play with. It wasn't until years later when I grew up and became a beauty editor that I realized how special those little powder pearls must have been for her. See, Guerlain is this classic, heritage French beauty brand (known for lush fragrances and beautiful makeup; their most iconic products are those highlighting pearls.) For my mom, who sticks to drug- (or maybe department) store, beauty products like this, they were something special. I've always held a small fascination with Guerlain because of this.
Imagine my surprise when I saw the news this year that the Guerlain was launching a silky, satin-smooth foundation that was 97% natural. I immediately called in a bottle, and it's been my go-to foundation since.
They're not the only iconic brand to make a cleaner comeback.
At the tail end of last year, famed hairstylist Frederic Fekkai bought back his namesake brand—after a few years of bouncing ownership—and one of the first things he did with it was launch a natural line, The One by Frederic Fekkai The Pure collection. "I realized that I was eating organic foods and really paying attention to my well-being, and that I should be putting that same focus into my hair care line," he said at the time of the launch.
So why now? "It was very important to me to come back after acquiring my namesake brand to be relevant with formulas that are safe, natural, and high-performing," he told me later. "I believe today, more than ever, we have access to and can produce and formulate products with natural and powerful ingredients. Historically, natural ingredients were more difficult to source and were more expensive to infuse into products. These ingredients are more accessible today."
But it's not just heritage or traditional brands making a cleaner comeback; just this year Aveda reintroduced their absolute cult status Aveda Sap Moss collection after a decade-long hiatus. At the time of launch, the brand told me they had finally been able to reformulate it to meet their new, higher standards—without sacrificing any of the elements users adored in the original. "The product was last sold in the '90s, and ever since then, Aveda fans have requested that the products make a comeback. It was discontinued for a few reasons, such as changing mission requirements and ingredient availability," says Christine Hall, vice president of research and development hair care, color, and innovation at Aveda. But with better, more modern technology, they were able to formulate a product they were proud of.
The beauty industry is a market that's always looking for that next big thing, that next marketing hook—but it's also an industry deeply rooted in the past and traditions. And sometimes, in the midst of new, new, new, it's nice to see a familiar face or two.
Sensitive skin care gets trendy.
Sensitive skin has become something of a hot topic. More and more women are claiming they have sensitive skin; according to a 2019 report, now 60 to 70% of women claim the title, up from the previously reported 50% that was the long-held standard percentage. And the "dry skin" treatment market is expected to see a "substantial" increase until 2026, according to market research.
As board-certified dermatologist Whitney Bowe, M.D., tells us, sensitive skin is an "intrinsic quality. Naturally, the skin is not as capable of keeping in moisture and acting as a barrier, which is one of the most critical roles of the skin."
So why the sudden increase in self-reported sensitive skin? One reasoning is that people with otherwise healthy skin barriers are "sensitizing" their skin with overexfoliation and overly complex routines. "It's a tricky balance: You want to remove dead skin cells so you get a nice glow but don't want to do it too much and thin out that layer," warns Bowe.
But what's more alarming is that we've seen an increase in sensitive-skin-related conditions and diseases. Adult acne, especially among women, is on the rise, too (according to the International Dermal Institute, one of the culprits is likely the rising stress levels). Recent research shows that eczema is on the rise for both children and adults. Researchers haven't quite figured out why this is so in both cases.
Regardless, the market is exploding: In the past, "sensitive skin" brands were seen as plain, simple, and, dare I say, boring? They were stripped down of all flash and glamour in order to show how serious they were; all the while, people with "normal" skin (whatever that is!) got to have all the fun. Now? Sensitive skin is in—and the sensitive skin brands are all the rage.
Take, for example, Tower28. The clean brand has distinctly modern flare. Just take a peek at their Instagram for a collection of so-chic editorials. Or test out their Superdew Shimmer-Free Highlighter, which gives that so-juicy finish coveted by the 20-something crowd. Not only was the brand founded on the bases of treating irritated skin, but a few of the products come with the National Eczema Association stamp of approval. "I have had eczema my entire adult life, and it's something I have really struggled with," says the brand founder, Amy Liu. Because hers is a chronic condition, she was inspired to create something that she'd be excited to use every day. "There are actually a lot of brands and products out there targeted at sensitive skin, but I felt like the approach was clinical and medicinal. For some people, sensitive skin is a moment in time, and you reach for these for a temporary solution. But for me, sensitive skin is chronic, and I didn't want to reach for products every day that felt like a man in a lab coat sold them to me. Our products are meant to be fun, colorful, and approachable."
Or SkinFix's major makeover this year. The natural brand, always known for their soothing, healing balms and ointments, got a fresh update with bold, bright, look-at-me packaging. "We may offer clean, clinically proven, dermatologist-endorsed solutions, but we don't want our packaging to look medicinal with big red crosses and language about skin problems," says founder Amy Risley.
Or C'est Moi, a clean brand now likely at a drugstore near you, is made and marketed for younger women who have sensitive skin (read: acne- and irritation-prone). But the packaging here is all neon and playfulness—with an added affection toward trendy masks and fun makeup. And in that vein: There's the just-launched Kinship, which launched with five microbiome-friendly products.
Of course, if you're still one to default to the classic natural brands: These brands stepped it up too. Perhaps not with Instagram-attention-grabbing colors and typeface, but by releasing their most innovative sensitive skin collections yet. This year Burt's Bees launched their Sensitive Skin collection, which has six National Eczema Association–approved products. As did Kemedis, the natural derm-approved favorite.
Mass makes a major investment.
Of course, mass has been playing in this space for a while now. But over the past year, efforts to capitalize in the space have ramped up. This isju no doubt led by the market's general swing toward clean and natural in general. Natural products had more than $1.5 billion in sales in 2017, according to Nielsen. Grand View Research notes in a report that the organic beauty category will reach nearly $25 billion by 2025 globally.
As we've talked about before, Sephora, somewhat surprisingly, emerged as a leader in the clean market: This summer they expanded their Clean at Sephora section and seal—from 13 "no" ingredients to over 50. "We were getting so many questions about ingredients and clean from our customers—it was in stores, comment sections, reviews," Cindy Deily, Sephora's vice president of skin care merchandising told us. Also worth noting: Sephora's own skin care collection dons the seal.
It says something when a mass brand launches its own clean line, no?
And on that note: There was Walmart's very first in-house skin care line. In a very telling, and almost shocking, move, the line was clean and natural-leaning. Earth to Skin was a 30-plus collection of skin care products (each product had at least one superfood active) that nixed ingredients like parabens, phthalates, and often silicones.
Also earlier this year, Target launched its own clean seal that covers beauty, home, and food. They've also been recruiting and helping launch a plethora of clean brands. One of our favorites? Versed, which dropped this May. "It's pretty impressive how much shelf space Target is giving to clean and natural brands," says Melanie Bender, the brand's general manager. "It used to be only a sliver in stores, and now they're making room for our type of brands."
CVS now has CVS Clean, which highlights products formulated without parabens, phthalates, and formaldehyde donors. (And they continue to roll out affordable clean options at their stores—even those that are EWG-verified.)
In the name of sustainability, ingredients get interesting.
The hunt for unique, one-of-a-kind ingredients has always been at the core of beauty. The driving force, however, used to be about efficacy. (Or, sometimes, a marketing ploy.) But now the driving force behind ingredient stories? Sustainability.
This year we've seen an explosion of creative and innovative ingredients, sourced from the most unlikely of spots—when Birkenstock launched their skin care line nationally a few months ago. The hero ingredient was a new active called suberin, which was actually derived from the cork they use to make their shoes. When formulated in skin care, however, the substance reduces skin redness, stimulates collagen formation, and can protect against free radicals. And it's harvested from the bark of the cork trees, making the process much more eco- and planet-friendly. So much so, they earned themselves COSMOS's quality seal, which is the international mark that certifies that ingredients are from renewable resources and manufactured in an environmentally friendly manner.
Or, instead of cleansing with single-use wipes or exfoliating with microplastics, don't be surprised if you'll soon be encouraged to opt for sea sponges. Argentum Apothecary is a natural, organic, clean London-based brand that recently came out with their milk and fina sea sponge duo. And other than the fact that using the "tool" feels like washing yourself with a cashmere blanket, it's grown and harvested using better-for-the-earth practices. "These are ethically harvested fina silk sea sponges, sourced from the Mediterranean Sea and handpicked using traditional methods," says brand founder Joy Issacs, noting that the sponges are cut at the base so they can regenerate.
Also from the sea: One Oceans' skin care collection. Sea microorganisms might not be anything new, but this brand searched the globe to find the most active options and ocean-friendly tech. They utilize two you might be familiar with, hydrolyzed marine collagen and brown sea kelp but also two lesser-well known strains of algae found in the Antarctic (Biofermented pseudoalteromonas microorganism and Glycoprotein derived from a biofermented Antarctic Pseudoalteromonas). They also use cutting-edge blue biotechnology to help regrow their strains that are put into their serums, moisturizers, and masks. But it's not creating a synthetic version; it's a natural replica of the original. This means they're not depleting the ocean's natural supply. Reports show that the blue biotechnology is expected to grow exponentially in the coming years—and one of the main reasons is the clean and natural cosmetic industry.
There's even a brand-new ingredient that's yet to hit the market, called activated silk, a protein extracted from natural silk fiber. The brand currently making it, Evolved By Nature (EBN), imports discarded silkworm cocoons. They purify the cocoon in a water and salt mixture—which leaves them with a natural silk fiber—and dissolve the fiber to release the silk protein in its liquid form. When put in oils and serums, it can help spur collagen production.
But it doesn't have to be brand-new ingredients to be innovative: Many brands are finding totally unique ways to harvest some of our classic favorites.
One of my favorite examples is from the natural, luxury oil brand Milèo New York, learned how to sustainably harvest Indian sandalwood, which was on the brink of extinction before the government shut down deforesting to preserve the native tree. (It's historically been used as one of the most sacred and powerful ingredients in ayurveda, and today, according to recent reports, the sandalwood market is expected to grow 10% annually until at least 2022, due largely in part to the rising interest in aromatherapy.) What makes the sandalwood harvesting process so damaging is the oil comes from the heartwood resin: The tree must be cut down to extract it. But this brand uses a special drilling process, which extracts the essential oil from old tree stumps from long-since harvested trees. That's not all they do: Once each stump is fully extracted, 30 saplings are planted, tagged, and protected.
Ah, what's that saying? Necessity is the mother of invention. Sounds about right.
The best in clean beauty:
Bespoke beauty gets even bigger.
Customization, personalization, bespoke: Call it what you want, but beauty tailored to you—and just you—is by all accounts, the future of beauty.
We started seeing more customizable beauty brands pop up in the beauty industry a few years ago. It's likely spurred on for a few reasons. First, by how easy technology has made the concept. Right now, you can take a hair-type quiz on your phone or "try on" a new look with filter-like technology. And in the future, many speculate we'll be 3D printing our own shades of makeup.
But it also comes from how much the new crop of social-media-savvy beauty consumers crave individuality. It's not enough to have a totally unique look or routine—the formulas in those products must be totally unique to you, too.
And this isn't just speculation; according to beauty market insider Cosmoprof, 2020 will be the year of customization in beauty. And it will be global, too. Their report showed that in Italy, 35% of consumers are interested in beauty products that can be personalized/tailored for them. In China, 31% of consumers say that the word "individuality" defines luxury. In the U.S., 40% of makeup users aged 25 to 34 are frustrated by products that don't match their skin tone.
In the meantime, there are a few brands already harnessing the power of Silicon Valley tech and cutting-edge medicine. NakedPoppy, a clean beauty retailer that launched just earlier this year, starts with an online quiz that determines your skin's needs, factors in your personal wants, and even decodes your skin tone with the camera function. Once done, it will suggest products—from SPF and serums to eyeliner and foundations—tailored to you, then sent right to your door. I tried it out at the time of launch, and the foundation match was my favorite part: I didn't have to sift through pages of foundations to find one that just might have my shade; it only suggested foundations that would work for my very specific skin tone, undertones and all. "We want to remove the 'what would work for me' out of the shopping equation," says brand co-founder Jaleh Bisharat at the time of launch.
Then there's Atolla, a skin care brand that creates a unique sequence based on your skin's moisture levels, oil, pH, concerns, and the time of year. You take a self-assessment test (where they learn about your wants and needs), but they also send you a kit with special, proprietary strips that you press to various points on your skin to test moisture, pH, oil, and so on, to create a customized serum just for you.
"Our proprietary algorithms use a combination of the data you report and the information we collect from your skin with our easy-to-use testing kit. Done in your home with nothing to send back, you get an instant read on where your skin is at now and are able to follow along over time. Our tech even allows us to provide predictive skin care, i.e., helping you with preventing skin problems before they happen," says Ranella Hirsch, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist, CSO, and co-founder of the brand. "For such a long time, a guess was the best there was. There's no going back now!"
But we also love them because they are clean, too. They also nix artificial fragrance, artificial preservatives, phthalates, parabens, or sulfates and are also gluten-free and vegan. But their clean stance isn't just because it's trendy; if the technology makes it that, they don't need to rely on these preservatives: Since you're getting a new shipment regularly, they're not concerned about a multi-month shelf life.
The future? Looking shockingly like you.
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