Skin deep

3 Feb 2022

This week: What’s old is new again, at least in the beauty biz.


Beauty, which took a bit of a backseat during the plague times, is making a comeback. 2022 sales are projected to top pre-pandemic levels.

“Beauty is now a subset of wellness,” said Bulbul Hooda, CMO of Vella Bioscience. “Health, wellness, activewear and beauty have blurred together.”

So what do beauty soothsayers predict will (still) be big this year?

• Sitting high on the list: self-care. “The pandemic has forced people to recognise how delicate we all are,” said Lisa Payne, head of beauty at trends intelligence firm Stylus. It’s poised to get more personal, though. “The rise of made-for-you beauty is suggesting an industry turning toward individualization,” reported Retail Brew. We’re talking custom formulations and AI-driven recommendations. “People are tired of too much choice,” said Paul Michaux, co-founder of personalised hair-care company Prose.

• The steadily growing skin care category is set to account for 34% of the global beauty market by 2024. And the hot pursuit of that fresh-faced look is influencing other beauty sectors too. Skinification, it’s the noun you never knew you needed. “Signs point to a burgeoning evolution of the skinification of hair,” reported Glossy. Want your strands as shiny as your face? There’s an abundance of new products for that.

• Two years’ worth of being distracted by our own faces on the screen has also led to an, um, oral fixation. “Teethxiety” is what Clare Varga, beauty trend forecaster at WGSN, calls it. 1 in 4 adults in the U.S. sprung for a fancier toothbrush last year. “Mouth tech, particularly in developed markets like the US and Europe, is having a moment,” reported Wired. With the global oral care market set to grow to $41 billion by 2025, we expect to see more DTC upstarts and old school sub-brands alike.

And what about some good ol’ fashioned cosmetics? While makeup sales fell during the pandemic, now the “no-makeup makeup” look is giving way to an altogether bolder expression. “Modern makeup is meant to reflect what’s going on inside,” wrote Rachel Strugatz in The New York Times. “It’s colorful, expressive, imperfect and meant to be seen.”


It’s not always sunny in the beauty industry, though. Among the most notable bumps in the road? How to stay relevant.

• In the race to win over Z, it’s a crowded, fickle field. DTC hit-maker Glossier is making headlines for cutting a third of its workforce despite raising $80 million last year. Among the challenges they’re facing? Online retention rates, and resonating with today’s teens. “The simplest path to growth may be to embrace a strategy Glossier was built to avoid: launch in a major retailer,” noted The Business of Fashion. “When everyone says you’re a ‘once-in-a-generation brand’ you could trick yourself into believing yours would be a brand that withstands the test of time,” said an anonymous beauty investor. “So why change? Why evolve?”

• Issues of diversity and representation are also ever-present. With the majority of Americans wanting to see all kinds in beauty ads, brands that fall short risk losing ground to more inclusive competitors. Temple, which launched in December 2020, is a skincare and supplements line “created with men of colour in mind.” (Shout out to co-founder Adam Hutchinson, an Appear Here alumni). “Growing up as young Black men in the UK, we never felt that the grooming products we would find… were suited to our needs, or really spoke to us,” said co-founder Raphael Babalola. “We strongly believe Temple is needed to help men navigate through the process of creating self-care routines.”

• With people more aware of hygiene than ever before, brands and retailers have been rolling out virtual try-on solutions. Testers are totally back though, by popular demand. While VR trialling is becoming more of a thing, “that’s not replacing coming into a store for a complexion match,” said Margaret Mitchell, chief merchandising officer at Space NK. “If people are going to make the effort to come into a store, they want to have… a sensory experience, not just more screens.”

Not to pooh-pooh the game-changing tech – for mouths or otherwise – but is it surprising that we’re running away from screens?

What might be the ultimate beauty as self-care as wellness experience? Total sensory deprivation. No wonder float spas are trending.

“The shallow Epsom-salted water buoys your body… removing the need to think about your corporeal presence at all,” wrote Kyle Chayka in The New York Times.

“Perhaps most important, it’s impossible to hold your phone.”

Words by Amy Tai, creative consultant and native New Yorker now based in London.