Chris Sanderson on Beauty’s Brave New World

The London-based futurist’s take on beauty — and where it’s headed — seems like the stuff of sci-fi movies.

London-based futurist Chris Sanderson’s take on beauty — and where it’s headed — seems like the stuff of sci-fi movies.

This story first appeared in the May 10, 2013 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

“In the 21st century, we are faced with a new set of beauty paradigms,” Sanderson told attendees at the Self Healthy Beauty Awards, held Tuesday morning at Rouge Tomate in Manhattan. “The future of retail is going to change dramatically,” said Sanderson, cofounder of global trend forecasting consultancy The Future Laboratory, adding that he expects the global beauty market will continue to grow at rate of 3.4 percent until 2017, when it is estimated to reach upwards of $265 billion. “It’s good news for beauty at the moment. To tap into this expanding market, brands need to connect with consumers’ desire to live a lean, digitally connected lifestyle.”

During his presentation, he touched on trends like wearable technology, “hyper” personalization, life-monitoring mobile apps and digestible beauty products.

“Technology is turning every surface into a retail opportunity or enabling us to buy from a brand simply by taking a snap of a stranger,” said Sanderson.

Since the recession, Sanderson said, beauty consumers have learned to live with less and simplify their lives and, because of that, shop smarter. “It may look scary, but in fact the selective consumer is one we’d much rather have,” he said. “We have a better customer now than we did a decade ago.”

One of Sanderson’s most notable points included the increasing importance for beauty businesses to “get a slice of the PIE,” or the personal information economy. “What we are talking about here is the continued growth — primarily through mobile phones and apps — of the way we are becoming obsessed with our own personal data,” he said. “What we can learn from it, but then also what we can do with it.”

Sanderson discussed new apps and mobile data tracking programs designed to help consumers live healthier, more informed lives. Expereal, for one, is an app which allows users to chart their emotions each day, leaving them with a virtual mood calendar they can reference to get a sense of “what a week or a month felt like.” Sanderson also touched on the expanding trend of wearable technology, naming items like the Nike Fuelband, which monitors daily activity, the Basis Band, a health and heart rate monitor, and Jawbone’s Up band, a movement and sleep tracker. “That sense of monitoring is becoming increasingly important, and it’s going to have a huge effect not just on health and fitness but on the beauty business across the board,” said Sanderson. “It’s this integrated sense of health, fitness, wellness [and] beauty that is probably the single most important trend and breakthrough that we are seeing at this point in time: that I’m in control, it’s my program. It’s my life. I’m using this technology to make me feel, and I’m becoming a better version of myself.”

The fusion of health, beauty and technology, according to Sanderson, can also be seen in a slew of futuristic new products on the market, including smart mirrors, which record and analyze personal data, anticellulite jeans by Wrangler and posture and exercise monitoring fabrics by Studio XO and Electricfoxy. “Increasingly our products will be able to measure how well we are performing,” said Sanderson, who also named Ioma’s Youth Booster antiager, which features a micro chip on the cap to assess skin’s hydration levels, and a skin-care app by Fujitsu Laboratories that analyzes and diagnoses skin issues.

Looking to the future, Sanderson said groundbreaking products in development include First Warning Systems’ Smart Bra, said to detect breast cancer, sunblock pills by L’Oréal, edible deodorant and swallowable perfume, said to emit fragrance through pores, by Lucy McRae and antiaging hair caplets that return pigment to hair. “Is it spooky or is this life changing,” Sanderson asked audience members. “This is the decade of change across business sectors. The revolution that we see goes deeper than just beauty.”