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Ath-leisure Movement Hits Body Care

Products that combine muscle-relief benefits with skin care are resonating with consumers.

The wellness movement is at it again.

This time, it’s hit body care — where lotions, oils and bath salts that target muscle recovery, overall relaxation and portability are gaining traction, following the emergence of workout-withstanding makeup a few years ago. In the body-care segment, products in the market include The Nue Co.’s Magnesium Ease spray, Lord Jones’ High CBD Pain and Wellness Formula Body Lotion, Weleda’s arnica-focused body collection, Yuni’s Shower Sheets and the entire Sweatwellth line, which launched in February.

There’s more white space in the category, experts agree, especially as it relates to beauty.

“If you think about all the categories that could fit into the space — nutritional products, beverages, clothing, travel, beauty, preventative and corrective products, all the way to the extreme of health treatments and services — this is an area, particularly on the personal care side of things, where lots of companies have the opportunity to play if they understand the nature of this consumer,” said Wendy Liebmann, chief executive officer of WSL Strategic Retail.

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While muscle relief and relaxation products are by no means a new thing — Icy Hot and Tiger Balm have been around for years — the new generation of launches aims to provide more traditional beauty benefits, like skin hydration, in addition to workout benefits.

“If you think about ‘what is Icy Hot,’ it kind of is that same concept, but bringing it more into the prestige angle…active body products have existed for a while, but they were more mass,” said Larissa Jensen, beauty analyst at the NPD Group.

“There’s an audience for these products who want them to be more beautiful, if you will, or more sophisticated, but also, more relevant,” Liebmann said.

Jensen and Liebmann agree that the new crop of products is an indication that brands are reacting to the proliferation of the wellness trend, but data on consumer adoption of these products is hard to nail down. While NPD doesn’t track ath-leisure body care specifically, body care as a broader segment has been growing quickly — for 2017, prestige body care was up 13 percent, to $286 million. Body moisturizers grew 5 percent, with $128.6 million in sales; body cleansers grew 17 percent, with $50.6 million in sales, and body exfoliators gained 42 percent, with $23.7 million in sales, according to NPD.

There is demand for ath-leisure-oriented body products, according to Bluemercury founder and ceo Marla Beck. “We call it gym-spiration, and we’ve been doing e-mails for a couple years now, showing [customers] good products that work for the gym,” Beck said. “The original concept was portability — it could be long wear, a multitasker — but we’re seeing more and more products designed specifically for the gym or your workout bag.

“Because we’ve moved to such a healthy, ath-leisure lifestyle, the client is demanding these products,” Beck said. “No-shower shower — that could be a new category.” (Like no-makeup makeup, except for bathing).

One line that Bluemercury stocks — Yuni (“when we saw Yuni we had to carry it,” Beck said) — specifically makes products geared toward wellness-oriented, active consumers, or those looking for shower workarounds. At Bluemercury, the brand’s waterless Shower Sheets, $15 for a pack of 12 individually wrapped sheets, are its bestseller, followed by Chillax Muscle Recovery Gel, $18, according to Beck.

Yuni was founded by husband-and-wife duo Emmanuel Rey and Suzanne Dawson in 2015. Before Yuni, where he serves as founder and ceo, Rey worked for L’Oréal and then the Estée Lauder Cos., and Dawson worked for LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, Murad and Aveda. The idea for the brand came about when the couple took a year off to travel and were talking to fellow yogis about their personal-care product preferences, according to Rey.

“In those years, the whole apparel movement and brands like Lululemon…were exploding, we were intrigued by the fact that nothing had happened in beauty,” Rey said. The surveying continued when the couple settled down in California and started asking people there what they wanted from products. The answers were: to save time, enhance performance or recover faster, and relieve stress. 

When Yuni first launched, the products, which contain ingredients like aloe and green tea, were well received by the natural set, Rey said, but now, more mainstream retailers have jumped onboard. Neiman Marcus has launched a wellness section, as has Nordstrom, which sells things like The Organic Pharmacy’s Arnia Sore Muscle Oil, Pursoma After the Class Post Workout Soak and Aromatherapy Associates’ De-Stress Muscle Gel.

Yuni is also part of the Nordstrom assortment, and is also sold at Macy’s.

“In the case of Macy’s that has a wide range [of products], they told us they were interested in any products that would be different in their function and would bring a solution for very specific issues — like saving time or relieving stress,” Rey said.

The brand also sells through Sephora in the U.S., and just launched in Sephora Australia.

Distribution expansion is boosting Yuni’s sales — the brand is projected to grow by 65 percent for 2018, according to industry sources. The business is also working on a multi-purpose and intentionally portable skin-care line that will be launched over the next few months, Rey said.

Yuni is just one of several brands working their way into the active body-care space. Another, Sweatwellth, just launched a line on its e-commerce site in February.

Born out of the team at Boom Creative Development, which develops private-label personal care and beauty products, Sweatwellth’s line aims to cool, repair and rejuvenate at the same time as it keeps skin hydrated and moisturized, according to Paul DeGaetano, president.

“We saw a lot of beauty brands and beauty companies capitalizing on the health and wellness trend…but a lot of them are doing it in a way that is more convenient with their product lineups,” DeGaetano said, adding that businesses often add waterproofing or SPF protection to their lineups. So when it came time to develop Sweatwellth, the goal was to create products meant to “aid and enhance physical activities and workouts,” he said. But it’s not meant to replace all existing products, he noted.

The lineup includes No Sweat Pre-Workout Hydrating Spray, $25, which aims to minimize moisture loss through skin and hair; Awesome Chalk Ultra Grip Spray, $18, which is meant to be used during workouts as a grip spray (instead of a chalk bucket); Power Shower Post Workout Cleansing Spray, $25, a post-workout shower spray; Hydra Drench, a $20 facial mist with hyaluronic acid; Friction Free, an $18 antichafing spray, and Lip Quench, a lip balm with SPF 25, $12.50.

“[People] aren’t using it when they’re going out in the evening or going to work — it’s meant for going to, or during, or post a favorite exercise that’s causing them to sweat,” DeGaetano said. “These are helping enhance those activities.”

The Nue Co., a food-based supplement line that sells on Net-a-porter, has also gotten into the ath-leisure space with its Magnesium Ease spray, which launched in November. Magnesium Ease shoppers tend to pair the product with the brand’s $75 Sleep Drops, founder Jules Miller noted.

“The idea of consuming nutrients or supplements through your skin is actually a really old concept, but brands are adopting it and giving it a new look,” said Miller. “If you’re going to give up smoking, you’ve got a patch on your skin.”

Magnesium Ease’s spray format is intentional. “In this case, it was very much, ‘We wanted to develop a product that would help with muscle recovery, let’s look at the best way to do that,’ and in this case, it was a spray that was going to be absorbed through the skin.”

The Nue Co. isn’t the only company translating age-old rituals into modern products — a handful of firms that make elevated active body-care products have been making them for years. These days, though, they are noticing a particularly solid alignment with the wellness-oriented shopper.

For Weleda, the Swiss natural skin-care business, the active body-care journey started in 1925, when it launched Arnica Muscle Massage Oil. The product sold well, consistently, and in 2015, the brand built out the Arnica line with a Sports Shower Gel and Muscle Soak.

“Ath-leisure as a trend is just continuing to evolve and it’s growing and incorporating more and more parts of people’s lives…now it’s getting into skin care and body care,” said Rob Keen, the brand’s ceo and general manager of North America. “Weleda has always viewed wellness and personal care as one.

“When we built out the line…we realized that after all this time, the [Arnica Muscle Massage Oil] is still one of our highest-selling items,” said Keen.

For Ahava, getting in on active body care was more a question of product positioning than anything else. The brand now promotes its Dead Sea Salts and Mud as products that can be used surrounding workouts for easing muscle tension and soothing. The Dead Sea minerals in Ahava’s line can contribute to “reduction of soreness and also that joint pain and stiffness that goes with a post workout,” said Beth Ann Catalano, president of Ahava North America. The products aren’t new, but the brand’s comfort level with talking about them as it relates to exercise certainly is, according to Catalano.

“It’s not something necessarily that we’ve always put on every single advertisement we’ve ever done with body mud — it’s a sticky wicket — you get into the world where doctors think they should be,” Catalano said. “We’ve been very confident as of late to talk more and more about the reduction of inflammation and how just one ingredient can transform your bath from relaxing to healing.”

The wellness and active-lifestyle space is not new for skin-care brand Elemis either. On the company’s website, consumers can shop by concern, and under the bath & body tab can select sports & muscle ease to get straight to their muscle-relief needs. The company’s lineup includes Devils Mint Body Scrub, $47.50; Sharp Shower Body Wash, $35; Musclease Active Body Oil, $63.50; Muscleease Herbal Bath Synergy, $179; Instant Refreshing Gel, $55.50, and Aching Muscle Super Soak, $63.50.

“It’s about making sure when you’re designing a product you’re really thinking about the performance, but the decadence as well,” said Elemis founder Noella Gabriel. “I want that chosen product to be in your gym bag, I want it to be in your travel bag, I want it to be on your dressing table and I want it to be in your handbag. The true definition of a wellness product is a product that moves through your lifestyle to support your lifestyle challenges for your body and your skin. This is something we’ve always had, and in some ways, I think people have grown into the concept.”

Alba 1913 has also been around, with products that have ath-leisure leanings, for a while. The Polish brand launched Tension Release Spray — which aims to ease body and mind with essential oils and other ingredients — into the U.S. market in summer 2017 (before that, the product was distributed through yoga studios in Japan, according to ceo Lukasz Rychlicki).

“It’s a fairly old formulation that my mom modified…you spray it on the sore element of the body and it absorbs on its own,” Rychlicki said. “We didn’t expect it to be, but it’s one of our bestsellers.” Alba 1913 is slated to hit Anthropologie stores in April, Rychlicki said, and the products are also sold online.

More retailers are dipping their toe into the ath-leisure body-care category, gradually building up assortments of “gym-spired” products — from easily portable items to those specifically designed for pre- or post-gym use. But traditional beauty retailers aren’t the only places that should be getting in on this ath-leisure action, according to Liebmann. The broad interest in wellness gives other types of stockists — like gyms and athletic apparel stores — an opportunity to get into beauty.

“It’s got to be the place where the shopper intuitively thinks about as the place for them to get these kinds of products,” Liebmann said, noting retailers should “follow the shopper.”

“What’s the point at which somebody would say, ‘I have this X, do you have a solution for it?’ At the gym, with the immediacy of it, there’s a product for you.”

Lord Jones, a CBD (and sometimes THC)-infused luxury product line, is one of the brands that has made its way into nontraditional retail outlets. The brand has partnered with Equinox to offer a Higher Healing Workshop using its CBD lotion, which aims to reduce inflammation while providing traditional moisturizing benefits.

“The way we position the product is first and foremost, as a health and wellness product,” said Cindy Capobianco, Lord Jones cofounder. “We have teams of cyclists and all kinds of professional athletes who use it prior to playing a game, running a race, cycling, playing tennis — whatever their sport is.”

The target customer for Lord Jones is a “wellness pioneer,” Capobianco said.

Lord Jones has also found another nontraditional outlet for its products — The Standard Hotel. Soon the brand’s lotion will soon be sold through the Standard Hotels in downtown L.A. and Hollywood, before gradually making its way into 1,000 hotel rooms across the U.S. 

“This is not a tiny bubble,” said Liebmann. “This is a hint of a bigger movement that is going to be an increasing opportunity for companies to think about.”