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Beauty Goes Super Natural

CEW's Super Natural: Disrupting the Beauty Sector presentation was held at the Union League Club Thursday morning.

The swell of consumer interest in natural products isn’t a surprising revelation by now, but CEW’s Super Natural: Disrupting the Beauty Sector presentation, held at the Union League Club Thursday morning, emphasized its growing hold on the beauty industry — and presenters said consumer food trends are at the root of it.

Lan Vu, founder and chief executive officer of Beautystreams, began the presentation by introducing the key drivers of the natural beauty phenomenon.

Urbanization is one major factor. Vu ticked off air and water pollution, stress, lack of sleep and unbalanced diet as aspects of city life that can cause physical symptoms like respiratory problems, premature aging and skin irritations. As a result, consumers seek solutions in their beauty routines. “We have to create products that address those symptoms, but also create reassurance for the consumer [in marketing],” Vu said. “[Using] words like purity, protection, relaxation, immunity-boosting…and, of course, everyone’s talking about fitness, wellness and that holistic, inside-outside approach.”

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Vu named Unilever’s approach to marketing its Pond’s Pure White skin-care line in China as a prime example. The products claim to eliminate PM2.5, a pollutant that causes air to appear hazy, from the skin — apropos for a country with dense, smog-ridden urban areas.

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The rise of allergies is also driving demand for natural beauty. According to Vu, 24 percent of households worldwide contain someone who consumes gluten-free products. Dairy and corn allergies are on the rise as well. “Many beauty trends are influenced by the food sector, and where there’s been organic foods, there’s organic cosmetics,” Vu said.

Vu predicts an uptick in product ranges that are entirely allergy-free, and cited Red Apple Lipstick, a popular gluten-free makeup line out of Texas, as a key example.

Lucie Green, Worldwide Director of J. Walter Thompson’s Innovation Group, said drivers like urbanization and allergies have created a brand new generation of consumers with entirely different needs than those who came before them. “We’ve got a highly sophisticated, highly knowledgeable consumer who for the first time is questioning the dictum of big brands and industry and even government institutions and the wisdom that they have,” Green said. “80 percent of consumers in the U.S. and U.K. [don’t] think that big brands [are] acting in their best interest anymore, so there’s been a big shift in attitude.”

With Millennials and members of Gen Z are predicted to have longer life spans than their predecessors, Green said the shift in desire for natural food and beauty products that promote health and well-being is “nothing short of a consumer movement.” “It’s wall-to-wall ath-leisurewear and cold-pressed juices,” Green said her own downtown Manhattan neighborhood, the West Village.

Natural beauty products are an inevitable extension of those ath-leisure clothes and trendy beverages, and food trends have made their way into the beauty sector.

One example is the proliferation of “good” bacteria — rather than seen as dirty and something to be washed away, bacteria in food and now beauty is becoming acceptable, even celebrated and “glamorous.” Green cited Liha, an upscale, London-based line of natural skin-care that sources ingredients from local marshes around Hackney and Cheltenham.

Following the popularity of fermented foods like sauerkraut and kimchi, fermented ingredients have made waves in beauty as well. Brands like Yuli Skincare and Juara, with a face moisturizer made with fermented black tea, have hopped on the bandwagon.

Foodie buzzwords like cold-pressed, superfoods, whole foods and small-batch are also becoming more prevalent in the beauty sector. Earth Tu Face, a natural skin-care line, is entirely plant-based — rather than farm-to-table, it’s “farm-to-face”, Green said. Nature’s Way is a Japanese cosmetics company that focuses on cold-pressed products with superfood ingredients. In its Tokyo shop, customers can visit an in-store cafe for a holistic, inner-outer body experience.

Natural food and beauty, Green said, is “coming into one big circular idea.”