Natural is still proving to be a powerful force in beauty.
Consumer demand for natural beauty products is stronger than ever, and it is most prevalent in the skin-care category, where third-quarter sales were up 15 percent from 2017, according to The NPD Group. Natural brands accounted for 25 percent of skin-care sales, and natural brands comprise the fastest-growing segment in skin care, up 24 percent year-over-year.
There have been ripple effects for adjacent subcategories, such as vegan and cruelty-free, which do not necessarily indicate that a product is natural, but are commonly assumed as such by consumers. Sales of vegan brands were up 65 percent in the third quarter, and cruelty-free brands jumped 27 percent.
“Somewhere along the way, we reached a point where consumers believe that natural is better,” said Larissa Jensen, beauty industry analyst at NPD, in a presentation preceding a CEW panel discussion, “What Is the New Natural?” held at the Harmonie Club in New York on Nov. 1.
The evening’s panelists — Annie Jackson, cofounder of Credo Beauty; Tata Harper, founder of Tata Harper Skincare; Jill Scalamandre, president of Bare Minerals, Buxom, global development for Shiseido Makeup and chairwoman, CEW, and Lev Glazman, cofounder, president and head of research and development at Fresh — agreed that the natural beauty boom is a byproduct of the wellness movement.
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“People are trying to live better — we all want to elevate our quality of life so we all live to be 100,” said Harper. “That’s what the wellness movement is bringing to the table. When I was young, wellness was about Jane Fonda videos and the Atkins diet. Now it’s…how you sleep, your mental well-being…that’s wellness. I really think in a few years, [natural beauty] will be for everybody.”
Said Jackson, “Customers are very conscious in what they are purchasing, environmental health and ingredient safety [are key]. [Wellness] is about exercising, eating well and beauty…is the last spoke of that wheel, where people are thinking about the 14 products they used today. In terms of toxic load, beauty is certainly a smaller piece of the pie, but it’s easier to control.”
Glazman pointed out that natural ingredients are compelling to consumers because they can offer an emotional connection that science-based ingredients cannot.
“I was not connecting to the most intimate part [of my daily routine]…when you use beauty products, you’re naked in your bathroom, you’re having a real moment with yourself…for me I felt like there wasn’t enough emotional connection [with my products].”
He used one of his first products, a whey-protein-based soap that was introduced in 1994, as an example. “The concept is very simple…whey protein helps to soften the skin, it’s a great moisturizer, and people connected to it right away. People drink milk, they grew up on milk, they know what it does.”
Despite demand for natural beauty, the panel agreed that consumers are more confused than ever about what constitutes a natural product — for instance, the rise of vegan and cruelty-free brands.
“There’s a lot of confusion out there, and consumers may associate vegan and cruelty-free claims with being natural, or they may not,” said Jensen. “The key to understand is that regardless of whether consumers consider them natural and regardless of whether it is natural, having that [vegan or cruelty-free] claim is resonating because we’re seeing very strong growth coming from that.”
“It’s so complex and fragmented, consumers are actually very confused and if we don’t [define natural beauty], they’ll no longer trust us,” said Scalamandre.