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Reflecting Consumer Demand, Beauty Retailers Showcase Wellness, Sustainability and Diversity

“Wellness has been incorporated into everything,” says The Detox Market’s director of brand partnerships, Elena Severin.

Wellness is top-of-mind for consumers during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, and now, it’s top-of-mind for retailers, too.

The sector has been growing, last valued at $4.5 trillion in 2018 by the Global Wellness Institute. According to the nonprofit organization — which works to “empower” wellness through education and research on preventative health — the category grew nearly twice as fast as global economic growth between 2015 and 2017, based on data from the International Monetary Fund. And the “personal care, beauty and antiaging” division is the largest, worth nearly $1.1 billion.

“Wellness has been incorporated into everything,” said The Detox Market’s director of brand partnerships, Elena Severin.

The spotlight on wellness has been accentuated this year, due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, she continued. Consumers are looking to reduce tension and anxiety.

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“We’ve seen internal wellness equaling less stress on the skin and outward health as well, but this year really took it to a new level,” said Severin. “When you look at [2020 launches] with your hindsight glasses on, you can see they all have a common thread and that’s wellness.”

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The Detox Market, which specializes in clean beauty, recently added Biophile and Stamba to its roster. The first is a skin-care brand by Alison Cutlan and Grace Fooden that uses probiotic bacteria, botanicals and fungi, while the latter is a certified organic, sustainably sourced and packaged blend of superfoods in capsule form created by Asa Siegel.

“It’s all about protecting the microbiome in the skin and addressing the stress levels in the skin,” said Severin of Biophile, a partly Black-owned brand.

While turning to self-care amid rising health and environmental concerns, beauty buyers are specifically seeking out products that are nontoxic, cruelty-free and have an element of sustainability. Retailers — from niche businesses to mass market chains — have taken notice.

“Nine out of 10 beauty consumers are interested in buying clean over the next 12 months,” said Monica Arnaudo, chief merchandising officer at Ulta Beauty, according to in-house research. “And 80 percent of consumers expect businesses to have a positive impact on society and the environment.”

The latest brands to enter Ulta Beauty this fall are nontoxic, vegan and cruelty-free: Pirette, a beach-inspired fragrance; a hair-care and body-care line by Griffin Coon, and Melanin Haircare, a Black-owned hair company cofounded by YouTuber Whitney White. And in partnership with clean retailer Credo, Ulta Beauty launched a curated selection of brands that are typically found there.

Inside Credo’s own stores, the focus has been on expanding its “mom and baby” category, launched this year to offer nontoxic and sustainably sourced goods for infants and mothers to be. The newest brands are Nessa and Hatch Mama, which provide skin-care products for pregnancy.

According to the Global Wellness Summit, along with mental wellness, reproductive health is a rising trend in the category this year.

“Our customers have been asking for them,” said Michelle Connelly, vice president of merchandising and planning at Credo Clean Beauty, of pregnancy products. “One of our values is to be welcoming to all…for clean beauty to be approachable, to bring that message that clean beauty is for everyone.”

This year’s Black Lives Matter movement has also had influence on the industry, as retailers pledge to make inclusivity and diversity part of their ethos.

“It’s definitely a focus for us to put a concentrated effort behind diversity, not just in our brand founders but also in all of our marketing,” continued Connelly.

Credo Clean Beauty
Credo Clean Beauty’s Brooklyn storefront in New York City. Courtesy of Credo Clean Beauty

Along with skin care, hair is a focus for retailers, too.

Credo recently added Nuele to its hair category, a brand founded by two women of color, Anne Cheatham and Dr. Christine Martey-Ochola.

“It’s a product that works for every hair type,” said Connelly. “It’s done very well for us so far.”

At Violet Grey, Black-owned hair company Sunday II Sunday — founded by Keenan Beasley — was introduced last month.

“[Sunday II Sunday’s] products are all focused on scalp care,” said Maureen Choi, Violet Grey’s executive director of content and curation. Violet Grey, a highly curated luxury beauty retailer, has committed 15 percent of its shelf space to Black-owned brands, she added.

For Walmart, while concentrating on indie and affordable beauty, most recent additions include hair accessories and tools. One brand is a partnership with Conair and influencer Sazan Hendrix, while the other is an exclusive launch with hairstylist Kim Kimble, known for working with Beyoncé.

“Traditionally in moments of economic uncertainty, we see consumers reverting back to more established brands. They try to find products that have known value for them…and we see a rise in beauty,” said Musab Balbale, vice president and general manager for Walmart U.S. Beauty. “We talk about the lipstick effect in beauty. All of that is now being influenced by COVID-19. Consumers aren’t going out as much, and so we’re seeing, certainly like everyone else, challenges on the color cosmetics business. People are much more focused on health care, and so we’re seeing strong growth in health and healthy skin. And then we have what’s happening in the social environment, with much more of a focus on sustainability and multicultural [initiatives].”

Walmart will focus on brands for and created by people of color, Balbale said, while working to bring transparency into stores: “How do we make it simple for people to understand the ingredients and make sense of what is oftentimes a long ingredient list on the back of the bottle? We’re in the process now of trying to understand how we simplify the consumer’s ability to distill what she is reading in a way that makes sense and helps catalogue what she’s reading into buckets that she cares about, whether it be impact on her own health and body, impact on the environment.”

In color cosmetics, retailers are either putting attention on vegan products or those backed by known personalities. Walmart offers The Lip Bar, a vegan, cruelty-free line, as well as Luv Betsey, a line by Betsey Johnson.

Celebrity brands are indeed everywhere: Ulta Beauty will soon exclusively launch Keys Soulcare next month, a beauty brand by Alicia Keys in collaboration with E.l.f. Beauty; CVS now sells Flower Beauty by Drew Barrymore, and Sephora recently and exclusively introduced Rare Beauty by Selena Gomez, One/Size by influencer Patrick Starrr and Makeup by Mario, founded by Mario Dedivanovic (Kim Kardashian’s famed makeup artist).

Each brand is inclusive, not just in shading but in price range, too, said Alison Hahn, senior vice president of merchandising in color at Sephora. “Product differentiation is one of Sephora’s main pillars.…There’s a lot of newness to come in 2021 with these brands.”

In skin care, Sephora launched a line by celebrity aesthetician Shani Darden, and in hair, the latest offering is Black-owned Bread Beauty by Maeva Heim (Sephora, too, has made the 15 percent pledge).

Looking into next year, a focus on health and supplying nontoxic goods is a shared priority for retailers, including CVS. The mass retailer will soon introduce a tool into stores, the SkinSafe app developed by Mayo Clinic, that will allow consumers to search and better understand product ingredients. Along with showcasing Flower Beauty, CVS has expanded Pop-arazzi, a vegan, nail polish and cosmetics line that meets CVS’ standards of clean.

“We are making sure that we are mindful of ingredients,” said Andrea Harrison, senior director of DMM at CVS Health. “Our customers are asking.”