Sustainable Innovations Can Give the Beauty Industry A Much-Needed Boost Post-COVID-19

The global beauty industry suffered an estimated 20-30% decline in 2020, but the shift towards clean beauty may be able to help the sector at large

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The global beauty industry suffered an estimated 20-30% decline in 2020 according to McKinsey & Company as a result of the disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Even though the year saw record levels of e-commerce sales, the combination of a lack of disposable income and a reported 17% of people who stopped wearing make-up due to remote working and lockdowns wasn't enough to compensate for the losses.


While the industry is projected to recover and be worth over US$463.5 billion by 2027, for beauty and wellness businesses, some things are never going to be the same. The shift in consumer behaviour during the pandemic highlighted not only a need for digitization in the industry, but that consumers are becoming more aware of the products they use and how they use them.

Hygiene and safety concerns, as well as global safety advice around avoiding contamination on your hands and face, have meant that consumer preferences are leaning towards sprays or stick make-up products that limit the amount consumers touch their face. But it's also the ingredients in the products that are facing scrutiny.

The shift towards non-toxic formulas, transparent ingredient labels, and minimal environmental impact meant that as the global beauty industry suffered in 2020, clean beauty rose 11%, according to NPD. This was supported when 40% of consumers in Mintel's report on COVID-19's impact in beauty retail stated that the source and type of ingredients used to formulate a beauty product is important to them.

But, what does this mean for businesses and a beauty industry hoping to rebound post-COVID-19, and what innovations should be considered to meet the clean and sustainable demand? Here's a primer:

1. Aim for the development of multi-use products 54% of millennials have simplified their skincare routines, and they want to have less products on their vanity shelf. As such, they are looking for products that can perform multiple functions in their daily routine. For example, brands who start innovating multi-use products like foundation with built-in organic SPF protection will have less packaging or environmental impact, whilst catering to consumers' needs.

2. Efficacy is still important Consumers are still interested in products that work, so finding the ingredients that are effective should not be forgotten as brands turn towards clean beauty.

3. Digital engagement to reduce carbon footprint Alongside new e-commerce offerings, beauty brands should be looking at ways to bring a unique experience online to remove the need for physical stores to reduce their environmental impact. This could be by using augmented or virtual reality to allow consumers to try different swatch colours without being in store

4. Ethical sourcing (and labelling) matters According to Mintel, 78% of people surveyed think companies should act ethically, but many agreed that it is difficult to know who is, and who isn't. Brands who are ethical and provide information on their website, product labels, and in-stores can help consumers identify and relate their brand to clean beauty.

5. Extend the clean palette Current clean beauty limits colour ranges to nudes, neutrals, or pastels, but the beauty industry needs to find natural and organic ways to bring the same bold colours without the dangerous and toxic chemicals. Consumers are looking for the same range, and brands who can give them this in a sustainable way will stand out.

With health and safety more important than ever in the mind of customers and theshifting of the beauty industry at large, brands should be turning their efforts towards beauty products that are truly organic, safe, and sustainable. While there is optimism in the industry's recovery, brands must be totally committed to driving sustainable innovations in the long run, because like any natural and organic beauty transformation, it won't happen overnight.

Related: An Eye For Business: Mina Al Sheikhly On Starting Up A Beauty Brand In The UAE