• Angad Chowdhry

Uncovering Emerging Beauty Trends in the US and the UK

Photo by Autumn Goodman on Unsplash

The pandemic turned most people’s beauty and grooming routines upside down. Across the US and the UK, the routine now hinges on a broad spectrum of personal care.

At the beginning of 2020, almost all industry monitors predicted that the global beauty industry would grow at a healthy average of 8 percent, well into 2024. By March, those numbers were all topsy turvy.

Just how much is illustrated by the case of lipstick. Deemed recession-proof, it had hitherto weathered downturns, slowdowns, and wars (the US government declared it a necessity during World War II). It even had its own phenomenon and yardstick, the lipstick index, to describe the trend of booming lipstick sales during economic downturns. But in COVID-19, it has met its match.

Even as several global brands repurposed their production lines to churn out sanitizers and soaps to defeat the virus, the beauty industry had reason to be cautiously optimistic. While the sale of beauty products tumbled, there was renewed interest in ‘comforting luxury,’ where the self became important and personal care stood front and center.

The Quilt.AI Research Methodology

Curious, we turned to the internet for a deep dive exercise. Research on Amazon’s platforms for the US and UK revealed the popularity of nearly 13,500 products from which we gleaned 109,021 keywords and phrases. These were grouped into five key ingredient clusters which led to identifying 59 key ingredients associated with each cluster. These were further used across 20 million searches to arrive at specific ingredients that were trending in specific markets and categories.

Key Findings

The results were fascinating as they were illuminating. While there were some segments which found favor in one market or the other (Repair and Rejuvenate in the UK and Natural Nourishment in the US), consumers on either side of the pond were more or less equally invested in products that showcased ingredients related to a specific aspect of personal care — from overall health boosters to targeted solutions, for say, teeth.

Twin Peaks: We see a desire for Natural goodness or Cold, Hard Science.

Ingredients that were favored fell into two broad categories. At one end were natural ingredients such as peppermint, coffee, almond, coconut, and avocado, known for their nourishing properties, which came with the inherent tag of the goodness of nature. That they provided a sensory experience was an added benefit. At the other end were ingredients that had been heavily researched and came with scientific claims of efficacy. Tea tree oil, Moroccan oil, biotin, and niacinamide were in this corner.

A second dimension also emerged. It had to do with the specific attribute that each ingredient addressed. For example, fluoride (oral health) and salicylic acid (acne) were aimed at a targeted issue while Moroccan oil (haircare) addressed overall health and enhancement.

#1: Supercharged boosters

At a staggering 35 percent market size, supercharged boosters led the personal care category. Ingredients such as vitamin C, tea tree oil, retinol, aloe vera, salicylic acid, vitamin E, niacinamide, and such others were perceived to have proven efficacy in preserving and improving overall well-being.

Classed as premium natural products with specific functions, these were seen as adding a lift, a boost, to the daily routine, be it for more youthful skin or thicker hair. In addition, many of them, vitamin C (+22 percent), tea tree oil (+12 percent), and retinol (+11 percent) were also embraced for their natural immunity raising attributes.

Brands played up the credibility and premium aspects of these ingredients in their products with clean, minimalist package design, highlighting the hero active ingredient. A mix of muted

clinical colors and earthy tones were used to communicate professionalism and efficacy while adding an alluring touch.

#2: Total defense

A close second to supercharged boosters in the personal care space is the concept of total defense, where consumers are looking for trusted ingredients with intrinsic properties that provide a range of functional benefits. They come with the added advantage of being heavily researched and hence with science-backed efficacy. Prominent generics in this category are detoxifiers and anti-inflammatory ingredients.

At 27 percent, this is a significant player in the personal care domain, with the main sub-categories veering towards oral and hair care products. Heading the list are charcoal, biotin, gold, silver, ginger, rosemary, eucalyptus, rose, bamboo, and clay. Of these, activated charcoal occupies a staggering 49 percent of the market, and is well established for its efficacy in treating a multitude of problems.

However, an interesting trend to emerge has been the rise of natural ingredients such as rose and eucalyptus, both of which are known to have high antioxidants and anti-inflammatory effects.

To draw in consumers, brands have adopted packaging with warm pastel colors to convey vitality while metallic colors add a sense of sophistication and credibility.

#3: Organic cleanse

For a small but growing segment of consumers (8 percent), naturally-derived ingredients that offer targeted solutions, including home remedies, are paramount. Their effectiveness can range from swatting away harmful bacteria to providing whiter teeth but is skewed towards oral care. Ingredients in this category can be as eclectic as fluoride, baking soda, apple cider vinegar, xylitol, alcohol, sea salt, and vinegar.

Though the segment has seen a gradual rise since 2018, the pandemic has seen modest growth as people search for efficient and result-oriented products. Products in this space usually feature the main active ingredient along with descriptors that emphasize a gentle touch (soft, pure, sensitive). They are packaged in clinical colors that convey efficacy along with earth tones that indicate natural origins.

The Road Ahead

Clearly, the pandemic has heightened anxieties surrounding personal hygiene, prompting consumers to search for products that provide targeted solutions for specific problems. Collaterally, the personal care space is likely to continue to grow (11 percent for supercharged boosters, 9 percent for total defense, and 5 percent for organic cleanse) as people are looking for reassurance that their personal care habits will sufficiently protect them from the dangers of the world.

Head over to quilt.ai to find out more about what we do! If you have any questions, reach out at [email protected]

Related reading: The Semiotics of Oral Hygiene & Personal Care Products A Tale of Two Beauties: Makeup branding across cultures Why Mother Nature Knows Best When it Comes to Beauty


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