According to a report by Forbes, the beauty and cosmetic industry extend beyond just lipsticks, Lush scrubs, and foot creams. It is a staggeringly large industry that makes up a $532 billion sector of the economy and continues to see rapid growth with projections reaching over $390 billion globally by 2024.
While the Kardashian-Jenner influence is ubiquitous in society they’re just one of the hundreds of muses that the masses have been obsessed with over the past two decades. Household names that even Grandma Agnes would be familiar with like Paris Hilton, Britney Spears, and JLO set the tone of what was to come in the next few years.
While influencers and socialites carry out what’s trendy, the way in which society consumes media also has a tremendous impact on what’s “in” and how quickly the trends catch on.
2020 was a pivotal year for beauty technology. The pandemic caused consumer values and expectations to shift, and every sector of the beauty industry from veteran brands to indie brands were forced to adapt or get left in the dust. From sustainable products to virtual try-on, the industry has been forever changed.
According to McKinsey, while the industry was making a positive shift, beauty sales declined up to 30% in the first half of the year. Even the heavy-hitters were seeing declining sales – Ulta Beauty’s stock experienced a 29% decline.
While this was happening, innovation was happening behind the scenes.
Back in the early 2000s, the beauty industry was thriving, but in a different way. Catalogs and infomercials dominated the market. Avon parties hosted by your favorite auntie were the only way to directly influence a group of curious buyers that otherwise didn’t know much about makeup application. Things are a bit different now.
While product personalization isn’t brand new, beauty brands are continuing to adopt new tech to ensure customized formulations for consumers. These customizable products have gotten scientific too – for example, lipsticks that match the perfect tone of a user’s skin according to their temperature and ph balance.
A Forrester study found that 77% of consumers have chosen, recommended, or paid more for a brand that provides a personalized service or experience, while Accenture found that 75% of consumers are more likely to make a purchase when recommendations are personalized to them, propelling the push for brands to personalize and differentiate offerings.
Other companies are using different approaches.
Brands like Function of Beauty, Bare Anatomy, Medulla, are utilizing quizzes to guarantee perfect personalization. Quizzes have become ubiquitous in the D2C personalized haircare market. Personalization has become increasingly more profitable.
But it gets more high-tech. Companies have been utilizing 3D printing to formulate products specifically for each user. MAC Shanghai custom 3D prints eyeshadow palettes for customers, depending on their needs. Shespoke has developed a one-of-a-kind software that allows it to manufacture custom lipsticks at a large scale.
Not only are the products and technology in the beauty industry changing, but the marketing strategies have shifted to match the times as well.
Consumers are fickle.15-second videos on TikTok and native sponsored ads on Instagram make it easy to be exposed to 50 different advertisements in a matter of minutes. So what’s catching beauty lovers’ eyes? Sustainability and inclusivity.
2020’s highlight on racial justice caused CEOs to shift their focus primarily on funding diverse brands. In June 2020, Glossier committed $500K in grants to 16 Black-owned beauty businesses, while L’Oréal partnered with the NAACP to grant 30 $10K grants to Black-owned beauty businesses. Sephora’s Accelerate 2021 cohort also only included founders of color.
Since Rihanna’s Fenty Beauty’s launch in 2017, “inclusive beauty” became just as marketable and important as “clean beauty”, highlighting a wide-open market that’s becoming crucial for the beauty industry to target.
For example, popular retailers like Sephora, Macy’s, and Bluemercury have committed to the 15 Percent Pledge, a pledge to commit 15% of shelf space to Black-owned businesses. Ulta Beauty also doubled the number of Black-owned brands carried by the retailer in 2021, pledging over $25M to the push for greater diversity.
Sustainability is another marketable beauty sector that has gained importance since the early 2000s. With sustainability’s influence on consumers’ purchasing decisions, beauty brands had to rethink their approaches to their product launches. The Global Sustainability Study 2021, conducted by global strategy and pricing consultancy Simon-Kucher & Partners surveyed 10,000 people across 17 countries. The study showed that globally, 85 percent of consumers have shifted their purchase behavior towards being more sustainable in the past five years.
Generational disparities also play a huge role here. When looking at both Baby Boomers and Generation X, 24 percent across each have significantly changed their behavior towards being more sustainable.
While the way we consume media to study beauty trends has changed insurmountably since the 2000’s. But one thing that stays constant is the boomerang effect of a trend cycle; fads will always come back around.
Gen Z kids are noticeably bringing back Y2K fashion trends. Bright colors, mismatching patterns, and *shudders* low-rise jeans are everywhere. Blue eyeshadow and maximalist makeup have taken over. Luxury brands like Marc Jacobs have even jumped on the flashy Y2K resurgence.
According to the DSN English report on fashion trends, trends repeat every 20-30 years because of “generational changes as well as designers taking inspiration from styles their parents wore.” Children are being influenced by their parents' clothing and seeking inspiration to translate that into “modern'' clothing. More abundant access to magazines and media that took place around these times helps shape current styles today.
Popular shows among the trendsetting younger demographics like Euphoria utilize an ambiguous generational style that mixes the 70s, 80s, and Y2K style also sets the tone for what’s “cool”. In fact, dupes of a specific Y2K-inspired look sported by one of the main characters, Maddy Perez, sold out virtually everywhere after that episode aired back in 2019. This show caused a ripple effect in beauty and fashion trends, contributing to where we’re at in 2022.
While Drew Barrymore, Britney Spears, and Beyonce sported thin brows, butterfly accessories, and Bratz Doll-adjacent outfits in the early 2000s, fashion editors and trendsetters alike were already in the process of archiving these very trends to utilize for moments like today. In the present day, there are thousands of influencers that perpetuate the tone set by the fashion industry. These influencers take to TikTok and Instagram to tell us what’s cool.
Our media consumption may be drastically different than it was in the early 2000s, but the one constant that remains in society is that no matter how we get beauty and fashion inspiration– society will always see the trend cycle repeating itself.
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