Show 88 – The Future of Beauty

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The Beauty Industry is one of the most exciting, complex and fast-moving sectors in the world today. It faces multiple challenges from a proliferation of independent brands which are shaking up industry conventions. But there are also vast opportunities for the brands able to move swiftly and fully embrace change.

Produced in partnership with FutureBrand, a global panel of experts discussed FutureBrand’s ‘Future of Beauty’ report, which is available to download at www.futurebrand.com/the-future-of

The report highlights five key trends:

  1. Civic Beauty
  2. Optimised Individuality and Personalisation
  3. Mood Beauty
  4. Intuitive Beauty
  5. Medical Grade Beauty
  • Our guests were:
    Jasmina Aganovic, Founder and President of Mother Dirt, who was over in London from Cambridge, Massachusetts. Launched in 2015, the brand is a leader in developing biome friendly products and is on a mission to dispel the notion that bacteria is bad and that sterile is always good.
  • Lisa Gallo, Vice President, Product Innovation Research Development, Avon, a household name and a company that has been a global beauty leader for 130 years, standing for innovation, honesty, inclusion and beauty.
  • Khandiz Joni, Professional Makeup artist (see Khandiz.com) and Judge of The Sustainable Lifestyle Awards
  • MT Cassidy, Executive Creative Director, FutureBrand London

L-R: MT Cassidy, Russell Goldsmith (host), Lisa Gallo (on screen), Khandiz Joni, Jasmina Aganovic

MT began by saying that the beauty industry it is one of the most exciting and transformative sectors and that it’s changing so rapidly as a result of internal and external forces. She added that it’s a lovely thing to think that actually the industry that was only skin deep now has to prove it has a soul. She explained that to launch the report, FutureBrand looked at these key trends and brought together leading voices from companies, large and small, to find out the views of what the future of beauty might look like.  She said that at FutureBrand, the company is really interested from a brand perspective and believes that the Brand Managers really need to be thinking about how to stay relevant, how to be innovative and how to stand out in an ever crowded marketplace, whether that’s online or in real life.

Jasmina then gave a little history behind the launch of Mother Dirt – one of those innovative young brands that the report highlights. She said that when you hear the brand Mother Dirt, you might think that’s a really strange name. Why would you put dirt in the name of a skin care line? But that is actually the very point that they are trying to make. She said that they are really challenging existing conventions around cleanliness. Jasmina explained that we’ve come to believe that clean means killing 99.9% of bacteria, and the whole point of that is that it will make us healthier and it will make our skin look better. However, in essence, the emerging research that’s coming out, in part that is coming from her group, is that being too clean is not necessarily a good thing. Therefore, the company’s hero product has an actual live culture of bacteria that comes from the dirt that once used to exist on human skin but has been cleaned away in the last hundred years or so, and it plays a very important role in balancing the skin. They decided to build a brand less intentionally like most brands are, but in a very unique way, because they wanted to build a brand as a vehicle for discussion with consumers. She said that they didn’t want to keep the work that they were doing purely academic. They wanted to create a physical product that people could interact directly with because the industry is massive, and also has a massive opportunity for impact. They therefore believe that by building a brand and creating physical products that consumers interact with, they could shift the narrative around bacteria and the cultural bias that exists with it in a more powerful and perhaps more rapid way.

Lisa then talked through how Avon is responding to the challenges and opportunities which have occurred with sector disruption brought on by the younger brands. She explained that it has been quite a challenge because, there’s a lot of niche brands that are taking a very important stance and have a lot to say. She said therefore that for Avon, being a very big brand that has been focused on innovation for very many years, it’s really important that they pay close attention to what’s going on out there and react to it. She added that they are quite lucky in a way that their business model is direct sales. So, they have a lot of conversations all the time with their representatives and their consumers. They need to listen to them and then once again react. Lisa said that niche brands are playing such a big role here that what it’s really done has forced Avon to be much faster and more agile, although in a bigger company, that’s not so easy. But it has made them change the way they work so that they are bringing new innovative products to market even faster than they have ever done before so that they can react to the market dynamics. Lisa added that one of the things that they believe in is product performance and with agility and speed, they will not lose that focus on product performance.

Are bigger brands losing the trust of the consumer?

As a makeup artist working with all different kinds of brands, and dealing one on one with people, Khandiz said that both her and her clients do not trust the bigger brands. She has been working with a lot of small independent brands because she feels that there’s a lot more transparency. Trust is transparency for her and she thinks it’s defining what that transparency is because it is becoming a huge conversation in the beauty world.

Jasmina thinks topics like this have so many more shades of grey than they do black and white. She said that one of the things that she is incredibly passionate about in the industry is taking early nascent technologies and figuring out how to move the industry forward with them. Being an engineer and a scientist, she sees so much misinformation that’s out there and so many brands that are being started with the best intentions, but a lack of fundamental understanding for how complex some of these topics truly are. So, she does think that there is an inherent scepticism with the big companies. She explained that the way Mother Dirt views this as a topic or an issue is that so many of their consumers are struggling with their skin because they have been listening to what they have been marketed with, with statements such as ‘Use all of these products, and these multi-step routines and you will get pristine, beautiful skin’. She said that causation isn’t correlation. However, consumers are taking a step back and saying, ‘Hey, I’ve been doing everything that you’ve told me, I’ve been doing everything my dermatologist has told me, and yet I continue to struggle with my skin. Why is that?’ Therefore, Jasmina said that consumers are taking matters into their own hands and for better or worse, are seeking out alternatives and solutions, some of which may be healthier and work for them and some which may not.

Jasmina thinks a lot about consumer and product safety and added that what a lot of people don’t know is that doing some very basic safety tests are extremely expensive and many small brands cannot afford to do this, but the large brands can. She therefore thinks this there’s an irony where, however you want to view ingredients, there is extensive manufacturing QA and QC testing that is carried out by larger companies and organisations because they can afford it, that small companies simply cannot. She summarised her point by saying that it’s much more complicated than we’re led to believe, but we really want to make things black and white and make the ‘big guys’ seem bad and the ‘small guys’ seem good, but that there are really good small guys, but there also are good big guys as well.

Lisa agreed with Jasmina.  For Avon in particular, she added that the company is a very big brand but has a very unique way to market in that, they have millions of representatives who are the face of Avon and are directly in contact with their customers. She therefore said that this sense of trust and transparency has been innate in the company’s roots and is not new to them. It’s critically important that Avon are giving our representatives product they can trust and feel good about recommending to their mother or her sister. Lisa said that word of mouth recommendation is one of the single most important things and so it’s critical that they have always put out a product that their consumer can trust. She agreed that safety is expensive, but it is so important and paramount because the most important thing is bringing a safe and efficacious product to their representative and consumer. Lisa added that the one thing about trust is also providing a product to the consumer that when she uses it, she’s actually going to get the results that they are talking about. It doesn’t make any sense to put products on the market that are over promising or not giving the result the consumer is expecting. Lisa said that Avon do a lot of testing when it comes to, not just safety, but also performance, to ensure that they’ve got the messaging right and understand the performance, otherwise the end consumer is not going to come back and you completely lose her trust.

MT Cassidy thinks that Avon were the original direct to consumer model and now so many younger, more niche brands, are understanding that you can’t put any monetary value on really honest, close dialogue with the consumer.  She added that it’s consumers that are now in the middle and brands are oscillating around them needing to genuinely fight for a very distinctive place in consumers’ lives because the consumers are more knowledgeable than ever better now understand the impact that their choices have on the world around them, in particular in beauty. MT said that this ‘conscious consumerism’ attracts them to brands that really play a much more decisive role in society, so brands are now having to establish new market norms by offering products that are trustworthy, inclusive and clean in the minds of the consumers.

Trend #1 – Civic Beauty

The report states: ‘Sustainability is changing the sector in more ways than could have previously been imagined from packaging and ingredients used, to what the brands we buy stand for.  Consumers today want transparency on the ingredients going into the products they buy and whether or not they are harmful to either their bodies or to the environment’.

Khandiz said this is a hugely growing trend, particularly the clean beauty trend, which is a very contentious term. She believes that inclusive beauty is one of the civic beauty categories, which she thinks is vital and fundamental. Khandiz only works with, what she describes as ‘clean, sustainable, ethical brands’ and so thinks there is definitely still room to be more inclusive.

MT thinks it’s really hard for consumers as there’s a lot out there that they need to know. She used retail store Credo as an example that actually goes out and helps consumers navigate their way to find the cleanest brands around the world and non-toxic beauty products and house them in either a virtual or a real store to make it much easier for consumers.

In her personal practice, Khandiz has started to look at the motivation behind why we choose products on a very personal level and has distinguished animal welfare, whether that’s vegan or cruelty free for health impacts. For instance, if somebody has a compromised immune system or they have very sensitive skin, what they would be buying into would be slightly different to somebody who might be really concerned about the environment, or if they are religious and their religion dictates what they can and can’t put onto their body. She’s also picked up on social inclusivity and social impact. She said that her product decisions have always been from an environmental point.

MT wondered if there is a place for the bigger brands to actually play that role of guiding and helping the consumers to find what they need in that barometer of what’s safe and what’s not.

Lisa talked about the launch of Avon’s new brand, Distillery, which she described as their eco conscious vegan brand.

Jasmina wondered if the industry has shifted in such a way where the large brands, large brand houses and CPG companies no longer view quantum leaps of innovation and thinking as their responsibility? She thinks that because of the rapid growth in particular of indie brands, due to civic beauty, they’re looking at that to help them suss out what might be less risky for them to pursue or how they can create their own brand aligned version of that, now that they see that consumers are interested in it. She added that consumers should continue to inform themselves and really feel empowered that they can change and shift the industry – who was going to create a vegan line 15 years ago, very few companies were doing that. But now with the demand from consumers, that has started to shift.

MT said that big brands, like Dove’s Baby, their new product, are going to latch on to incredible innovations and pioneering brands like Mother Dirt and try and get a little bit of that vernacular in their business. MT also talked about Shiseido buying Drunk Elephant and thinks that it is a really nice alignment of two brands who actually have very similar ethics.

Trend #2 – Optimised individuality and Personalisation

It could be argued there’s a tension between being outward looking and wanting to take better care of the planet while also wanting to express individuality. Beauty brands are increasingly encouraging consumers to accept their identity and be true to themselves and MT thinks this can be reconciled with more sustainable and outward looking values. She added that just because we had been talking about sustainability it doesn’t mean you still don’t want to look great!  She talked about the brand Prose, that is mentioned in the FutureBrand report, which also has an interview with them.  MT explained that they are looking at advanced and personalised diagnostics, at the consumer lifestyle and then making custom made products for the consumer, meaning that they are not overly manufacturing products that would just sit on the shelf.

Khandiz said that certainly in sustainability, a lot of the conversation is around packaging and the lifecycle assessment, which is all vitally important, but there’s not enough conversation around beauty waste. So, what happens once the product gets into the hand of the consumer? She thinks that individual thing, where people are actually loving the products so much that they want to finish it before they buy something new and you’re not sitting with potential dead stock of product, is truly sustainable.

Jasmina then gave a great anecdote that she described as really hilarious and creepy but really cool from the skin microbiome standpoint.  She talked about a study carried out in Japan where they took participants and sequenced their skin microbiome. They then separated out one strain of bacteria that’s a very common commensal on human skin called S epidermidis. For each of those participants, they spun up more of this bacteria, so the specific type of bacteria that was found on each of their faces, and then put it into a cream and then had them apply it over the course of two weeks and they studied any changes that occurred in their skin. Essentially, what they found was that this type of bacteria ended up improving moisture barrier function when it was restored back to the skin in much higher concentrations. This was a very controversial study, but she used it as she said it is a really interesting thought provoking show piece of what personalisation might look like in the future, taking a certain type of bacteria that exists on our skin that we want to amplify because it has benefits, and spinning it up and then applying it in highly concentrated amounts to our skin. She gave an example of perhaps having a twin – and that there’s research going on with this – that maybe her twin doesn’t have any body odour and doesn’t need to use deodorant, yet she needs to use deodorant every single day, but doesn’t want to because she thinks that it’s bad for her. Could there be a way that she could figure out what non odour causing bacteria her twin has and figure out a way to do an armpit microbiome transplant?

Jasmina added that a lot of people have been talking about AI and sequencing and the effect of things like epigenetics on our skin and how we can create a personalised routine. She said that it is looking more and more like the skin microbiome has quite a large impact on how our skin looks and feels and potentially functions. She wants to incorporate the skin microbiome as a tool for personalisation for people as well.

Trend #3 – Mood Beauty

FutureBrand asserts that ‘brands are increasingly drawing from and promoting traditional Far East rituals and practices that stimulate and support emotional well-being’.

Khandiz said that beauty has this amazing opportunity to really take a moment and be calm and be still and almost be a form of therapy for a lot of people, whether it’s just looking at yourselves in the mirror or giving yourself a five-minute face massage. She added that it’s an opportunity for people to reconnect and that a lot of that slow movement, mindfulness and consciousness does come from Eastern cultures.

Lisa said that Avon has always taken a very strong position, in that beauty is tied to emotions and that it’s not just about how you look, but it’s about how you feel – it’s about positivity, not perfection. It’s not about looking like that perfect model, but it’s about that evolving state of happiness.  She finished by saying that it’s about being perfectly me – that everybody defines beauty in a very different way and when you feel beautiful, your whole attitude changes. There’s so much positivity around you, you exude it, but everybody’s unique and different and defines beauty in different ways.

Trend #4 – Intuitive Beauty

This trend is about brands making beauty more instinctive and seamless to simplify our busy, active lives.

Jasmina said that people are definitely picking up on the fact that all these products and all of this maintenance and these elaborate personal care routines just intuitively don’t seem right anymore. Through her products at Mother Dirt, Jasmina sees that people find that they can cut out other personal care products. Firstly, because their skin looks and feels better and secondly, because they’re exposing their body to fewer bits of chemistry and chemicals in general on a daily basis. She said that one example that 60% of Mother Dirt’s users find that they can cut out or cut down on deodorant. She added that there is a theme emerging around how we have approached cleanliness, hygiene and personal care with heavy fragrances and heavy lather and the constant stripping of the skin, only to need to apply copious amounts of moisturiser to undo what the soaps did in the shower! Therefore, people are starting to think this doesn’t seem right – it’s not how we were meant to take care of our skin.

Trend #5 – Medical Grade Beauty

The FutureBrand report states that ‘The world of beauty is shifting from the logic of a hygienist to that of a biologist. Bacteria is increasingly accepted, having a positive impact on the skin microbiome, meaning that purity and over cleansing are becoming things of the past’.

Jasmina doesn’t believe we are set to see a reversal of hyper cleansed notions of beauty of the past, but instead a recalibration. She believes that the beauty industry will progress in what she refers to as a continuum and that the skin microbiome is going to be a critical part of personal care because more and more research is showing how much it impacts our skin. She said that we have more products and more solutions for all sorts of things today, yet we have more skin issues than we ever had before. She was not saying we’re going to abandon all of cosmetic chemistry, but we are going to be adding a new tier/layer into it, which is incorporation of the skin microbiome – she said they are formulating products for sophisticated textures for certain ingredient profiles, so things that they want to include and things that they don’t for certain types of absorptions, textures, etc – all of the things that cosmetic chemistry can deliver and understanding the impact that it has on the skin microbiomes, so that we are not constantly de-stabilising the skin’s ecosystem and thereby causing potentially a very harmful cascade of events.

Khandiz said that she read recently about the human biome project and that our bodies are made up of more microbiomes than they are of our own human cells, which Jasmina confirmed was ten to one. Jasmina therefore said perhaps the question we should ask is whether we should instead be formulating products for our microbiomes instead of for the human cells?

Lisa said that Avon’s been a leader in skin care, with new brands for many, many years, having coined the anti-aging market. She said that they were the first ones to bring alpha-hydroxy acids to market but that it’s important to note that they need to continue to watch what’s going on. For example, they have strong rooted science that they marry with strong consumer insights, following the medical and dermatological fields, but also what consumers beliefs are, for example, the thought that consumers believed that a products stopped working after a period of time and they in-particularly felt their skin care stopped working. They therefore found and developed a technology to address that, based off of the science of interval training. Their product is called Infinite Effects. She explained that basically what happens is you alternate different products, one week, you use one product, a second week you use a second product, and you go back and forth rotating it.

Jasmina said that one of the interesting things that she is noticing is happening around clarity and transparency, revolves around the word probiotic. Mother Dirt has a live culture of bacteria, which, as the World Health Organization defines, is a living microorganism that provides a benefit to its host, which is what Mother dirt fulfils. However, Jasmina said that there’s so many skincare brands out there that have some ingredient that is in some way associated with bacteria, but it’s not alive. She explained that essentially many trends in the food industry end up finding their way into skin care products. However, when probiotics became very popular in food, the food industry already had a very well-established distribution network with refrigerated trucks and grocery stores with refrigerators. Their food didn’t require preservatives. However, with the personal care and the skin care industry, it was fundamentally different as their products are not being shipped in refrigerated trucks and are not being put on a shelf in a refrigerated section.  Therefore, the skin care industry needed to reinterpret what this word meant. Instead, they’ve taken by-products of bacteria or chopped up little bits of bacteria and sprinkled them into product, which they called probiotics. Jasmina therefore has to consider what Mother Dirt does as a brand – does it hold on to that word probiotic when there’s so many others who are using it, but essentially are diluting the meaning of it? It is therefore an area that is going to be really important for her company to continue to navigate.  She added that in some ways, it makes Mother Dirt’s marketing harder as there’s a ton of noise that’s out there and they could very well be diluting the true differentiation of their technology by only using the word probiotic. However, it also makes it easier because other brands are talking about it, so it doesn’t seem like Mother Dirt are the only ones ‘beating this type of a drum’. She continued that for them to get out there as a brand, they need beauty editors to write about them and that the reality of how beauty editors work is sometimes they just want 10 probiotic brands and that is all they care about. Therefore, for Mother Dirt to even to be included in those roundups helps push the field forward because it makes it sound like there is more going on in the space.

Jasmina also shared a recent experience where her company launched a new product in a 100 percent PCR package, trying to minimise the amount of virgin plastic that they are using. However, their EU registration partner raised the questions of the source of their post-consumer recycled plastic, because if sources are mixed, there can be a ton of toxins that are in there actually making it very harmful for consumers if the product is in there, particularly if it’s oils or something like that which can leach whatever is in the resin. She explained that their partner had taken them through was that you want a single source, which needs to be very pure. The product that they ended up launching is in 100% PCR and its single source from milk cartons, essentially. She added that being aware of all of those nuances and having good partners to take you through all of that is so important for brands who are interested in this as a space.

MT said that consumers are informing themselves about ingredients and sourcing so much that they want the transparency.

Khandiz added that the general consumer is still so focused on plastic, which of course, is a massive problem. But actually, for every brand, that lifecycle is different. One brand might put their product in plastic because actually they’ve looked at the entire lifecycle and the carbon footprint of that cycle is smaller. If they put it into a virgin plastic from a single use source, then it’s more fully recyclable than if they put it into fancy glass packaging, and she doesn’t think consumers really have that understanding yet about that bigger conversation around this.

MT thinks that it’s up to the brands to educate and that we can’t expect consumers to be able to understand and navigate so much information.

Final thoughts

Lisa said that the consumer is getting smarter and smarter – we have a millennial gen-Z generation that are coming up where they’re looking for very different things. It’s not your mother’s makeup anymore! She added that the demands are going to be different on not just product and performance, but on brands and what they stand for.

Jasmina referred to an article by the Harvard Business Review on the purchasing and action gap on sustainability with consumers, where it states around 67% of consumers say that it is important to them to buy from brands that have some sort of a sustainability objective. Yet only 26% of them actually do and follow through with their wallets. She said that gap is frustrating and doesn’t really make sense, but therein is the excitement. She therefore thinks that brands are going to get more and more sophisticated with how they communicate with consumers around this. There’s going to be more and more alignment and synergy around what we mean when we say these things like ‘better for you’ or ‘non-toxic’ or ‘sustainable’ or ‘better for the environment’.

Khandiz doesn’t feel that enough brands are putting sustainability front and centre on their websites, so there’s a lot of space for brands to really step up there and that will help build trust. She also said that we are facing a massive climate emergency and ecological collapse and species extinction and so as consumers and as brands, we need to acknowledge this and start addressing it and ask questions such as how many lipsticks does one woman, or man, or anyone who wants to wear lipstick, really need? Khandiz said we have to slow down on our consumption of products like this and so it’s an opportunity for brands to really think about different revenue streams within the sector.

MT thinks that the beauty industry will be judged by how useful, sustainable, thoughtful and responsible the products it produces are. They may completely revolutionise our definitions of beauty today in a good way. She believes we’re going to go from frivolous to well-executed, which is a huge shift, especially in terms of design and branding.

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