The Tip of the Consumer Consciousness Iceberg: Clean Beauty

When it comes to retail trends, few are more notable than the ascendance of clean beauty. See how this niche category is signalling the future for more than just makeup.

Have you been taking notice of the clean beauty trend? You are not alone. Almost 72% of respondents in a recent consumer study1 agreed it was important to purchase healthy (e.g. organic) or clean (typically free from parabens, sulfates, and phthalates) products for beauty and personal care needs.

But customers aren’t just becoming more conscientious about the products they put on their bodies. This trend points toward a much broader shift in the consumer psyche—one in which people don’t just want what is best for themselves, they want what is best for the world as a whole. It may start with the health and beauty aids they choose at the store, but the implications are so much bigger, challenging brands to prepare for this pivotal change in consumer preferences and values.

Taking a closer look at the data around clean beauty, one cannot help but consider what it could mean for all markets—now, and in the years to come.

The rise of clean beauty
It’s clear why brands are investing in clean beauty products: the market is booming.
Clean beauty isn’t just skin deep
We are exposed to 150–200 ingredients10 on our skin each day—and consumers are caring more about what they are putting on their bodies. They also care more about what they are putting out into the world.
The environment factor
Millennials and Gen Z focus more on the transparency and traceability of product ingredients than their predecessors (70% list it as a priority, compared to 49% of respondents 55+), as well as their ethical and environmental impacts.11
Social media is playing an influential role in this trend: buyers are discovering new products that reflect their healthy lifestyle aspirations.12
Digitally savvy shoppers13 have access to a wider variety of beauty brands than ever before, and can seek out products that reflect their values or needs.
“Sensitive skin” is a concern for approximately 69% of Canadians.14
Clean, beautiful, and thriving
Competition is stiff—even legacy brands are getting in on the clean beauty market. Beauty brands who understand their customers’ purchase motivations are standing out from the crowd.

Speaking directly to the emotional, ethical, or health-driven concerns of consumers might be the critical differentiator that gives a brand the edge.
Some consumers make their product selections based on what feels good to them. To reach these customers, brands are highlighting:
  • How a product can feel like a luxury
  • How a product suits a particular niche lifestyle
  • How the product is timely and/or timeless
Knowing that some consumers are motivated by a product’s environmental impact, advertisers focus their messaging efforts on communicating:
  • Where products are sourced and how they are made
  • How their company is reaching responsibility metrics (for example, B Corp Certification)
  • heir lack of animal testing and harmful harvesting practices
As consumers’ concern for their personal health stays high, brands are conveying their commitment to:
  • Products based on science
  • Products designed to perform/with medicinal properties
  • Products targeted to address particular health concerns or general well-being

The growth of clean beauty says a great deal about the growth of ethical consumerism in general, especially now that the millennial generation has become the largest customer demographic. The demand for quality, transparency, accountability, sustainability, and social responsibility has never been higher.

Leading brands aren’t taking these changes at face value. Rather than viewing clean beauty as a one-off fad, they are tapping into the motivating factors behind it—and in doing so, they are rethinking their priorities, reframing their message, and setting themselves apart in an increasingly crowded category.

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