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How innovation and inclusivity will shape the beauty industry’s future

Over the past year, we’ve seen a reckoning for greater representation and an emphasis on self-care that have set the wheels in motion for a defining new phase of the beauty industry.
How innovation and inclusivity will shape the beauty industry’s future | EDITED

Over the past few months, we’ve seen a reckoning for greater representation and an emphasis on self-care that have set the wheels in motion for a defining new phase of the beauty industry. 

Read on as we delve into what sold before and during the COVID-19 pandemic, future trends and how the beauty landscape is evolving to cater to the post-COVID consumer successfully. 

First, decisions backed up by market intelligence are crucial to stay ahead of the game in a challenging new age of retail. See EDITED’s beauty data in action.

Diversity beyond 40+ shades

2019 was dubbed the ‘Year of Sustainability,’ where many industries got serious about their environmental impact. The beauty industry put a greater emphasis on recycled packaging, while buzzwords such as ‘green,’ ‘clean’ and ‘vegan’ ingredients became the go-to. Just as sustainability is now woven into brands’ priorities, this year is shaping up to see diversity given equal attention, paving the way for a more inclusive beauty industry. 

Cosmetic brands will need to go above offering 40+ shades of foundation – now the bare minimum for an inclusive beauty offering. The recent global civil unrest has been a catalyst for fashion and beauty businesses to support minority communities, as well as give Black-owned brands a platform. 

The discussion has now progressed from solidarity posts to action plans including how retailers will improve diversity within their companies, the brands they support and how to hold themselves accountable. Founder and CEO of UOMA Beauty, Sharon Chuter, is among those leading the conversation launching the #pulluporshutup campaign. It challenges brands that made a statement in support of BLM to share the number of Black employees within their organization, holding 10% (the percentage of Black college graduates) as a benchmark. In just one week, Kylie Cosmetics, MAC, Milk Cosmetics and Revlon are among some of the big names that have responded  to the challenge with their stats.  

We represent 15% of the population and we need to represent 15% of your shelf space.

Aurora James

Started by Designer Aurora James, there’s been a call to create opportunities for Black-owned businesses by committing to buy 15% of their products. Sephora has stood out as a major beauty business taking up the pledge.

Just as Black culture’s influence on fashion remains underrepresented and uncredited, the beauty industry also continues to appropriate and profit off this community. The next phase will be for brands to uphold the measures they’ve publicly set and drive momentum to implement real and positive change.

The digital beauty counter 

Digitally native, ‘cool girl’ brands were already disrupting the brick-and-mortar beauty counter format before coronavirus. With customers unable to shop in-store due to lockdowns, more traditional retailers have made the leap into the digital sphere. Highlighted as a key strategy in our playbook of trading in a recession, investing in innovation to merge the online and offline experience will play a critical role in retail’s future. Beauty retailers need to get creative to continue their relevance against viral DTC brands that already have a head start. 

The scramble to create a seamless shopping experience for isolated consumers served a vital purpose in maintaining brand loyalty and experimenting with new ways of serving their customer. As more businesses reopen, there will be an adjustment period and customers will continue to expect the convenience of virtual services and curbside pickup. Brands need to keep the momentum going and continue to test the water with new technologies to refine the customer experience. 

Beauty retailers have had the opportunity to harness the power of AR product testing. With social media filters embedded in our daily lives, this is a concept customers are already familiar with and will fill the gap left by the removal of product testers in store. Pinterest and YouTube have already trialed virtual make-up testing. Sephora offers mobile color matching and virtual tutorial apps, while MAC Cosmetics rolled out online AR filters with a foundation option set to be released soon. In addition, Facebook has been developing Fashion++, an AI learning machine that offers styling suggestions to its users. Could this take off for beauty to encourage add on purchases?

Mac Cosmetics
MAC Cosmetics

Customer service and experience in brick-and-mortar stores and e-Commerce sites will be paramount to help shoppers navigate the new era of retail. Many beauty businesses have adopted algorithm-based technology to provide a tailored experience for customer purchases. This is especially ideal in areas such as fragrance, which is challenging to sell when people aren’t able to venture into stores.

Deciem, Glossier and Dr. Barbara Sturm are among the brands offering virtual consultations during COVID-19 – a service that will be part of everyday shopping experiences as the retail landscape becomes more digitalized. 


Brands will continue to look to China, a market where live streaming and social shopping are already a mainstay, for best practices on using digitalization to amplify customer experience. A popular service in this region allows shop assistants to live stream products directly to VIP customers using WeChat. 

Building on from the release of Instagram checkout, lockdown saw more customers browsing social media sites over stores for new products and inspiration. With TikTok trialing in-app shopping, now is the time to grow your brand’s presence on this platform.

Pre vs. during COVID-19 category sell outs

Analyzing products selling out over the past three months, during the peak of the pandemic vs. the three months prior shows shifts in consumer purchasing behavior within the beauty sector. 

Self and personal care were identified as key selling themes during the worldwide lockdown, with retailers promoting wellness and encouraging customers to ‘treat themselves’ during uncertain times. Already a growing message pre-coronavirus, quarantining amplified the trend further where bath and body products, including scrubs and self-tanners, saw a 27% increase in sell outs while skincare jumped 34%. 

With people bored indoors, DIY tutorials from mastering the perfect cat-eye to experimenting with a Cottegecore makeover flooded TikTok. The closure of salons and beauty parlors aided the growth of at-home manicures with nail products seeing the greatest sell out percentage increase with 168% growth. Face make-up (foundations, concealers, powders, etc.) lifted 21%. Sell outs across the overall hair care category dropped 11%, yet hair dye sell outs spiked by 56%. And as the boys embraced their quarantine beards, hair removal product sell outs declined 29%.

The need to wear masks outdoors boosted the sell outs of eye make-up categories. Compared to pre-isolation, sell outs of eyebrow products grew by 42%, while eyeshadows and mascaras rose 27%. This meant lip products saw a decline as sell outs dropped 6%. 

The other major beauty category to see a decline was fragrance, which relies on your senses to sell. This furthers the case for beauty retailers to invest in their online experience to optimize future category growth.


Post-COVID beauty trends

The increasing demand for PPE could see face masks as a more popular lifestyle accessory, meaning the beauty industry will need to adapt. Consumer purchasing will continue to favor mascara, eyeliner and eyeshadow over lipsticks and glosses, along with an increased focus on foundation that doesn’t smudge with face protection. Skincare will need to evolve too with ‘maskne’ (face mask breakouts) across the chin and lower face area becoming a growing concern – since early April, Google Trends for this search has increased. 

Glossy reported sexual wellness brands experienced a spike in sales during lockdowns. Customers were seeking out products to spice up quarantine with their partners, indulging in self-enjoyment to cure boredom and stress or…just because *sets Slack status to Do Not Disturb.* As self-care continues to evolve from a luxury to a necessity and social attitudes towards sex shift, products catering to personal care, menstruation and masturbation are spotlighted as an area of investment for the future of beauty. 

As Father’s Day coincides with lockdown measures lifting, skincare and self-care targeted at men is at the forefront of retailers’ communications. According to Allied Market Research, the men’s beauty market is estimated to reach $166 billion by 2022 and the growing push for inclusivity and diversity in the beauty industry will continue to propel this movement forwards. For further insight into the future of men’s beauty and cosmetics, tune into our recent podcast episode featuring L’Oreal’s Commercial Director, Ed Healy.

For the full analysis of post-COVID beauty trends, log in to read our recent article

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