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The Thought Leader Series | Beauty and Grooming: Product innovations, growth of holistic brands and tech revolution mark the beauty industry’s next phase

Home-grown beauty brands, skincare experts and global beauty majors talk about how virtual consultations, a more eco-conscious consumer and personalised products are changing the game for the beauty industry.

July 31, 2021 / 04:45 PM IST

Dr Jamuna Pai, Cosmetic Physician and Founder, SkinLab

The beauty industry has largely been an enduring one. However, due to the pandemic, work culture has changed and social life has taken a setback. During the first lockdown, due to severe restrictions, not many opted for beauty and skin treatments. However, by the time the second wave came our way, people had begun to move outdoors, resume work and attend social gatherings on a smaller scale. This has brought good tidings for the beauty industry. The focus is on wellbeing and a reduction in blind consumption.

Dr Jamuna Pai, cosmetic physician and founder, SkinLab.

We are witnessing several interesting trends in therapies. For instance, skin detox, which offers a break from an extensive skincare regime and improves its health.

Work from home, as well as work at home, has compelled people to downsize their skincare routine. Instead of slathering multiple products with multiple ingredients, people buy products with one or two potent ingredients for their skin type, a trend I call skinmalism.


Beauty treatments are increasingly becoming ingestible. Various ingredients, when ingested, not just benefit the skin but the body. For instance, collagen supplements or powders do not just improve the texture and elasticity of the skin, but also its muscle tone and bone density. Antioxidants such as l-glutathione, vitamin C, selenium and magnesium help in reducing skin pigmentation.

Beauty consultants have gone digital. As convenient as it may sound, there needs to be a multi-pronged approach, with in-clinic treatments and home care products. 

With the increase in e-retail and online marketing, larger groups of people from a wide geographical area are finding it easier to access skincare products. E-commerce will lead to a rise in sustainable, vegan and cruelty-free brands.

Shikhee Agrawal, AVP, Kiehl's India

The big evolution has been a shift from ‘instant’ products, the results of which are quick and lasts for a short time, to products that show effective results with continuous use.

Shikhee Agrawal, AVP, Kiehl's India Shikhee Agrawal, AVP, Kiehl's India

Retail has been transformed. Home delivery of products on orders both offline and online has boosted sales and changed how we market beauty and skincare. Kiehl’s also offers easy WhatsApp shopping. Kiehls India has embraced the shift in consumer trends and the online shopping experience on our eCommerce website is an unforgettable one. Some offers entice consumers to repurchase or shop for their favourite products. Kiehl’s Concierge is a Live Chat feature that provides e-consultations and elevates the online customer experience through complimentary and individualized skincare consultations.

Digital is here to stay. We have launched a video consultation that provides insight to the consumer on choosing the products that are the right fit for them.

Natural formulations and the use of sustainable ingredients are an essential part of every brand’s arsenal. Each product from Kiehl’s has one key ingredient sourced from farmers. All of them are derived sustainably, thus enabling communities to thrive. Kiehl's Recycle and Be Rewarded Program encourages consumers to be mindful of the environment. Products are manufactured by using post-consumer recycled materials wherever possible.

Science-based skin care formulations will gain more recognition since they are an ideal blend of old-school ingredients and the perfect measurements of science. I don’t see people stocking products anymore or using them indiscriminately without understanding their effect on the skin.

Mindful beauty and skincare trends have struck deep roots. I see minimal use of products and tints during the hot summer months and an increase in sales during the festive season. Minimalistic skincare is the use of products that are effective for one’s skin, a refreshing take on skincare rituals that will help consumers understand the products that work well for their skin rather than spending money and time on trending products.

The focus of the beauty industry has shifted to eye make-up because of the need to wear masks.

Cruelty-free, non-toxic, vegan… these are not mere words. They will increasingly influence ethical sourcing, thoughtful packaging, and waste and resource management In the industry.

Gaurav Tiwari, Co-founder, Mystique Earth

The beauty industry is indistinguishable from other consumer goods sectors as far as the effects of the pandemic go given the lack of movement and social gatherings. The shift is evident as consumer’s focus is on meeting the basic demands of utilities rather than splurging on non-basic stuff.

However, in the bigger scheme of things, there is a more holistic approach to beauty rather than existing in silos. The industry has seen a boom in the D2C business model, with consumers receiving real-time insights from the brand and vice versa. The Phygital route takes precedence over traditional distribution channels that are only limited to physical retail presence.

Not only has the pandemic changed consumer buying behaviour, but it has also changed individualistic consumption patterns. I was always a conscious consumer, but the pandemic has made me set my priorities differently when it comes to cautious expenditure and value for money.

In the beauty and skin industry, hygiene products and skincare have taken a front seat as compared to make-up. Scalp care is the new skincare. The focus is on repair through a gradual process. Homecare is majorly ruled by FMCG players, while D2C brands dominate the bespoke skincare market with agility and innovation.

There's a whole new rulebook when it comes to e-commerce-driven D2C brands. E-retail has not only changed the way a consumer interacts with brands but also focuses on customer acquisition, transcending geographical boundaries. E-commerce has defied any traditional norms of marketing and brand building.

The beauty segment will become highly evolved with a focus on omnichannel strategy. Virtual reality and social commerce will emerge as game-changers.

Beauty will no longer be confined to flawless skin or unrealistic standards. The beauty business would revolve more around a ‘realistic celebration of beauty.’ This shift in the industry will make it an inclusive and immersive experience.

Consumer behaviour has been very volatile, unprecedented and unpredictable ever since the pandemic has hit humankind. While we do get consumer journey insights in real-time, being a D2C brand exclusively present online is challenging when it comes to brand discovery.

Discerning consumers like transparency, honesty and looks for a reason to believe. The world is shifting towards green, clean, ethical and sustainable beauty norms. Consumers today want empathy and conversations that aren't solely based on transactions. They want products that work rather than relying on false claims and promises.

Akshit Goel, Co-founder. The Natural Wash

The world beauty industry has been hit drastically by the Covid-19 crisis. Sales have fallen by nearly 13-14% for the beauty industry and there have been widespread store closures throughout the world. The sector has responded positively to the crisis by switching to manufacturing hand sanitisers and other essential items. There are signs that the beauty industry may prove relatively resilient and bounce back to normal levels in a year or two. It’s expected to grow by an average of 5.2% each year from 2020 to 2023.

Akshit Goel Co Founder The Natural Wash

According to the current numbers, skincare is thriving – facial skincare makes up 19% of the beauty industry. Natural beauty products are also on the rise. Chemical-based products are considered less desirable due to their harmful effect on the environment. E-commerce is touching new heights. In 2020, e-commerce sales share worldwide was 18%, and it’s expected to reach around 22% in 2024.

The beauty industry is expected to reach or exceed $800 billion by 2025. Even if the world economy saturates, the beauty business will remain strong as compared to other categories.

Natural, clean, and sustainable beauty products are going to play a key role in the coming years. Independent brands are performing better. Modern-day consumers, i.e., millennials, do care. This generation cares about the environment and animals along with their skins. Therefore, cruelty-free and low leather products are widely acknowledged and demanded so that our environment and water bodies do not get affected.

Technology is changing. Various brands have begun providing their customers with newer technologies such as AR and VR product testing. Technology-oriented brands, with quality products in their portfolio, are going to survive. For the rest, brands are being created at light speed these days and survival is going to be tough for the brands that lack in all these things.

Virtual tryouts will be the new normal as new partnerships form between VR, AR, and Tech. According to reports, the Beauty Subscription box market is going to grow to 72% by 2022, and this is going to create further advancements in the industry.

Brands’ spending on research for new product development by leveraging the big data will significantly be more valuable than anything else. Investment in influencers is going to stay as it is.

Covering the whole of India from just six locations using advanced tech and e-commerce has enabled us to reach our customers with better prices, as it’s the most cost-effective way to sell. Cost to consumers is also way lower than purchasing in person. For instance, most online shoppers save time away from work or home, transportation costs, including fuel for the car, or public transportation costs.

E-commerce has enabled us to sell in geographical locations where we couldn’t even imagine our presence for the next two to three years, going by the age-old distribution model. However, there are limitations. There are no visible interactions that usually happen in brick-and-mortar models. The touch-and-feel product factor is missing. E-commerce plays a critical role in the pricing segment. As the price tag is the most visible thing online after the product, pricing needs to be competitive. In the brick-and-mortar models, the touch-and-feel factor reduces the focus on pricing.

On an individual level, the pandemic is likely to cause two opposite social behaviours. For almost all people and communities, COVID-19 provides an opportunity to consider changing their current lifestyle choices, adjust and reset their lives. However, things are never that simple. From a consumer perspective, not much is going to change anytime soon. People will return to their normal comfort zones as soon as the pandemic ends.

Anjali Arora, Spokesperson, Re'equil India 

A consumer’s interest is showing more inclination towards skin and haircare. Part of this has to do with the desire to get naturally glowing and healthy skin without having to wear makeup. Instead of looking for quick solutions, consumers are willing to invest their time and money in improving the overall health of their skin and hair, thus bringing a fresh approach to the beauty industry. We hope that the beauty segment evolves into a more realistic version by taking away the pressure of being perfect, and become more inclusive and authentic.

Anjali Arora, Re'equil India 290

There has been a significant generational shift of attention to brands that are transparent, honest and effective in their offering. Gone are the times when brands would entice customers with hoax claims.

There is a growing demand for a lot of science-backed products, which are dermatologically tested and effective, even though they take time to show results. There is also a move away from blindly following DIYs in the name of home remedies.

E-commerce and social media are the main reasons for the growth of our consumer base. As a brand that is built on a strong foundation of offering effective and honest solutions, we have always strived to grow organically through word of mouth. Social media platforms encourage personal and honest opinions and these completely align with our principles of honesty, transparency and effectiveness. When consumers experience a positive outcome from consistent use of our products, they tell their friends and family, in person or on social media, thus bringing in new customers.

People now consider skin/hair care practices therapeutic. Most of these behavioural changes are likely to become habits in the long run, with everyone being concerned about personal hygiene and self-care.

Sainath Jain and Shradha Mutha Jain, Founders, HIVADO 

With Increasing knowledge and awareness of personal care, the men’s beauty industry will become a normalised part of our mainstream culture. It would subsequently drive the demand for solution-driven products and will also see an immense amount of innovation in the segment. Smart beauty devices, makeup and grooming tools for men have great potential.

Personal health and wellness have become the new luxury for many. Wellness travel is on the verge of meteoric growth and consumers are ready to pay a premium for it. A healthy lifestyle and wellness is the ultimate luxury status symbol.

Shama Dalal, Head of Marketing, Henkel Beauty Care – India

Several brands will continue to adapt offerings to suit the needs of the customer. For the beauty sector, swift and efficient services to ensure the respect of the consumer’s time and exposure to an external environment have resulted in service innovations. As a brand, we have embraced this trend and ensured we turned new hair services around limiting the time of the consumer at the salon while delivering great results.

Shama Dalal Shama Dalal, Head of Marketing, Henkel Beauty Care India

Digital engagement has seen exponential growth and relevance, paving the way for digital solutions, which have become an integral part of the salon space. Beauty and marketing technology adoption will leapfrog from early adopters to a critical mass.

The ability to adapt, innovate quickly and inspire continued consumer confidence in safety will gain priority as critical assets to have for any brand in this sector. We have innovated on several levels. We have created services that help customers to spend minimum time outside and yet get top-notch looks with Quick Styling Techniques, where you spend less than 30 minutes and get perfect and trendy looks. We are educating our consumers on essential haircare services and home regime products that focus on the must-haves. We have hosted the first-ever virtual global showcase of the latest trends via the very popular ‘Essential Looks Global Masters 2020’ event that helped educate our customers and stylists about what's hot and happening in the season

The pandemic has proven to be a catalyst for discovery and information seeking. We notice that consumers are very particular about ingredient choices, products claims and performance. We have seen an upsurge in the need for Hyper-customisation – especially in hair care, inspired significantly by skincare.

Luxury consumers seek sophisticated offerings but layered with the ‘free-from philosophy. Our well-received new plant-derived Essensitypre-lightener, which is ammonia-free, is evidence of that trend.

We have seen an upsurge in the demand for hyper-customisation. This is especially true in haircare and is inspired significantly by skincare. Clear, personalised hair diagnosis and professional consultations with a powerful home regime recommendation are valued.

Naina Ruhail, Co-founder, Vanity Wagon 

Makeup routines have changed due to the need to wear masks and there is a drop in the use of makeup products. Even before the pandemic, brands were under pressure for product innovation. Now the need to speed it up is even greater. Given the comfort of being on various e-commerce platforms, brands are going from concept to cupboard more quickly than ever. This change has significantly aided the beauty industry

Naina Ruhail, Founder, VanityWagon

The pandemic has accelerated trends that were already shaping the market, such as digital shopping.

Although hand sanitiser isn’t typically considered a beauty product, beauty companies have taken the initiative to add hand sanitisers to their product lines to offer a more composite range. Some major beauty companies have created formulas that maintain adequate levels of disinfectant while incorporating moisturizing ingredients that leave the hands feeling soft and nourished to serve its growing demand.

The ‘maskne’ trend in which companies are manufacturing and selling masks that are designed to prevent acne and breakouts caused by wearing them for long intervals of time will see a significant rise, both trend-wise and sales-wise. These masks are made from a few ingredients that are either breathable or antibacterial.

Although there is such a wide range of skin tones, many major makeup brands have historically catered to a small portion of people with lighter skin. However, inclusivity is on the rise and that can bring major changes to the industry and its products.

The beauty industry is becoming accepting of people who are male-identifying and gender non-conforming, bringing hope for newer innovations. Since the world we live in is slowly recognizing beauty outside of the restrictive cultural standards, we can expect massive innovations.

Amritha Gaddam, Founder, The Tribe Concepts

Consumers are spending more time reading labels and understanding ingredients, a trait that has changed the way people shop for beauty.

Founder Amritha Gaddam- The Tribe Concepts

The beauty segment is likely to capture a major share in the global consumer trends. As per the latest Amazon trends, self-care beauty products are growing quickly month on month in the United States. With skincare and homecare vigorously turning towards the online e-commerce places from an offline store model, with less than 24-hour delivery options provided by marketplaces such as Amazon and Nykaa, and with India showing the second largest internet consumption in the world right now, the beauty segment is only going to go upwards with so much available to an average Indian.

E-commerce has brilliantly helped many beauty brands grow. Brands are marketing their ware through images, videos and content. Logistics and delivery companies have played a major role during the pandemic to ease the entire process of online shopping that it is now easy for consumers to adapt to an online eCommerce store rather than an actual physical store.

 The next two to three years is likely to see product innovations in the natural and plant-based segments and natural beauty rituals. We’re at a turning point in the beauty industry, as technology’s ability to ensure that there is a streamlined sale in makeup and other beauty products rests solely on the amount of trust it can establish. And brands need to gain exposure and trust, as the world is fast becoming more virtual, sharp and aware.

Deepali Nandwani is a journalist who keeps a close watch on the world of luxury.
first published: Jul 31, 2021 04:05 pm
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