Trends · 12min read

2021 Trend Watch: Cosmetics & Personal Care Industries

Explore the arrival of waterless cosmetics, the convergence of foods and cosmetics, the demand for organic ingredients, the rise of low-impact packaging, and the shift toward personalised products.

In 2020, Europe’s beauty and personal care market’s revenue reached €102,441 million, averaging at €120.81 per capita. Germany, France and the United Kingdom are the three largest markets in Europe, valued at €14 billion, €11.4 billion and €10,7 billion respectively. Cosmetics Europe estimates that around €2.35 billion flows into R&D for new products. Today, R&D encompasses everything from consumer behaviour studies to the development of new technologies and the implementation of enhanced sustainability practices. The following five emerging trends showcase how innovation is driving the entire supply chain.


Waterless Cosmetics

Several factors have given rise to this trend. On the one hand, there is the issue of single-use plastic bottle packaging for liquid soaps, shampoos and conditioners. An increasing number of consumers is forgoing plastic, and soaps in bar form are an excellent alternative. These solids are easily packaged in biodegradable materials, such as paper or other natural fibres, and, in some cases, do not require any packaging whatsoever. 

We are also seeing a general increase in awareness of the need to conserve water wherever possible. This understanding has emerged as a key pillar of the global sustainability movement. In most cases, water is simply utilised as a filler ingredient. Fillers reduce the effectiveness of the other natural ingredients in products because they are more diluted. Water also reduces the shelf life of products because it is more vulnerable to bacteria than other substances. This creates a vicious cycle where more preservatives are then required in formulas to maintain shelf life, causing its own set of further drawbacks. A number of large brands, including L’Oréal, have announced their commitment to reducing water as an ingredient in their products significantly as a result.


The Convergence of Foods & Cosmetics

Consumers continue to seek out more healthy lifestyle choices in all areas of their lives, and beauty is no exception. As a result, an increasing number of healthy foods are finding their way into cosmetics formulas

Likewise, consumers are selecting foods not only for their health benefits but also ascribed beauty benefits, such as silky hair or clear complexions. The skincare industry, in particular, is benefitting from increasing consumer awareness about biochemical synergies, such as the link between the microbiome and skin health and the gut-brain axis. The result is a steady rise in the inclusion of prebiotics and probiotics in new skincare formulas.

Market research has shown that superfoods are also particularly sought after by beauty brands because of their vitamin and mineral content. Fraunhofer Institute reveals that this is paving the way for new business opportunities in both foods and cosmetics supply chains due to the potential for horizontal integration.


Organics Is Fostering Supply Chain Transparency & Sustainability

The organic movement has benefitted from the widespread understanding that the term ‘natural ingredients’ by no means guarantees that a product is sustainable, let alone beneficial for the environment, or even good for human health. And this is where transparency comes in. As is true for so many other sectors, consumers are demanding, or at the very least expecting, that their environmental concerns are addressed and translated by cosmetics brands in actionable ways. And organic certification is proving itself as a trusted route.

With a proven track record of the ability to foster transparency and sustainability in the food industry, organic is now picking up momentum in cosmetics. Interestingly, following the food consumers eat, beauty is the category people are most concerned about when it comes to the use of pesticides and co. And with a 9.5% CAGR estimated from 2015 - 2025, the organic beauty market's growth is a testament to this. Some researchers are currently even predicting that the market will double in size over the next five years globally. As a result, many experts believe that this trend has only just gotten started. Big industry players are not only heavily investing in organic R&D but also securing a foothold in the segment by taking smaller organic brands into their portfolios when they enter the market.


Low-Impact Packaging

Reuse, reduce, recycle—the three R’s that are virtually on everyone’s mind. Plastic is wreaking havoc on our natural landscapes, and our rivers and oceans, in particular, are severely affected by pollution. The result? The return of the zero waste bathroom. We are witnessing a significant shift away from plastics and disposables and seeing a giant leap towards more eco-friendly solutions, such as plastic-free, biodegradable and compostable packaging. 

The retail industry caught onto this early, and package-free stores have been popping up all over Europe. Meanwhile, big beauty has also caught onto this trend—Lush, for example, continues to make headlines around the globe as it continues to expand its 100% package-free stores, Lush Naked. Branches are now located in Berlin, Manchester, Milan and Hong Kong.

Furthermore, many brands have also taken to proactively introducing recycling schemes. In some cases, consumers are incentivised to return their tubes and bottles to ensure that they are properly recycled, while others offer the opportunities to refill rather than rebuy. Industry leaders, including MAC, Kiehl’s and Origins, are paving the way forward on this front. But low-impact and zero waste are not just about packaging. The infamous exfoliating plastic microbeads are no longer deemed acceptable in cosmetics formulas, and the biodegradability of ingredients is also becoming increasingly relevant. 


Personalised Products

Bespoke beauty is one of the biggest buzzwords on the market. Cosmetics brands are taking an increasingly individualistic approach to consumers' needs. One way of doing this is by narrow segmentation. This includes looking at everything from age, gender and ethnicity to climate, geography, wellbeing and overall lifestyle choices, as well as specific skin types, compositions and conditions. 

Mintel highlights that a rising number of consumers feels compelled to take their health into their own hands. Coupled with a grasp for technology, people are turning to virtual reality apps, tracking devices and DIY kits to assess their skin types and deficiencies, and selecting products accordingly. The skincare sector is taking the lead here. Big brands, such as Neutrogena, Vitruvi and Atolla, are now offering personalised services in the form of face scanner apps, quizzes and PH tests to guide their customers to the ‘right’ products in their portfolio. Within the R&D community, this is resulting in a surge in ‘biohacking’ of cosmetics. Formulas are being developed and optimised that specifically target customers’ individual needs and wishes.

Imagery: (1) Supply, (2) Michal Mancewicz, (3) Bee Naturalles, (4) Raphael Lovaski, (5) Good Soul Shop, and (6) Content Pixie via

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