Clean, ethical and community: Top consumer concerns in a post-COVID beauty world

By Kacey Culliney contact

- Last updated on GMT

'Consumers are looking for ways to make themselves feel safer, healthier and clean, and they’re looking for ways to do this through their beauty routines' (Getty Images)
'Consumers are looking for ways to make themselves feel safer, healthier and clean, and they’re looking for ways to do this through their beauty routines' (Getty Images)

Related tags: clean & ethical beauty, clean beauty, ethical beauty, COVID-19, coronavirus, Mintel, Euromonitor

The ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has accelerated and morphed consumer trends globally, with most shoppers now seeking out beauty brands and products perceived as clean, ethical and community-focused, experts say.

COVID-19 has turned beauty on its head, creating a dramatically shifting marketplace from a retail and consumer standpoint. But what exactly will consumers look for in beauty products post-pandemic? And what brand attributes will they prioritise when shopping?

Consumers face worst recession since 1930s Great Depression

Setting the scene of what the post-COVID world might look like for beauty consumers, Vivienne Rudd, director of innovation and insight at Mintel, said that first and foremost there were huge financial worries for consumers.

Speaking at Cosmoprof Bologna Worldwide’s virtual event WeCosmoprof earlier this month, Rudd said results from Mintel’s COVID-19 consumer trackers – tracking trends in 16 of the world’s largest markets – showed serious concerns around expenditure.

Citing data from the latest wave of research conducted in the second half of May, she said findings showed 79% of UK consumers believed COVID-19 would have a negative impact on employment, with 70% believing the cost of living would rise. In Germany, 42% of consumers believed the crisis would negatively impact household income and more than half said it would impact the value of their savings and investments.

“It’s hardly surprising consumers around the world are telling us they’re planning to reduce their expenditure on beauty and personal care products then,”​ Rudd said. “A significant number, particularly in markets hard-hit, are planning to pull back on their spend. In China, the UK and Italy, up to a third are going to spend less on beauty products in the coming months.”

Euromonitor International analysis matched this, according to Irina Barbalova, global lead for health and beauty at the market research firm.

Speaking in a separate webinar at the same WeCosmoprof virtual event, Barbalova said: “The effects on the global economy are already being felt quite severely. We’re entering a recession – the likes of which has not been seen since the Great Depression of the 1930s. But the exact magnitude of this crisis will depend on the length of these lockdowns.”

One of Euromonitor International’s pessimistic scenarios, that had a probability of 15-25%, would see global Gross Domestic Product (GDP) shrink 8% in 2020, she said.

COVID-19 consumer focuses: Clean, ethical and community-driven beauty

Rudd said that at a time when purse strings were being tightened and total beauty and personal care spend was set to decline, there were some key points consumers would look for in how beauty brands behaved and what they offered.

“Cleanliness and hygiene will be at the forefront of consumer behaviour, not just in the coming year (…) but for years to come,”​ she said. There would also be an increased need for a sense of safety and reassurance, she said.

These focuses propelled the clean beauty movement, Rudd said.

“Whether you like the term or not, searches for ‘clean beauty’ online have increased hugely since the onset of COVID-19. Consumers are looking for ways to make themselves feel safer, healthier and clean, and they’re looking for ways to do this through their beauty routines.”

Consumers would also be on the look-out for brands that were clean overall – “by that I mean ethical”,​ she said. “[Consumers] are not going to forget which brands performed well during the crisis and they’re going to want to support these brands with their purchases.”

L’Oréal with its support programme for women​ was “really playing well with consumers”,​ she said, and brands like Kate Somerville and Acqua di Parma who were donating a proportion of sales to COVID-19 related charities were also getting noticed.

Barbalova agreed and said pre-COVID consumer trends had been accelerated.

“The clean and conscious movement, which was already quite dynamic before, will be reinforced further. Safety, proven ethical sourcing and transparency of ingredients will be even more sought after,” ​she said.

“…Ultimately, preventative health, wellness and safety will become paramount and need to permeate every brand strategy moving forward,” ​Barbalova said.

Clean & Ethical Beauty video series – Episode 1 now live

This week, CosmeticsDesign launched its exclusive six-part online video series Clean & Ethical Beauty. The series brings together innovation consultants, consumer experts, brand owners, formulators, regulatory experts and futurologists from all over the world to delve into the business of clean and ethical beauty.

You can find all related content and updates in the ‘Hot Topics’ tab on our homepage and can now view Episode 1 ‘Clean Beauty: Why it matters’​. #CleanAndEthicalBeauty

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