While natural and organic personal care has historically represented a smaller portion of the more than $166 billion natural products market, the natural and organic beauty market is growing fast—in fact, Nutrition Business Journal estimates that the global natural and organic beauty market is on track to hit $19.4 billion by 2023, and London-based analysts Future Market Insights projected in a 2019 report that the global natural and organic beauty market will surpass $54 billion by 2027.
But the question remains: Where are shoppers going to buy these natural beauty products?
Online, specialty stores and boutiques such as Credo and Follain that boast meticulously curated selections of natural beauty products have gained traction among shoppers. Offline, some big-box cosmetics retailers including Sephora have created internal seals of approval to designate “clean” beauty brands as such (Sephora’s private-label brand is among them).
Whether beauty shoppers are heading to their local natural products store is another thing. Personal care represented just 13% of overall sales for natural channel retailers in 2019, with the majority reporting flat or minimal growth in personal care category sales. Prior research indicates a lack of investment with regard to both time and money is at fault here; the world of natural personal care is accelerating faster than most natural retailers can keep up with, and tried-and-true brands that are mainstays in the natural channel oftentimes lack the innovation emerging natural beauty startups can offer.
In an increasingly digital world, smaller beauty brands starting off direct-to-consumer can find success with that as their primary channel. However, brick-and-mortar retail plays a crucial role in the personal care marketplace—traditional retail chains are still the channel of choice when it comes to where consumers buy their cosmetics, according to Common Thread Collective.
When it comes to in-person shopping, product testing, samples and knowledgeable staff can all make or break a beauty buy—and because consumer loyalty is so strong in this category, one sale can translate to hundreds or even thousands over the course of a shopper’s lifetime.
Where natural beauty trends meet market opportunity
Trends in natural beauty products largely reflect trends present in natural food, beverage and supplements: plant-based and botanical ingredients are on the rise (hello, hemp CBD!), brands’ sustainability or otherwise mission-driven efforts are at the fore and transparency is a must. That last one is especially important to note as greenwashing besieges natural beauty shoppers at seemingly every turn.
But today’s natural beauty consumers are also more conscious of what constitutes a natural or nontoxic personal care product. One 2016 study determined that women investigate an average of six sources before making a new beauty purchase. Newer entrants to the natural beauty category are capitalizing on this growing awareness by both obtaining rigorous certifications (like ECOCERT, EWG Verified and NSF International) and marketing themselves as free-from undesirable attributes (such as fragrances, phthalates and parabens). In a country where 11—yes, only 11—personal care ingredients are banned, transparency on the part of brands is crucial.
Another important natural beauty trend driving the greater beauty industry forward is diversity. A shocking study out of the Environmental Working Group in 2016 found that one in 12 beauty products marketed to Black women was ranked “highly hazardous,” with less than 25% of products in the natural cosmetics space considered acceptable with regard to the amount of potentially harmful ingredients they contained. Thus, the opportunity for natural personal care brands to serve and market to the Black population and other ethnicities in the U.S. is huge.
Supporting diversity in the beauty industry isn’t limited to accommodating all shades of skin, inclusion also encompasses beauty products that support aging skin. A 2020 report estimated that the anti-aging beauty market will be worth $83.2 billion by 2027; one recent milestone that points to the importance of older demographics is that there are currently more people over the age of 64 than children younger than five in the world.
Yet another underserved demographic poised for growth? Men. Evolving notions of masculinity coupled with the gender-neutral merits of taking care of one’s skin mean natural beauty brands that cater to men in particular will be in greater demand over the coming years.
It’s also important for emerging brands to note that certain natural beauty categories are riper for innovation than others. Take the skin microbiome, for instance; scientists have only just begun to study how the trillions of microorganisms on and inside our bodies affect bodily functions, but the research is extremely promising.
More 2021 natural beauty trends predictions
What makes a ‘clean’ natural beauty product?
That’s a tough question to answer—and not only for natural beauty shoppers. The Federal Drug Administration doesn’t currently have standards to designate clean beauty products as such (except for food-grade organic products via the USDA Organic seal), and therefore there is little the organization can do in the way of regulating “clean” or “nontoxic” marketing claims.
Distilled to its essence, clean beauty encompasses personal care products that do not cause users bodily harm in the short or long term. This differs from clean beauty’s cousin green beauty, which connotes cruelty-free manufacturing practices, plant-derived or vegan ingredients and sustainable sourcing methods.
Natural retailers with stringent standards for clean beauty diligently screen brands for a wide variety of questionable ingredients including mineral oil, parabens, acetone, phthalates, petroleum derivatives and fragrances before they ever land on shelves.
Consumer safety groups have also, in recent years, rounded up and published red-flag ingredients to watch for as scientific studies emerge via lists such as the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep Cosmetics Database.
Growing shopper awareness regarding potential toxins is what fuels clean beauty at its core—and as you might imagine, this category is only going to become more important to consumers who have grown to distrust Big Beauty much like they have come to distrust Big Agriculture.
Natural beauty brands to know