Post-COVID consumer trends in beauty to demand ethical, inclusive and sustainable beauty, according to WGSN


The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has created seismic shifts in beauty product consumption over the past year,shaping the very nature of what brands and retailers now had to offer consumers. And “Push for Progress” – working for environmental and social good – had been identified as one of five “big ideas” set to define beauty consumption in 2023, according to forecasting firm WGSN.

An effort to make beauty “more ethical, more inclusive and more sustainable”

“In 2023, products will need to be adapted to operate in a business environment where collective activism has increased and industry practices are continually challenged for environmental and social reasons,”said Jenni Middleton, beauty director at WGSN.

Speaking at an online webinar describing WGSN Beauty Big Ideas 2023report, Middleton said: “As we put the turmoil of the pandemic behind us and economies return to growth, consumers will want brands to act on the lessons they learned in 2020 and 2021. Brands are going to have to seize the opportunity to reset or be held accountable as the beauty industry needs to recreate itself as more ethical, more inclusive and more sustainable.

Future development of beauty products should build on processes that healed the world, she said, and were created by processes that boosted biodiversity and left no footprints behind.

“The time has come for a gradual transformation. …Products that give back to the environment, rather than simply take less of it, will be expected as regenerative design becomes the norm. Companies need to protect the planet for future generations and the future of beauty too,” she says.

The technology to track and prove ‘needed radical change’

And the large-scale participation of beauty brands and retailers in these causes, Middleton said, would become a given in the next two years.

“In 2023, a brand that does not participate positively will not participate at all. As beauty consumers seek to invest in products that meet their needs and those of others, championing more than the bottom line will propel brands to the forefront of much-needed step change. And full transparency will not be negotiable.

Supply chain tracking that has enabled the industry to “prove their actions safely and effectively”​ – locally and globally – would be “essential for all businesses” move forward, Middleton said. And blockchain technology would be key to achieving that, she said.

Middleton Blockchain technology has previously been highlighted as essential for the beauty industry​ amid the current COVID-19 crisis where fears for consumer safety had skyrocketed.

“Now it will become an industry model and it will allow brands to gain confidence in an increasingly demanding and increasingly questioning society”,she says.

Economic and environmental reasons to propel “frugal” beauty

Beyond minimizing planetary impact through smart product design and transparent supply chains, Middleton said the “less is more” approach will continue to grow in importance. Indeed, “Embracing Frugality” was WGSN’s second big prediction for 2023.

“Now it’s not about creating the cheapest product, it’s actually about enabling consumers to reduce their consumption and be more sensible and responsible in what they consume”,she says.

And frugal consumption of beauty would be propelled by economic constraints related to COVID-19 as well as environmental concerns, she said. “It’s about buying less but buying better. So still getting the same value, the same benefits from your product, but actually needing to buy fewer products to get there.

For beauty brands, this has opened up opportunities for multifunctional products such as integrated cleansers and moisturizers or offerings that have bucked the trend of “skinimalism,” she said. “Effectiveness and Efficiency” would be crucial for success.

“Products with proven results will be the new measure of value for money, regardless of price. While products that enable sustainable consumption will be in high demand,”Middleton said.

Futurologist Helga Hertsig-Lavocah phas already identified reductionism as a key future trend for the beauty industry​in its push towards sustainability, where manufacturers and retailers have worked to narrow down the offerings with innovative product concepts and alternatives.


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