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Wanting it Both Ways: Today’s Beauty and Personal Care Customer

They’re informed. Expecting immediate results. Concerned about synthetic ingredients — and able to see past product "greenwashing." It’s no secret that today’s beauty and personal care consumers present a contradictory and difficult challenge: they want products that are not only natural, but that work as well as their synthetic counterparts.

Two long-term trends converge

Authentically natural beauty and personal care products — plant based, sustainable and certified organic — have been experiencing healthy, steady growth. Demand for these products surpassed $7 billion in 2012 and is expected to reach 13.2 billion by 2018, with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 9.6 percent.1 One report shows that more than half of U.S. female consumers buy more natural products because they don’t contain unnecessary ingredients or chemicals.2 Other research shows that significant percentages of consumers are able to identify ingredients like sulfates, parabens, artificial fragrances and other synthetics by name. Notably, all those surveyed intend to spend more on natural ingredients — especially younger millennial consumers.3

Imagine the immediate smoothing of fine lines that only the bacterial toxin Botox can eliminate, but in a delivery method like an avocado or vegetable oil.

Imagine the immediate smoothing of fine lines that only the bacterial toxin Botox can eliminate, but in a delivery method like an avocado or vegetable oil.

Along with driving increased growth in natural beauty and personal care markets, consumers have increased their expectations for these products’ performance. Imagine the immediate smoothing of fine lines that only the bacterial toxin Botox can eliminate, but in a delivery method like an avocado or vegetable oil.

“What really stands out today is that customers are craving natural ingredients at the same time they want instant, high performance,” says Dennis Zlotnik, market development manager at Hallstar. “From a development standpoint, they’re not completely mutually exclusive — it’s difficult to have both.”

Breaking down the challenge

Despite offering a host of real benefits, unprocessed natural ingredients can’t always deliver the immediate efficacy that customers have come to expect from decades of complex, advanced synthetic products.

“Efficacy is the elephant in the room,” says Zlotnik. “Our customers need sufficient data so they can make solid claims to the consumer. But there’s not enough data or clinical studies to support that all-natural ingredients work the same as chemical ingredients that have been out there for years. Generally speaking, there are still limits on what you can do.”

These limitations can make it more difficult for beauty and personal care companies to prove the performance today’s consumers expect. A generic label claim or marketing slogan isn’t enough — consumers are digging deep for facts and looking for validation from the online shopping community.

“Increasingly, every consumer that walks through the door is doing so armed with product information and opinions to a degree unlike ever before,” says Kosha Gada, a co-author of the report Beauty and the e-commerce beast. “She’ll view a YouTube video about the product, read some user reviews online, and maybe even visit Instagram for more information. She gathers testimonials from real users.”4

The contradictory demand for “natural” and “high-performing” is happening at a time when many beauty and personal care companies are facing reduced R&D resources. Large internal innovation engines are thinning — relying more on suppliers and other partners to take the lead.

“Recently I met with a major multinational cosmetics company to share our thoughts and expertise on the sun care market,” says Zlotnik. “Not long ago, that would have seemed very surprising. But there’s a seismic shift happening with innovation moving out of the beauty and personal care brands. Chemical and supply companies with strong formulation capabilities are the ones bringing the new ideas to market.”

An evolving phenomenon

Most industry experts believe the preference for “natural” is here to stay, despite the industry’s reputation for rapidly changing trends and short product life cycles.

“There’s always going to be room for advanced technology and chemically-derived products that deliver immediate results,” says Zlotnik. “But there’s momentum behind the natural products, and public opinion is shifting. When you see major multinational companies putting billions in CapEx to establish their own sustainable palm oil supply rather than harvesting in forests — there’s a real change happening.”

But what about the “high-performing” side of today’s demands? According to Zlotnik, the important question for formulators is whether “preventive” products (only 10 percent of the market) will reach parity with the bigger demand for high-performing, corrective or “fix-it” products. Currently, telling Western consumers that they should use a product because it will help ensure youthful skin 10-20 years later is a tough sell — and the demand for immediate results continues. That’s an attitude that may be evolving, based on beauty and personal care trends in Asia, where there’s an even greater emphasis on physical beauty. South Korea, for example, now has the highest rate of plastic surgery per capita in the world.5

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“There’s an entire phenomenon around beauty and aging that has really taken hold in that region,” explains Zlotnik. “It plays a huge part in the culture. It’s not uncommon for people as young as 18 to use six or seven products daily, including anti-aging. They are more cognizant of damage to skin and ‘preventive’ is more mainstream there.”

Bridging the Gap: Functional Naturals

Functional natural formulas are one approach to meeting the contradictory demands of “natural” and “high-performing.” In this innovative category of specialty chemical products, advanced technology is applied to botanically-derived ingredients from fruits, nuts and seeds to support both natural and functional claims. For example, the biomimetic properties of olives can be processed so that the finished product is comparable or superior to those with conventional or synthetic ingredients.

“Natural ingredients can greatly impact look, feel and even smell — and some have antioxidants with real efficacy,” explains Zlotnik. “But to be truly effective, the formula still needs an emulsifier to mix oil and water, you might need a surfactant to create a foam, or a way to solubilize actives.”

Hallstar offers a portfolio of emollients, surfactants, emulsifiers and solubilizers made with natural ingredients and tested in vitro with independent laboratories to provide clinical efficacy data.

“Functional naturals are very successful because our customers can create formulas with natural ingredients that actually work and are stable. They stand up to natural claims and consumers can see familiar botanical ingredients in the label. It’s an excellent way to manage the trends in this space.”

Reimagining Product Visuals

Skin cream microbeads that resemble caviar? Sunscreen foam? A novel look and feel is rapidly becoming part of already high consumer expectations. Hallstar’s Dennis Zlotnik, a market development manager, sees opportunities for beauty and personal care companies: “Attention-grabbing, innovative visuals and texture are becoming huge—textures, especially, are very big. It’s about cool new ways to execute the same product.” Hallstar is currently in joint development with firms on the leading edge of product visuals.

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Sources

1 Penning, Abby. "Demand for beauty to grow over $13 billion by 2018, report says." Cosmetics and Toiletries. Web. June 26, 2013. cosmeticsandtoiletries.com

2 Trends 2025. Mintel Group Ltd. Web. mintel.com

3 "Survey: 54% of women want skin care to be ‘all natural." Skin Incb. Web. August 10, 2015. skininc.com

4 McCrea, Bridget. "Creating true customer experiences." Responseb. Web. April 1, 2015. responsemagazine.com

5 Marx, Patricia. "About face." The New Yorker. Web. March 23. 2015. newyorker.com

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