WGSN ‘big ideas’ for beauty in 2023: Progress, frugality, wellbeing, tech and community to shape the future

By Kacey Culliney contact

- Last updated on GMT

Push for progress; embracing frugality; mastering wellbeing; tech-ceptance; and intentional community are WGSN's 'big ideas' set to influence beauty over the next two years [Getty Images]
Push for progress; embracing frugality; mastering wellbeing; tech-ceptance; and intentional community are WGSN's 'big ideas' set to influence beauty over the next two years [Getty Images]

Related tags: WGSN, trends, wellbeing, beauty tech, beauty 4.0, community, Sustainability, ethical beauty, inclusive beauty


As beauty edges out of the COVID-19 pandemic, brands and retailers must take the opportunity to reset and recreate an industry that is more ethical, inclusive and sustainable, says a WGSN exec.

The COVID-19 pandemic morphed and accelerated beauty and personal care trends over the last 18 months and dramatically shifted shopper habits and consumer expectations​. And trend forecasting firm WGSN said there were some important ‘big ideas’ on the horizon for beauty in 2023.

At WGSN’s online Beauty Live event last week, Jenni Middleton, director of beauty at WGSN, outlined the five ideas set to shape industry over the next two years: push for progress; embracing frugality; mastering wellbeing; tech-ceptance; and intentional community.

“As we put the turmoil of the pandemic behind us and economies return to growth, consumers want brands to act on the lessons of 2020 and 2021. Brands and retailers must seize the opportunity to reset or be held accountable as the beauty industry recreates itself as more ethical, inclusive and sustainable,”​ Middleton told attendees.

1: Push for progress – ‘a brand that doesn’t participate positively won’t participate at all’

The first big idea set to shape beauty over the next two years, she said, was a push for progress amongst consumers. “Collective activism has increased. A brand that doesn’t participate positively won’t participate at all as beauty consumers look to invest in products that support their needs and the needs of others.”

For industry, this meant it would be important brands and retailers stood for something “other than the bottom line”​ and designed and developed products that helped “heal the world”,​ boosting biodiversity and leaving no footprint behind, she said.

Big Idea One - Push for progress [Getty Images]
Big Idea One - Push for progress [Getty Images]

French hair care brand Klorane, for example, had developed a biodegradable detox shampoo using aquatic mint that didn’t contaminate water, she said, tapping into “regenerative design”​ that would soon become the beauty norm. Estée Lauder’s skin care brand Aveda was also tracking its vanilla bean ingredients and Unilever using AI and geo-space analytics to map out where they were sourcing raw materials from, she said, which would become increasingly important to become more trusted.

“…Now is the time for progressive progress,”​ Middleton said.

2: Embracing frugality – ‘value will be increasingly equated with efficacy’

Big Idea Two - Embracing frugality [Getty Images]
Big Idea Two - Embracing frugality [Getty Images]

The second big idea set to influence industry, she said, was a consumer shift to embracing frugality. “Income and security in recession will have been experienced by many by the time we reach 2023, leading consumers to rethink priorities and ideas. Consumers will be looking to buy products that they know work, and they’ll be seeking evidence from brands to prove that.”

Many consumers will look to buy less and streamline beauty routines, she said, leading to a need for “hybrid products blurring the lines”, ​though, importantly, this didn’t mean they would necessarily be spending less or simply looking for cheap options.

LA indie brand Live Tinted with its multi-use ‘Huestick Corrector’, for example, was tapping into this mindset, she said, as was UK skin care firm Frances Prescott with its facial tri-balm. Similarly, US sunscreen specialist Supergoop was plugging hybrid needs with its SPF 40 facial serum packed with skin care ingredients, she said.

“…Value will be increasingly equated with efficacy and efficiency. Products with proven results will be the new measure of value for money, irrespective of the price tag,” ​Middleton said.

3: Mastering wellbeing – ‘beauty brands will need to behave like health and wellness brands’

Big Idea Three - Mastering wellbeing [Getty Images]
Big Idea Three - Mastering wellbeing [Getty Images]

The third big idea important for beauty in 2023, she said, would be mastering wellbeing. “The trauma of the pandemic and ensuing recession will see consumers in many parts of the world assessing their emotional and physical status with a new understanding on how the two are linked and how they contribute to overall health and wellbeing. People will be seeking products, activities and environments that help better regulate mood.”

For industry, this meant designers and developers would need to “account directly”​ for these needs and think carefully about how to link beauty products with mental wellness. ‘Happy beauty’, she said, would also gain importance as a concept.

New York active beauty specialist The Nue Co. with its unisex anti-stress fragrance Forest Lungs was targeting wellbeing well, she said, and UK makeup brand Trinny London was incorporating mood-boosting ingredients into its cosmetics, plugging the happy beauty idea. In the spa category, luxury UK skin care brand Elemis had also designed a touchless treatment for consumers looking to relax out-of-home in a safe and hygienic way, she said.

“…Beauty brands will need to behave like health and wellness brands, developing products and treatments that help mental wellbeing,”​ Middleton said.

4: Tech-ceptance – ‘enhanced potency and improved delivery methods’

Big Idea Four - Tech-ceptance [Getty Images]
Big Idea Four - Tech-ceptance [Getty Images]

The fourth big beauty idea set to influence the next two years, she said, was ‘tech-ceptance’ – the concept of increasing consumer acceptance of technology in beauty and personal care. “Whilst the tumultuous start of 2020 demanded beauty focused on phygital, the next wave of scientific advances will refocus on beauty basics, going beyond AR and VR to engineer new ingredients that are safe and sustainable with enhanced potency and improved delivery methods.”

For formulators, this presented a wealth of opportunity to incorporate more lab-grown ingredients and resource-efficient alternatives, she said, because consumers would be more open and accepting of the tech and science behind these innovations.

New York vegan skin care brand Superegg, for example, was recreating the benefits of egg with smart plant-based blends, she said, and UK prestige facial care brand Sarah Chapman had incorporated dissolving needles into its ‘roll-to-activate’ device to release and deliver its serum. Tech partnerships would also increase, like that of Estée Lauder Companies and biotech firm Atropos Therapeutics to develop senescence modulating chemicals, she said.

By 2023, Middleton said there would be a “trust in science and need for efficacy”​ driving forward the beauty category as a whole.

5: Intentional community – ‘new eco-system of buyers and creators who collaborate’

Big Idea Five - Intentional community [Getty Images]
Big Idea Five - Intentional community [Getty Images]

The fifth and final big idea set to shape the beauty industry by 2023, she said, was intentional community. “The community and collective consumer have become more digital, social and rooted in shared values, resulting in a new eco-system of buyers and creators who collaborate in order to trade (…) The social synapses that formed will continue in 2023 as networks strengthen.”

For industry, this meant beauty and personal care brands would be expected to create “conscious systems throughout their value chain”​ and “prioritise stakeholders over shareholders”,​ she said, as consumers expected a “symbiotic relationship”​ that benefited all.

The founder of African luxury beauty brand 54 Thrones, for example, visited every country the company sourced its ingredients from to better understand the cultural resonance of each one, she said, and UK brand Pai Skincare recently created a new incubator division, using consumer feedback as part of the NPD process. Discovery platforms that enabled beauty consumers to shop according to values, like Geenie Beauty, or those specifically designed for women of colour like Beautyocracy, would also rise in importance, she said.

“…We will see a shift to co-creation and crowd-sourced brands with an industry working towards collective conservation over individual preservation,”​ Middleton said.

WGSN’s beauty director previously said that by 2023, complete transparency in beauty would be “non-negotiable”​ – a factor relevant to all the above five ‘big ideas’ moving forward.

For insight into what's ahead for the rest of 2021, take a look at our CosmeticsDesign 15 Global Beauty Trends To Watch video​ outlining what our editors believe is key for industry.

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