Post-pandemic protective beauty has fresh opportunities amidst ‘changed’ consumer needs: Mintel

By Kacey Culliney

- Last updated on GMT

Consumers are increasingly looking for beauty products that help them shield from external aggressors, including pollution, but also offerings that tackle technology woes like blue light exposure and fatigue [Getty Images]
Consumers are increasingly looking for beauty products that help them shield from external aggressors, including pollution, but also offerings that tackle technology woes like blue light exposure and fatigue [Getty Images]

Related tags Mintel COVID-19 Consumer trends protective beauty blue light protection Sunscreen Spf Pollution Anti-pollution skin care functional beauty

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has carved out very specific and different protective beauty opportunities as consumer lifestyles and mindsets have evolved, says Mintel.

Last year, COVID-19 created seismic shifts in consumer behaviours and expectations​ that had a critical knock-on effect for the beauty category. Colour cosmetics nose-dived during early store closures and lockdowns, for example, whilst active skin care and self-care products soared. And these effects were still being felt now – set to shape consumer shopping and retail trends for a decade at least​.

Andrew McDougall, associate director of global beauty and personal care at Mintel, said one area of beauty that had initially been negatively impacted by COVID-19 was protective beauty, particularly sun care. However, 18-months on, this category was now emerging from difficulties, McDougall told attendees at one of SCS Formulate 2021’s ‘inform’ sessions, via a digital presentation.

“From the end of this year and beyond, we are seeing this road to recovery [in protective beauty],”​ he said.

So, as the category emerged from the COVID-19 crisis and its initial impacts, what sort of growth opportunities were there for protective beauty moving forward?

“Potentially, our tolerance to different light sources has changed; protection needs, and skin needs, have been changing. So, this is going to need to be built back up,”​ McDougall said.

The rise of technology – blue light woes, tech neck wrinkles and eye fatigue

One aspect of consumer lifestyles that had ballooned during the pandemic was time connected to devices, be that mobile phones, laptops or TV screens, he said, and this was relevant for protection.

“This is going to lead to different concerns. We’re going to have different exposures and that can impact what we look for when it comes to protection.”

Increased screen time, for example, meant blue light protection was a rising priority amongst consumers, along with treating wrinkles developing due to ‘tech neck’ – looking down at devices, he said. Mental wellbeing and fatigue were also rising concerns amongst consumers leading a digital-heavy lifestyle, he said, and many brands were already plugging these concerns with the likes of CBD oils for relaxation and skin barrier claims and firming neck treatments.

Some brands had also invested in the ingestibles category to improve skin health from the inside-out, McDougall said, sometimes alongside a topical product like in the case of Ceramiracle with its eye illuminating supplement and eye cream.

“Our increased use of screens to work and socialise mean blue light and eye strain, and so there are more protection opportunities here for new product development. But also, previously developed technology innovations can be relaunched to a more captive audience.”

Shielding against aggressors – dirt, airborne particles and bacteria

Another impact from the pandemic, McDougall said, was an increased desire amongst consumers to shield – be that from dirt, airborne particles, bacteria or the COVID-19 virus itself.

“The interest in shielding against dirt and airborne particles is being ramped up now, and this creates opportunities for skin care that protects consumers from these elemental aggressors,” ​he said.

Within this, pollution had also been thrust further into the spotlight, despite improved air quality in many areas during pandemic lockdowns, he said.

“In order to return to normal, consumers will want to feel shielded, including from pollution. We can extend that anti-pollution to sun care and body care, but also that protection message to much more holistic messaging; incorporating this ‘total protection’ message which is going to be really important for consumers going forward,”​ McDougall said.

SPF+ active ingredients – sun care with added benefits, skin care with protection

McDougall said the COVID-19 crisis had also heavily impacted the sun care market, with expectations changing as consumers emerged from the depths of the pandemic and started looking for more regular SPF protection again.

“An ongoing trend in this protection conversation is consumers looking for SPF in their skin care products. This is definitely something we saw five years ago or so, this idea of having skin care products with SPF, but we’re now beginning to see this is still the case,”​ he said.

Mintel data from the US was a good indicator of this, he said, with 52% of women having used skin care products containing SPF protection and 40% of US women using makeup with SPF protection.

“But there is also a flip in the focus now as well – this idea that sun care products can feature added skin care or cosmetic features. Protection products themselves having skin care elements in, it offers a different angle,”​ he said. Fenty Beauty was one good example with its recent launch of a sunscreen containing niacinamide, he said.

Moving forward, McDougall said industry could expect plenty of innovation from sun care specialists using ingredients to add skin care and cosmetic benefits that would ultimately drive consumer interest and increase overall sunscreen use and protection.

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