Skin care future? Underarm NPD, pre-bed rituals and hero concentrates

By Kacey Culliney

- Last updated on GMT

According to fashion and beauty trend forecaster WGSN, skin care has become COVID-19's 'bright spot' with clear opportunities in concentrated active formulas, sleep-time care and underarm product innovation [Getty Images]
According to fashion and beauty trend forecaster WGSN, skin care has become COVID-19's 'bright spot' with clear opportunities in concentrated active formulas, sleep-time care and underarm product innovation [Getty Images]

Related tags WGSN Skin care Consumer trends beauty routines sleep Ingredients active beauty functional beauty self-care COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic took its toll on beauty, but skin care came out stronger than ever with some key sub-categories offering plenty of innovation and growth promise in the years ahead, says WGSN.

The global skin care market pulled in €125bn ($140.9bn) in 2020, according to Global Newswire data presented in WGSN’s Intelligence: Future of Skincare 2024​ report – a figure that aligned well with Euromonitor International’s prediction it was set to grow and hit €152bn in sales by 2025.

Trend forecaster WGSN said skin care had been “a pandemic bright spot​” for the beauty industry in its report, noting the category had been “galvanised by the challenges”.

So, what exactly was in store for this brimming post-pandemic space?

“The skin care category thrived during the pandemic even as other beauty segments faltered. As we head into 2024, this will continue, supercharged by brands that address differing skin care needs honestly by ethnicity, gender and age and through products reflecting post-pandemic lifestyles,”​ wrote Clare Varga, head of beauty at WGSN, in the report.

Consumer desire for “safety, self-care and convenience”​ would prevail, Varga said.

‘Highly concentrated hero products’

Within this, she said shoppers would increasingly look for claims with proven ingredients which would drive interest and engagement with “highly concentrated hero products”​.

Skin care offerings made with blends of potent actives with proven efficacy would surge in popularity, she said, as consumers continued to minimise the number of products they used daily and looked to avoid “mistake purchases”.

For brands looking to tap into this opportunity, Varga said investments had to be made in proving the products worked. “Single hero products’ concentrated nature means higher prices, so evidencing efficacy is vital,”​ she said.

Working to make these products “more accessible”​ to beauty consumers would also be important, she said, with flexible payment and subscription options a necessity online.

Sleep-time skin care – the new self-care opportunity

Another important skin care trend to come out of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to WGSN, was “sleep-time skin care”​ – products that offered “convenient functional treatments”​ before bed.

Sleep-time is the new self-care opportunity in skin care [Getty Images]
Sleep-time is the new self-care opportunity in skin care [Getty Images]

In a separate report looking at WGSN’s Trend Curve for this category, director of beauty Jenni Middleton and data analyst Zara Hussain said that pandemic-fuelled insomnia had “elevated night-time routines”.

“Users now want more than sleep support and are seeking overnight fixes and functional treatments, creating a new self-care opportunity for brands,” ​they wrote in WGSN’s Trend Curve: Sleep-time Skincare​ report.

During the early stages of lockdowns in 2020, they said consumers started to turn to beauty products to relax and “help them switch off”​, but this trend had now evolved to looking for products that helped rejuvenate and deliver results. Within this, overnight beauty remained high on the agenda and interest in sleep-time routines was growing, they said.

Relaxation with a heavy dose of skin care actives

Middleton and Hussain said the key underlying topics influencing pre-bed skin care opportunities remained stress and functionality.

“Brands need to educate consumers that both AM and PM routines are essential, but reframe PM as the time to deliver effective treatment outcomes. Consumers want to learn about the ingredients and order to use products for maximum nocturnal gains. Products that can combine relaxing and skin-actives will enable users to sleep so the repair portfolio can work at its best. These wellness-beauty hybrids will become the new PM beauty heroes,”​ they wrote.

“…Skin and body brands have an opportunity to convert the huge increase in self-care during the pandemic into a newly carved-out pre-bed moment for solution-based beauty.”

From a product perspective, they said sprays remained popular in this space, but other traditional oils, creams, serums, masks and balms now also populated bedside cabinets.

Underarm ‘skinification’ moves beyond odour-control

A final space to watch in the future of skin care, according to WGSN, was underarm skin care – a category that would gain ground next year.

Underarm care is stretching far beyond odour control [Getty Images]
Underarm care is stretching far beyond odour control [Getty Images]

Writing in the WGSN report Ones to Watch 2022: Underarm Skincare​, senior strategist Emma Grace Bailey and the WGSN beauty team said the ‘skinification’ of the underarm had created opportunities for deodorising, cleansing and moisturising products for the armpits.

“Products for the armpits are set for an upgrade, as consumers look to apply the same care and attention to their underarms as their face. Inspired by the growing body positivity movement, as well as a long-term focus on health, a one-size-fits-all deodorant will no longer suffice,”​ they wrote.

Interest in “efficient”​ and “fast-acting”​ underarm skin care products would gain traction amongst beauty consumers, they said, and there were plenty of innovative brands already working hard to shake-up the category. Many, for example, had started to mirror formats found in skin care, like cleansers, toners and serums, and others had opted to create single-ingredient hero products with CBD, prebiotics and hyaluronic acid just some examples. Most importantly, the successful and innovative brands had started to go “beyond odour control”,​ Bailey and the team said.

UK-based AKT London, for example, offered a gua sha-inspired applicator that transformed application into a moment of self-care and wellbeing. Australia-based KIND-LY had developed an ‘armpit detox mask’ designed to be used ahead of its probiotic magnesium deodorant and, similarly, US-based Flaunt Body had launched an ‘ingrown hair mask’ to be used after shaving or waxing to reduce irritation, razon bumps and ingrown hairs. US derma brand Surface Deep had created anti-odour cleansing pads, designed to be wiped on the underarm area, and Thailand-based brand Erb had launched an underarm skin toner in its range.

All five of these brands, Bailey and the team said, offered consumers a “more thoughtful and holistic way to take care of their pits”.

Concluding on the wide range of opportunities in skin care, Varga said: “The future of skin care will be defined by lifestyle-driven formats, optimised formulations and bespoke solutions.”

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