SCS Formulate 2022 Coventry, UK

Water watch! Cold showers are here, industry must innovate – futurologist

By Kacey Culliney contact

- Last updated on GMT

Industry is going to have to turn showering on its head with new ways of washing, smart product concepts and more [Getty Images]
Industry is going to have to turn showering on its head with new ways of washing, smart product concepts and more [Getty Images]

Related tags: Futurology, trends, climate crisis, Environment, mental health, wellbeing, cost of living crisis, Water, Innovation

The beauty and personal care category must start upgrading and innovating formulas and products to empower consumers to take shorter, colder showers – drawing inspiration from hospitals, beer brands and more, says a senior futurologist.

Earlier this month, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) released its annual Adaptation Gap Report and Emissions Gap Report ahead of its ongoing climate change conference COP27 in Egypt. Both reports highlighted the need for a radical shift to tackle the climate crisis​, noting today’s global actions were not keeping pace with real-work risks on impacts on planet and people and that there was a concerning lack of funding behind real change.

For beauty and personal care, as with every consumer goods industry worldwide, this held very real implications. And Helga Hertsig-Lavocah, senior futurologist and founder of Hint Futurology, said today’s climate crisis had to be addressed with very real responses from formulators, manufacturers and brands.

Speaking to attendees at this year’s SCS Formulate in Coventry, UK, Hertsig-Lavocah said: “I decided to do a very practical forecast this time; I really wanted to get down to the nitty gritty nuts and bolts. I think cold showers is something formulators really have to think about, and I think there are three reasons for this.”

Cold showers – cost-of-living crisis, eco concerns and anxiety

The cost-of-living crisis had recently gained prominence in most people’s lives, she said, as had eco concerns and anxiety – all strong drivers behind a future of cold showering.

Many consumers were being forced into taking shorter and colder showers to keep costs down and many were also doing so to limit water use and reduce overall environmental impact, she said. The challenge for beauty formulators was creating products that worked in-use, with colder water temperatures and for shorter durations, she said.

Beyond this, there was the mental health aspect to consider, with proven benefits to cold showering such as helping with anxiety, she said. And this was a movement Hertsig-Lavocah said would likely gain ground and could be even be encouraged by brands, with the right product offerings.

But this angle of wellbeing still faced a “huge conflict”​ because warm showers and bathing remained a widely appreciated form of self-care amongst consumers living through another crisis: the mental health crisis.

“My challenge is: how do we make cold showers indulgent?”

Viscosity, fast suds and pits and bits

Formulators ought to, perhaps, start thinking more carefully about viscosity of shower products, the futurologist said, so that they washed off well and quickly in cold showers. Industry could pivot on the concept of “fast suds”​ and “no-rinse”​ products, she said, creating new and exciting products in this space or upgrading existing offerings.

The future may even require brands to start encouraging new ways of washing – changing consumer habits directly – which could tap into the slowly building movement of just washing ‘pits and bits’ versus the entire body daily.

“This is, of course, a huge shift that would happen in the way we live because showering and hygiene is very much part of our day-to-day routine. You get up and have a shower. How does that change overnight? And there is no easy route.”

Particularly with consumers more stressed and living through converging crises, she added.

Inspiration from beyond

As industry worked to think differently in daily hygiene routines, particularly showering, Hertsig-Lavocah said there was plenty of innovations and existing products to be drawn upon outside of traditional beauty and personal care.

Hospitals, for example, were an area industry could draw inspiration from, taking products to “upgrade and transplant into the luxurious beauty space”​ – think body wipes and sponge baths, she said.

“I think we could take medicalised, less-fancy products, and make them more inspirational.”

Another source of inspiration was the beer category. Japanese drinks major Suntory had recently launched a high concentration and high alcohol (Alc. 16%) ABV Beer Ball, designed to be mixed or ‘dosed’ by the consumer over carbonated water according to taste and preference, she said. The beer allowed consumers to “create a formula at the strength they want”,​ she said, which could perhaps be applied to shower gels.

Another Japanese invention, although already in personal care, was from the brand Bathclin that offered a drop-in-bath product designed to add bubbles and nothing else. “I think that’s also a really interesting way to look, in terms of helping consumers customise. Adding things, creating almost a building-block system.”

Hertsig-Lavocah said the hope was that the beauty and personal care industry could start to truly rethink and innovate shower and bath care – for the good of people and planet – with these very practical ideas, at a formulation level.

“This is a request, a to-do list. Showers will be cold and maybe also showers should be shorter. What does that mean to us?

…I just hope next year I’ll be able to see all these amazing products launched,”​ she said.

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