Nontoxic beauty is thriving—and the innovative, high-performance products entering the space are proving that the category has staying power.
Natural and organic personal care experienced an 8 percent sales increase in natural retail in 2015. What's driving this sales boost? Medical breakthroughs are proving some of the risks associated with cosmetics chemicals—and mainstream media is covering it. But interest in the space isn’t as closely tied to fear as it once was. Thanks to innovation and performance, demand is more about want than want not.
The gut-skin connection
It’s critical to address the relationship between health and beauty when it comes to natural beauty’s growth, and a key piece of this puzzle is the microbiome—the millions of bacteria and biomes found in and on the human body. (See related: What you need to know about your microbiome)
The rapidly growing gut-health category is no longer linked only to digestion, according to NBJ's 2016 Healthy Solutions Report, which shows that gut health is increasingly being tied to immunity, brain health and more, including skin health. As a result, we predict that the skin care and nutricosmetics will start capitalizing on the role of healthy bacteria in healthy skin.
Natural beauty is the new craft beer
Craft and DIY beauty is going strong as more consumers shift toward safer, cleaner personal care products and crave the knowledge about where ingredients come from. As a result, more shoppers are turning to bulk bins for ingredients that support healthy skin, hair and nails; and companies committed to apothecary-style packaging and simple, authentic messaging abound, particularly for simple products like soaps and body lotions.
Diversifying the natural beauty retail landscape
Expect to find natural beauty products outside of
natural retail stores in 2017. Conventional retail will continue to stock more natural options, while also dabbling in local or regional offerings and building some holistic beauty education into the mix. Meanwhile, more high-end/luxury retailers will bring certified organic, biodynamic and fair trade offerings into their aisles, as opposed to just products simply touting a few plant-based ingredients. Finally, we expect to drugstores, universities, airports and other convenience-oriented retail outlets brining more natural options into the mix.
It better work better
Natural beauty products are often deemed as ineffective. This was particularly an issue in categories like oral care and deodorants. Today, however, companies are committed not only to formulating with the right amounts of the right ingredients but also to convincing shoppers that these products work as well as their conventional counterparts. Schmidt’s Deodorant, for example, is leaving its mark on the natural deodorant industry and proving that there is a natural solution that gets the job done.
Meanwhile, natural skin care companies focused on anti-aging, clear skin and more are putting their products to the test in order to earn your trust.
Regardless of which beauty category a company is in, we will continue to see brands rising to the occasion—and raising the bar. Skin, body, hair and nail care featuring gentle, plant-based active ingredients that also lend clinical results was once a pipe dream. Today, that’s what responsible companies are delivering.
Waste has been an important topic as manufacturers, advocacy groups, retailers and more explore ways to "save" potentially wasted good food and distribute it where it’s most needed.
What started with ancient cultures using discarded ingredients in unique ways is transforming into green chemistry innovations, according to Kantha Shelke, PhD, CFS, principal at Corvus Blue LLC, a Chicago-based food science and research firm. "Biotechnologists are now advancing this practice in a more systematic manner to find ways to recycle and valorize agro-food industry by-products."
Also expect to see more happening in waste-free packaging in the beauty space. Innovative botanical papers processed eco-efficiently from plant waste such as coca husk from the chocolate industry, coffee chaff and cellulose from rice are some of the most up-and-coming potential solutions to wasteful plastic packaging.
Nontoxic antibacterials go "viral"
It’s a very rare occasion that the FDA will actually ban a cosmetic ingredient (after all, the U.S. has banned only around a dozen cosmetic ingredients, while Europe has banned more than a thousand). So despite years of dialogue and contention around triclosan, a common ingredient used in soaps and other "antibacterial" products, this year’s triclosan ruling to ban the chemical ingredient from soap was a significant event that has some serious long-term implications.
[See related: How to choose safer beauty products]
In September, the FDA banned triclosan and 17 other chemicals used in hand and body washes marketed as "antibacterial." Why? Research has linked the ingredient to issues ranging from liver damage to hormone disruption and allergies, while other studies have shown that using soaps with triclosan were no more effective at preventing illness than using regular soap and water.
Industry self-regulation is the only way
The least regulated category, there are essentially no restrictions on personal care ingredients, no checks and balances to ensure quality production and no ability of the government to act if a product is found to be unsafe. This means that large conventional brands can use a range of potentially dangerous chemicals; it also means that extremely small companies could be formulating in a dirty bathtub in a basement.
While all of this may sound discouraging, what it has led to is consumer advocacy that has prompted companies to reform; and also organizations and trade associations that unite companies committed to safe cosmetics, such as the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics. Companies are choosing to become certified—USDA Organic, B Corp, Fair Trade, NSF "contains organic," Biodyanamic—in order to prove their commitment to quality. And, above all, responsible companies are committed to full transparency of ingredients, trade secrets, manufacturing processes, sourcing partners and more.
Essential oils keep going…and going….
With strong ties to health, beauty and the DIY artisan beauty movement, essential oils and aromatherapy will continue to grow. This year, brands become more experimental with blends and deliveries. And essential oils aren’t just booming in direct-to-consumer—more retailers are finding success with essential oils and aromatherapy products thanks to the consumer trend toward plant-based foods and heightened interest in artisan beauty products.
The demand for natural or holistic alternatives across all facets of life makes essential oils’ versatility in food and beverage, supplements, household products, and personal care another major contributor to growth.
[See related: How to choose and use natural fragrances]
Better together: pairing topical and ingestible products
Supplements and beauty companies are starting to partner on in-store promotions and marketing efforts to connect topical and ingestible products. One recent example is NeoCell and MyChelle, who worked together to position their vitality-focused products together in the aisles of Sprouts.
Of course, we still see the opportunity for the inside-out and outside-in approach to beauty. And the increasing awareness about the role of the microbiome and healthy bacteria in skin health, could be a strong gateway. Companies that formulate with ingredients that are effective both topically and when ingested also have some big opportunities: think resveratrol, collagen, CoQ10 and more.