The 360-Degree Beauty: Consumer-Informed Global Cosmetics Trends

When it comes to beauty products, our collective eye of the beholder has expensive taste. The US cosmetics market was valued at nearly $50-billion in 2022. Makeup reviews and tutorials rank among the top-three most watched categories on YouTube. With 15+ million viewers, beauty influencers like Sandra Cires or Jeffrey Star command digital platforms comparable with the most watched network television shows. Today’s beauty products and brands are much more than a sum of their ingredients and marketing. From “lipstick on a pig” making Presidential debates history to providing “TikTok evidence” in the Amber Heard and Johnny Depp court battle, beauty has become a space of national public discourse. When Rihanna was announced as the performer at the 2023 Super Bowl LVII, the Internet immediately responded with memes about the Halftime Show serving as a live ad for Fenty Beauty, her trendsetting brand. The release of the Game Day Essentials collection proved fans were not entirely wrong.

Cosmetics allegedly turned Kylie Jenner into “the youngest billionaire” and make up is now definitely an anti-surveillance tool in protests around the world. “Beauty is everywhere a welcome guest.” I am not sure if the genius Goethe could quite foresee the scope and scale of his poetic prophesy. I asked a group of international experts to help me understand current trends empowering consumers to reach beyond beauty.

Beauty Turns Individuals into Communities

Beauty salons and barber shops have traditionally played the role of de facto community centers in many places around the world. Cosmetic brands increasingly position themselves as catalysts for positive (inter)personal change and social progress. Selena Gomez launched Rare Beauty and pledged to raise $100 million for its Rare Impact foundation while partnering with Sephora on an anti-bullying campaign “Hearts, No Hate”. Maybelline runs its Brave Together campaign to combat stigma around depression and anxiety. “Beauty is about identity. Shared rituals of self-care create a sense of belonging and safety. When we look up to each other, we look after each other,” notes Jeanna Kotenko, a Ukrainian fashion entrepreneur, co-owner of G.Bar LA, the California outpost of one of Europe’s largest salon networks with 27 locations in 9 countries.

“Our clients have found friends, business partners, and ways to make a difference here. It’s been so inspiring to see our beauty bar become a supportive environment for like minded women to network and celebrate each other,” echoes co-owner Lena Galyuk. “Our space offers an opportunity for networking and friendships that go beyond just beauty business.”

Beauty Goes Over the Rainbow for Diversity

When Jean Paul Gaultier launched men’s cosmetics in 1993 followed by RuPaul becoming the MAC spokesperson, these visionary moves were often met with industry skepticism. A lot has changed. Since 2018, beauty and cosmetics have been “the fastest-growing interest” amongst male consumers worldwide. Queer Eye for the Straight Guy hosts made an impact with a sustainable haircare line by Jonathan Van Ness and Karamo Brown’s trailblazing MANTL skincare for bald men. Bona fide “bad boys” now like shiny pretty things, too.

Travis Barker has launched cannabis-infused skincare and Machine Gun Kelly has a genderless nail polish line. “The right to feeling and looking their best has emerged as a new social norm. Brands who have a fluid communication on gender identity, including Pharrell Williams’ well-named Humanrace, are seeing greater buy-in from audiences and markets, beyond the LGBTQ community,” says Sarah Guez Thomas, beauty expert based in Tel Aviv. Pleasing, a cosmetics brand by global phenomenon Harry Styles, remains a big cherry on top of this major industry trend.

Beauty Shines a Light on Our Toughest Issues

Self-care becomes a rite of defiance in the face of oppression and injustice. That’s why beauty brands have donated generously to the Black Lives Matter movement and were among the first to participate in the #PullUpForChange initiative aimed at corporate accountability and economic wellness of black communities “from sea to shining sea”. Over in Europe, Ukrainian talent has triumphed on the world’s biggest stages from Eurovision to Miss Universe. When Russia invaded Ukraine, beauty brands like L’Oréal, Unilever, Estée Lauder, and Sephora were among the first global retailers to halt operations and exit the Russian market in protest. Brands began to pull together resources to support refugees. Toiletries Amnesty partnered with the likes of Dr. Hauschka, Wella, and L’Occitane to provide hygiene kits at the Polish border. Among other notable efforts, Gatineau gave 50% of its one month sales to Disasters Emergency Committee while independent salons joined the global #BeautyforUkraine movement. “The support has been immediate and remarkable. It made me really proud to be a part of this industry,” noted Kotenko.

Beauty at the Service of the Greater Good

Beauty product manufacturing has always depended on natural ingredients. Protection of Earth’s resources is an organic extension of industry interests. For example, Minnesota-based Aveda (of the Aveda Institutes fame) funded wind turbine with the Native Energy project and was the first beauty brand to join the product-certifying Wildlife Friendly Enterprise Network as a founding partner. Biotherm is an industry leader with its pioneering Blue Beauty program in partnership with Monaco’s Oceanographic Institute. Individual corporate efforts require greater intra-industry synergy to truly make the difference.

In December, Cosmetics Europe launched “Commit for Our Planet”, a comprehensive initiative to systematically address climate change, plastics and packaging, as well as impact on ecosystems. Holistic concern for the wellbeing of the planet is also powering a growing retail niche. The global vegan cosmetics market has approached $16 billion in 2022. Longtime environmental activists like PETA now have shopping guides for cruelty-free beauty and body products. “The era of marketing gimmicks is over. Beauty is much more holistic now. People want to feel genuinely proud about the choices they make with their money. The products, processes, and values must align,” says Eevaleena Liedes, makeup artist, beauty therapist, and Finland’s hottest skinfluencer. More than a trend for many in the industry, environmentalism signals the long-term trajectory of consumer interest worldwide.