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WGSN: Key Trend 2021: The End of More
Buying less but better will be the mantra of 2021. For beauty this means a new focus on functional, results-driven products
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For the last few years, it seems like we've heard of nothing in the beauty industry but K-beauty: the K-beauty 10-step skincare routine; the K-beauty sheet mask boom; K-beauty tech innovation; and so on. The movement has bred a generation of serial product users who are addicted to using multiple products every day. According to the Environmental Working Group, the average US woman uses nine products each day, containing around 126 different ingredients in total.

As outlined in the Big Ideas: 2021 Beauty however, there is an end in sight to this perceived need for more, with many consumers adopting a 'buy less, buy better', mentality and looking to shrink their beauty regime down to functional, results-driven products only.

Driving this about-turn are a couple of mindsets: first up is the now prevalent awareness around packaging waste and overconsumption. According to Zero Waste Week, the beauty industry produces 120bn units of packaging a year, most of which can't be recycled. Add to this the number of products that are wasted because they don't work or irritate the skin, and the wasteful nature of the industry is astronomical. Consumers are starting to notice. Not only is there a growing collective consciousness about the human impact on the planet, leading to people cutting back and avoiding brands that refuse to step up, but years of buying excessive amounts of product that don't make that much difference are starting to take a toll on the consumer's patience – and wallet.

Adding to this environmentalist mindset is the growing realisation that slathering the skin with multiple products isn't actually very good for it.

Dermatologists are the first to admit that less is more, and according to some, only 15% of us actually need to use a daily moisturiser, sensitive skin can't deal with the double-cleansing trend, and the more we put on our skin, the less able it is to perform its natural functions. Somewhat ironically, trendsetters in Korea have already started to adopt a simpler skincare mindset, creating what is known as 'skip-care', a skincare diet that focuses on using fewer, but harder-working products with high levels of proven concentrated ingredients – sort of like a vitamin shot for the skin.

The following report will look at five ways your brand can tap into this trend, providing your customer with the exact products they individually need, without becoming excessive.

Make your products multifunctional

Although hardly a new concept, multifunctional products – offering two-or-more benefits in just one formula – are gaining in popularity, as people attempt to shrink their daily beauty regimes for speed and convenience, without giving up on results.

While key to creating that desired Marie Kondo aesthetic, buying fewer products will also have a hugely positive impact on the environment, cutting down on the excessive waste that has come to be associated with the industry. To put this into context, Zero Waste Week states that 18 million acres of forest are cut down every year to create the cardboard to house our beauty products. If we can buy three rather than 10 items, and still achieve the same effect, why wouldn't we?

Innovations in this area are in abundance. Augustinus Bader offers just one product that claims to do everything you need: hydrate, soothe, protect from free radicals and infuse with antioxidants, amino acids and vitamins. New from the European Wax Centre is The Glow It Gradual Body Lotion, created mainly for body bronzing, but also designed to slow the growth of hair between waxes. Starskin's 7-Second Morning Mask pads are dual-sided and offer seven benefits in one easy-to-use cotton pad. The first side massages, exfoliates and tones the skin, while the second side functions as a serum, moisturiser, leave-in mask and primer in one. The only issue with these is the question of their biodegradability, and this is something to consider during the development of such products.

Solid formula bars are a product category lending themselves to the multifunctional trend. Christophe Robin's Hydrating Shampoo Bar cleanses the hair and treats the scalp, while Clinique's Anti-Blemish Solutions Cleansing Bar for Face & Body can be used all over the body, and is said to help reduce redness and tackle breakouts as well as cleanse. Herbivore's Blue Clay Cleansing Bar Soap is not only designed to hydrate and unclog pores, but can also be used on the body as a shaving bar. And the Osana All Natural Mosquito Repellent Soap offers multifunctional personal care. The body cleanser is infused with citronella and natural menthol leaf extract, enabling the user to forgo the need for traditional bug sprays when travelling.

When creating multifunctional products, move beyond simply SPF-infused skincare and make-up, and think laterally – the element of surprise and delight will be key for your consumer. A perfume that also moisturises the skin anyone?

Augustinus Bader
Herbivore Botanicals

Subscribe to the simple life

In recent months, a number of new skincare brands offering minimal, easy-to-understand ranges and products have come to the fore. This is 'no-muss no-fuss' skincare – a return to the classic Clinique approach that took Baby Boomers by storm when it launched in 1968. Because realistically, why would you need any more than this?

Typology is a new simple brand from the founder of, Ning Li. The start-up is launching with three unisex sub-brands, each with a unique identity. Raw taps into the DIY trend, giving customers ingredients to make hair oils and face masks at home. Lab is focused on serums, and Ten is a line of basic skincare products that all have 10 ingredients or less. With just five products on offer (moisturising cream, micellar water, cleansing oil, body cream, and hand balm), the brand is set to become a leader in minimalist beauty.

Coming out of Australia is Go-To – as in your go-to skincare. While the line isn't as concise as Typology, the products are so simply targeted that it would be hard to go wrong. The product for lips is called Lips; the cleanser is Properly Clean (that's something we all want from our cleansers); and the face oil is titled the Face Hero, suitable for all skin types and likened to an all-in-one daily skin guardian. In fact, Australia as a region is fully onboard with the simplified routine, with a multitude of brands offering reduced ranges, including the ever-popular Sand & Sky, which has just two products in its portfolio.

When it comes to simplifying the language of ingredients, extra care is needed. While brands such as The Ordinary have achieved success demystifying ingredients by using them as the product's name, it's important to remember not all consumers are experts on what each ingredient does. Don't hide this information in technical jargon – instead be transparent and spell out each ingredient benefit using simple, easily digestible language.

In addition to language, the packaging you choose for super-simple skincare lines is important. New brand We Are Wild is designed for anyone that loves the outdoors. As part of a three-step routine, each product is housed in a twist-up solid stick formula: lightweight, easy to carry and easy to use on the go.

While the pared-down routine focuses on using the fewest products possible to get the job done, each product needs to be easy to use too. Explore packaging and formulas that can be used anywhere and everywhere. For example – products that can be opened with one hand, don't need water to work, and can be packed easily into a bumbag.

We are Wild
Go-To Skincare

You are currently viewing sample pages of our Key Trend 2021: The End of More.

This report is the first in a four-part series on ingredients that explores how gender, technology, health and sustainability will impact the future of beauty ingredients and formulations. To see the full report, request a tour of WGSN.

Bank on refill, reuse, repurpose schemes

The End of More isn't only driven by a desire for simpler beauty routines – it's also a direct response to the state of the planet and growing fears around climate change that are becoming more visible day by day. At the time of writing, London is experiencing its fourth consecutive day of climate protests that have brought the city centre to a standstill. People are scared and are demanding action from those in power – and they consider those in power to include brands such as yours.

To answer this call, brands must look to refill, reuse, repurpose schemes, allowing consumers to continue using the products they love, but in a way that results in a healthier carbon footprint.

The recent Winning Strategies: Refillable Packaging report outlines five key ways brands can switch to refillable packaging. Initiatives such as Loop are much talked about, as well as the need for eco-chic refills. There have been many pledges in recent months from major beauty players too, committing to reducing their packaging output with a range of schemes. Unilever states that 100% of its plastic packaging will be reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2025, with the brand currently exploring modular packaging and design for disassembly, so individual parts can be replaced when needed. The number of brands offering take-back schemes in-store has also shot up, with L'Occitane and Gillette the latest companies to partner up with TerraCycle, awarding consumers with incentives when they bring in empty beauty packaging that the brand can then reuse or refill.

On the refill-and-reuse-at-home front, modular design is coming to the fore. Trades for Good is a start-up currently fundraising on Kickstarter. The product is canned soap, a concept that offers an array of environmental benefits, most notably the recyclability credentials of aluminium. The idea is simple: liquid soap that comes in a can, paired with a reusable pump cap. Once the can is empty, the cap pops off and can be put on a new can. The average can is made from 68% recycled content, and 70% of cans are recycled, compared with less than 20% of plastic bottles globally. Aluminium is also infinitely recyclable, going from recycling bin to the shelf in 60 days. A similar initiative is used by haircare brand Plaine Products, which offers its products in metal bottles. When running low, consumers detach the pump, send the bottle back to the brand to be reused, and receive a new one to put the pump in.

The key is convenience. People want to stop producing so much waste, but have neither the time nor the money to invest in complicated initiatives that don't fit into their lives. Refill is tricky, so invest time in brainstorming new ideas to make this viable for the future. After all, consumers have managed to switch to reusable tote bags and water bottles, so why not beauty packaging?

Trades for Good

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