Skincare has proved the most resilient beauty sector during the global COVID-19 pandemic. The category was already on a roll because of the rise of the no-makeup look and ageing populations in key regional markets. Sales in Australia have grown at an average of 7 per cent over the past two years and the global skincare market is projected to reach US$201 billion by the end of 2021.

Natural and organic skincare have grabbed a major chunk of the spotlight but that might not be enough in 2020, says Euromonitor International. According to the researcher, 40 per cent of consumers preferred proven efficacy over natural and organic claims. Natural claims could benefit from being grouped with these claims that work best for an individual skin type, as efficacy continues to take priority over natural, says Gabrielle Beckwith, senior analyst for beauty and fashion of Euromonitor.


A viewpoint borne out by the 2020 in-Cosmetics Innovation Zone and Green Ingredient Awards. New skincare ingredients dominated the Best Active Ingredient and Best Functional Ingredient short lists. “We are continuing to be inspired to see the resilience and innovation demonstrated by the personal care and cosmetics industry,” says Roziani Zulfiki, exhibition director for in-Cosmetics Global.

Even though there has been an upsurge in interest in natural, organic and clean skincare, the global active ingredient market is still driven by a desire for more efficacious products and the willingness of consumers to pay a premium for results-based solutions, says the Kline Group, the global marketing and consultancy firm. Key area that will springboard the most opportunity in skincare are antiageing, anti-pollution and biotechnology.

The focus on anti-ageing has re-bounded and demand is distributed across several age groups. According to Social Standards, the US company which tracks 125 million unique keywords on social posts, 85 per cent of anti-ageing conversations on social media areattributed to women. Younger women aged 25 to 29 have been consistent about talking about anti-ageing for over two years – an average of 32 per cent. In the 55 to 64-year age group, there has been a steady increase in talk about anti-ageing since the beginning of this year.


Generation Silver, covering 60 per cent of Baby Boomers and older Gen Xers, has by far the most disposable income in major developed countries like Australia, the US and the UK. Despite the increasing use of older models in ad campaigns, 60 per cent still want to look five to 10 years younger says BASF, the world’s largest chemical producer and leading manufacturer of skincare actives. Many are also highly educated and want to know what skincare products work and why.

A report from Mintel reveals that 70 per cent of women aged 55plus want beauty brands to discuss the ageing process. An attitude which is even stronger in Asia where a high percentage of women start using anti-ageing skincare in their 20s.

Other in-depth research from BASF found that key words used by consumers when it comes to anti-ageing benefits are: antioxidant, plump, smooth, wrinkles and speed of results. Core concerns include skin barrier strengthening, pH balance, repair and improvement of skin tone, adds Mintel data.

As the fastest-growing skincare market, developments in Asia are setting the pace in skincare. By 2050, nearly 1.3 billion of the world’s older people will live in Asia. In Japan, for example, women older than 50 already account for half the sales in the Japanese beauty market – a hefty US$27 billion a year. In the US, 32 per cent of women will be aged 55-plus within the next two years.


With consumers young and old on the hunt for anti-ageing and preventative skincare, innovation is booming. A strong trend in place for some years is the development of products that mix science and nature and which also address more benefits – from a reduction in lines and wrinkles through improving the skin’s structure, reducing pigmentation and increasing the production of the skin’s structural proteins – collagen and elastin – to make the skin feel firmer and more supple.

Gains are evident at both ends of the price spectrum. Nielsen data reports that mass facial skincare in the US grew by 22 per cent in the first half of 2020, fueled by a 42 per cent rise in online sales. Research from the NPD Group reveals that skincare accounted for the biggest share of US prestige beauty sales from March to June, overtaking makeup. A trend likely to continue for some time adds the data tracker.

In China, skincare represented 70 per cent of skincare sales in April this year. Efficacy is the most searched-for benefit, says NPD. As it is in the US, where clinical brands now dominate the US prestige beauty sector, where they accounted for 32 per cent of sales in the first half of the year.


The COVID-19 crisis has fast-tracked the use of dermatologistrecommended actives – notably vitamin C, hyaluronic acid, retinol and glycolic acid – all of which are backed by extensive research and are now being used by many mainstream brands in higher percentages in gels, serums and capsules. Key recent launches include Olay Regenerist Retinol24, Estée Lauder Advanced Night Repair Concentrate Synchronised Multi-Recovery Complex with new Chronolux S.O.S technology, Elizabeth Arden Hyaluronic Acid Ceramide Capsules and La Roche-Posay Retinol B3 Serum.

One of the biggest hits of the year in the US, the UK and Australia is L’Oréal Paris Revitalift Filler 1.5 % Hyaluronic Serum. The formula contains two types of hyaluronic acid to achieve double the anti-ageing power. With major hydrating benefits, the serum has the highest-ever concentration of hyaluronic acid of any L’Oréal Paris skincare product.

StriVectin’s most recent breakthrough is Super-C Retinol Serum, featuring the two anti-ageing powerhouses in its name to visibly brighten and smooth the skin. The brand’s patented NIA-114 technology not only enhances the efficacy of retinol, it also makes it more tolerable to more sensitive skins.


With an eye to the future, the Estée Lauder Companies have partnered with Atropos Therapeutics in a joint venture to develop a new anti-ageing molecule. A biotech leader, Atropos is noted for its ability to identify ‘senescence modulators’, which teams well with Lauder’s expertise in scientific and botanical skincare.

Skin essences, which hydrate and balance the skin with actives in a water-like consistency, are enjoying a mini-revival from Elizabeth Arden, Jurlique and other major brands. Kanebo, the Japanese prestige brand, is updating four of its core skincare products for release in October. Kanebo On Skin Essence V is formulated to penetrate the skin’s stratum corneum with an added layer of moisture and a ‘veil’ to create a glow on the skin’s surface.

Artificial intelligence (AI) has become a driving factor in showcasing a product’s versatility and helping to educate consumers. Major players such as Estée Lauder, L’Oréal and Procter & Gamble have all invested in the latest emerging technologies to give consumers a more personalised approach to beauty and skincare which has intensified during the COVID-19 crisis.

Olay launched the Skin Advisor app, for example, incorporating a deep-learning algorithm which analyses the skin and recommends the appropriate products to consumers. Shiseido’s Optune system analyses the skin and selects customised skincare from cartridges. Just two examples of how digitisation is impacting skincare.

The final word goes to Allison Marks, education manager, professional division for the Unilever-owned Murad brand; “In 2020, consumers will continue to look to brands with medical expertise and science-backed ingredients where they can trust the products and the results.”

This article appeared in the Summer issue of esprit.

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