How is the Beauty Industry Changing in 2021
Beauty breaks digital boundaries to reach locked-down consumers
While Snapchat and Google roll out augmented-reality lipstick testers, beauty professionals are hitting up global trade shows in their PJs.
With salons forced to close for much of the past year, consumers are heading online to get their beauty fix and the cosmetics industry is responding with some innovative digital solutions. But that raises a challenging question – How is the Beauty Industry Changing in 2021?
A major leap forward in beauty technology is augmented reality (AR). In December, both Google and Snapchat announced they would be launching AR software that allowed locked-down beauty fans to try on make up at home. Both companies partnered with beauty tech business Perfect Corp for the initiatives, with digital testing of products now available through Google Shopping and a soon-to-launch Snapchat Lens that brands can incorporate into virtual shopfronts.
Such innovation is sorely needed. Not only does it feel almost impossible to judge the right colour of lipstick or foundation when shopping online, women have been wearing less make up since the pandemic hit. Though sales of skincare have been rising as we have spent more time at home, research by analyst Mintel shows that the gains are to be found in items such as moisturisers and cleaners, while 55% of women said they are wearing make up less often.
For those brands and stores without the deep pockets to roll out futuristic tech – or simply a preference for the good-old fashioned people-focused sales method – digital events have become ever more important in the DIY digital beauty market. Luxury retailer Net-a-Porter hosted its first digital beauty festival this month, titled The Beauty of You. As well as filling its web pages with tempting luxury beauty buys, the festival was anchored by tutorials and interviews on Instagram TV – or private events if you happen to be one of its EIPs (Extremely Important Person) – with beauty icons such as model Miranda Kerr, natural beauty advocate Tata Harper and Mali Thomas, Bobbi Brown make-up artist in residence and founder of the #DewyBrownGirls movement.
The beauty industry also turned to online to host trade shows that would otherwise have been cancelled due to the pandemic. In November, Cosmoprof Asia hosted Digital Week, an online trade fair anchored by an artificial intelligence-enabled networking and digital product showcase platform. It also put on a roster of expert talks, product demonstrations and even breakout yoga classes, all online. The five-day event attracted 652 exhibitors from 19 countries and 8,953 digital visitors from 115 countries, generating 3,568 meetings and 31,009 live chat connections.
Professional make-up artists used to wielding their brushes backstage at Fashion Weeks have also been embracing new ways of working. Erin Parsons, a Maybelline Global make-up artist based in New York, was given the opportunity to break new ground with Italian streetwear label GCDS. For the brand’s spring/summer 2021 show, she found herself creating make-up looks for avatars rather than real models, based on the brief: “80s Video Arcade Club vibe kids with a Sci-Fi/Avatar twist.”
This digital-first way of working offered Parsons a new kind freedom, she told Dazed magazine, describing it as a “beautiful moment of escape from our sometimes mundane reality”. She continued: “I can literally create anything I have in my mind [when creating a look for an avatar]. There’s no restrictions, the possibilities are endless.”
Though the wild fish-like looks of the GCDS catwalk show were created for virtual models, Parsons says she hopes to see humans connecting with them in real life and testing them out. This is, after all what all the new digital innovations in the beauty industry are driving for at the end of the day – getting real products on real skin, IRL.