In early September we were invited to join a British Beauty Week panel, “Trend Watch – Natural Hair and Beauty”, with a series of industry experts. The panel was sponsored by Clairol and hosted by Bridget March, Harper’s Bazaar’s Digital Beauty Director.
*This transcript has been edited for clarity and length.
Hi everyone, thank you so much for joining us today, the last day of British Beauty Week. It’s so exciting, it’s been amazing, hasn’t it? I am Bridget March, I’m the Digital Beauty Director at Harper’s Bazaar, and we are here today to talk about natural hair and beauty trends.
I’m joined by three wonderful women who are all experts in beauty trends and tech. I’d love you all to introduce yourself – you’ll probably do a better job than I will – and please tell us a little bit about what you love about the industry.
Hi, my name is Venetia. I’m the founder of Ruby, an on-demand beauty services platform, we offer a host of treatments to clients in the home, hair, and nails, massage, facials, everything! And we also offer a platform for freelancers to use to build up their client base in London and soon to be Manchester.
What I love about the beauty industry is its vibrancy and its innovation, not just in terms of products but also uptake of new technologies. AR is one thing, when other industries were struggling to find applications, brands, and businesses like L’Oreal we’re using them to create tools to apply your makeup and try new colours, and I think that that’s just an amazing example of what sets it apart from other industries.
Also the dynamism and resilience, and I think at this point it’s really important to have a moment for the British Beauty Council, who have done such incredible things in terms of representing the beauty industry over the past year. It’s amazing to see how vibrant and incredible this event has been.
Hi, I’m Charlotte Rudd, I am an SEO Team Leader for Foundation Agency. We’re a digital marketing agency currently based in Cardiff, so we’ve come a long way today!
I fell in love with the beauty industry like most women, I suppose, when I was younger, but since working in the beauty industry I’ve realised how much depth there is to it, like we always say at Foundation – beauty isn’t skin deep.
And, in my line of work it’s been so great to work on some amazing clients. I’ve worked for the likes of Spectrum Collections, Fresh Cosmetics and Benefit, and what we do for them is gather a load of insights. This is great because, as you said, it is constantly changing in the beauty industry, so finding out trends and uncovering whether it’s here to stay or be a fad, is very exciting.
Beauty has been a love of mine for a while and it’s continuing to be my passion at Foundation.
Hi, I’m Marian Newman, and I do nails. I’ve been in the nails industry for over 30 years. It wasn’t a plan of mine, it wasn’t something that I, you know, in school thought “oh I know what I’m going to do, I’m going to do nails” – so I went into science first and then discovered nails after I had three children.
So, I’m an author, I’ve written seven textbooks, and for the last 20 something years I’ve mostly worked in sessions, so I do advertising, editorials, music videos and lots and lots of fashion shows – Bridget knows me from backstage.
I’ve been on the advisory board of the British Beauty Council since the beginning, and I’m the chair of a brand new association called the Federation of Nail Professionals, and this is something that I’m really passionate about, because the nail industry, as was recognised in many of the task force meetings last year, is underrepresented. And so, it’s Millie’s fault, who’s standing at the back, she said to me, “come on, get your finger out and just do it”, so I was like, “alright then”. And so we did, we’ve launched the Federation of Nail Professionals so keep a lookout for it because we do want to engage with the consumer as well.
And just to finish up on that, why do I love this industry so much? Well, I think it’s just the passion and the absolute dedication, and, and how quickly it actually moves you know. And, I think the beauty industry in general and particularly the nail sector has got a great future. We’ve had a bad 18 months but we’ve got a future, and I think the future’s looking good.
Absolutely, and thank you all so much for being here.
So of course, today we’re talking about trends and in particular natural hair and beauty. Now I associate this with a number of things, so I thought I’d share what I think of when I think of natural hair and beauty, and then we’d like to talk through and share what you think of.
- So, firstly, there’s obviously a huge increasing interest in natural products and ingredients, and then of course marketing buzzwords such as clean beauty;
- there’s also the passing of this kind of pursuit of perfection influenced by Instagram and social media filters and kind of overly done procedures that seems to feel a little bit passe now;
- there’s of course the inclusivity movement that social media has helped amplify; really championing diversity and individuality;
- of course the natural hair movement intended to normalise all textures for those with African heritage and the move towards embracing one’s own natural colour which was amplified by lockdown with a lot of people kind of embracing their natural grey or kind of going through an evolution of that;
- and, of course, healthy living aspirations, at the moment beauty and wellness are so interlinked and we all use our beauty rituals to help manage our mood now. All while our fast paced lifestyle is seeing us increasingly disconnected from nature. So we’re trying to kind of weave connections back to nature in tactile ways, I think one of which being natural beauty.
So those are my thoughts, what do you think of Venetia?
I think that the pandemic has been really interesting and it’s really sort of served to highlight this natural beauty movement.
You know at the beginning of the first lockdown the hashtag #quarantinecurls was trending, people were letting their grays come out, or doing more of their own at-home beauty. At the same time, people are spending so much more time online and on social media. And as we know, there are many filters on Instagram, then you’ve got your facetunes etc. So I think that there is this sort of polarisation between natural beauty and some people are going full flow into that, but then you’ve got another demographic who are looking for the opposite, and there is such a wide disparity between their true self and what I call the digital-self. And we’re seeing this play out on social media.
Charlotte, what do you think?
What we’ve been looking at is the data, how many people are searching for terms such as Instagram filters, etc. I would have assumed that since lockdown people would have been toning down their makeup and doing their hair etc but what we’re actually seeing is a lot more people searching for it. A lot more people are interested, and wanting, to be using filters. They’re googling how to use them, which ones to use, and which ones are going to be the best.
In terms of clean beauty, we have a lot to say on this, and not as beauty experts but from a digital marketing perspective. Clean beauty, specifically in lockdown, was massive. And frustratingly brands were using it as a scaremongering tactic, so they were using it to say how things aren’t clean because they’ve got acids in them for example, whereas, clean beauty is not about that, what consumers want to see is what the ingredients are and how they will benefit you.
And with the natural side of things comes sustainability. That’s a huge area that we’ve been seeing massive uplift in. And it definitely is going to continue to rise, but it does span across the different generations so it’s hard to pinpoint exactly where it is going in terms of the data. Nevertheless, from our perspective, skincare is massively up along with sustainability and being more ethical and making more conscious decisions.
And Marian, what do you think?
Well yeah, I mean natural beauty as for as my sector, which is nails, and that’s what I concentrate on, I think there has been a really good movement towards creating healthier nails, but there’s also been – and you know the last 18 months, sort of proved this as well – a movement in the other direction, unfortunately. And we do have a bit of an allergy situation.
Allergies have actually been made worse during lockdown because so many people have been doing their nails at home, but instead of using fairly simple in-offensive nail polish, they’ve been using products that should only be in the hands of the professionals, and many have caused allergies.
And as for ‘clean beauty’ I’m afraid I spend quite a lot of my time myth-busting, because I think there’s an awful lot of marketing spent on spinning a fad of making people believe that they’re buying something that’s clean and natural, and basically, they’re not telling you the truth. With things that are called clean, make sure you know what clean means. What is clean? And is it healthy? And is that little marketing story actually true or is it a twist on the truth? Is it a myth that I need to bust? Because I will.
Wise words, thank you. So natural hair and beauty is this a kind of overarching trend we’re seeing, or do you think it’s more of an evolution that’s set to stay?
Because obviously at the moment we’re very influenced by a minimal 90s aesthetic and this sort of undone, earthy 70s vibe that’s very cool at the moment, but, you know, is this more than that? Is it going to be a cyclical trend, or is it going to come and go? Or do you think it’s more about people genuinely kind of becoming more comfortable with themselves, and possibly rejecting some traditional beauty standards?
I think so, I think it is here to stay, and I think it’s a reaction to this polarisation on social with all the filters and all of those things that I was talking about, all these very exaggerated makeup looks, and people are just trying to respond in kind.
And in fact, what we’re seeing at Ruby with what people are booking, there is less sort of hair and makeup, and a lot more wellness-focused treatments, when people are booking makeup they’re looking for more understated looks, so we’re seeing that now, but as a general rule, I think it is here to stay.
And again, there are those tribes on social and you’ve got this very kind of natural beauty tribe who are showing themselves in entirety, and in fact, one of the interesting things maybe you will be looking at [directed at Charlotte] is what’s the ratio? Is there a lot of attention being drawn to these like very natural photographs, or are there more of the filter things out there? And, I don’t know the answer to that, but it’d be interesting to see that because the data always talks.
Definitely, I mean, one thing that we were looking at is that during the pandemic there was a 324% increase in engagement for body positive content. From the likes of Lizzo and Winnie Harlow, who have been massively promoting being comfortable in your own skin, body positivity has definitely seen a massive uplift.
Contradictory to that, however, we have been seeing a lot of people searching for Botox and other kinds of aesthetic procedures. Again though, this could be going down the route of moving away from makeup and wanting to be in their own skin, micro-needling was a massive one as well. So I think people are putting their own skin before makeup because I suppose sometimes we are just covering our imperfections.
So yeah, I hope that skincare, wellness, doing it for yourself, and body positivity is here to stay because I think that’s what we all want at the end of the day. In my personal opinion, I think it’s lovely that that has come in, and COVID has made us do that I suppose; to really reflect on how we’re feeling.
Well, I’ve been around long enough to see many, many cycles. I’ve been in this industry 30+ years, so that’s a lot of cycles I’ve seen come and go. And, I think, in my sector, for example, nail art, you know, it comes and it goes – it’s long, it’s a statement, it’s subtle – and I think it will come and go again.
But I think what is going to change is how people buy things. I’ve been working with a company that is actually working with avatars, and the metaverse, which is difficult for me to understand how it’s done, but I can absolutely see where it’s going. And so I am in the process of creating a whole dystopian universe where people view themselves differently and buy products differently. So, if that is already happening, I think that is going to be a big change.
But as for nail cycles, it’s going to keep rolling. That cycle is going to keep turning and long nails will go and come back, big nail art will go and come back, it’s just going to be sold and viewed in a different way, in my opinion.
Yeah, I feel like it’s set to stay in makeup and hair as well, this emphasis on health is absolutely not going to be a fleeting trend.
We did touch a little bit on treatments that people are booking that kind of talk to this natural hair and beauty movement and what people are searching for, do you mind sort of elaborating on that little bit?
Yeah, definitely. So we have seen sort of more wellness-oriented treatments such as massages, facials, even osteo reflexology, acupuncture etc, there’s just been a marked rise in those treatments as compared with your more beauty-oriented ones. And I think that is all sort of versing towards our focus on self-care, and investing in oneself, and understanding that impact on one’s beauty and health in the future.
Pre-pandemic, every month, it was the same treatment by treatment in terms of percentage, and it completely turned on its head, it was really surprising. So the pandemic has definitely had a huge impact, whether that’s to stay, again, we’ll have to see.
Just to elaborate on your point about ingredients, I think that consumers are so much more educated and invested in understanding more about the products that they’re buying or that they’re putting on their skin. We’ve been talking about brands greenwashing and jumping on the ‘clean beauty’ bandwagon, but I think that that there is a time limit to that and the consumer really knows and is spending time Googling, understanding what the ingredients are and what they want to be putting on their skin. We’re seeing that a lot with younger audiences, so it’s an interesting time for sure.
And what about what people are searching for treatment-wise online? Do you find that people are sort of, I know you’ve talked a lot about Botox and that kind of thing, but we find that when people are visiting our site they want to invest in treatments that aren’t necessarily natural but they want natural-looking results.
Yes, I think that is spot on. As you said, people want to look natural but through any means, which I feel is a better movement. There are so many people at the moment who are dissolving lip fillers because they’re not satisfied with that anymore – and it’s nice to see. Especially for the younger generations who are growing up and seeing everything on Instagram, so it’s definitely nice to see that consumers are moving into more natural ways.
From our perspective of working with clients on the ingredients front, they’ve had a real struggle, as you mentioned earlier Marian, to create the in-store experience online, because in-store you get people who will sit there and talk to you about the product, educating you. But online, you have one page and it’s sometimes difficult to read through those products and their descriptions to make sense of it.
But as you said so many people are changing their skincare routines, and they’re looking at the ingredients specifically. So we need to work out how to essentially tailor that content to the consumer, perhaps through videos for example.
Just thinking about nail trends and how everyone’s starting to do the old French manicure again at the moment, is that a 90s throwback? Or do you think that it speaks to people kind of wanting a bare nail, but like an elevated, bare nail?
It’s just one of these cycles that have come around again because that is a bit of a drive towards more natural. Natural might be natural-looking, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be natural.
So the French manicure is definitely back in a more elegant way, a more elegant shape so it makes your hands look nice, elongates your fingers, and maybe with more of a curve; it’s called the smile lines – the differentiation between the pink or the white is called the smile line – so, imagine a big grin, instead of the little bit of a not smiling very much which is almost straight across.
So the idea of natural, whether we’re kind of talking, aesthetic, natural or natural ingredients and products do you think that it kind of spans generations or is it, you know, something that’s very much kind of coming from youth? Or the other way around? What do you see online?
I think it is somewhat generational at the moment. So obviously baby boomers are the audience that really made Botox a thing and put a lot of focus on more advanced treatments, whether it be facials like the micro-needling, peels etc. And then your Millennials are much more influenced or focused on understanding different brands, they’re not just going to look at the first one or the first kind of treatment, they shop around, and then look at what’s best. And I think with Gen Z there is this focus on clean beauty.
I was looking at Millie Bobby Brown, she started a new beauty range, and it’s not just about clean natural beauty, it’s also about social and political justice, so that’s really amazing and interesting and a great way to bring young communities together.
So there are different attitudes at the moment, but my view is that those will blend over time. I think it is very early stages, but I do think natural beauty is here to stay and I do think older audiences will be much more inclined to use them. Once it’s clear about the efficacy of some of these products because at the moment there’s a fear that they’re not going to work as well, or skincare issues are not going to be as resolved. But you’ve got some amazing, innovative, natural beauty brands that are proving quite the opposite.
As you just said in your last point, it’s definitely something that we are seeing from younger generations. Obviously, we love to shop around, whereas the older generations tend to have their favourites and they will remain loyal because they love it and it works great. But younger audiences are shopping around a lot more.
From a data perspective, it’s getting increasingly hard to get data on demographics. And so when we’re talking about age ranges for example, especially within our client base, it is becoming difficult to gather that.
But from our perspective and research, the younger generation is driving a lot of online behaviours. Especially with Tik Tok driving a massive wave of new trends and fast.
Well for me, for nails, the age ranges are mixed up. In my opinion, it’s more geographical because down in the South East there are a lot more low-key nails. This is being very general, and I’m not talking London because London is so cosmopolitan, we have everything here in London, but go north of Watford in comparison, and all hell breaks loose, they’ve got long nails that are embellished etc. So, it does seem to be geographical.
One thing that I found surprising over the last, maybe four or five years definitely over the last 18 months is that Generation X are trying out all sorts of things, and putting all sorts of stuff on their nails. It’s like they’ve gone back to their teenage years and are feeling a little bit bolder, and you can’t be bolted down, because the beauty is if you don’t like you take it off. With nails you can do a little bit of playing around and seeing what you think. And so, I think the sort of age ranges are a bit mixed up.
Interesting. So, let’s talk about future trends. What do you see the beauty industry looking like in the next five years if we look into your crystal ball?
I mean I’m excited to see it because it constantly surprises me; there’s always a new innovation that you haven’t spotted. But what I’m really excited and interested about is personalization in beauty, so skincare products that are personalised to you based on a whole host of different things, for example extracting your blood to get specific creams, etc. Or going, and actually having consultations where they take images of your skin and understand exactly what is needed.
So I think in five years, running to the department store or jumping online and buying a few different products is not necessarily the way that we will invest in our beauty. And then when it comes to services, for me I really look at what’s available at home. So many of the treatments that I would think are only available in clinics are now available at home, whether its laser LEDs or things like that. So, at Ruby we always try to stay at the forefront and find out what’s next and what can we enjoy from our living room, because sometimes we don’t want to go out the front door, at least I don’t.
The interesting thing that we’ve been looking at is male beauty. So I know when a lot of us Google search for beauty/skincare products, a lot of female brands come up, and the pages are geared towards female consumers, but everybody needs to embrace the change. When researching we found one of the options for a men’s skincare set was on Argos. I don’t think many of us women would go to our Argos for our skincare! So there definitely needs to be more options and messaging that beauty is not female orientated, it is gender-neutral.
In addition, the rise in male beauty is going to be huge because what we’ve been seeing in the data is that women have been downing tools but men have been picking them up, which, again, it is really interesting and it’s a bit sad because nobody appears to be catering for them in search. So it’s definitely something that we will see a continual rise of.
Hair, skin and nails have no gender. And I think that’s really important to remember.
But as for the future, technology. I mean to me, the one word is technology and how that technology is used, whether it is being really clever in diagnosing skin conditions, or my avatar in a dystopian world, which I think it might be.
But apparently, what I’m understanding as well is, apart from the generations of people, we’ve got the generations of the web, and apparently, we’re just going into the third generation of the web, which is specialist and that is the word that is being used – it’s specialist. So whoever, somebody clever, can invent something that is going to make things different, better, and talk to the people of this current generation because they haven’t known anything other than tech, and so tech is just going to get better and better and better. It’s so clever, I think it’s quite mind-blowing. So that’s my future.
It’s really, really exciting. Thank you all so much.