Delicious Living Blog

The age of 'smart beauty'

The mission, message and smart business decisions of natural beauty companies have potential to significantly grow the natural personal care market by truly gaining consumer loyalty.

This year has been significant for the cosmetics industry, with more legislative issues (Safe Cosmetics Act, FDA sunscreen requirements), more ingredients (plant stem cells, anyone?), more retailer action (Whole Foods and organic), more research (beauty from within, bring it on!), and, most importantly, more conversation about the safety of our personal care products.

But how do these issues affect the products that land in our shopping carts and in our bathrooms? While many of these personal care topics are complex, controversial and often inconclusive, Natural Products Expo East 2011 helped bring clarity and insight. In other words, if I wrote a thesis on natural beauty in 2011, Baltimore would be thanked for my statement: Manufacturers continue focusing on ingredient quality, purity, efficacy and sourcing to educate both dark green and crossover consumers on the physical, environmental and social importance of natural personal care products.

Now, back to the real world.

Consumer education about natural beauty started with what to avoid (parabens, phthalates, synthetic fragrance, etc.). Then the focus turned to certifications and claims. If a company was marketing itself as organic, did it have the USDA or NSF-ANSI 305 certs to back it up? And then, for the truly label savvy, which ingredients have the most science to support their efficacy. These fundamentals of label reading continue to be critical—and for many shoppers, are still new—but looking forward, it’s also very much the mission and message of companies (all of these things go hand-in-hand) that have potential to significantly grow the market by gaining true consumer loyalty.

Where do the products' ingredients come from and how are companies sourcing them?  Are these ingredients truly pure and natural? Do the company's practices support long-term sustainability? Are products meeting consumer demand for efficacy and convenience?  Key to answering these questions is clear, modern branding and merchandising, as companies displayed in Baltimore.

Beyond educating consumers on why to embrace natural personal care products, there are other ways manufacturers can use the answers to these questions to grow the market. Companies directly (and responsibly) sourcing ingredients, say, fair-trade shea butter or coffee, are ripe to launch finished products, as demand for ethically sourced personal care increases. Manufacturers already producing finished personal care products using unique, efficacious ingredients are looking into other revenue options like supply businesses. On the nutricosmetics side, supplement and body care companies are finding ways give consumers the most value by offering both topicals and ingestibles—and merchandise them effectively.

Oh, and companies haven’t forgotten: We will always want products that make us look and feel great, while providing solutions to everyday problems.  

So the future of the natural personal care industry is promising. But will it be easy? Barriers, such as a lack of green chemistry programs and funding, are barriers to growth of some categories like salon-quality hair and nail products. But I’m confident that legislation and conversation will continue to move us forward and help us get necessary resources. If this is in fact the age of smart beauty, companies will successfully educate consumers on what they need, and ultimately deliver them what they want.  

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