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5 Beauty Trends That Will Define 2020

From waterless beauty to TikTok, here are the biggest trends to look out for this year.
Tiktok, clean beauty and refillable packaging are all trends for 2020 | Source: Collage by BoF
  • Chavie Lieber,
  • M.C. Nanda

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NEW YORK, United States — Last year CBD and influencer brands swept the beauty landscape. In 2020, sustainability initiatives and Gen-Z social media platforms will come into their own. Here are five trends BoF expects will shape the beauty industry this year:

1. Big beauty goes clean

Beauty conglomerates will make a bigger push into clean beauty in 2020. The sector's largest companies sat out while independent brands drove the category. But this started to change last year, as Shiseido acquired Drunk Elephant for $845 million, while Unilever bought Tatcha for $500 million.


Similar to sustainability, the term “clean beauty” still lacks a clear definition. There is a wide range in which brands interpret the term and apply it to their own products, mainly defining it by what products do not contain — parabens, sulfates and silicones chief among them. In 2020, expect the term to encompass more environmental concerns as well, given consumers’ fast-growing interest in sustainable products.

Beauty retailers from Sephora to Credo Beauty to brands like Goop and Beautycounter have capitalised on the term to sell products, but consumer demand for clear definitions and guidelines will grow this year.

Large beauty companies may begin to produce their own clean beauty lines instead of purchasing successful indie brands. Coty-owned brands Philosophy and CoverGirl debuted "clean" skin and makeup lines last year.

2. Next-generation social media

Instagram and Facebook are still the go-to platforms for marketing spend, but beauty brands started to take notice of TikTok last year. Early adopters such as Mac Cosmetics experimented with the video app in 2019, which is expected to become a key way to reach younger customers in 2020.

Gen-Z spends hours captivated by the platform's short-form videos, and brands have been eager to get in front of TikTok's audience. Huda Beauty, Jeffree Star and Fenty all started TikTok accounts while brands like Eos and E.L.F. sponsored video challenges and hashtags. In July, Sephora began participating in TikTok's rewards program, where users could collect points by inviting friends to the app and then cash them out for gift cards.

TikTok gives brands a chance to be creative in way that they haven't been able to in the past.

“Far more than retail, consumer packaged goods, or other categories, beauty leads with creativity and TikTok gives brands a chance to be creative in way that they haven’t been able to in the past,” said Vic Drabicky, founder and chief executive of January Digital, a digital marketing agency.

In June, MAV Beauty Brands saw a 60 percent uptick in sales for its Marc Anthony True Professional line of curly hair products after they were used in a viral challenge. Too Faced also saw a lip gloss go viral in a separate video challenge — six years after the product launched. Too Faced soon after began paying TikTok influencers to promote a new mascara. In 2020, it's likely that beauty brands will flood TikTok, especially now that a shoppable video feature is in beta.


“TikTok makes it easy to cross-promote content across other channels so content can be more evergreen and get more exposure,” said Holly Jackson, lead consultant of influencer strategy at influencer marketing firm Traackr. “It takes advantage of people's established audiences on the other platforms.”

3. Waterless beauty

Growing environmental concerns have also led to a rise in waterless beauty products. Some brands opt to create products like serums that don’t include water, instead relying on concentrated formulas or water-activated formulas. Other products are formulated with water but don’t require it during use.

The trend started with haircare several years ago — most notably dry shampoo — but will spread into makeup and skincare products in 2020, said analyst Jane Hali, who runs a beauty and retail investment research firm. Indie beauty brands like Pinch of Colour have pioneered the trend, but larger brands like Tatcha are producing waterless serums and other skincare and beauty products. Larger conglomerates are also taking note; Procter & Gamble is launching a waterless haircare line this year.

Waterless beauty is compatible with other trends in the space as well, pushing brands to create products with consumer transparency in mind in both formulas and packaging.

4. Sustainable Packaging

The rise in consumer awareness around single-use plastics will spread into the beauty industry in 2020, as companies struggle to change their product and packaging offerings. Brands like Kjaer Weis and La Bouche Rouge have grown in popularity in part because of metal refillable packaging that reduces environmental waste.

Brands from luxury players like Guerlain to cult brands like Weleda and Deciem have made partnerships with recycling company Terracycle in an attempt to negotiate with the environmental consequences of an industry that is heavily reliant on massive amounts of single-use plastics. Beauty conglomerates like Unilever and L’Oréal have gotten into recyclable packaging too; the latter created Seed Phytonutrients in 2018 with products and packaging that are entirely recyclable.


The industry will send 15 billion units of packaging to waste in 2020 up from 14.9 in 2018.

As packaging in the beauty industry increases — Euromonitor predicts the industry will send 15 billion units of packaging to waste in 2020 up from 14.9 in 2018 — consumers will hold companies to a higher standard in terms of how sustainable products and packaging are.

But selling both brands and consumers on refillable packaging could take time; the secondhand craze sweeping fashion has yet to reach beauty, and many want products they put on their face and body to be 100 percent new, packaging included.

5. Influencer brand boom

Beauty influencers see debuting their own beauty lines as the next step in cementing their celebrity status. Kylie Jenner and Huda Kattan have been joined by Jaclyn Hill, Tati Westbrook, Patrick Ta and Nikita Dragun, all of whom launched (and in the case of Hill, re-launched) their own beauty labels in 2019.

Beauty influencers launching brands isn't new, but the sheer number introducing products certainly is. This trend will continue to heat up in 2020: James Charles, fresh from 2019's YouTube drama, said he wants to launch a beauty brand soon, while Lawless, the brand founded by Annie Lawless, recently secured an investment from Cult Capital, with plans for expansion. Other mega influencers are working on beauty lines that have not yet been announced.

“Influencers have the potential to make a significantly better living if they can successfully launch and run a beauty line rather than simply being an influencer for other brands,” said Drabicky of January Digital. “It isn’t without risk and only those with a true perspective and real, dedicated following will be able to make the leap.”

Many analysts believe there are already too many beauty brands. But that won't stop influencers from attempting to get a piece of the market, especially when, per The New York Times, eyeshadow palettes topped the Christmas lists of teens everywhere who aspire to the e-girl and VSCO aesthetics.

It's relatively easy to roll out a beauty label, and even easier to hype it on social media when you have millions of followers.

“The barrier to entry in beauty is also much lower than in other industries with longer supply chains — fashion, consumer goods, for example,” added Jackson of Traackr. “The challenge is that in many cases they have built their financial success via sponsorships by brands, many [of which] would now be considered competition, and they are potentially losing out on that income.”


The wage gap includes grooming. Women often must put a significant portion of their wages toward hair and makeup to meet workplace grooming requirements that apply only to them.

Dumpster divers are taking over beauty. The Wall Street Journal found a number of sellers on Amazon are hawking items, including beauty products, that were found in the trash.

A new future for indie fragrance line Commodity. The Kickstarter-born fragrance brand that shuttered a few months ago was recently acquired by Europerfumes.

Despite the "retail apocalypse," indie beauty stores are still going strong. Small, boutique beauty stores are popping up across the US.

L'Oréal uses AR and AI for hair colouring. The beauty conglomerate launched a new service allowing shoppers to try on hair colour shades with Google Lens.

The year without a beauty routine? Consumers are beginning to turn away from multi-step beauty routines and expensive products.

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