The Evolution of Beauty: From Green to Clean to Conscious

November 2019

The beauty industry is evolving through a spectrum of change from a “green” to “clean” to “conscious” positioning. With varying principles, these three pillars of market evolution reflect the ongoing challenges and shifting goalposts for beauty brands and consumers alike. Skin health and efficacy remain top consumer priorities; meanwhile, environmental concerns are growing, yet scepticism around natural and organic certification deepens and the notion of clean beauty faces even graver scrutiny.

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Key Findings

Shine rubs off green beauty as “natural is best” comes into question

Consumer interest in natural and organic products – an industry segment originally billed as green beauty – is waning. Lack of certification standardisation and the realisation that natural is not necessarily always best for efficacy or for the environment is having a knock-on effect.

Clean beauty evolves from a lack of standardisation and trust in natural and organic

Marketeers created the elusive clean beauty segment as an antidote to the confusing and unstandardised green beauty space. Clean beauty takes the approach of minimalism, simplicity and safety – regardless of ingredient provenance; natural, naturally-derived or synthetic.

Clean beauty champions safety, minimalism and efficacy, but is a contentious moving target

Much like green beauty, clean beauty is a moving target, and brands tailor definitions to their own offerings. Controversially, much of the clean beauty discourse demonises whole ingredient groups, and brands have been accused of employing scaremongering tactics. Clean beauty remains a US-focused trend, with some influence seeping into Europe.

Conscious beauty takes a personalised approach and understanding of skin type, dismissing a boycott of ingredient groups

Conscious beauty is the next frontier. If clean beauty carved a niche by selling products based on culling whole ingredient groups, conscious beauty takes a more considered and targeted approach. The consumer is becoming more knowledgeable of their individual skin sensitivities, and takes a case by case basis approach to treating their skin concerns.

Ethical and environmental priorities are critical, not optional, pillars of conscious beauty

Conscious beauty is the culmination of a 360˚ consumer understanding; to be aware of and respond to their own needs, as well as those of the environment around them. A conscious beauty consumer is committed to evaluating the wider ethical and environmental impact of a purchase with the same gravity as personal priorities.


Key findings
Consumer confusion at the heart of shifting industry standards
Social and digital trends amplify both demand and scepticism
The three pillars of market evolution
Geographic spread of market evolution
Generation Z drive evolution from green, clean to conscious

The Origins of “Green” Beauty

Defining the origins of green beauty
Natural vs efficacy debate challenges green beauty
Demand for green beauty features on the decline
How to solve a problem like certification?

The Emergence of “Clean” Beauty

What is clean beauty?
Where did clean beauty come from?
Lack of regulation underpins the emergence of clean beauty
Digital tools facilitate consumer scepticism of formulations
Clean beauty is a moving target
Clean beauty takes on new categories with varying focus
Clean beauty claims are spreading across beauty categories
Free-from claims more pervasive than natural or organic
A “clean” seal of approval allows retailers to differentiate
Ethical retailers facilitate the curation of clean collections
Skin health conundrum: simplicity vs high performance?
The new natural: marrying science and nature

The Evolution to “Conscious” Beauty

Conscious beauty balances intrinsic and extrinsic awareness factors

The Evolution to “Conscious” Beauty: Intrinsic Factors

Knowledge of own skin type and needs increases
Consumers get under the skin in the quest for self-optimisation
Multiple tiers of personalisation : engagement, format and science
Hormone-related skin concerns are most prevalent
A tailored approach to skin health may bode well for the male market

The Evolution to “Conscious” Beauty: Extrinsic Factors

Younger consumers drive the transition from “clean” to “conscious”
Cruelty-free: the only free-from claim that matters?
Consumer trust in a circular model is high
Recyclable, recycled or refillable?
Slowness to adapt at the top gives small players an edge
Responsibility still rests on multinationals to be impactful
Repurposing waste should not be the only marketing pillar
Blue beauty: paying back environmental debt
Waterless formulations endeavour to play the efficacy card

Future Prospects

Challenges ahead for conscious beauty without compromise

Beauty and Personal Care

This is the aggregation of baby and child-specific products, bath & shower, deodorants, hair care, colour cosmetics, men's grooming, oral hygiene, fragrances, skin care, depilatories and sun care. Black market sales and travel retail are excluded.

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