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The Uncertain Future of Clean Beauty

July 14, 2021

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  • Although there was a modest uptick in activated influencers and posts talking about clean beauty in the past year, engagements from consumers are down by 7%.
  • On the other hand, sustainable beauty terms like “eco-friendly” and “plastic-free”  saw a 42% and 115% increase in engagements
  • Indications from Traackr data and indie brands suggest that clean beauty needs a new level of transparency and more sustainable practices.

Clean beauty seems to be everywhere you look these days. 

Heritage brands like Cover Girl have introduced new product lines focused on “clean ingredients”, retailers like Sephora have launched clean initiatives banning petroleum-based products, and indie brands are even bringing clean beauty products into drugstores

However, while some companies are working hard to incorporate “clean beauty” into their brands, consumer sentiment is already changing

How the clean beauty conversation is changing

Our data shows that even though the number of influencer posts about clean beauty has  increased by 4%, the number of engagements decreased by 7%*.

This suggests that audiences are generally less interested in content about clean beauty, but why? Could it be a symptom of market oversaturation? Or is the clean beauty trend just losing steam?

It’s likely all of the above, with a dash of skepticism. Now that the initial excitement about clean beauty has faded, folks want to educate themselves and understand what a brand really means when it says products are “clean”.

This transition from excitement to skepticism is actually a normal part of how some trends mature. 

For example, “sustainability” is a massively popular trend that hit a snag once consumers discovered that not all brands were completely honest with their sustainability claims. This is what led to the term “greenwashing”, or the use of sustainability terms and values as a marketing tactic. In fact, the conversation about greenwashing is still very much alive, with engagements over the past year increasing by 129%*.

Circling back to clean beauty — perhaps the current decline in engagements is a result of a kind of “cleanwashing” skepticism. If folks are questioning whether some clean beauty claims are less-than authentic or misleading, it makes sense that they would be more selective about the content they engage with and the products they buy. 

Where clean beauty is headed next

If the initial clean beauty craze is over, what’s next? 

Clean beauty gets verified

It’s possible that third parties will play a key role in adding transparency to this category by evaluating and verifying clean beauty claims. In fact, in June of this year, the Environmental Working Group announced a clean beauty certification program for cosmetic manufacturers' individual ingredients and ingredient composition. 

Tip: If your brand is thinking of pivoting towards clean beauty, getting in on one of these certification programs might help you show a higher level of transparency and dedication to your customers.

Clean beauty gets sustainable

Sustainability was about products that are kind to the environment, clean beauty was about products that are kind to humans - we think it’s possible that the next trend will be about merging those two things together.

Our data shows that folks still really care about the impact their beauty products have on the environment. In fact, content about eco-friendly beauty saw a 42% spike in engagements and content about plastic-free beauty saw a whopping 115% increase in engagements* over the past year.

But, it’s not just in the data. 

Indie brands - which have been known to be powerhouse trendsetters - are beginning to merge sustainable and clean beauty. For example, St. Rose, which was featured in a recent Business of Fashion article, created a perfume that is not just composed of natural and clean ingredients, but uses upcycling to source those ingredients. 

The takeaway 

The clean beauty category is ready for its next evolution. Consumers want more than just a “clean beauty” label - they want transparency, they want education, and they want to know that they can feel good about what it takes to get these products in their hands. It’s an exciting time for the industry, and we can’t wait to see what new brands and innovations pop up in the coming months!

Tip: influencers can be powerful partners that help you earn trust with consumers and test out new categories for your brand. Finding the right partners can be difficult, but start by looking for influencers with relevant audiences and quality content in a clean and sustainable space, influencers mentioning new terms (like upcycling + clean beauty), or influencers discussing innovative brands you admire! Once you find them, it's important to demonstrate that you have a deeper plan - invite them into your business and incorporate their ideas too.

*About the data: all data analyzed was pulled from a sample of 42,100 influencers located in the United States, Canada and Europe, and growth percentages compare July 2019-June 2020 vs July 2020 - June 2021 in order to get a year-to-date comparison.


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