The beauty industry has always tapped into the insecurities of women – extracted it from its very core, packaged it neatly in a bottle and sold it back to them. Whether it’s an overpriced mask that supposedly makes your skin pore-free or a skin serum that swears up and down of its seemingly magical ability to vanish your wrinkles – we’ve all had specific products garner our attention. The consumers’ growing obsession with wellness in the form of ‘self-care’ has been not only the cause but also a huge incentive to conglomerates to create a whole range of new products. Skincare’s year over year growth was at 16%, whereas the makeup industry was at a mere 3%. But how are companies garnering profit over this benign obsession with skincare? The answer lies in a major chunk of $4.2 trillion, the profits garnered by the wellness industry as of 2017, according to a report by the Global Wellness Institute. Personal wellness in the form of self-care through the use of skincare products accounts for $1.1 trillion in expenditures. Although there has been an increasing overlap between wellness and beauty, that gap has now been bridged, fully pivoted towards skincare which is thoroughly dominated by anti-aging.
But why is self-care – something that is inherently second nature to humans, on an all-time surge right now? Social media plays a huge role in what the companies are calling, ‘a robust growth in skincare.’ With trending topics dominating the current flux of discourse, the concept of self-care is something that is giving rise to consumers’ (mostly millennials,) focus on healthy living. With a knowledgeable consumer base that is constantly sharing information with others, companies have a niche that is well educated about the kind of products they’d like to consume. Instead of focusing on beautifying themselves, consumers are now concerned with the health and longevity of their skin. Color cosmetics have lost their supremacy to skincare. Makeup brands are branching out into skincare, and the unfettered proliferation of independent labels has created a fragmented and overcrowded market.
How sustainable is this sudden balloon of the skincare industry? According to experts, it’s here to stay. Over the last year, L’Oréal and Estée Lauder, which are two of the seven large conglomerates that dominate the beauty sector, have garnered the most growth in the last decade – owing their success to various skincare brands.
While skincare is an increasingly popular trend right now, it doesn’t just stem from a simple desire to care for skin, but rather a complex compulsion to defy age. Women’s empowerment – though a noble cause, has served as a great marketing strategy for companies in the form of self-care. Millennials are the heaviest buyers of skincare: extreme, medically based anti-aging products that over a decade ago, had a clientele of women in their 30s and 40s looking for ‘youthful’ skin. Why is the youth, who are decades from facing the issue of aging, investing in expensive anti-aging products? It’s simple, really. Beauty is a business that has always thrived on women’s insecurities and it operates on the basic create a problem, sell the solution strategy. Companies are using the language of self-care to lure consumers of all ages (because why create a specific niche?)
Moreover, racist beauty standards are prevalent even in this era of intersectionality, which is causing people of color to indulge in highly toxic beauty products. While there is a specific niche for every product, it goes without saying that more often than not, there is little to no scientific proof of these products actually living up to their claims. ‘Anti Pollution’ products hold an appeal for people living in cities, and according to market research firm Euromonitor, city smog is a silver lining. Almost at every level, whether it’s a drugstore or luxury brand, anti-pollution products are being marketed. L’Oréal owned Vichy or Shiseido owned Bareminerals appeal to health conscious urbanites. If anything, this is merely a strategy to capitalize on the lucrative skincare market, as it is unclear how products match their claims, which are rather vague. While SPF has proven itself time and again as a protector against sun damage, there is no single ingredient that protects the skin from pollution. These claims might seduce a varied consumer base and drive users into frenzy, it can rightfully be said that skincare is a money minting business.
The real problem here, apart from the way capitalization has us all defenseless against its grasp, is the unattainable beauty standards which tend to fall primarily upon women, daunted by the ideals of perfect beauty and its material pursuit.