Consumers are more aware than ever of ingredients, not just in their foods but in products they put on their skin. Trends that are driving the skin care category include everything from natural and plant-based ingredients to millennials rejecting their baby boomer parents’ brands to the rise of Korean pop culture. Manufacturers say drug stores can thrive in the skin care category if they freshen up their assortments with innovative lotions, masks and cleansers targeted to the younger shopper.
According to IRI, a Chicago-based market research firm, for the 52 weeks ending Nov. 5, 2017, sales of skin care items totaled more than $3.69 billion in U.S. multi-outlets, which includes grocery, drug, mass, military and select club and dollar retailers. That was an increase of 4.4% compared with the same period the previous year.
In drug stores, the total was more than $1.24 billion, up 3%. The top gainers in drug stores were facial cleansers, up nearly 10% to $386.8 million; and facial moisturizers, up 8.7% to more than $183.7 million. Sales of anti-aging products decreased 1% to $418.15 million.
The sales figures reflect a demographic shift that has big implications for what products retailers and suppliers should offer their customers.
“It used to be all about anti-aging,” said Kimberle Lau, director of innovation of skin care at Amityville, N.Y.-based Sundial Brands. “Now millennials want preventative, detox and hydration. Consumers are looking to cleanse and purify their skin.”
That change in mindset has contributed to an increase in demand for natural products. Lau, citing IRI figures, said while 31% of consumers said they are looking for natural ingredients, 43% of millennials said they are looking for natural ingredients. They also are looking for lighter textures, so Sundial has launched such formats as SheaMoisture African Black Soap + Bamboo Charcoal Foaming Facial Wash and African Black Soap + Bamboo Charcoal Gelee Moisturizer.
Nyakio Grieco, founder of another Sundial brand, nyakio, said sourcing is important too. “It’s really an exciting time for naturals, plant based, organic and fair trade,” she said. The brand, launched in March, uses manketti, neroli, maracuja and yangu oils, as well as red ginseng and quinoa from Kenya, China, Brazil, Spain, Egypt, India, Morocco and Peru.
Other manufacturers agree that the way shoppers view the skin care category has changed.
“Consumer expectations have shifted so much,” said Barbara Roll, senior vice president of marketing at Simi Valley, Calif.-based Derma E. “Consumers thought if skin care was highly scientific, patented and unique, that means it works for them. Today, they worry it’s over processed and synthetic, and they are looking for more natural, healthy solutions that do not negatively impact their body.”
For example, Roll said, Derma E offers a line of vitamin C products, including Micellar Cleansing Water, Concentrated Serum, Renewing Moisturizer and Intense Night Cream. The health messaging makes sense for drug stores. “Consumers go to stores understanding that vitamin C is good for them,” she said. “It’s the food-to-face trend. The consumer is looking to identify the ingredients, and if it’s easier to understand it’s good for them, they are more likely to try it.”
As with many other categories, the fact that consumers are genuinely curious about what’s in the products they use can help boost sales.
“Customer knowledge, education and curiosity are driving the market,” said Kelli A. Rodriguez, director of sales and marketing for the U.S. at Kamedis. “Consumers want to learn and understand the products they are using.”
Since consumers are now reading labels, that has pushed skin care companies to show more transparency and work with cleaner formulas and safer ingredients, said Monica Siclovan, manager of marketing and creative at Éclair Naturals in Chatsworth, Calif. “What used to be a trend is now mainstream,” she said. “Natural beauty care products are present in almost every store, and it is now common for the natural body lotions, scrubs and other skin care products to be merchandised alongside the conventional products in the main set.”
Éclair Naturals searches for cleaner, more effective alternatives to chemical ingredients. Siclovan said one of the company’s most popular products, the Fizzy Bath Cupcake, is now made with Dead Sea salt, which has a rich mineral content.
Like Éclair Naturals, Kamedis, which is based in Israel and has U.S. headquarters in San Francisco, specializes in botanical products that are free of parabens and steroids. One of the challenges, Rodriguez said, is that there was a misconception that natural items did not work as well as other items. Company founder Roni Kramer worked with the Kamedis research and development laboratories and explored more than 400 traditional Chinese medicinal botanical extracts to choose 12 hero botanicals, which the company said have the most effective biological effect on the skin for a specific skin disorder.
Among the newest products are Clear for acne; Control for such scalp issues as dandruff and eczema; and Calm for eczema, rashes and other irritated skin. “We remove or limit harsh or aggressive ingredients, and in doing so patients are able to continue their skin condition regimen without side effects or adverse events,” Rodriguez said.
Certain natural claims can be misleading, said Ingrid Jackel, CEO of Pasadena, Calif.-based Yes To. “You can claim your natural percentage by counting water,” she said. “We exclude water, to be tougher on ourselves. We say we want to be 95% natural or over.”
The company’s new Yes To Tomatoes Detoxifying Charcoal line includes masks, micellar cleansing water, facial scrubs and other products. The items are geared to millennials, whose beauty regimen is different from that of other age groups. For example, Jackel said, masks used to be a once a year spa treatment, and today millennials use masks daily.
As the category changes and the number of plant-based and natural offerings increase, more consumers need help navigating the skin care selection and understanding what a product does. In-store education can play a role.
“Getting the consumer educated in a fun, simple manner right there, in the store, is the best way to create excitement and interest in the products sitting on the shelf,” Siclovan said. “Whether it is a product benefit or a social cause the manufacturer supports, it is essential that consumers feel good about the product they are looking to purchase. Pair that with a good product value and you’ve got a winner.”
To drive sales, Sundial’s Lau said, drug stores might borrow a concept from prestige stores that have diagnostic tools that show consumers what skin care regimen they should use. The low-tech version, having well-informed staff answer questions about the different formats and products, can work too. Also it helps to make the skin care aisle fun. “Skin care is a transformative experience that they want to indulge themselves with,” she said. “It’s no longer drab. It’s playful.”
Drug stores also have an opportunity to differentiate themselves through their exclusive products that deliver on millennial needs, according to Grace Manzano, senior marketing manager at Cypress, Calif.-based private label and licensed products company United Exchange. One of the biggest skin care trends is K-Beauty, which Manzano said is an area where United Exchange can help retailers bring unique products to market.
“We have teams in L.A. and in Korea, so we really have the pulse on K-Beauty,” she said. “I