The 2019 beauty customer

Identity is being redefined and people are seeking support from brands to achieve authentic self-expression and true representation.

In 2018 we’ve seen a broadened understanding of who the beauty customer is, and this will only continue in 2019. From age and ethnicity to gender and ethics, this week’s Hotlist explores these evolving customer trends and the related opportunities for brands.


In 2017, 40 per cent of US make-up users aged 25-34 were frustrated by products that did not match their skin tone (Mintel, 2017). 2018 was a game changer, with the launch of Rihanna’s hero beauty brand Fenty Beauty bringing the conversation on diversity in beauty to the fore. Thanks to the ‘Fenty effect’ big beauty players like Covergirl, Smashbox, NYX and Dior have extended their foundation ranges to satisfy customer demand.

This year, the conversation on inclusivity has by no means waned. Morphe has announced a comprehensive new make-up range offering 60 shades of foundation and 31 shades of concealer. It’s affordable too, ensuring that everyone has access to the right products for them. Fenty Beauty is also increasing its range with the launch of 30 shades of concealer. These ‘inclusive’ ranges should not be a premium or a USP, it is a standard expectation for the 2019 beauty customer.


While the push towards inclusivity has taken great strides in 2019, brands are still a step behind when it comes to age visibility. Women over 40 have long been underrepresented by the beauty industry, with 70 per cent of women in their 40s and 50s still feeling like they are ignored in mainstream media (We are Human, 2018). In 2018 we have seen a gesture towards greater representation and celebration of older age, from L’Oreal’s ‘Gold not Old’ campaign fronted by Helen Mirren to luxury skincare brand Babor’s anti-airbrushing campaign featuring 57 year old model Nicola Griffen. Nevertheless, these instances are the exception rather than the rule.

As women turn to makeup to deal with ageing, post pregnancy and menopause, beauty brands are in a unique position to build a strong customer community. Over 50s are now the biggest purchasers of beauty products in the UK, and the average British woman will spend £43,446 on beauty products between the age of 50 and 70, that’s £2,171 a year (Sunday Post, 2018). This demographic has money and time to spare, creating a huge opportunity for brands that embrace the reality of ageing.


Ten years since ‘guyliner’ and ‘manscara’ failed to resonate with the male customer, brands from Tom Ford to Chanel are launching male beauty ranges to great success. The male beauty market is growing across the globe, with influencers and celebrities encouraging a shift in perception. In China, male beauty vloggers like Song Yewen are going viral, leading a male cosmetics market estimated to reach $2.4 billion in 2022 (Euromonitor, 2018). In Asia more broadly, men have been influenced by the feminine aesthetic of South Korean pop stars. While in the UK, shows like Channel 4’s Love Island are shaping the male beauty ideal, with increased pressure for men to remove body hair and conform to a more sculpted and filtered look.

When it comes to targeting the male beauty customer the key challenge is changing perceptions. In day to day life men are more comfortable using foundation, from covering up acne to concealing bags under the eyes after a mid-week night out. Nevertheless, you still won’t find your average guy entering a beauty store. Truly understanding the target customer will help hit the right balance between confronting stereotypes and creating a brand with broad appeal. For instance, new brand War Paint has received backlash online for its emphasis on stereotypical masculinity with a name that connotates violence and aggression. The opportunity for brands is to take a broader approach to wellness for men, making self-care straightforward and powerfully demonstrating the product benefits to convert customers.


Tweens are more opinionated, more beauty conscious and more focused on self-expression than ever before. With social media pushing children to grow up faster, children as young as twelve are becoming makeup artists on YouTube and Instagram. While these young influencers are not the aspirational customer of most big beauty players, younger brands like Petite ‘N Pretty are tapping into the spheres of influence of this burgeoning and lucrative community. Selling direct to the customer, tween focused beauty brands tend to forgo bricks-and-mortar retail for e-commerce and meet and greets featuring young celebrity influencers.
While the focus is often on art and play rather than everyday beauty needs, makeup for kids is undoubtedly controversial. When it comes to engaging the tween customer, the key challenge is finding the balance between cool and family friendly. For instance, Better Beauty Box, a beauty subscription service for tweens and teens, focuses brand messaging on the better-for-me ingredients to add parental appeal. Essentially, tween beauty brands must sell the product twice over, first to the tween customer and then to the parent footing the bill.


In 2018 ingredient conscious brands were a win with customers; people are looking for products that reflect their values. People are not only changing their eating habits but looking for products that reflect their values on sustainability, animal testing and animal based ingredients. Indeed, Holland and Barrett found that 95 per cent of their customers are equally concerned with the products they put on their skin as with the food they eat. While Holland and Barrett’s customer base isn’t reflective of the entirety of society, mainstream brands are also tapping into this trend. Superdrug, the UK’s second largest beauty retailer, has seen sales of its own brand vegan products increase 414 per cent in the last three years (Glamour, 2019). Moreover, the worth of the global vegan cosmetics industry as a whole is set to reach $20.8 billion by 2025—a 61 per cent increase (Grand View Research, 2018).

It can be difficult to infiltrate change into well-established brands and rigid product recipes. Finding alternatives for products, requires time, testing and funding. This is a competitive advantage for brands like Lush, whose whole business model revolves around sustainability. The brand has even opened stores in Milan and Berlin that are packaging free. Despite the challenges, conscious consumers are increasingly aware of their impact on the environment and brands that don’t start to improve their footprint will get left behind.

Today’s beauty customer expects to be recognised as an individual, with high levels of personalisation from product to service. With the increased desire for authentic self-expression through makeup, inclusive product ranges and media representation are becoming expectations for all brands to provide.

Images Courtesy of  Unsplash

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