As we enter a new decade, it feels appropriate to share thoughts on what we can expect to see in the U.S. prestige beauty market over the next 10 years. While the proverbial crystal ball does not exist, there are a few assumptions I can comfortably make on what I expect will happen in the 2020’s.

Makeup will make a

I will even be so bold as to say makeup will never die; it will just ebb and flow as it always has. It’s a question of when makeup will turn around, and what it will look like when it does. Historically, there has been a notable shift between prestige makeup and skincare every four to five years. Based on this, and the slowdown we began to see in makeup in 2017, if history repeats itself we are looking at a rebound in the category sometime around 2021, give or take a year. Note that this does not take into account a possible recession, which would impact more than just makeup. Looking to growth drivers today as potential indicators of what’s to come, makeup in the future could very well be less about the crazy growth in color we saw throughout the 2010’s, and more about the “canvas” products that help consumers achieve a more natural look. Social media, the catalyst for makeup’s stellar performance throughout most of the last decade, is beginning to change. As we move into an era of authenticity, it will be important to understand how these changes will impact the makeup category of tomorrow.

Growth in natural
skincare will slow

This does not, however, mean that interest will wane. Natural skincare has grown so much for so long that it has become one of the largest brand types in the prestige skincare market today. When something becomes that big, growth will inevitably slow. In fact, if we look back over the past three years, 2019 was the first year we saw performance of natural skincare softer than the year before. That said, growth remains strong and consumer interest is still there. Opportunity exists in both makeup and fragrance where the share of natural remains small. Part of this is driven by the fact that there are so few brands in these categories that are embracing this movement. While it is not impacting sales directly today, the trend of natural, but more specifically clean, will eventually reach these categories, even if it takes the next five to 10 years to do so.

Sustainability will
take center stage

If Pantone and are any predictors, the 2020 color and word of the year – Classic Blue and “existential” – could be indicative of a new era where we focus on sustainability and the role we play in protecting the ocean, the earth, and ourselves. This means clean products will capture the spotlight as consumer expectation fuels companies to create safer formulas for our skin and the environment. While the cost to implement sustainable practices is significant, the cost of not doing so is even more significant in the long term. As the consumer continues to drive that conversation, companies will need to give just as much weight to environmental and social impacts as they do to financial ones. Sustainability is not easily attained, but the next 10 years should catapult this initiative into the mainstream across industries, including beauty.

Beauty will begin and
end the decade very differently

Given the speed of change today, we may even go through a few iterations of ‘different’ during the next 10 year span. If we look at where we were 10 years ago (Instagram was in its infancy in 2010 and the iPhone was just three years old), it would have been hard to predict where we’d be now. Technology and the subsequent rise of social media defined the last decade. Closing out the 2010’s, there has been a shift emerging that leads me to believe the 2020’s will be more about disconnecting (i.e. JOMO – the Joy of Missing Out) even as technology continues to keep us tethered to our devices. There should be a return to human connection, self-awareness, and a focus on thinking beyond us. In beauty, it is likely that opportunities will emerge across new categories as we become less defined in the consumer mind, and become more of a piece of the bigger picture. With a greater focus on mental health and wellbeing, the next decade is sure to bring exciting opportunities for all beauty categories.   

Having observed the beauty industry for over 20 years, I have watched a complete turnaround in how products are marketed and sold. What has remained constant, however, is consumer enthusiasm for beauty, whatever beauty may mean to them at any given time. Even as the industry continues to evolve, and as consumers continue to drive change, beauty will always be about how it makes us feel. Emotion is at the very core of the beauty industry’s identity. This is what has fueled it since the beginning of time, and what will propel it through the 2020’s and beyond.