Latest insight

The Future Direction of Cosmetics

Share To Social Media

Written by Dana Smith - Formulation Development Chemist at Surfachem Ltd


The cosmetics industry is a constantly evolving sector whose trends and direction have been influenced by many things across the globe. A few examples of these include sustainability, technology, and social media platforms, with the help of bloggers, Instagram stars and YouTuber's. This ever-changing industry is kept to a constant high standard by its consumers when it comes to trends, and as a result it is difficult to predict a certain image of what the future direction of cosmetics holds. Nevertheless, included below are some of the biggest and most interesting up and coming trends for the future.



Today’s consumers are more conscious of the products they are using, and so require transparency when it comes to the ingredients included in the product. Brands like The Ordinary are increasing in popularity, with their simple formulations and percentage inclusion of ingredients clearly labelled on each bottle. This trend will only rise in popularity as we move forward as an industry. With a rise in technology and ease of access to information, consumers are more ingredient savvy than ever. The task of educating customers falls to the brands themselves, who have the challenge of providing a formulation that not only works effectively to back up marketing claims, but also gives the consumer the security of knowing what is going into their cosmetic products.

The cosmetics industry could proceed to further back up these trends, with shorter INCI lists and only relevant ingredients included in products. Consumers want to know that the minimal ingredients are working harder, while leaving out ingredients that could be potentially harmful to their skin. Ingredient inclusion levels will allow the consumers to feel like the choice is in their hands, though it may feel a little overwhelming at the moment.

The Importance of Water


The Global Risks Report 2019 labelled water scarcity as one of the largest threats that will impact the world in the next decade. Due to the demand driven by industry, the personal care sector must find a way to compromise or face the consequence of facilitating a global water crisis. The World Economic Forum predicts that water demand will outweigh supply by 40% in 2030 if industries continue to proceed without any change.

Beauty brands are eagerly jumping on the band wagon, such as market leader L’Oreal, who have promised a 60% reduction in water consumption for each finished product by 2020. As an industry as a whole, we must educate consumers and promote waterless, concentrated versions of products that everyone has used for centuries. The challenge will come from the formulation, not the marketing, as consumers, especially the younger generations, are already highly environmentally conscious.

Not only are the brands doing their bit to support this new trend, ingredient suppliers are also aware of the usage of water in the manufacturing of the ingredients for personal care. Stepan, a well-known supplier of personal care ingredients, are committed to multiple sustainability aims, including water consumption during manufacturing.

Concentrated formulation stability will be one of the major issue’s companies face when dealing with the waterless trend, and maybe finding alternatives to the market standards would be more beneficial in the long run. This is demonstrated nicely by the DHC Face Wash Powder. Rather than sticking with a liquid concentrate, DHC have come up with an innovative powder base to show customers that waterless alternatives are just as good, if not better than their water-based counterparts.

Within the cosmetics industry, the largest fraction of water consumption often comes from the product usage itself. The average person showers for 8 minutes, using an estimated total of around 70 litres of water per shower. With an increase of awareness for consumers, products such as dry shampoos and no-rinse shampoos are predicted to rise in popularity with the increase in waterless formulations.

The waterless trend also comes with many benefits and opportunities to take the environmental factor to the next level. Concentrated formulations mean that smaller packaging sizes and refill packs will become an important part of the trend. Smaller packaging means less plastic usage, and an end product that is easier and more environmentally friendly to transport, while refill packs take away packaging completely, allowing room for innovative ideas that will benefit the environment. This would be further enhanced if the refill pack is concentrated and can be easily made up with water at home.

Multi-purpose products are an easy way to save water consumption, making the products themselves work harder, while also saving time and energy. Examples of this already exist on the market, as shown by Peach and Lily’s All-in-One Moisture Pads. This product replaces the need for a toner, essence and moisturiser in one simple step. Essentially, this trend means buying and consuming less, and will ultimately benefit both the environment and consumer.



Closely following the ‘waterless’ trend comes a rise in technology. Technology has provided the personal care industry with opportunities that weren’t available before. New platforms allow companies to reach customers and form a two-way direct relationship where conversation between the brand and consumer plays a vital role. Product experience and brand image are easier to convey over a large variety of platforms, and all contribute to the company’s success. Technological advancements will only strengthen this new relationship. The use of apps has become a way for consumers to ‘try before they buy’, allowing them to try out new looks before they commit to them.

Benefit Cosmetics have developed an app that rewards customers for their purchases, customers collect stamps after each brow wax and the app even makes it easier to locate your local store.

L’Oreal Paris Makeup Genius is ahead of its time. The app combines beauty and technology perfectly by allowing consumers to virtually try on makeup before they buy. The app works with a live interaction and allows customers to try out full artist-created styles or individual products, these products can then be purchased directly from the app. The technology and ease of use, as well as the ease of purchase makes this app an ideal example of where technology and beauty can be used hand in hand.

While social media has enhanced the way brands interact with their customers, Instagram and YouTube have become great marketing platforms through their increased popularity and wide range of influencers. Instagram and YouTube stars are often seen promoting brands and products, and it is also allowing celebrities to create their own brands through their popularity. Kim Kardashian has recently launched her own makeup brand, and regularly posts videos on Instagram with her makeup artist, as well as staring in YouTube videos with other influencers.

The advancement of scanners and ‘smart’ technology have brought forth the launch of the smart beauty mirror HiMirror Plus, that scans a consumer face and identifies any irregularities, such as skin redness, large pores, wrinkles and fine lines. Through analysing a user’s skin, it can recommend a personal routine, skincare tips, and can even compare skin progress. Retailing at around £200-£300, this technological beauty advancement is not the most affordable, but as the trend progresses, high tech items could become more affordable, and soon will become a necessity in every home when it comes to skin care.

Schwarzkopf Professional have created a hair analyser that is designed for salon use. It enables the user to measure the hair of a customer on a molecular level, including the inner hair condition, its colour and its moisture content. This allows stylists to consult with their clients with data-based recommendations and create a customised product for each hair type.



Closely following this trend is personalisation. Through the ages, products have generally lacked the diversity to include minorities within them. The cosmetics industry has come a long way since then, with makeup brands like Fenty Beauty launching 40 shades of foundation, and 50 shades of concealer. This is just the start of the personalisation trend. With technologies now available to analyse the colour, condition and moisturisation of the skin and hair, a question the industry should be asking as a whole is why stop with broad range inclusions? Technologies can be developed to create a custom moisturiser and shampoos in one’s home, and even foundation shades on demand.

This personalisation trend is already beginning to take off. The launch of boosters, or concentrates, throughout the industry have seen a rising demand for customisable skincare. When partnered with technology to help define daily skincare needs, the future of cosmetics seems bright.



Sustainability is a trend that will definitely come to pass as the consumers become more environmentally conscious. The industry has already seen changes in regulations when it comes to helping the environment, but throughout the cosmetics industry there is a distinct lack of definition for terms like ‘natural’, ‘clean’ and ‘green’. In order to proceed as an industry to become more sustainable, there needs to be progress in regulation and definitions in order to help consumers choose their products. When it comes to the main challenges within the industry, education is a major cause for concern. As was previously stated, consumers are becoming more ingredient aware, and the same can be said for regulations. These certifications need to become easily accessible to the consumer, so they can make an informed, quicker decision that in the end will benefit the planet.

CSR & Certifications

Different certifications exist within the industry, with several private organisations opting for different certifications with variable standards, this makes international standards hard to define. ISO 16128-1 is one example of a certification; whose main aim is to allow brands and manufacturers to calculate the natural percentage index of a product or ingredient. There is no free access to this standard, and the regulation is itself is confusing. A universal standardisation throughout the industry will ensure fair competition and adequate functioning of the international market by aligning the technical data and principles but will also make regulations clearer for brands and consumers.

Companies and chemical manufactures are looking into the process of creating products, and what can be done to create a more sustainable cosmetics industry. Givaudan, a manufacturer of fragrances, flavours and cosmetic ingredients, have openly published a sustainability report for 3 years running, showing their determination. Their aim is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 30% by 2030, have 100% Renewable electricity by 2025, and a 15% water reduction, per tonne of product, by 2020.

Seed Phytonutrients is a new brand which focuses on seed diversity, supporting organic farmers and sustainability. Their products are sustainable and organic, the packaging is made from 60% paper, and each product also comes with a pack of seeds, to encourage consumers to use the cardboard shell of the product as a plant pot.

Weleda are a leading personal care manufacturer of NATRUE certified natural products. Their take on sustainability is to focus on forming partnerships between Weleda and its suppliers. Each unique raw material is locally sourced from where it would naturally grow, Weleda help local farmers start up as a company, and ensure a high quality of life for all employees.

STANPA is the National Association of Perfumery and Cosmetics and was founded in 1952 in Spain. STANPA promotes development of a competitive and sustainable industry, with a strong emphasis on the cosmetics industry and improving the environmental sustainability of its actives and products. The industries commitments and activities enable consumers to benefit from products with better sustainability profiles and to adopt more sustainable consumption habits.

The core ways in which consumers recognise sustainability in cosmetic brands are through packaging, ingredients, and social corporate responsibility. Packaging is no longer about just keeping the product safe, it must sell a story and sell the brand, catch someone’s eye on the shelf, and build a relationship between the consumer and the product. For sustainability to work, ingredients used must match what the brand is trying to portray, and the packaging must be bold enough to draw consumers in. Once this initial contact is made, the brands image and values must be present enough to keep the consumers interested.

To summarise the sustainability trend, packaging, ingredients and company values will all adjust to fit the standards that the environment requires and will keep changing until an equilibrium between demand and sustainability is met.


Ingredient transparency, customisable beauty and multi-purpose products are trends that fall in our near future, but this doesn’t mean that they won’t have a significant impact on trends in the distant future. The cosmetics industry will continue to learn and will carry the greatest parts of current trends forwards, refining them and creating inspiring concepts for future generations. The future in any case is uncertain, so who really knows what the future direction of cosmetics is? One thing is for certain, sustainability and environmental responsibility will become the trend leaders when it comes to the cosmetics industry. Hopefully this push towards an eco-friendlier industry will bring further opportunities to advance market trends into something completely new.


Submitted for the Maison G De Navarre Prize - By Dana Smith - Formulation Development Chemist at Surfachem Ltd

Dana Smith - Formulation Development Chemist at Surfachem Ltd | Tuesday, 06 August 2019