As concierge-like services continue to evolve, the emboldened (Insta-happy) new Me Generation continues to swell and brands jockey to give their customers more, the burgeoning trend towards greater customisation has kicked into hyper-drive. Personalisation has always been available — for a price. (The latest status cream, Dr Barbara Sturm's reparative MC1, blended with patients' own plasma, runs a cool $1,400 — if you can get an appointment with the jet-setting doctor.) What's new in beauty couture is a more democratic, open-to-all approach, with hair care brands like Function of Beauty and Prose and skincare start-ups like Proven Beauty and Geneu, a favourite in Selfridges bespoke beauty section. Eyeko's Bespoke Mascara invites consumers to select their preferred wand, formula and finish. For between $55 ("Custom") and $150 ("Bespoke"), shoppers can create their ultimate lipstick at Bite Beauty's Lip Labs. "All brands need to consider how to compete in an increasingly personalised world," says Larissa Jensen, NPD Group's beauty industry analyst. "Technology has made creating products to consumers' wishes and wants much easier, and smaller, agile brands are able to accomplish this easily. Larger brands need to react at a faster pace to remain in the consideration set." In some cases — Care/Ors curated daily vitamin packs, for example — customised services remove the guesswork from selecting the right products. In others, like individually blended foundation, brands like Lancome, BareMinerals and Sephora provide something the consumer may feel she is sorely missing. Even if it's just adding a monogram to a lipstick tube, the customer is in charge. So if she wants to be reminded of how uniquely special she is, go ahead and remind her.
2. RADICAL TRANSPARENCY
What have we learned about transparency since the internet took over our lives and our livelihoods? It can create dialogue, trust and community. Share too much — let's call it the recklessly unfiltered route — and a company can (temporarily) go off the rails (see: Canadian beauty company Deciem's recent TMI debacle, and ongoing real-time struggle to handle internal affairs gracefully and finesse their social media presence). Use it as a means to create a platform (Beautycounter and Goop's "clean" manifestos), to get in front of the issues (Target's non-toxic promise), and to show that your company is in touch with societal movements (CVS's disclosures about digital manipulation in advertising) and the goodwill flows. Transparency, radical or not, can be a tremendous catalyst for positive change. Being open, rather than elusive, counts for a lot, and a lot is at stake. If you're not transparent, then by simple definition, you are opaque. In today's socially connected world, the notion of transparency has become a sort of shorthand for the (noble, honest) companies — where the leadership values their customers' opinions enough to write back, their feedback enough to implement it; where there is a sense of accountability — versus the (detached, less accessible) typically corporate establishment which, by so tightly controlling its messaging from an ivory tower, clearly must have something to hide. While these characterisations aren't necessarily fair, they are indicative of the new moment in which beauty (and fashion, and food, and virtually every business) now finds itself: consumers want to be part of the conversation. Enlightened brands will let them in. They don't just want to poke around and make demands; they want to help you create your best products, and smart companies — like Glossier, Drunk Elephant, and IT Cosmetics — are listening. With all of the choices out there, how incredible to have a fanbase that invested, that loyal and that cares that much.
3. THE SKINCARE RENAISSANCE
Skin is in. According to NPD Group, skincare is growing more swiftly than cosmetics — 9 percent versus makeup's 6 percent last year — for the first time in three years. In fact, it was the fastest growing category for all of prestige beauty in the US in 2017, contributing 45 percent of the industry's total gains. To what do we owe this renaissance? Buzzy, internet-born brands such as Drunk Elephant certainly help, as has the K-Beauty tidal wave (and the hours of figuring out not only the zillion steps involved, but what exactly you're using and why), not to mention the "clean" movement's spotlight on ingredient safety and education. And don't forget the Instagrammable "skinterntainment" masking brought to previously banal beauty maintenance. Skincare's surge is being surfed by the newly minted "skintellectuals": hyper-educated, skin-obsessed consumers who relish debating this-acid-versus-that-acid, who breeze through the most complicated ingredient lists with the ease of a PhD and to whom NIOD's Copper Amino Isolate Serum and Superoxide Dismutase Saccharide Mist makes total sense. They're self-curating performance-driven, no-nonsense regimens across every price point — cue The Ordinary, Avene, Orveda, Augustinus Bader, Biologique Recherche — where the science (and the results it brings) is what's sexy. They collect skin creams like lipsticks and view the latest product launch like a must-have handbag. These engaged enthusiasts want information and innovation, not vague promises, and they're pushing the best companies to give it to them.
4. INCLUSIVITY: IT'S JUST THE BEGINNING
The long-overdue push for authentic inclusivity in fashion and beauty has had a breakthrough year, with companies large and small expanding the notion of not only what is aspirational and beautiful (and real), but who they define as their customer. At this point, brands that are not making genuine strides to be more thoughtful in terms of product mix, advertising imagery and messaging just look out of touch. They're also limiting their own growth potential. Where is the next frontier? Take a page out of CoverGirl's book. The brand, which recently changed its tagline from the girly and light "Easy Breezy Beautiful" to the more politically charged, empowering "I Am What I Make Up," has adopted a policy of regularly rotating its roster of ambassadors to include as many different people, from as many walks of life, as possible. In 2016, they added male teenage beauty influencer James Charles and Muslim vlogger Nura Afia to their mix. This year, in addition to ethnic and age diversity, they're focused on vocational diversity, signing fitness trainer Massy Arias, chef and cookbook author Ayesha Curry, motorcycle road racer Shelina Moreda and silver-haired Maye Musk, the 69-year-old dietician, model and mother of Elon Musk. "We're always asking ourselves, 'Who participates in the category but has never been celebrated?'" says Ukonwa Ojo, CoverGirl's senior vice president. The brand's new TruBlend foundation campaign features Amy Deanna, a model with vitiligo. The tagline: "Why try to blend in when you can choose how to stand out?" Isn't inspiring confidence the real point of beauty, anyway?
5. THE DOCTOR IS IN: AUTHORITY MAKES A COMEBACK
For all of the money doled out to influencers large and small, the people tirelessly wooing (and paying) them sure do have a lot of complaints. "How long will this last" and "when will this go away" are frequent commiserations made by PR and marketing executives, accompanied by long sighs and resigned eye rolls. And though influencers seem to be here to stay, for now (and will stay as long as ROI keeps rolling in), an old-school version of star power is making a comeback. It's a question of authority. According to NPD Group, US sales for prestige skin care classified as "clinical/cosmeceutical" reached $1.3 billion in 2017 (a 10 percent increase from the previous year), and continue to grow year over year. While "it-worked-for-me" testimonials or simply "I-think-this-is-cool" endorsements may sometimes be enough coming from a social media star one has come to admire, true professional expertise is demonstrating that it has value — and marketing muscle — too. Perhaps this is why the re-emergence of results-oriented brands from credible doctors — Augustinus Bader Loretta Ciraldo's Dr Loretta, Maryam Zamani's MZ Skin and Dr Barbara Sturm among them — are currently so compelling. Who is more objectively qualified to talk about skin, and skincare, than an MD who regularly sees patients, conducts laboratory research and participates in clinical trials? Even if they, too, have something to sell, they're bona fide pros. Makeup-artist-led brands, which first exploded in the 1990s (as a refreshing alternative to the usual department store fare, even then) — Bobbi Brown, Laura Mercier, Nars, Stila, Vincent Longo, Trish McEvoy — have new firepower, too, with sophisticated colour brands from editorial wizards such as Pat McGrath, Charlotte Tilbury, Gucci Westman and Troy Surratt. Those are legends even the influencers can look up to.