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Skinimalism: 2021’s Beauty Trend + How Brands Can Respond

With every new year, there’s an onslaught of trends for brands to evaluate, consider and reflect upon. From contending with the up-and-coming generation’s unique set of values and expectations or macro cultural factors (ahem, pandemic) that are breaking routines, it can be overwhelming for brands to interpret – and action against – all that’s going on.

At Egg, we do a lot of work in the trend space, namely looking at how brands can respond to what’s occurring on a cultural level while staying true to themselves. With this in mind, combined with a personal passion for the space, I want to focus on a key trend emerging in beauty.

True to “new year, new me” form, Skinimalism has started popping up across the internet as the 2021 beauty trend. Not to be confused with beauty’s movement toward “clean beauty” and limited ingredients, Skinimalism is driven by consumer behavior and preference. Coined by Pinterest in their 2021 Trend Predictions Report, “It’s the end of the caked-on makeup look. Pinners will embrace slow beauty and let their natural skin texture shine through. This new “effortlessly chic” routine is simple and sustainable.”

Let’s focus on this trend through the lens of skincare. Looking back just a few years ago, skincare was promoted as the vehicle for self-care and multi-step routines reigned supreme. Brands like Drunk Elephant responded and specifically structured their portfolio to be used as a regiment, which not only gave consumers the desired multi-step glow, but also contributed to the brand’s $845 million sale to Shiseido in 2019. But now, consumers are opting for multi-ingredient products that pack a greater punch and require less time.

Despite the fact that consumers are paring down products, brands can address Skinimalism in a way that authentically speaks to consumers’ values while also staying true to their overall positioning. It’s about crafting smart ways to engage with consumers on the underlying factors driving the trend and the Jobs To Be Done that consumers are looking to solve:

  • Embrace my true skin – In a rejection of “picture perfect,” consumers are opting for products (or lack thereof) that help them embrace how they really look. In the words of Sejal Shah, a dermatologist in NYC, “Skinimalism is a movement toward embracing your real skin — less makeup and fewer beauty products — and allowing your natural glow to shine as opposed to heavy layers of makeup and contouring that often reflect unrealistic beauty standards commonly seen on social media.” To align with these emotional drivers, brands should take the opportunity to educate consumers on how their products are meant to elevate or preserve real beauty, not fix or camouflage.
  • Simplify my routine – There’s also a good deal of consumer confusion in this space. According to Dermatologist Dr. Ben Esdaile, “We are seeing more patients suffering from skin issues as the direct result of the products they have put onto their skin…single active products, which are being used in high concentrations and combined with other ingredients that either do not work together or cause inflammation and irritation.” On a product level, it’s imperative that brands identify how their products work together or how they can or cannot work alongside other ingredients. Brands shouldn’t completely revamp their portfolio to meet Skinimalism standards, rather they can educate consumers on how their products can be mixed together and applied in one-go without fear of a bad reaction.
  • Solve logistical barriers – Finally, there are other, more logistical benefits to Skinimalism. By slimming down their routine, consumers are spending less time and money. Also, fewer products bought is also better for the environment (which I talked about in my Gen Z beauty article is table stakes for these consumers). Brands can communicate these benefits but should prioritize bigger functional and emotional benefits as the main tie in to Skinimalism.

In addition to understanding drivers and key jobs in this space, it’s also important to note what is not impacting this trend so that brands can avoid conflating their communications with other factors that little to no impact. Some may be surprised to know that this isn’t pandemic-driven. The same Pinterest trend report finds that searches for “natural everyday makeup” have increased by a whopping 180 percent in the last year. Other similar pandemic stats point that Covid may having a supporting role in this year’s hottest beauty trend, but it’s certainly not a key driver. Clarifying this is extremely helpful for brands as it proves that Skinimalism isn’t going to fade away when we’re back to “normal.” It looks like it’s here to stay.

This trend also doesn’t seem convenience driven. Skinimalism is not the same as buying a 2-in-1 shampoo conditioner. While convenience may be a benefit, it’s not the driver. As such, any brand claims or marketing should avoid stressing the time-saving benefit.

For a trend about minimalism, Skinimalism actually gives us a lot to explore, especially in terms of how brands can begin addressing this trend in the coming year. It will be exciting to see how other sub-categories within beauty (cosmetics, hair care, body care) react to this trend, and especially how that will overlap or diverge with skincare. Only time will tell, but there’s certainly enough for the beauty category to contend with…and it is only February.