Trends: We dissect the topics the industry is talking about

This month we discuss Gender-neutral Skin Care, Mushroom-based Beauty and Experiential Retail


We take you throug hthe topics the industry is talking about.

1. Gender neutral skin care

In the past couple of years consumer behaviour has shifted in a non-binary direction. In the fashion world we’ve seen global brands like H&M release unisex clothing lines and now gender neutral skin care is having a moment.

HydroPeptide CEO Annette Rubin says: “Hydropeptide have always had male customers as the brand can cater for all skin types and concerns, however we have seen a significant increase from direct purchases from male clients over the last two to three years.

“More individual male clients will bring financial benefit, however Hydropeptide does not consider a separate men’s line at as we consider the skincare conditions and issues from our genes and lifestyles and not the two sexes, but who knows, as our R&D team evolve with new research and developments, maybe in the future a separate men’s line will be created.”

For some brands, it’s never been about appealing to a particular gender. Rahua by Amazon Beauty, Inc. founder and president Fabian Lliguin says: “Our male customer base is growing due to the increased awareness of the importance of clean beauty. Men and women seek non-toxic products that are free of sulfates and parabens. Additionally, many people seek products that are vegan, along with gluten and cruelty free.  Rahua packaging is modern and luxury with a non-gender specific appeal. All products in the Rahua product line-up can be used by either a man or woman.” Lliguin adds: “Our goal is to bring clean beauty to the masses, eliminating the reliance of chemical-based products that are harmful to both men and women, as well as to the environment.”

Even when brands create gender specific products, they can’t dictate the sex of the consumers who are going to use them. R&R Luxury founder and CEO Valerie Obaze says: “A few years ago, we noticed some of our customers ‘complaining’ on social media that their husbands kept using up all of their R&R products which led me to create a range specifically for men – R&R Man. The line features many of the bestselling products as our original range with some tweaks to formulations and scents, we have found that some women love using the products in our Men’s Collection too.”

Inclusivity was more important to Obaze: “My vision was to make skincare for everyone, regardless of gender, age, ethnicity and location, so it made sense for me to ensure that the products were gender neutral. As the beauty industry, and many other sectors, have grown and become more inclusive it makes sense for brands to appeal to everyone instead of singling out one particular group of people.”

2. Mushroom-based beauty

You may think of them as a humble grocery ingredient but mushrooms are actually incredibly complex, versatile and packed with nutritional and medicinal value. Some types of fungus produce active compounds that have been used in the treatment of cancer and as potent antibiotics, and even your run-of-the-mill shiitakes are rich in antioxidants, Vitamin D, and the mineral selenium, which helps fight off inflammation. It should be noted that the West has come relatively late to the mushroom party. The use of various types of fungi in traditional Chinese medicine predates recorded history.

Brands such as Origins, Dr Dennis Gross and Moon Juice have gotten in on the action. Recently launched in the Middle East, Groh harnesses the properties in mushrooms to create beauty products that supply the key nutrients necessary for stem cell survival and hair growth. According to Dr. Marvin Hausman, Goh’s founder and renowned immunologist: “Mushrooms are a good source of natural bioactive compounds which can be beneficial to both the skin and hair. These substances, with their potent antioxidant, anti-aging, anti-wrinkle and moisturising activities, include the unique amino acid L-ergothioneine, phenolics, terpenoids, selenium, polysaccharides, vitamins and volatile organic compounds which make them ideal ingredient candidates for cosmetics products.”

Talking about the types of mushrooms used to create Groh’s formulations and supplements, Dr. Hausman added: “In our formulations, we use several varieties of specialty mushrooms with high levels of the aforementioned compounds.  The key is that the cosmetics and companion supplements are formulated and produced with a ‘whole plant, full cofactor spectrum’ in mind. Our ErgoD2 compound, produced entirely from mushrooms, is the result of our patented processes and incorporates bioactive nutrients and appropriate metabolising enzymes that are naturally produced by and fully contained within the mushroom(s).”

Mushroom-based cosmetics and supplements effectively support bodily functions in several areas, including anti-oxidation, circulatory functionality, hair, nail and skin growth. Typically, users see significant additional nail and hair growth, enhanced hair sheen and softer skin within three to four weeks.

3. Experiential retail

As the way we consume content and buy goods moves increasingly online, virtual retail spaces are becoming the norm. When it came to setting up Powder, a retail platform with partner Amina Grimen, Ayat Toufeeq knew that online was the way to go. She said: “It made sense for us to build an online store. A community where consumers can read reviews, learn a little bit about the products and find something that’s tailored to their particular needs which can be really difficult and stressful to do in store. Customers need to be drawn into traditional retail spaces.”

This cultural shift presents brands in traditional retail spaces with the challenge of how to draw customers out of their comfort zones and into stores. It has to be worth their while. According to founder and chief executive Emily Weiss, when Glossier launched its flagship store in New York, the company’s sales representatives, who are called offline editors, helped shoppers navigate company’s space and products as “educated and knowledgeable friends.” While most the company’s revenue comes from online sales Weiss sees the company as “emotional commerce”. Brick-and-mortar stores provide places for shoppers to create content and connect with other visitors. Brands aren’t turning to stores just to sell their products, they are looking to build memorable experiences that add to their existing online offerings.

Here in the region, each Rituals store greets customers with a refreshing warm cup of tea and each store also features a ‘water island’ where the guests can experience the products the staff demonstrate how the products are used, etc through mini hand massages/treatments in store.

Sephora stores are also good at drawing customers in. The stores provide beauty services and classes for a more experiential visit that lets shoppers experiment and play with products. When we spoke to her recently, Shiffa Founder Dr. Lamees Hamdan, whose products are currently stocked at Sephora Middle East said: “Some brands want to be online only, they want to be direct to the market and good for them. I don’t think that retail giants are over just yet. I think they have a very significant role to play.”

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