In the immortal words of Canadian angst-rocker Alanis Morissette, “isn’t it ironic” that the same country that brought us insanely elaborate, 11-step skincare routines – Korea – is now serving up the polar opposite in the form of the “skip care” trend? It seems Korean millennials are severely over spending two hours to double-cleanse and de-age their decidedly wrinkle-free 25-year-old mugs after a long day at the office, followed by an even longer night out partying with their pals. And forget attempting all that before they rush out the door each morning, phone in one hand, turbo-charged latte in the other.
Honestly, can you blame these time-crunched hipsters for wanting to strip out a snail slime serum here, or a bird’s nest sheet mask there? Unlike them, I’m at an age when I could probably really benefit from some of this stuff (and get it for free, because of the line of work I’m in), and even I don’t want to use it.
Talk to any dermatologist, and he/she will tell you that using a billion different potions from a billion different brands is not optimal for anyone’s complexion. At best, it’s unnecessary and a waste of money. At worst, hopscotching from product to product and brand to brand can set skin up for major irritation.
And then there’s the environmental angle, which is near and dear to many a millennial’s heart; if, by refusing to buy a bunch of stuff they don’t really need they can also reduce the impact on the planet, many young people will gladly remove a few items from their virtual shopping carts.
Some nextgens are even taking it a step further and test-driving a phenomenon called “skin fasting.” Fringier than “skip care,” skin-fasting entails eschewing every ounce of skincare, including cleanser, in order to “detox” the skin, allow it to “breathe,” and inspire it to produce more of its own oils and strengthen its natural barrier function. Basically, it’s the skin equivalent of the “No-Poo” fad of skipping shampoo for weeks (and even months!) on end with a similar goal of revving up moisturizing scalp sebum.
The country of origin for the “skin fasting” phenom? Japan, specifically a company called Mirai Clinical, a proponent of “minimalist” skincare routines. Although Mirai recommends using a gentle cleanser at night, many “fasters” are much more extreme in their approach, opting not to use anything at all until they start to see positive changes, i.e., fewer dry patches and less irritation.
Even Older Women Are Keen on Streamlining and Transparency
A sure sign the “more is more” movement is on its way out in beauty? When hashtags like #makeupfree, #tiredeyes and #nakedface pepper literally several hundred thousand Instagram posts. In a complete 180 from the heavily contoured, precision-brow looks of the past few years, it’s now become a badge of honor to stare into your iPhone camera without an ounce of anything save for a dab of moisturizer or sunscreen.
And that holds for older women, too, even those in the public eye. Cases in point: 46-year-old Gwyneth Paltrow has been spotted traipsing through Italy and clubbing in L.A. totally makeup-free in recent weeks, and a completely unretouched Serena Williams currently graces the August cover of Harper’s Bazaar.
At 37, Williams could hardly be considered a candidate for a senior-living facility. Still, the fact that she was willing to “put it out there” sans Photoshop was instantly and vigorously hailed by the media as an act of bravery.
Understandably, the collective shift away from excessive product consumption and uncool artifice is definitely not music to the beauty industry’s ears. Not only is it already grappling with the backlash against excessive packaging – the “zero-waste” drumbeat gets louder every day – there is now the very real question of whether one needs so many potions and lotions no matter how they’re packaged. And once a woman streamlines her routine, and sees the pleasant impact of that streamlining on both her wallet and her “me-time,” will she ever find herself in a K-Beauty type of product frenzy again?
Highly unlikely. Which is why the pivot now is toward an entirely new category of products: the kind that do just about everything for you but rotate the tires on your car.
Enter the Do-it-All, Swiss Army Knives of Beauty
While it wasn’t always so nimble, in recent years the beauty industry has gotten far quicker at addressing consumer consumption trends basically as they’re happening.
So, it’s hardly a shocker that as skip care and skin fasting started to emerge, fast-moving, finger-on-the-pulse brands began cranking out solutions. Don’t want to buy 10+ skincare products anymore? How about this cool new option that can do the job of several?
A few examples of these directional, “Swiss Army knife” products: Peach & Lily Lazy Day All In One Moisturizer Pads, which “deliver the effects of a toner, essence and moisturizer in just one swipe”; Laneige Cream Skin, a toner/moisturizer hybrid; and PhytoCELL Re:p Cell Moisture All In One Essence, which functions as a toner, essence and lotion.
Now that American skincare junkies have gotten used to them through their K Beauty routines, essences are poised for growth in this reduced-consumption era. These highly concentrated, “ingredient-forward” elixirs are lighter than serums and typically deliver a battalion of benefits. Take the new Vintner’s Daughter Active Treatment Essence, for instance. Seven years in the making, the “sequel” to Vintner’s Daughter’s juggernaut Active Botanical Serum is positioned as a “multi-corrective hydration step” that exfoliates, brightens, firms and nourishes in one fell swoop. Priced at a decidedly not-cheap $225, it’s been flying off apothecary shelves since its February debut.
Of course, it’s hard – and bottom-line harsh in the short term – to align with the consumer’s new skip care, skin fast and #nakedface mindset. And for all we know, some new iteration of 11-step K Beauty routines could be right around the corner.
But for the moment, the most hardcore beauty junkies are declaring that enough is enough. Isn’t it ironic?
The Top Five Takeaways
- Artifice, excessive consumption and elaborate skincare and makeup routines are over – at least for now.
- Multi-use skincare products should be a top R&D goal, but they have to sound new and different to spike interest.
- In terms of marketing-speak, names incorporating descriptors like “Everything” and “Only,” and copy that hones-in on streamlining and drilling down to the essentials, is, well…everything.
- Dare to launch fewer products, and strip-out the meh performers in your SKU lineup. In other words, take a page from Vintner’s Daughter’s playbook. Massively influential, the brand offers exactly two products.
- Millennials – and plenty of older women – are dead-serious about wanting beauty companies to step up to the reduced-packaging plate. If you haven’t done so already, just do it.