Beauty Product Developer Julie Pefferman Identifies Eight Trends That Could Be Huge In 2023

If the economy slows next year, Julie Pefferman, a cosmetic chemist, product developer and the founder of beauty consultancy Cosmeta, counsels beauty brands not to be scared.

“I believe people in the beauty industry won’t feel it as hard, but we are seeing indie beauty brands, of course, close. I think there are a lot of brands that probably should have closed in the last two years, and now that there’s no shame in the game, they are going to fall like dominos,” she says. “It’s not embarrassing, and a lot of the entrepreneurs shuttering these brands will move on, and we’ll see them again in five years.”

Pefferman has been involved in the industry for far longer than five years—she’s been in it about a dozen years, to be specific—and has a keen sense of its shifts. Because of that sense, Beauty Independent has turned to her repeatedly to prognosticate about its future.

Last year, she detected the rise of brands with design that breaks the boring mold, and there have been several, and artificial intelligence and augmented reality becoming points of differentiation, which they are for a growing number of startups. The year before, she identified regenerative beauty, mental health boosters and items for the bathroom sanctuary as big movements, and they have been.

This time, we turn to her as the indie beauty segment and consumers are strained. Amid the rockiness, she forecasts wellness will remain a prominent player in beauty. “People have more stomach issues than I’ve ever seen. They have more stress than I have ever seen,” she says. “Health is such an important area.”

To confront business stress, Pefferman recommends indie beauty entrepreneurs cooperate. “Indie beauty brands should start viewing each other not as competitors. I would love to see more done collectively,” she says. “We could have marketplaces where we are co-promoting each other, and there could be services or smaller retailers that bring people together.”

Pefferman also recommends brands burrow into corners of the beauty landscape where there’s still ample opportunities despite economic constraints. Below, she identifies opportunities for brands as well as a spot or two of concern.

Brands Filling Pop Culture Niches

In the last few years, the beauty industry has paid a lot of attention to catering to previously underrepresented demographics. That isn’t going away (see below), but Pefferman foresees it additionally birthing brands that pay attention to pop culture niches.

Hypothetically, she mentions a brand revolving around rave culture that could respond to and inspire trends bubbling up on the rave scene—and insert itself into raver conversations. A real brand along these lines is Game Beauty, which was founded by a gamer, Jamie Li, for gamers.

“We live in a fragmented society with lots of different preferences and likes,” says Pefferman. “The cultural experiences we have can be vastly different, and brands can start servicing subcultures in a very niche way.”

Supplement Minimalism

With consumer interest in wellness unrelenting, Pefferman doesn’t anticipate brands will stop churning out supplements, especially at the outset of next year when she predicts products like the ones from Kourtney Kardashian’s splashy new supplement brand Lemme will multiply.

Toward the end of next year, though, she imagines that there will be a supplement reckoning as consumers reconsider their packed vitamin cases and zero in on effective supplements. In other words, the supplement business will encounter its own version of skinimalism as people look to simplify their intake of pills and powders.

Pefferman says, “We have been taking so many supplements that are overlapping, and we’re going to pare down to what makes a difference for health.”

Cosmeta founder, cosmetic scientist and product developer Julie Pefferman Julie

Probiotic Strains

Probiotics have been a theme in beauty and wellness for a while. Consumers recognize them as healthful and seek them out in products. The demand for probiotics has pushed brands to widen their probiotic scope to spotlight prebiotics and postbiotics. Pefferman envisions they’ll plunge deeper into the probiotic universe by educating consumers on certain probiotic strains they have in their formulas and make those strains hero ingredients.

She singles out akkermansia muciniphila as a probiotic strain that will be in the spotlight. Sold in a supplement from the brand Pendulum, it’s known to support metabolism. “There’s a lot of research on this strain,” says Pefferman. “And I think one area we will see a lot of growth is in specific probiotic strains for skin conditions.”

Clinical Study Skepticism

Consumers will continue to clamor for clinical studies to guide them to effective products. Pefferman says even “woo woo” products will be subject to clinical studies. As an example, she says brands putting lavender in products, an ingredient associated with relaxation, will get proof to back up their calming claims.

However, Pefferman reasons consumers won’t settle for any old clinical study. They’ll be increasingly critical of the clinical studies brands commission. She says they’ll begin asking, “Who is funding this? What does this study actually mean? How is the study done?” And, assisted by scientific experts on social media, she believes they’ll be able to poke holes in the marketing language that often couches clinical study messaging.

Biotechnology Barrage

Pefferman argues the biotechnology invasion of beauty is just getting started. Companies like Amyris, Ginkgo Bioworks, Arcaea, Geltor and C16 Biosciences are spinning out compounds that can be used by beauty brands—and she says they’ll be using them more and more as consumer calls for sustainability get louder, and companies try to reach sustainability goals.

Pefferman elaborates that consumers wonder, for instance, “Are those rose petals that we’re making rose oil out of sustainable?” If the answer to that question and ones like it is no, she says, “Companies will want to make the same ingredient at a cheaper price, and they also want to look sustainable, so it’s driving biotech ingredients, and there’s going to be a lot of investment in this space.”

Elevated Amazon Branding

In the last decade or so, smart Amazon specialists learned how to leverage the e-commerce giant’s system by selling basically non-branded beauty products that picked up on trending ingredients people were searching for. Today, Pefferman is convinced the Amazon environment is being transformed. Instead of non-branded goods, branded goods are coming to the fore.

“We are ushering in an era where branding is going to take priority,” says Pefferman. “The blands are still on Amazon, but branding and quality are going to become more important, and there will be room for a lot of people to be on Amazon because of that.”

Gen X And Baby Boomer Luxury

Move over gen Z and millennial consumers, beauty brands are setting their sights on older demographics. Particularly for luxury brands, Pefferman expects emerging brands to zero in on consumers 50 years old and above with disposable income to spend on products that cater to them. She suggests they will shake up the makeup, skincare and haircare categories, and highlights the forthcoming brand Skin Rebel RX, which touts it has “medical-grade skincare sans the marketing hype.”

“Women 50-plus have always felt not spoken to, and we need to speak to these women,” says Pefferman. “This is what luxury brands should be thinking about. Whoever speaks to them best is going to take that category.”

Fun Men’s Products

Men’s products have tended to be quite serious, conventionally manly and frequently black, but, as evident by the vibrant new gen Z men’s brand Insanely Clean, there’s change afoot.

“Men’s is an area of opportunity for indie beauty brands to create a different point of view or have packaging that speaks to a different type of male,” says Pefferman. “Men want to have a little bit more fun besides just man talk. Maybe there will be more color. A pink men’s line would really blow people’s minds. Men are comfortable wearing purple and pink shirts now, so it’s no big deal.”