Are Beauty Products Better Made Today Than A Decade Ago?

For the latest edition of our ongoing series posing questions relevant to indie beauty, we asked 16 manufacturers the following questions: Are beauty products today made better than they were a decade ago? How can the beauty industry make sure they will be made better a decade from now?

Kate Duffy VP of Research & Development, Elevation Labs

About a decade ago the “natural” product buzz really gained traction and shook up the beauty and personal care category. People wanted ingredients they could recognize and trust. But early attempts at clean beauty often missed the mark on product safety and efficacy. It was like the industry was trying to figure everything out overnight.

Fast forward to today, and we've come a long way. Raw material suppliers, formulators and brands have embraced innovation in response to this “natural” craze using green chemistry principles to make products that are not only safe and effective, but aesthetically pleasing. Consumers have become more educated about product safety and efficacy, becoming skeptical of the overcorrection that led to fear mongering claims like “preservative-free.”

The past three to four years have shown a lot of progress, but we still have a lot of work to do. Advocating for legislation like MoCRA is crucial to ensure transparency and quality through every step of the beauty supply chain.

I encourage consumers to continue asking the tough questions about product safety, efficacy, and sustainability and invest in brands to keep transparency at the heart of what they do. It’s all about maintaining a continuous improvement mindset.

Mark Wuttke Chief Growth Officer, Cosmetic Solutions

Over the past decade, the beauty industry has witnessed a revolutionary transformation, significantly influenced by scientific advancements, a heightened focus on sustainability and a dynamic shift in consumer awareness. Having closely navigated these industry shifts from my time-honored global perspective, I've observed a significant move towards cleaner, more efficacious formulations that prioritize ethical sourcing and environmental friendliness.

The advent of biotechnology for ingredient development alongside the strategic use of artificial intelligence for product personalization has notably elevated product standards, reshaping consumer expectations. An up-and-coming development is utilizing blockchain technology, which has introduced a new level of transparency in ingredient sourcing and supply chain management.

While in its infant stages within our industry, blockchain's potential to enhance traceability and ensure the authenticity of products while maintaining consumer privacy is vast and largely untapped, signaling a transformative shift towards more transparent ethical responsibility within the beauty sector.

As we peer into the future, integrating blockchain technology with artificial intelligence stands as a beacon of innovation, promising to deliver a higher caliber of trusted personalization. This unique combination addresses the growing consumer concern over data privacy and the impersonal nature of technological advancements by offering a secure, decentralized platform for personal data complemented by AI's capacity for tailored beauty solutions.

Such advancements not only ensure product relevance and efficacy but also fortify consumer trust in brand integrity. Furthermore, the path towards sustainability in beauty must evolve to become more accessible and inclusive, reflecting the diverse needs and values of our global consumer base.

This inclusivity, coupled with efforts to democratize sustainability practices, particularly resonates with younger generations like gen Z and gen alpha, whose environmental consciousness will inevitably shape future market trends. Emphasizing the importance of meeting these consumers where they are with initiatives that align with their values will be crucial in advancing our global sustainability goals.

The continual improvement of beauty products in the coming decade hinges on a collaborative and visionary approach, one that seamlessly blends innovation with ethical stewardship. By prioritizing advancements in blockchain and AI for enhanced transparency and personalized care alongside a committed shift towards sustainable and inclusive practices, the beauty industry can not only meet, but exceed today's standards, establishing new paradigms of quality and responsibility.

This ambitious journey towards a more sustainable, effective and inclusive beauty industry demands a synergistic partnership among brands, manufacturers, regulatory bodies, retailers and consumers, all united by a shared commitment to fostering authentic beauty and planetary stewardship.

Through relentless innovation, adaptation, and an unwavering dedication to excellence, Cosmetic Solutions is committed to continuing to lead the industry into a new era in beauty, one where future advancement honors the intricate balance between meeting consumer needs and preserving the natural world, ensuring that beauty products of tomorrow are infinitely better, safer and more conscientious than ever before.

Jennifer Hurtikant Chief Science Officer, Prime Matter Labs

There’ve been many improvements in the beauty industry over the past decade. One area where there have been significant advancements is the ingredients used in beauty products.

For example, retinol has become a staple ingredient in many skincare products due to its proven effectiveness. Over the years, research and development have led to the formulation of more stable and efficacious versions of retinol, enhancing its benefits while minimizing potential side effects such as irritation.

We’ve also seen improvements in beauty staples like vitamin C, thanks to advancements in stabilization technology and new delivery systems and formulations to enhance the absorption into the skin. The development of biotechnology in the industry has also helped to produce more efficacious and sustainable ingredients that are better for the environment as well as the consumers.

The discovery of bio-retinols has provided a natural form of vitamin A with the same efficacy and without side effects like redness, photosensitivity, etc. Advancements in packaging technology have also contributed to prolonging the shelf life of beauty products and providing consumers with more sustainable options.

There has also been a notable increase in diversity across various aspects of the beauty industry, although there is still room for more. This includes diversity in test subjects in clinical studies, ensuring that products are tested on a wider range of skin types and tones, leading to formulations that cater to a more inclusive audience.

Additionally, there is greater diversity among the professionals involved in creating beauty products, leading to more innovative and culturally inclusive offerings. Moreover, there is a growing recognition of the needs of underserved communities, resulting in products tailored to address a broader spectrum of skin concerns and requirements.

Along with an increase in popularity with consumers, sun care has also seen advancements in formulations with more cosmetically elegant products that do not leave behind a white cast. This innovation has addressed a common concern among consumers, making sunscreen application more appealing and encouraging regular use, thereby improving sun protection and reducing the risk of skin damage and premature aging.

The advancements listed previously reflect the ongoing commitment of the beauty industry to innovation, inclusivity and environmental responsibility, but there are still more improvements that can be made to benefit the industry and consumers, especially with regulations. While there have been some recent improvements and updates thanks to MoCRA, there is still a need to update our regulatory framework to better respond to the needs of consumers and brands.

Regulations around sunscreens is one of the best examples of a need for updates because the U.S. is behind the rest of the world in the amount of approved sunscreen filters. We haven’t introduced a new sunscreen filter since 1999 due to strict regulations around the category and its OTC classification. This limits innovation and provides consumers with fewer options for their individual needs.

A more nimble regulatory framework that also prioritizes safety for consumers would benefit everyone and result in better products and protection. In addition, we will always see advancements in our industry as new technologies allow for innovative ingredients and textures to be created. Lastly, it will be interesting to see how AI will influence how we do research.

Eric Korman CEO, The Goodkind Co.

In general, personal care and beauty products today are safer and perform better than those in the past, as the industry has continued to become more sophisticated and attuned to the market. Given the high level of innovation occurring today all across the industry and the parallel consolidation taking place within contract manufacturing, I would expect the trend of safer, more efficacious products to not only continue, but accelerate.

The drive toward “clean beauty” and ingredient transparency in general continues to bring more brand, retailer and consumer focus to the composition of ingredients (what they are made from and what makes up their chemical composition), the sourcing of ingredients, the origin of ingredients and more broadly the holistic supply chain of ingredients.

Technology will begin to play an outsized role in the drive to safer and better, as field data analytics are enhanced, and AI formulation comes to the forefront. Ultimately, AI will radically transform how products are formulated and scaled, providing chemists and engineers an incredibly powerful tool to increase performance and sustainability while simultaneously reducing potential reactions to allergens, irritants and other safety concerns.

This direction can be seen with performance clinicals that are increasingly driving the market by providing consumers with better performing yet less aggressive products that leverage natural and upcycled materials. As clinical transparency continues to grow, consumer education and knowledge will continue to rise itself, providing a positive feedback loop and incentive for the industry at large to continue to push and improve as we collectively chase growth.

Tara Chacho SVP of Business Development, Cohere Beauty

Technology with both more refined raw ingredients and innovative packaging have helped beauty products evolve and improve from a decade ago. Also, the beauty consumer is much better educated than they were a decade ago and understands the impact of products that get absorbed by their skin. They no longer accept ingredients that are disruptive to their endocrine system or are proven to be detrimental to their long-term health.

Also due to the influx of new brands and products, consumers are expecting products to deliver on their promises, if not there is no loyalty as they will quickly abandon a product for another if they do not see the desired results.

The beauty industry has a responsibility to the consumer base to provide education and research on ingredients. Not all “natural” ingredients are safe or safer than their chemical engineered counterparts. Brands are distinguishing themselves by the level of education they are providing their customers and producing new raw ingredients that provide better results.

Contract manufacturers formulators such as Cohere Beauty consistently educate our chemists and align with top providers in the industry to keep abreast of all new trends and innovations. Constantly pushing ourselves to think outside the box, produce new textures and multi-use products that are efficacious are all top priorities in order to produce better products year after year.

Cheeho Ciro Choi CEO and President, CTK Cosmetics

More than a decade into this industry, I've witnessed a remarkable advancement in the quality of beauty products. It's truly fascinating how technology has revolutionized beauty formulations.

Instead of just “natural ingredients” that we used to hail as the better and safer option despite them being more volatile and unstable due to the unpredictability of natural sources, we're now seeing natural-derived ingredients and the integration of lab-grown ingredients, enhancing both stability and potency. Thanks to these innovations, today's beauty products deliver unparalleled efficacy, stability and performance than ever before.

Also, in this era of abundant information, consumers wield more power than ever before, armed with the knowledge to make informed choices. This newfound empowerment has reshaped the consumer-industry relationship, pushing industry towards greater transparency and responsiveness to consumer feedback.

As a result, research and development efforts have shifted towards addressing diverse demographic needs, including ethnicity and age-specific skin concerns. This strategic focus has led to the development of products tailored to meet the unique needs of various demographics, marking a significant step forward for inclusivity in the beauty industry.

The beauty industry's constant exposure to social media, AI and diverse communication platforms makes predicting its trajectory challenging, even for just a year ahead, let alone a decade ahead. Yet, amidst this uncertainty, one thing stands out: our industry's remarkable adaptability. While the exact trajectory remains uncertain, I firmly believe that prioritizing sustainability and ethical practices, coupled with dedicated R&D efforts, will drive us to our optimal growth.

Sustainability claims are no longer merely a marketing ploy or fleeting trend. Rather, they have evolved into a core ethical responsibility. As consumers become more conscientious in their purchasing decisions, it's crucial for us to seamlessly integrate sustainability into every aspect of our operations, spanning from raw material sourcing to packaging and down to distribution.

Reflecting on past parallels such as the environmental impact of the rise of disposable plastics underscores the urgency for our industry to evolve. To achieve this, I believe fundamental mindset shift is imperative. Just as achieving flawless skin may require a fresh routine or even a metaphorical rebirth, industry stakeholders must embrace a complete overhaul of perspectives to foster real substantial change.

Tish Poling President and Chief Development Officer, International Products Group

If I could sum up the largest change in the beauty industry over the last decade into two words, it would be indie brands. From the top down, indie beauty brands have had an extreme impact on product development, education and distribution within the beauty space.

As product developers, we have experienced a major shift in how brands approach new product launches. Ten years ago, the product landscape was a “me-too” approach for a select group of women.

The big seven beauty companies dominated the space. They launched hundreds of products under a select few brand names. There was a lack of consumer education, and the products were primarily focused on “anti-aging” and “anti-wrinkle.”  Beauty advisors and mainstream media were solely responsible for educating the consumer.

Then, the concept of indie beauty brands and influencers started popping up on social media and took the beauty world by storm.  They brought innovation, performance, inclusivity, influence and sustainability to the forefront of everyone’s mind.

At IPG, we found ourselves pivoting from developing “me0too” products to launching products through a one-on-one exchange with indie beauty founders who were looking to launch “the next big thing in beauty.”

Clean ingredients, sustainable packaging and inclusive formulas with high performance have been the focus of our product development and R&D for the last seven years.  We embrace founder-led brands and have discovered our niche within it.

We take a very concierge approach when working with Indie Brands.  We literally hold their hand through the entire process of ideation, product development, R&D, testing, packaging and marketing.  Although it’s a very different process than it was over a decade ago, we love this time and are thriving in it.

In a decade from now, we believe that the beauty and wellness industries will become fully integrated. We feel it's inevitable that AI will dramatically impact the beauty space.  And we know that categories like menopause, sexual wellness, men’s and tween will become mainstream.

Kaylee Astle Co-Founder and CEO, Blanka

The beauty industry has witnessed remarkable advancements in product quality over the past decade, driven by innovative formulations and cutting-edge ingredients.

For example, breakthroughs like plant-derived stem cells, bakuchiol (a natural alternative to retinol) and centella asiatica (cica) have revolutionized skincare, offering effective alternatives with fewer side effects and greater sustainability.

However, despite these strides, there is still lots of opportunity for improvement. One notable area is sunscreen innovation, particularly in the U.S. market. It’s been two decades since the FDA has approved active new ingredients in the U.S., and the result is that the U.S. lags behind other regions like Europe and Asia in adopting the latest sunscreen technologies.

Noel Dutcher Business Development Director, Craft Beauty Lab

Are beauty products today made better than they were a decade ago? That's a loaded question. On one hand, yes, I do believe we're seeing improvements. We've come a long way in our understanding of ingredients and formulation techniques.

Natural ingredients are having a moment and for a good reason. We've learned how to harness their power effectively, resulting in products that are not only safer but also more efficacious. Plus, with advancements in technology, we have better tools at our disposal, making the entire process smoother.

However, it's not all sunshine and roses. The accessibility of ingredients, both good and bad, has led to a flood of products in the market. While this means more choices for consumers, it also opens the door for mass production of cheap, low-quality products. Sometimes, the sheer volume of options can be overwhelming, and it's hard to separate the gems from the duds.

Looking ahead, I'm optimistic about the future of beauty products. Consumer demand is a powerful force, and we're already seeing a shift towards cleaner, more sustainable options. People are speaking up about what they want in their products, and brands are listening.

I believe this trend will only continue to grow in the next decade. As more consumers prioritize transparency and safety, the industry will have no choice but to follow suit. Ultimately, it's a win-win for everyone involved—healthier products for us and a healthier planet for future generations.

Fred Khoury

President, Above Rinaldi Labs

Beauty products today often incorporate advancements in scientific research, formulation techniques and ingredient sourcing that may not have been available a decade ago. These advancements have led to products that are often more effective, safer and more sustainable than their predecessors.

For example, there has been a significant focus on ingredient transparency, cleaner formulations and reducing environmental impact, driven by consumer demand and regulatory changes. However, it's essential to recognize that not all products may have improved equally, and there are still challenges such as greenwashing and misleading marketing claims that persist in the industry.

Investing in ongoing education is paramount for cultivating a skilled workforce capable of addressing forthcoming industry challenges and fueling innovation. By providing continuous learning and professional development opportunities, chemists and product developers can remain well-informed on the industry’s best and latest practices as they evolve.

Furthermore, heightened collaboration within the industry nurtures creativity, facilitates the exchange of knowledge, and promotes collective problem-solving. These collaborative endeavors serve as vital points of connection, fostering cross-disciplinary partnerships that propel industry-wide progress.

Products today offer more advanced formulas, higher efficacy and greater diversity of ingredients than a decade ago. This is due to advancements in ingredient technology and a consumer-driven demand for transparency. To continue this trend, the industry should invest in research and development, embrace stricter safety and performance standards, and commit to continuous ingredient innovation.

While economic pressures play a role, the beauty industry has proven resilient during downturns. The "lipstick effect" suggests consumers find affordable indulgences during hardship. To navigate this environment, brands should focus on value, multifunctional products and experiences that emphasize self-care and confidence building. It's also crucial to emphasize brand purpose and connect with consumers emotionally.

Maria Osorio Director of Marketing and Product Development, Cosmetica

I personally think that they are. Consumers are becoming more informed about ingredients, technology and supply chains, and they prefer brands that are aligned with their individual principles. That makes brands work harder to deliver products that check all the boxes. With the last 10 years’ evolution of the industry, the differentiators from the past are becoming the present’s threshold attributes.

Over the past decade, there has been a greater emphasis on using high-quality, safe and ethically sourced ingredients in beauty products. Many companies have beefed up their blacklists in order to avoid potentially harmful chemicals. Additionally, advancements in research have led to the discovery of new beneficial cosmetic ingredients and packaging materials coming from sustainable new sources.

Advancements in technology have allowed for more sophisticated formulation techniques and product delivery systems. Likewise, advancements in manufacturing processes have led to more stable formulations and longer shelf lives for products.

From a product development perspective, the selection has become wider over the last 10 years due to the growth of personalization and inclusivity. The development teams now take into consideration a broad spectrum of skin types and concerns when formulating a product. Also, brands offer tools such as AI-powered skin analysis and virtual try-on tools to deliver effective and targeted solutions for consumers.

There are some key areas where I think the industry should focus to ensure product improvement over the next decade.

  1. R&D investment is essential to drive product innovation and evolution. This includes researching new ingredients and technologies to create more effective and sustainable next-generation products.  Formulator education and collaboration with different organizations will help accelerate this process.
  2. Consumer focus: transparency, education and feedback. Keeping consumers fully informed to make the right purchasing decisions. Furthermore, creating a feedback loop to include those insights in the product development process.
  3. Enhanced CSR strategies for companies to be part of the change the world needs to see. This involves eco-friendly packaging and ingredients, ethical sourcing guidelines, community support and waste minimization amongst other initiatives.
  4. A commitment to leverage technology to simplify processes, test raw materials and create better consumer experiences.
David Chung Founder and CEO, iLABS And The Rootist

I think beauty products today are made better than they were a decade ago. Ingredients have been upgraded, they’re cleaner, and we’re more focused on efficacy. Beauty formulations today are more focused on a customized regimen or targeted benefits.

Looking forward, the definition of “better” could be broad, but for sure innovation will be kicking in much faster, and there will be amazing, innovative skincare and haircare products that will be coming out within the next 10 years.

Why is that? Because of technology. Today with AI, we could test and have a data intelligence much faster to show efficacy of the product. On top of that, the FDA is improving testing, and brands will need to be registered with the FDA due to MoCRA. In the last 10 years, they did not have to do that. Going forward, this is a big improvement for the FDA.

Kristi Vinkemeier VP of R&D and Compliance, FP Labs

Consumer education has increased significantly with a shift toward more natural ingredients. It’s funny to hear that something is vegan that is not food! But natural doesn’t always mean safe. Similarly, synthetic doesn’t always mean bad. We still have a way to go in educating consumers.

The amount of innovation and creativity with new technologies and testing techniques to vet materials has increased substantially over the past ten years. We expect there will be a much greater focus on claims substantiation. We expect brands to back off from the more grandiose claims going forward. From the consumer perspective, this will be a good thing.

We expect the reliance on fragrance, especially synthetics where allergens come from, will fade away. We also expect the cost of manufacturing in the next ten years will increase. We expect brands to use contract manufacturing more because of increasing costs related to good manufacturing processes and upcoming legislation.

Contract manufacturers can typically make products better, faster and more affordable, with the know-how to conduct testing to provide a safe product.

Richie Rubin EVP, Garcoa

There is no doubt that products are manufactured better than they were a decade ago. This was recently kicked into high gear with MoCRA. As a result of MOCRA, we will start to see a convergence between rules and regulations that are established for the production of OTCs and cosmetics.

Historically, cosmetic items and their manufacturers were not subjected to a significant amount of scrutiny by the FDA. I walked into a number of facilities that did not employ basic fundamental principles specific to safety, quality,and hygiene. This is changing in the implementation of MOCRA.

As the FDA enhances its enforcement of rules and regulations, facilities will be forced to comply with cGMP guidelines if they want to continue to exist. Ultimately, the consumer will win as these new regulations will ensure that cosmetics are subjected to elevated standards.

Mary Berry Founder and CEO, Cosmos Labs

Beauty products are always changing and improving, which is part of why the beauty industry is so exciting! We've seen a ton of improvements in how effective and versatile the raw materials for making beauty products are these days. New ingredients are also often influenced by the clean beauty movement, which has really accelerated in recent years.

Also, in the last decade, more and more people are looking for beauty products that are eco-friendly and sourced ethically. Brands are catching on and starting to use sustainable packaging, cut down on waste and make sure their ingredients are responsibly sourced.

And let's not forget social media and online reviews have made consumers louder about their beauty product experiences. This back-and-forth has nudged brands to step up their game, tweaking and refining their formulations based on what real people are saying and wanting.

It's up to us in the beauty world to keep pushing forward, raising the bar and making sure we're always moving towards inclusivity and sustainability in everything we do.

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