It’s the era of wellness as skin care, and beauty brands are changing how they position and promote their products: Anti-aging is out, while anti-pollution is in.
Product innovation prioritizing properties like anti-pollution, detoxification and prevention against blue-violet light emitted by digital screens is being spearheaded by brands like Dr. Loretta, Drunk Elephant, Thisworks and Bareminerals, among others. And while these products are based on protecting the health of skin and ultimately slowing down signs of aging, nowhere in the marketing or labeling is “anti-aging” used.
Of course, it’s all in the name of strategic marketing. Over the past few years, “anti-aging” as a marketing term has fallen under scrutiny for being ageist. The backlash inspired Allure magazine to ditch the term last year. Consumer attention has also turned to proactive products rather than reactive ones in addition to natural and wellness products that boast of enhancing the natural skin and helping someone stay healthy inside and out.
“Anti-aging skincare sales are dwindling as consumers’ skincare focus has shifted from correction and prevention, to where it is today: preparation,” according to a 2016 NPD Group report. A separate NPD Group report, from 2017, said that anti-pollution prestige skin care in the U.K. increased of 30 percent between January and June of that year.
Part of this has to do with where customers are based now, as more people are moving to urban environments and their skin concerns are changing as a result. The urban population in 2014 accounted for 54 percent of the total global population, up from 34 percent in 1960, and continues to grow, according to the last available data from the World Health Organization, but the global urban population is expected to keep growing.
“Now there are more people living in urban cities, and a lot of the [anti-pollution products] started in Asia because of a high concentration in cities,” said Myriam Zaoui Malka, the co-founder of the Dr. Loretta brand and former founder of the Art of Shaving. Indeed, over a third of all anti-pollution beauty products were launched in the Asia Pacific region in 2016 according to Mintel, and the trend coincides with the globalization of Asian skin-care trends.
“We used to only look at the sun as a cause of aging, but we realize now it’s about climate, light indoor and outdoor and irritants and pollution,” Malka said, adding that in addition to urban population, the brand includes prevention against the aging effect blue-violet light emitted by digital screens, which has already shown to have detrimental effects to health issues like eyesight and circadian rhythm.
The challenge now is how to present a new category of skin care that does not quite fit into the current loosely defined natural or wellness categories, which typically focus on organic, food-grade ingredients and shirks synthetics and preservatives. In the anti-pollutant category, chemical ingredients are required. For Dr. Loretta, which uses lab-created antioxidant ingredients like lipochroman and chromabright in addition to more familiar ingredients like glycolic acid, this means educating customers through educational videos on their website as well as relying on retail partners like Anthropology and Nordstrom to help teach customers about the brand.
“We want to speak a new language to women, with products that are taking everything from the natural, clean to medical grade,” Dr. Loretta Ciraldo said, adding that many antioxidants have been enhanced in a lab environment, which makes them technically synthetic, but it is not at odds with the natural movement’s ethos to provide more effective products using nature.
“We hope to educate the consumers about what natural really means,” she said.