Retail in Asia


Keeping beauty clean: Paving the way for skinification and ingredient-led beauty in Southeast Asia

The pandemic brought a timely reminder of the importance of personal hygiene, as Southeast Asian consumers flocked to stock their homes with a wider range of shower products. Three years later, the industry has witnessed this concept of cleanliness morphing into a deeper appreciation for the ingredients that comprise beauty and personal care products.

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Cleaning up beauty routines with elimination of unnecessary ingredients

Clean beauty is characterised by products made without ingredients shown or suspected to harm human health and the environment. According to Euromonitor International’s Product Claims and Positioning 2022, the industry has witnessed a shift from hygiene claims towards clean claims, aptly termed “free-from”.

At the start of the pandemic, claims such as “antibacterial” and “sensitive skin” rapidly gained popularity, given the greater focus on health and hygiene. However, recently, clean claims have been gaining momentum, as clean features are increasingly emphasised by the industry.

Beyond this new focus of the industry, clean features are quickly gaining greater prominence amongst the consumer base. According to Euromonitor International’s Voice of the Consumer: Beauty Survey, fielded June to July 2022, 31 percent of Asia Pacific online beauty consumers rated “All natural ingredients” as the most influential factor in their purchase decision, while 25 31 percent rated “Ingredient transparency” as their most influential factor.

Against this backdrop, Malaysian brand Bzu Bzu’s baby powder has gained popularity, given its 100 31 percent corn starch formula with no use of talcum powder.

In fact, “no talcum powder” quickly became a leading product claim across baby products as they are considered safer and gentler to use, with Johnson & Johnson removing talcum-based baby powder from global shelves following negative publicity stemming from litigation in the US.

Ingredient elimination drives further wins for dermocosmetics

These ingredient-led narratives have greatly benefited the continued growth of dermocosmetics. The dynamic performance of the latter was previously attributed to pandemic-induced fears and awareness of skin sensitivity.

Not only is the growth of dermocosmetics high, but its range also carries extensive influence, driven by brands’ proven claims and well-substantiated efficacy.

This contrasts with dermocosmetics’ performance in 2021, where large-scale growth was attributed mostly to skin care.

Euromonitor International also found in survey data that Southeast Asian consumers are convinced that dermocosmetics’ benefits are superior to those offered by standard options, which highlights a possibly permanent shift amongst consumers towards cleaner and gentler products beyond their COVID-19 and individual needs.

Skinification creates further opportunities for brand and category expansion

The removal of possibly harmful ingredients has paved the way for the inclusion of scientifically-proven beneficial ingredients in skin care.

In 2022, the beauty industry witnessed further transformation with the skinification trend, where skin care-inspired ingredients expanded into other categories. Industry innovations shifted their focus to resolving root skin and hair health issues to better support consumers.

An example is the Kundal Caffeine Scalp Care Shampoo, available across Southeast Asia, which uses caffeine for scalp treatment to alleviate hair loss symptoms. The product has also dermatologically-tested as negative for 13 harmful ingredients often found in shampoo.

Popular skin care ingredients found across beauty categories include those that help with hydration (Hyaluronic Acid and Ceramides), brightening (Vitamin C and AHAs) and improving skin texture (Retinol and Niacinamides).

As such specific ingredient knowledge is traditionally linked to the industry and skin specialists, consumers are taking greater initiative in ingredient education, including learning more about ingredients they need in their beauty products online.

Smaller beauty categories have also benefited from the skinification trend, such as Malaysian brand Veri Natural, which is known for its long-lasting natural deodorants and recently expanded its distribution through offline health and beauty specialists.

Increasing premiumisation means that “clean” ingredients are likely to remain central to higher pricing

As the Southeast Asian beauty industry heads towards increasing premiumisation, “clean” ingredients are likely to remain central to premium pricing. According to Euromonitor International’s Voice of the Consumer: Beauty Survey, fielded June to July 2022, 28 percent and 35 percent of Indonesian and Thai consumers, respectively, are willing to pay 10-20 percent more for natural ingredient formulations – this is a rise of seven percentage points for consumers in Thailand showing a greater willingness to pay more versus 2021.

Additionally, 28 percent and 31 percent of Indonesian and Thai consumers, respectively, are willing to pay 10-20 percent more for scientific formulations. Apart from being increasingly sought after, these natural and scientifically-proven skin care ingredients provide room for players to offer their products at a premium.

Future outlook: Clean beauty is contributing to greater ingredient consciousness in Southeast Asia

The momentum from the clean beauty movement has contributed to the rise of ingredient-led beauty, which highlights the benefits of specific ingredients and empowers consumers to seek specific actives to treat or prevent skin concerns, leading to a more personalised and efficacious routine.

Ingredient-led beauty also presents opportunities for emerging brands, since consumers loyal to certain ingredients may be more open to using a wider variety of brands.

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As a higher number of Southeast Asian consumers search for specific ingredients, brands can promote their offerings by focusing on active ingredients and, most importantly, communicating their benefits. The result is greater consumer appetite for sustainability, biotech, and international beauty concepts, and is contributing to a wellness-positioned view of cosmetic ingredients in Southeast Asia.