For decades, the fashion sector, brands and magazines have been trying to define what beauty means. Targeting the modern consumer, catering to their requirements of modern living, the industry attempted to offer its own definition of “beautiful”.
In recent years the roles switched. Today, it’s the consumer who decides what beauty means to them. The variety of personal takes on the concept is encouraging, particularly as many commentators thought skincare and make-up are becoming irrelevant due to the pandemic and lockdown.
Our recent analysis of social media beauty conversation revealed that the concept is not only alive but actually thriving. The introduction of new beauty routines, habits and aesthetics demonstrate the diversity, openness and creativity championed by consumers online. Their concerns and expectations must serve as an inspiration for brands who want to remain relevant and in tune with those leading the “beauty pack”.
Championing Self Expression and Unconventional Beauty
When the first season of HBO’s Euphoria aired in 2019, the make-up trends highlighted in the series were largely picked up by influencers. Today, we see the expressive and unconventional looks featuring Instagram feeds and reels of everyday consumer, confirming that “bold” doesn’t only equal celebrity. The use of the #euphoriamakeup hashtag skyrocketed over the summer of 2020, largely driven by the #Euphoriamakeupchallenge TikTok challenge with more than 120K posts in only three months. The challenge and platform itself enabled consumers to truly highlight the before and after effect and celebrate the opportunity to escape.
Connected with self-expression and individual interpretation of the popular TV show, Euphoria looks favor make-up which seems to be going against what’s accepted by the popular norm of minimalist and effortless natural looks. Think graphic liner, face decals, ornate rhinestone designs, glitter tears, psychedelics painted flowers, and many make-up products (from face prep', to lips and eyelids).
Euphoria make-up trend, top associated topics: An expert make-up trend exploring make-up materials, texture and product portfolio, Linkfluence Search
Inspired by the series' make-up looks, netizens use make-up as an exploratory territory to express their creativity. Euphoria make-up artist Doniella Davy explained: “The teens of Generation Z learn make-up on the internet, and they get pretty good at it [...] Gen Z is completely redesigning what make-up can and should be used to do — they’re using it to challenge beauty and make-up norms, to redefine what make-up is. They’re using it to challenge stereotypical gender identities. ”
#Euphoriamakeup looks on Instagram
Hashtags #euphoria, #creativemakeup, #blendtherules and images corresponding with the Euphoria trend show how it’s tightly connected to notions of escapism and dream, highlighting how consumers transform make-up and beauty into a creative, emotional and personal moment to escape from anxious reality.
#Euphoriamakeupchallenge on Tik Tok (1.4M views in 3 months)
Unfiltered Beauty and Skin-Activism
While Euphoria make-up used materiality and creative make-up to blend beauty standards, there’s a significant group of consumers who explore minimalist make-up routines to fight filtered beauty standards. Launched in September by make-up artist and model Sasha Pallari, the #filterdrop movement encourages users to share videos and images revealing “more real skin” on Instagram. In less than three weeks, the campaign prompted thousands users to post makeup-free selfies. The hashtag helped Instagrammers to speak openly about the filtered beauty standards and, more generally, to denounce the difficulty to discern what is real and what is fake on social media.
#Filterdrop on Instagram
Criticizing the unrealistic polished look, the campaign highlighted and confronted the pressure many consumers find themselves under. Sasha Pallari pointed out in a Vogue interview "So many people have told me their personal stories about how it affects them and how they think they look horrible and disgusting and everyone else looks so polished."
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There has been so much talk lately online about filters and the damage they can do to someone . I’ve felt so inspired by all the campaigns and posts on here and I feel I’ve learnt so much !! I feel really passionately about it and about embracing natural beauty as much as possible.. I did a flick through some of the filters I’ve seen recently and did some before an afters.. I feel so passionately about this because I was someone who relied a lot on filters over the years ... I was unconfident and insecure in my own skin and believed filters made me “ look better “ . I rarely used my normal camera on my iPhone I always used filter apps ... I never changed the shape of my face or body on editing apps or anything but I just liked to have a filter for a different look because I felt my normal face needed it . It really has taken a lot of hard work and a lot of self love to get to a reasonable good place of acceptance with myself . I don’t think anyone will ever get to a place of full security with looks but I think if we got to an acceptance and knowing that we don’t have to be “ perfect “ things would be better . I think as I’ve gotten older I’ve realised just how little looks actually mean ... it’s more important what’s going on in the inside . I have no problem with people who want to use filters and none of this is a judgment on anyone who does , some of my fav people I follow on insta use them . We don’t know peoples insecurities and what they’ve gone through to use them . I just want young girls especially to know that Instagram isn’t real and perfection isn’t real . We don’t have to look like people in filters ... it’s not real life . People who use them to promote stuff need to be honest about it instead of making it a normality .. I just think if we constantly use filters we go into a toxic mindset of thinking that’s what we are supposed to look like , we can become reliant on them like I did in the past and it can be dangerous . It can lead to worse problems in later life ... Let’s educate and try and embrace our natural selves 💛🌈 #filterdrop #instagramfilters #thoughts #blogger #london #beauty #selflove #mentalhealth
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#Filterdrop urges marketers and brands to show more “real skin”. Its key objective is to demonstrate how in an era of body positivity and self-love, consumers are still incredibly embarrassed and insecure when encountering skin problems, breakouts, and acne. The top associated hashtags related to the campaign underline how the desire for normal skin is tightly linked with self-love, self-confidence, and mental health.
#Filterdrop, top associated hashtags, Linkfluence Radarly
While trendy digital brands such as Glossier or Fenty became famous with their natural but flawless glowing skin visuals, consumers’ aspirations for real and achievable beauty goals are also growing.
Self-love mentions (2.3M) and Body Positive mentions (1M) the last 6 months, two stable trends recently boosted by skin positivity movement, Linkfluence Radarly
Consumer readiness to define beauty through achievable standards creates a territory of opportunity for cosmetics brands. Some niche actors have already jumped on it. With its flower-shaped, brightly colored and bejewelled acne sticker patches, Squish Beauty disrupted the acne treatment scene . Its inclusive marketing and cheeky branding breaks industry standards, driving consumer adoption and enthusiasm. Today, Squish’s portfolio is growing, and their fun and colorful acne stickers remain their best seller product.
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As a Licensed Aesthetician, there is definitely an underlying pressure to have perfect looking skin because in a sense, that is our job ... to help our clients achieve smooth, healthy, and glowing skin. I feel like it’s not talked about enough that Aestheticians also struggle with acne, skin picking, and just in general, irritated skin. There are all kinds of components to what can cause your skin to be inflamed, such as hormones, stress, reactions to products you’re using, or just an overall anxiety that fuels skin picking. Well, I’m here to state the obvious: I have broken out, have definitely picked my skin to the point of causing redness + irritation, and THAT IS OKAY 🙂. As someone that has struggled with dermatillomania since middle school, I have developed my own methods into avoiding my close-up mirror, but sometimes those methods don’t work as well. A new self-care method that I have put into practice multiple times now is putting these cute, little flower acne patches on the places I’ve picked. I now look in the mirror and instead of seeing a bunch of red spots covering my face, I see flowers🌸@squish.beauty, which completely lifts my spirits instead of me feeling frustration + shame of what I let myself do. We are all so hard on ourselves, and as an Aesthetician, I’ve always felt that my purpose is to drive positivity and self love with everyone I get the pleasure of treating. I also want to bring dermatillomania to light and create conversation about it, because I know so many people struggle with it on the daily as I do. Please DM me whenever any of you feel discouraged or frustrated about your skin — I am here + I can relate 🌸 #dermatillomania #skinpicking #acne #acnepositivity #aesthetician #selflove
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The openness and courage of online users, and the new daily routines which celebrate imperfections powerfully illustrate how acceptance of "normal skin" and skin-positivism are here to stay. With more than 60K posts tackling the "maskne" (mask + acne) phenomenon, consumer concerns about treatment products and not concealing ones are rising.
Maskne mentions over the last 6 months (60K mentions in total, +2180% in June/September 2020 vs. April-June 2020, Source: Linkfluence Radarly
The “maskne” routine, normalizing skin imperfections
Over the summer of 2020, social media users were more likely to mention exfoliating powders, rebalancing serums combined with primers, color control, and blemish balm treatments as part of their daily beauty regimes. Brands that stood out include Typology, Deciem and Clarins (for cleansing and skin treatments) and It Cosmetics and Lancôme (for skin prep’ and color control treatments).
Beauty as a positive process to celebrate imperfections
Through the normalization of skin imperfection, the definition of beauty is more and more connected to self-acceptance. Thanks to this shift in beauty standards, brands' celebration of individualism started booming. Item beauty, the recently launched makeup brand by influencer Addison Rae fits in this “ mold”. The brand promotes self-expression as a core value. “The focus of the brand is self-expression and self-love, and really not trying to achieve perfection or mask features but enhancing and embracing who you are naturally.”- says the founder.
Item beauty by Addison Ray, a visual identity defined through self-expression and self-love
On the road to self-acceptance through self-love, powerful hashtags help consumers to celebrate their beauty every day. Among them, #beyou, #yourskindoesnotdefineyou, #embraceyourface which show how beauty is increasingly defined through granular and personal aesthetics standards . Some major businesses have already recognized the revolution taking place. Marc Jacobs with the repositioning of its luxury house (now targeting younger generations through The Marc Jacobs label) fits in this celebration of individual beauty standards. With Perfect, its new fragrance, the House went viral on Tik Tok. #perfectAsIam challenge triggered more than 7.9 M views in only two months, powered by humorist, fashion influencer and trendsetter Rickey Thomson.
Encouraging users to accept their own imperfections, the online challenge seduced billions of Gen Z participants. Extended through an official launch party on Zoom (open to all!), the campaign message focused on individuality and self-love, triggering reactions and boosting online visibility for the fragrance.
Perfect by Marc Jacob, #perfectasIam challenge on Tik Tok (7.9M views), zoom party open to all promoted through #perfectAsIam (3.9K posts on Instagram)
Beauty as an individual, intimate act of self-empowerment
Beauty in 2020 is associated with a holistic experience, helping consumers feel empowered by their (im)perfections. Skin-positivism or skin-activism seems to close the loop of the body positivity movement, emphasizing that the self-acceptance process involves accepting one's own body and skin. Consumers are now ready to celebrate every part of their bodies.
Hashtags celebrating the passage of time (#stretchmarksarebeautiful, #tigerstripes…), the damaged skin or scars (#loveyourscars, #wearyourscars) are rising on the social web and significantly enhance how the celebration of imperfections boosts happiness.
Hashtag related to skin damage, scars and passage of time over the body, merging self-acceptance semantics as well as positivity and self-empowerment
#stretchmarksarebeautiful Instagram posts, the digital celebration of imperfections
Be-oil, and its #Loveyourmarks campaign, set the tone in the US. With more than 2.5K social posts , the brand helped consumers accept that beauty is everywhere, despite scars, hurt or insecurities.
As a real symbol of healing and overcoming
The exposure of stretch marks and scars is a critical step in the healing process. With thousands of images beautifying these intimate marks, their meaning is shifting from a negative to positive symbol. As their related hashtags (#strongandsexy, #blessedandunstoppable, #innerbeauty), these marks are now seen as self-empowerment signs that should not be hidden anymore.
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Dear instagram, what's up with deleting pics of healed scars. I see accounts that post fresh self harm and yet they are never taken down. Most if not all accounts I follow put a warming before posting scars as they know it can be triggering but the whole point of us posting scars is to show that we are not ashamed of out scars as they tell a story. If you want to do something about it tell the account to add a warning if it's so disturbing. We are trying to love ourselves and our story but we can't if you are constantly putting us down by deleting and censoring our pics. I for one don't post my scars be for me it's because I know people will put me down because they aren't as bad and visible as others but that's just me. #YouCantCensorMySkin @makedaisychains
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Last year Instagram started censoring images containing healed self-harm scars. Consumers reacted with a widespread debate under the hashtag #YouCantCensorMySkin (3K posts on Instagram). The frequency of posts over the year proves that the conversation continues to affect and move netizens across the world. Affirming that everything is beautiful is certainly not possible with filtered, polished, or censored content. Sharing the naked body of Ericka Hart (activist, breast cancer survivor and model), Morgane Sezakory said: “why not simply accepting to look without judging (...) and accepting the naked body to be seen”, without censorship.
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Le corps essence 💌 Pourquoi certaines photos sont politiquement (in)correctes ? - Comment un corps peut-il être jugé incorrect ou correct ? - Il arrive qu’en partageant des photos de corps nus ici ou via Sézane des voix s’élèvent et commentent « Pourquoi montrez vous des fesses, des seins ?... Elle est trop maigre, elle n’est pas assez grande, voluptueuse... si ou ça, ou quoi ? Elle est quoi ? Elle n’est pas quoi ? - Grrrr... 😱 - Quelle étrange époque... si souvent régressive alors que la liberté d’expression est en danger ou carrément un rêve impossible pour tant d’habitants de cette terre. - Pourquoi ne pas essayer de simplement regarder sans jugement justement - en se rappelant que la femme ou l’homme nu(e) EST l’essence de la vie même - donc de tout. Comment ne pas prendre conscience qu’en (se) laissant vivre et être le monde tourne mieux. Et puis... des jeunes filles en fleurs aux femmes plurielles que nous sommes se demander quel est le lien ? - Je crois, pour moi... que le lien est le corps. Nos corps témoins et vivants - nos corps que j’essaye avec le plus d’humilité et d’émerveillement possible de comprendre, d’habiller/déshabiller pour mieux (nous) dévoiler les corps nus dont on ne doit jamais oublier qu’ils sont l’essence de tout, et qu’aucun vêtement ne peut leur rendre justice. - ÊTRE du premier jour au dernier, l’essence, les sens, le sens de nos histoires. #vavisetdeviens #lecorsessence 📷 @ihartericka
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Beauty got personal
The evolution of consumers' understanding of beauty continues. Cultural events, environment and new players on the scene will impact and adapt the concept. It’s crucial for marketers to stay connected with the source, understand real-time the struggles and concerns so that their response is authentic, timely and sensitive. The need for self-expression and readiness to comment on current standards means social data provides ongoing and consistent overview of what matters to the consumer. This shift in consumers’ attitudes urges the beauty industry to adapt, explore and learn.