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The Future of Hygiene: Body Care Trends and Product Ideas to Match Them

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Personal hygiene standards in the Covid-19 era have drastically changed as limited social interaction has transformed behaviors and beauty routines. Many consumers are concerned about cleanliness, safety, and unmanageable risk when outside. Sanitary measures are at the forefront of everyone’s minds and consumers have noted feeling a better sense of control and safety while at home.

Taking care of ourselves is important but how we go about it and what products we use have changed. Social trends show some people decided to wear less makeup, shave less, and embrace natural alternatives to products they would typically grab on their weekly trip to the store. These industry transformations were already in motion but the COVID-19 pandemic is accelerating the changing hygiene trends. As consumers spend more time at home scrolling, they are bound to be more impacted by the imperfect images of life in quarantine. These shifts in habits will be reflected in purchase decisions.

While a total stop in the consumption of hygiene products is unlikely, the online conversation is reflecting changing trends in products and ingredients. Simple things from aluminum vs natural deodorant, to a preference for a body wash that can also be used as hand soap, are reflected in the data. Brands may be beginning to wonder if this is the new normal. Are these new definitions of beauty and hygiene here to stay, or will society rebound after we overcome the virus?

Pandemic Norms

Body hygiene and grooming habits are frequent topics of conversation on the social web. Users are constantly being exposed to airbrushed and filtered versions of average people. In the past, the pressure to adhere to hygienic norms present on social media drove many consumers to maintain intensive hygiene and beauty routines.

This pressure to bring that level of perfection and polish into real life raised the “beautification bar” ever higher for women and men, who after scrolling through images of perfection, compare themselves adversely. Many grooming practices are not rooted in vanity, but rather have real-world, biological benefits

Pre-Pandemic conversations around hygiene hovered around 200k posts in the US and UK, and held steady around 50-60k posts with seasonal spikes in the Chinese market.

The debate exploded with the spread of the COVID-19 virus and the ensuing global pandemic. There were 673,000 conversations about hygiene in the US, UK, and China between January and June 2020: 424,000 in the US and the UK, and 249,000 in China.

future-hygiene-body-care-graphSource: Linkfluence Future of Hygiene Report

People will be using brands in the body care and beauty sphere regardless of a global pandemic raging outside their doors. However, as hygiene takes a higher importance, consumers are becoming more conscious of what is in the body wash they buy, why they shave, and what the efficacy of the ingredients is in the products they use.

Back to Basics

1. Makeup and Beauty

There has been much discussion on the social web around the use of makeup as both a beautification tool and a way for those who wear it to feel more confident. Despite attempts by the industry to showcase fashion forward at home looks, consumers are embracing laid back styles and the makeup to match. Some makeup wearers have expressed pride in not wearing makeup during the pandemic, and embracing their natural looks. The industry has historically pushed back on claims that it perpetuates unattainable standards. With the rise of unconventional beauty trends, brands have been championing more self-expression. As companies adapt to the new normal, advertising increasingly embraces those who choose not to wear makeup at all.

Revlon's bold advertising campaign features models applying beauty products, while the ad copy insists to the viewer they don't need it. On the English web, the no-makeup trend is associated with consumers choosing to forgo their makeup during work video calls. Women are heralding their newfound confidence in their own skin as an accomplishment in the face of brand marketing. This return to basics is also being promoted by women who are encouraging others to nurture their skin and embrace natural beauty. In fact, women are celebrating that their skin looks better without daily makeup applications and outdoor pollutants.

In China, makeup use also declined in the absence of social interactions. This reduction coupled with the mandatory wearing of masks that cover half their face was reason enough for consumers in all social groups examined in the study to stop wearing makeup.

future-hygiene-body-care-makeupSource: Linkfluence Future of Hygiene Report

2. Haircare

Many consumers are embracing spacing out or reducing hair washing from their routines. The majority cite laziness coupled again with the lack of social interaction. This presents another opportunity for brands looking to serve the evolving needs of quarantined consumers. 

Some women are using this time to oil train their hair and get the most out of their shampoo. Over-washing dried out their scalps and made their hair greasier quicker. By oil training their hair now, they can eliminate bad hair days in the long run.

Although the lockdown is the ideal occasion for some women to start space out washes, many are linking their mood and clean hair. Consumers state that although it is not a big problem, the fact that they don’t look at their best is weighing on their mood.

L'Occitane touched on this trend well by promoting their intensive repair shampoo with 5 essential oils. Dry shampoo alternatives, eco-friendly products, and green haircare lines more generally would serve consumers well in a time when they are already willing to try new things. 

3. Deodorant

With special attention being paid to hygiene and the ingredients in popular products, consumers leveraged the lockdown to stop wearing deodorant. For some, it was the perfect opportunity to get their body out of the habit of strong chemicals.  Conversations on transitioning away from deodorant cite aluminum as a key product both men and women would like to avoid. Many are choosing to go totally deodorant free, or have transitioned to natural options.

The belief that “that the more you put on the more you need” prompts users to review traditional formulas for toxic compounds that might reside in their skin. While some large brands are moving to embrace the trend, they are doing so through smaller subsidiaries. Procter & Gamble owned brand Native has not only embraced the trend but chosen to highlight customer fears in their social marketing.

However, not all consumers are sold on the natural deodorant trend and cite the transition period as a key pain point. Brand reactions remain somewhat mixed, but highlight scent as a major selling point. As with Unilever line, Axe, some are making light of the readjustment period many experienced after leaving lockdown. 

Surprisingly, consumers focus less on scent and more on the cost of deodorizing and antiperspirant products as a key decision for switching. No matter which product they choose, many are finding that they are able to save a lot of the money they usually spent on beauty items while they minimize social interactions.

4. Shaving

Shaving body hair proved to be a polarizing topic for women while taking a more humorous tone for male consumers. This dichotomy is most clear in the social posts surrounding women who have forgone shaving during the lockdown period.  Although they were happy to have one less task to complete, many did not feel brave enough to leave the house unshaven.

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Cat's out of the bag: I have body hair! 😺 Quarantine made me realize that the only reason I was getting rid of it was to make other people comfortable and to fit into society's sexist beauty standards. I don't really have interest in using my time, energy, or money to do that anymore, so I stopped! ☺️ I wrote about the experience for @womenshealthmag and people had a lot of fEeLiNgS about it. 😏 Look, what you do with your body hair is absolutely a personal choice. I used to religiously remove all of mine and I might do so again some day. But know that body hair is not unhygienic 🙄, its presence is not inherently masculine, and our collective shame around female body hair is rooted in misogyny, capitalism, and racism (Google "Mona Chalabi Guardian female facial hair" and read her excellent piece on this). All this is to say that if you have hair like me, it's completely normal, and if you don't want to rip, cut, pluck, laser, or chemically burn it off anymore, I think that's very rad and sexy. And so will plenty of other people. As you can see here, I am very hairy and still very hot. 😜 If you wanna read more of my thoughts on living (and dating) as a hairy woman who doesn't shave, you can find the story at the link in my bio. 💖 And yes, I know I look like young Johnny Depp. And I fully take that as a compliment. 👨🏻 Just one more friendly reminder: You can apply this unapologetic mindset to anything about yourself that you've ever thought was unattractive. If you can internalize misogyny, you can internalize that you're hella cute exactly as you are. And people fuckin' LOVE that energy 😘 #okthanksforcomingtomytedtalk #bodyhair #femalebodyhairofinstagram #armpithaironpoint #hairywomenappreciation #nothingwronghair #fuckgendernorms #unshaved

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Brands themselves have taken the time to acknowledge the moment and embrace the fact that not every woman will feel the necessity to shave. For those who choose to abstain, it is a simple personal choice, not a statement.

Men on the other hand have taken the no-shave trend from a social commentary moment to a more humorous place.

These jokes on social media about the state of their beards were answered by brand tutorials on how to groom and maintain styles at home. Gillette tried to inspire some consumer interactions with this tweet:


Changing Attitudes to Body Beauty

During this pandemic period, consumers seem to be more open-minded to taking a more holistic approach to their hygiene routine. As one of the few factors they can control, particularly when at home, many are choosing to be proactive about trying new products. Some commentators had begun to worry about the relevancy of  skincare and makeup in the pandemic and lockdown. However, it's becoming clearer that the brands are not obsolete, it is just that the consumers have taken the lead in defining what is necessary to maintain hygiene and healthy body routine.

By refocusing their targeting on the modern consumer and catering to the requirements of modern living, the hygiene industry can adapt to what the consumer’s personal and individualized needs are. Life has become more informal as people work from home, and we are still adjusting to living lives a little more rumpled and a little less polished. 

Although body care has been deemed an indulgence rather than a necessity in these stressful times, it has been noted that finding ways to feel beautiful can contribute to your wellness. Nearly 80% of British women who were recently polled by UK  Boots No7 skincare brand have said they continue to wear makeup while in lockdown as a form of self-care. Instead of a full face of makeup, 52% of the women polled have changed their beauty essentials to moisturizer, cleanser, and hand cream. 

All markets have amended their skincare routines, but Chinese consumers on the social web discussed lengthening their daily regimens to address skin problems, such as roughness, dryness, and irritations in particular. Moisturizers and care products are considered long-term investments by Chinese consumers in particular.

This phenomenon is not exclusive to women, luxury male grooming brand MESOA specifically champions self-care and maintaining your mental health. Part of their mission has been to teach men to groom well, and they make a point of supporting the mental health of their customers.

What Does the Future Hold?

Hygiene and Body Care have undergone a transformation, but just as grooming was an important part of consumer’s routines pre-pandemic, so will it be post-pandemic. Now is the time to transform your marketing to align with societal and social trends.  The changes we have observed thus far are due to the differences in the method of the exertion of social force. 

With the current social sentiment, it is not a question of if people will continue to use grooming products, but how they will use them. Hygienic norms are defined in the social sphere. As we endure the second wave of infections, are you reaching your consumers where they're congregating most?

From handwashing, to shaving, to makeup application, the definitions of body care and hygiene have changed. To reach consumers during the pandemic so must you. As the transition happens, will your brand be prepared to match the new hygiene consumer?  The online social sphere is the key indicator for uncovering trends, read more in our new report The Future of Hygiene now. 


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