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Marketing personal care products

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Personal care products free from toxic ingredients draw consumer attention and dollars.

Consumers expect a lot from their personal care products; with multi-faceted lifestyles comes a demand for multifunctional, free-from ingredients.

The natural, free-from trend continues to be the strongest in the personal care industry. According to Kline and Co.'s Natural Personal Care’s U.S. Market Analysis and Opportunities report, in 2018, the natural personal care market recorded the strongest growth in the last five years in the U.S. By 2024, the market is expected to exceed US$12 billion, a growth of 5.4% between 2017 and 2024, according to Global Market Insights Inc.

This booming industry provides companies and manufacturers with exciting opportunities to market free-from ingredients. Changing customers’ lifestyles, particularly females in urban areas; an enhanced awareness of personal grooming; and social media influencers are driving a switch to natural, eco-friendly ingredients. The search for simpler formulations is increasingly being linked to conscious consumer consumption, driving the trend for naturally focused ingredients tapping into a fully healthy lifestyle.

Research from the Environmental Working Group (EWG) revealed that the average woman uses 12 products with 168 chemical ingredients daily, while men use six products that contain about 85 ingredients. This continued, concentrated use has been the subject of comment pieces by health and lifestyle bloggers, raising awareness of potential health risks and suggestions for alternative, free-from products.

In a crowded marketplace, organic and free-from ingredients are popular with consumers. Milder ingredients and plant-derived ingredients are becoming increasingly attractive with consumers as they move away from sulfates and synthetic components. Naturally perceived ingredients, such as benzoates and benzoic acid, natural gums, cellulosics, emollient esters, natural oils and alkyl polyglucosides, are just some of those ingredients increasingly gaining importance.

Similarly, emollients are showing strong growth, with exotic oils and butters used to replace mineral oil and silicone. Think of luxurious body lotions, moisturizers and conditioning shampoos. Consumers are increasingly attracted to using ingredients that they are typically used to eating, and properties of certain emollients, such as skin smoothing or a non-greasy feel, will also continue to drive their consumption. In the U.S., emollients are forecasted by Kline and Co. to achieve the fastest growth during the period of 2018 to 2023.

The hair care industry is another interesting sector to watch, with the natural-looking hair trend slowing down due to the use of hair fixative polymers. The popularity of this added ingredient hasn’t lost traction in geographical areas such as India, according to Kline and Co., where hair fixative polymers are forecast to see the strongest growth. Hair products that claim to contain no silicone, sulphates or added ingredients continue to be popular, with brands using marketing techniques such as quizzes, eco-friendly partnerships and influencers to attract customers.

The rise in demand for multi-functional products can be attributed to environmental concerns and the earth-aware consumer. Conscious consumption, with products containing fewer ingredients, is not only better for the planet, but from an industry point of view, can reduce costs and overhead, and simplify the stages of processing and production using fewer ingredients. This results in positive publicity for brands, and less of a strain on the environment.

Consumers also desire plastic-free packaging. Consumers are not just looking at the product ingredients alone, but the packaging that their products are delivered in. For example, Cleanlogic’s CARE line stands for “Concern, Awareness and Responsibility for Our Environment.” The packaging is 100% recyclable, made from 100% tree-free paper (80% bamboo and 20% cotton fiber).

Many individuals are changing to products in solid formulas, with shampoos, conditioners and even deodorants available in bars to reduce the harm of plastic packaging on the planet. Ethique is one such brand, marketing itself as the world’s first zero-waste, full-range beauty brand. Vegan, sustainable and palm oil free, Ethique uses its environmentally free credentials (such as the prevention of the production and disposal of 3.3 million plastic bottles) as part of its marketing. The brand has a dedicated ingredients page on its website, listing ethically sourced, naturally derived and sustainable ingredients such as ginger, peppermint oil and cocoa butter among the makeup of its products. This provides customers with an easily accessible directory of ingredients and reinforces the brand’s natural credentials.

The marketing tactics used by brands can affect the popularity and preconceptions of certain ingredients. Terms such as “paraben free” can create a negative perception of a certain ingredient for consumers, suggesting that all parabens are harmful. According to Carlos Ruiz, senior analyst at Kline and Co. in an article for happi, changes to guidance on the use of free-from claims will change, with the the terminology only to be used if an ingredient is banned based on a regulation. Brands like Drunk Elephant place education at the heart of their marketing program, informing customers of the six “toxic ingredients” that are at the root of skin problems.

Packaging of paraben-free products is often minimalist and taps into color schemes of black and white, with the occasional green thrown into the mix. This is just one marketing tactic to entice customers into purchasing a naturally created product, with brands such as Drunk Elephant using block colors to identify their different products to customers.

And it’s not just new brands that are embracing the popularity of clean beauty. Established luxury names such as Clarins and Wella AG are marketing their plant-based, sulphate- and phthalate-free products to younger audiences, utilizing social media videos and a lower price point to target Millennials who are eco-conscious about their health and the environment.

As the demand for free-from items across the personal care industry grows, brands and manufacturers will continue to experiment with new clean ingredients and techniques to attract product-hungry customers. With the ever-conscious consumer comes opportunity for growth of a lucrative industry that can play a positive role on customer habits and the environment. Social media and consumer content raise awareness and tempt customers to try a new product. In a crowded marketplace, tried and tested free-from credentials are key to success.


Lindsey Carnett ([email protected]) is CEO and president of Marketing Maven, an Inc. 5000 ranked integrated marketing firm recognized nationally in the health space by third-party ranking company O’Dwyer’s PR. She specializes in PR, social media marketing, influencer marketing and reputation management. Carnett is a 2019 Enterprising Women Honoree, 2017 PR News Top Women in PR, FOLIO Magazine 2015 Top Women in Media Honoree and is noted for helping to launch consumer brands with substantiated ingredients.

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