Changing face of UK skincare

In 2006 Boots received a call. BBC TV’s Horizon programme asked if the company would be involved in a documentary on how cosmetic companies support their skincare product claims.

A risk? Undoubtedly. For although Boots had faith in their research concerning a new serum called No 7 Protect & Perfect by conducting an independent study with Manchester University, they were taking on assumptions about the skincare industry that many women were spending their money on anti-ageing skincare that simply didn’t work.

When the documentary was screened in 2007, Boots was upbeat. “In a few minutes we were able to get across the great research that we do, our clinical standards and the breakthrough performance of our products,” says Dr Mike Bell, Boots UK scientific skincare adviser.

Christopher Griffiths, foundation professor of dermatology at the University of Manchester, who conducted the clinical trial, was quoted as saying: “At both basic science and clinical levels Boots No7 Protect & Perfect has been shown scientifically to repair photo-aged skin and improve the fine wrinkles associated with photo-ageing.”

Younger millennial consumers are much more aware of brands, such as Estée Lauder or Clarins, thanks to social media

The knock-on effect was enormous for the entire skincare industry. It created trust with the public that cosmetics companies were carrying out valid research and could prove products did what they said on the label.

A good thing too. Because there is a lot of money resting on women’s desire to have the best skin possible. Mintel reports that the total value of mass and luxury women’s skincare in the UK last year was just over £1 billion. There was a small decline of 0.5 per cent in the mass market, but luxury remained steady.

Yet according to the 2014 Premium Market Report for beauty, things are better in luxury skincare sales, up 3 per cent and worth £501 million. “The demand for flawless, youthful skin shows no signs of waning with the anti-ageing sector accounting for 42 per cent of total sales,” says the report’s author Imogen Matthews.

“It is clear that there is a demand for premium skincare brands,” adds Karla Rendle, research analyst at Euromonitor International. “We believe this is coming not only from the middle to elderly demographic, who have higher disposable income and an increased desire to keep their skin looking good, but also from younger millennial consumers, who are much more aware of brands, such as Estée Lauder or Clarins, thanks to social media, not to mention Kendall Jenner, face of Estée Lauder. Beauty vloggers have been introducing younger UK consumers to premium brands that may sit above their normal price range, but they are buying into it.”

Indeed since hitting the counters in 2013, Lancôme’s Advanced Genifique has won 150 awards internationally and sold 15 million bottles worldwide, while Clinique’s Dramatically Different Moisturizing Lotion+ is the number-one selling prestige skincare product in the UK; not bad for a lotion that originally launched as far back as 1968, albeit with a recent upgrade.

But cleansing is a different matter and women are substituting expensive for mass. “Women have wanted to incorporate newer products entering the market into their skincare routine without sacrificing others or increasing spend,” says Mintel’s senior beauty analyst Charlotte Libby and author of the Women’s UK Facial Skincare 2015 report. And they are economising on their chosen cleanser by going back to the bar – the bar of soap.

Kendall Jenner, face of Estee Lauder

Kendall Jenner, face of Estée Lauder, is helping to create demand for premium skincare products among millennials

“Facial soap usage boomed in popularity in 2014,” says Ms Libby. “It has been driven by a high level of new product development in facial soaps with a number of new products, such as Sensai Silky Purifying Milky Soap and RMK Powder Soap.” Not to forget the enduring popularity of Dove Original Beauty Cream bar that 73 per cent of customers use to wash their face and which sold 23.3 million packets last year in the UK alone.

NPD market research reports that overall sales of facial cleansers grew by 13.9 per cent to be worth £58.6 million annually also reporting an upsurge in facemasks of 11.2 per cent valued now at £6.5 million, with Origins owning 20 per cent of the market share. A canny campaign encouraging customers to upload selfies of masks in action with the hashtag #MaskMonday has helped reinforce this enviable position.

Away from the multinationals, Euromonitor’s Ms Rendle says: “Smaller manufacturers are slowly gaining a stronger foothold in both mass and premium. Examples we have seen include premium brand Aesop and Soap & Glory within the mass skin sector, both posting growth of over 60 per cent in value sales in 2014.” As for niche brands, multi-tasking  Cult 51 Night Cream has become the single best selling beauty product in Fortnum & Mason’s 300-year-history. Likewise Bioeffect EFG skincare has increased sales by 500 per cent since its first year, and outsells tobacco and fragrance on British Airways flights, a first ever in this category.

As for the UK skincare market as a whole? “There is certainly room to grow it by recruiting more people to a multistep skincare regimen,” Vivienne Rudd, Mintel’s director of global innovation and insight, beauty and personal care, concludes. “But it will be gradual.”