2019 Predictions – Natural Beauty in Asia

As I ease myself into 2019, not helped by an 18-month old’s jet lag, I have been reading about lots of predictions for beauty trends this year.

Two key sources I focused on were Beauty Independent and Cosmetics Design Asia – they both had a lot of predictions so I have focused on my top 10 that are relevant to brands in or wanting to expand into Asia.

5 global beauty trends & how they apply to Asia

1. Transparency & Accountability

Increased demand from consumers to be able to fully track the footprint of their products

I completely agree with this and it is something we are already seeing in parts of Asia. Technology will help brands provide this transparency easily and believably to consumers – through apps as well as certification bodies. At Cosmoprof we saw a keen interest in farm to face brands where the brand provides the raw ingredient but I believe consumers will demand this across product categories and with more sophisticated products.

2. Green Chemistry

Creating compounds in labs that mimic natural ingredients in an efficient and environmentally sound way

Natural ingredients are not necessarily more environmentally friendly than synthetics – the complexity of growing, harvesting, processing, preserving and disposing is vast. Processes like advanced plant stem cell extraction can bypass issues around over harvesting by creating nature identical compounds in a lab. Green chemistry will also allow brands to create very innovative formulations that are both efficient and green.

3. Beauty from the inside out

Natural beauty is about a new focus on holistic wellness

Ingestible beauty products have seen a surge in popularity as consumers look to supplements and food as well as skincare to attain that healthy glow. Consumers are also looking much more to prevention – in Asia that has taken effect with a resurgence of traditional medicine. Expect to see a lot more of this moving forward and look to see if there are any ways to leverage this in your communications.

4. Importance of reviews

Don’t underestimate the importance of reviews and their impact on your sales

This sounds very basic but good reviews are increasingly crucial. Consumers can be distrustful of traditional as well as social media. Increasingly unsure of what is sponsored and what is a genuine recommendation. This is happening all over the world and Asia is no exception. Although we still see a thriving influencer market place here (and it should still absolutely be part of your marketing strategy), the importance of the opinion of genuine customers is gaining momentum. The Sunday Riley saga in the US where they asked their employees to post fake reviews is a lesson to all brands. Offer customers incentives to post reviews but never pay people to write fake ones!!

Fake reviews are a massive problem in parts of Asia – China has a huge issue with local brands and partners going to huge lengths including paying people to buy products so that the reviews look genuine. Many consumers are acutely aware of this and so are more skeptical than most in the west.

5. Press and Influencer gifting – gone too far

Everyone likes free stuff but there can be too much of a good thing!

In the US there are influencers who have publically stated that don’t want to receive PR gifts from brands anymore. In my opinion this is linked to two areas – firstly the general trend for zero waste and mimimising consumption – the waste of being sent 100s of products a month/week in some cases is insane. Secondly social followers are craving genuine reviews – influencers are losing credibility with too much paid promotion so this is a way to send a very strong message.

In Asia this is not the case yet. The influencer landscape is very different in different markets in Asia (good topic for another post!). In China influencers not only get mountains of free products but they get paid handsomely to do any posts. However, platforms are cracking down on over promotions – on Xiaohongshu an influencer can only post 1 paid post in 4 unpaid and the platform regulates this closely to ensure the quality for their user base. In Korea a law was passed in 2016 that means brands are seriously restricted in the amount of gifting they can do even with relatively low ticket items.

Asian beauty trends to get excited about

1. Australian Beauty is going global

Australian beauty is taking the world by storm – its natural, healthy, laid back image is right on trend

There has already been a lot of talk about Australian beauty brands with trends coming out of Cosmoprof Asia – check out my summary here. Asia has long looked to Australia for inspiration of all things natural from food to cosmetics. Australia’s famous sun, sea and beaches equate to an image of an archetypal healthy lifestyle which is increasingly synonymous with good skin. Also, its unique flora and fauna set it up perfectly to create distinctive natural skincare products.

This is good news for natural beauty in general and especially for brands who want to expand into Asia as this trend is helping to build the profile in key markets like China and South East Asia.

2. J-Beauty is coming back

J-Beauty is set to regain the lime light with an increased focus on wellness and holistic living.

There are lots of indications that J-Beauty is coming back to the forefront. K-Beauty has been getting all the press for a while. The appeal with J-beauty is the long tradition of holistic living and reputation for research and quality.

The big difference with Japanese skincare is that it is deeply rooted in a tradition of self care rather than on improvements to ones physical appearance, which is more of the focus of K-Beauty eg: anti-aging.

This is good news again for natural beauty brands and as homegrown Asian brands start to emphasise wellness, self care and holistic lifestyles it will wake more consumers up to the idea of natural skincare.

3. Luxury brands are in high demand

The rising middle class want more high end Beauty products

The rising middle class in many parts of Asia, most prominent in China, are demanding higher end products as a way of differentiating themselves. In 2018 the prestige market continued to grow rapidly – mainstream players like Estee Lauder, L’Oreal Luxe really benefited from young customers’ increasing disposable incomes. And with the booming middle class this is unlikely to slow anytime soon. Whilst this will not directly translate into sales for natural product brands as these new middle class customers are still looking for recognition through big name brands, it will push more other customers to look for more sophisticated options.

4. Technology to revive bricks and mortar

Online channel sales are very dominant in most of Asia so bringing technology in store is crucial

Brands and retailers have dabbled with this for a while but it is becoming increasingly important as consumers are buying online more than ever and offline is primarily for experience and experimentation. In Hong Kong, Watsons are rolling out magic mirrors in up to 30 stores. And have announced a collaboration with Meitu where their beauty cam can analyse skin and give recommendations for products sold in store.

5. Male beauty on the rise

Male beauty goes beyond Skincare into colour cosmetics

In 2018 we already saw the launch of Chanel’s male cosmetics line in Korea and L’Oreal did a dedicated research project into the male beauty potential with Tmall. Sales in 2018 of male Skincare +58% and makeup +218%. L’Oreal and Tmall innovation centre are now creating a new male beauty line.

This is definitely an opportunity for natural beauty brands who’s branding is unisex or specifically targeting men.

Other interesting predictions that are less relevant to Asia currently but worth keeping an eye on

Green beauty retail in the US – dedicated green beauty retailers have been expanding and will continue to do so in 2019. Some are focused more on smaller US cities but the consensus is there is a lot of opportunity to expand. Shame we don’t have any dominant players in Asia – green beauty retail is very fragmented and still a tough business. We are seeing larger retailers taking on clean brands which is an encouraging step.

Charity – Consumers increasingly want to vote with their wallets, be that by buying less and reducing waste or buying brands they really resonate with. Brands who show that supporting community is integral to their business will get a leg up in 2019. This is still not a focus for most Asian consumers, it will come but is not currently a key driver of purchase decisions.

Acquisitions – In 2018 we saw some acquisitions of Indie beauty brands by major players – L’Oreal with Pulp riot, P&G with Walker & co and First aid beauty and the Hut group with Eyeko. With general economic outlook and the on boarding of these brands the acquisitions are expected to slow this year.

Safe sunbathing – An increased awareness of the benefits of Vitamin D and the broader consciousness of the harmful effects of chemical sunscreens both to your health and the environment mean that people will be looking to use less sunscreen, instead covering up whilst out in the sun. In Asia covering up has long been a way of life and sunbathing is not a popular pastime!


Lots to think about and keep an eye on as we move into 2019. If you want to talk about any of these trends or explore possibilities for your brand in Asia then don’t hesitate to get in touch.

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