Cosmetics Business reveals the top 5 beauty consumer trends of 2024 in new report

Published: 1-Jul-2024

From Gen Alpha's sharp eye for shelfie-worthy brands to Boomers' 'profound' engagement with beauty, this report uncovers the latest consumer shifts across every generation


This article was originally published in the Beauty Consumers Trend Report. Receive your copy here

This time last year, the conversation around Gen Alpha’s obsession with skin care had barely begun, but within months this topic became a headline-grabbing, controversial matter.

The data followed: in March 2024, NIQ reported that in the US, households with tweens are driving 49% of mass skin care’s growth.

While this is the most dramatic consumer shift the beauty industry has likely seen in the past year, evolving trends across every generational demographic, from buying preferences to product usage, are explored in this report.

Beauty moves fast, and propelling the category forward is the ever-shifting behaviour of consumers, who are increasingly informed, empowered and demanding.

The industry’s ability to adapt to consumer needs and behaviours as they evolve has played a key role in the resilience of the beauty sector.

Despite the cutbacks consumers have made in other areas, beauty stands out as one of the exceptional categories in which they will continue to spend.

A new survey of 1000 UK consumers, conducted in early April 2024 by L.E.K. Consulting found that consumer sentiment regarding personal finances is still muted, nevertheless personal wellbeing remains a priority area.

72% of consumers said that if they had 10-20% more to spend on personal care, they would choose skin care; 67% would choose hair care and 44% make-up.

So which demographics are driving the most growth in beauty?

According to Kantar, UK category sales among consumers under 24 are growing by 17% year-on-year, while, for millennial 24-35 year olds, sales are up 13%.

For the middle age group of consumers aged 35 to 64, performance slows to 1.6%, before picking back up at the 65-plus bracket, with shoppers in this segment driving sales up 11%.

“It’s interesting that we see a polarisation in terms of performance at both ends of the spectrum,” Kantar’s Health and Beauty Business Unit Director Matt Maxwell tells Cosmetics Business.

“The middle core segment are not driving as much growth and this is because they are the demographic that is probably most impacted by the cost of living crisis.

“They might have young kids and mortgages, and have probably felt the impact of that, which is why some of their discretionary income on segments like beauty hasn’t been as strong this year.

“The younger age group are probably less impacted by these responsibilities, and older age groups may have paid off mortgages.”

The strong link that beauty has with personal identity and wellbeing might go some way to explaining why consumers continue to invest in this category whilst cutting back on other areas of discretionary spend.

Unexpected trends have also surfaced, such as how Gen Z consumers are buying into anti-ageing products and treatments.

“We’re seeing more and more engagement with anti-ageing products across younger consumers than ever before,” says Maxwell.

In fact, a new survey from global filler company Teoxane has found that over a third of 18-25 year-olds say they are likely to have an aesthetic treatment in the future – more than any other age group – with 53% citing confidence as the reason.

But a quieter shift is also happening among the over 60s – boomers – who are re-writing the meaning of later life living.

They are increasingly tech-savvy – online purchasing is now frequent among boomers and their use of TikTok has increased by 57% since 2021 according to GWI.

And the changes in how they live will not only influence their own ageing journey, but will set a precedent for future generations, says The Future Laboratory, in its Generations: Now & Next report.

The need to understand each life stage of the consumer across different age points has never been more important, and beauty brands are challenged to keep up.

Trends will be revealed in detail throughout July exclusively to subscribers, so don't miss out and subscribe.

Trend 1: Gen Alpha: Give us shelfie-worthy skin care

With an intriguingly sophisticated eye for aesthetics and a passion for shelfie-worthy product, Gen Alpha’s fixation with skin care is not about what’s inside the bottle, it’s about how collectable, scroll-stopping and sharable the product is.

Alphas are in fact doing what tweens have always done: from Pokemon cards to plushies, Lego figures to L.O.L. dolls, children have an innate desire to collect.

What’s different for this generation is that they have been online since they were born, and a world without social media and influencers has never existed for them.

The result is that for Gen Alpha, beauty is a gamified, collectable experience that starts with the thrill of the acquisition and is followed by sharing and a sense of connection.

This trend explores how brands will be increasingly challenged to adapt aesthetics in order to stay relevant with this generation's expectations, as they shift so rapidly – and how future designs can stand out.

Trend 2: Winning Gen Z's wallet has never been harder

If Gen Z were not already viewed as the beauty industry’s generational equivalent of A-list celebrities, this latest data would swing the pendulum firmly in their favour.

The so-called ‘TikTok generation’ are worth £2.3bn to the total beauty category in the UK, and sales among the under 24s are growing by 17% year over year – the fastest of any demographic, according to Kantar.

This is a cohort that, currently aged 14 to 27, are starting their first jobs, climbing career ladders and therefore increasing their purchasing power.

But Gen Z also consider many more factors than other generations when making a purchase, so brands need excel in multiple areas to attract and retain these customers.

This trend identifies what they are, and how beauty brands can win Gen Z.

Trend 3: Millennials are beauty's e-commerce power shoppers

Gen Z may be the first truly digitally native generation, but when it comes to purchasing beauty online, millennials significantly top the bill as the industry’s power shoppers.

A survey conducted by Statistica in Q2 2023, found that millennials are significantly more likely to purchase beauty products online than other generations, and Kantar’s UK data concurs: 56% of their beauty spend is online, the biggest over-index of any demographic (52 w/e 31 March 2024).

There is an obvious explanation: the millennial generation is time-poor and cash-rich. But there may also be a knock-on effect of the shopping behaviour shifts that happened during Covid.

For beauty brands and retailers, it is essential to optimise their e-commerce marketing strategy to attract millennials, and creating campaigns around what they care about is key.

Trend 4: Gen X want brands to cut the BS

As the no-nonsense generation, Gen X have a very clear message for beauty brands: cut the BS.

This is a cohort that, aged 43-58 are often more self-assured and confident they’ve ever been, and are more content in their own skin and body, says Hannah Cook, Head of Growth and Innovation at The Pull Agency, which researched this demographic for the report, Gen X: The Invisible Generation in January 2024.

Many Gen Xers are still looking after young children or teens while becoming caregivers for their own parents, and because of this they haven't got time for marketing fluff or gimmicks, nor do they have time to do hours of research to find the right product.

“All they want to know is does it work, and is it going to help them address the problem they feel they have”, says Cook.

“For Gen X, it’s obvious when a brand is not being sincere. Gen X are pragmatic and respond best to no-nonsense, to the point communication and product regimes.”

This trend explores how brands can hit the mark with Gen X.

Trend 5: Boomers: most engaged yet most overlooked

Take a guess: which demographic is the most engaged with beauty?

If Gen Z comes to mind, surprisingly it’s the wrong answer, according to Kantar’s Face Value: The Global Foundation of Beauty Insights report.

Women, aged over 55 – the majority of whom are boomers – are the only demographic to have increased their use of beauty products since 2019.

And according to Kantar Worldpanel, they have a ‘profound engagement’ across a spectrum of beauty categories, and show a particular affinity for skin care products.

The fact that it is surprising news that boomers’ product use exceeds other generations says a lot about the way that the beauty industry speaks to and represents this demographic.

Beauty brands over-index on young consumers in who they target, with most focusing on millennials and Gen Z.

“They’re often overlooked by all the marketing and everything else, but they represent a big opportunity on the flip side,” says Kantar Worldpanel’s Strategic Insight Director Maya Zawislak.

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