Exploring the shifting sands of beauty


Millennials churn the beauty care industry as they make their fashion statement

They always say times changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself, said American artist Andy Warhol. Truer words were never spoken when observing the changes millennials have wrought on the stage of beauty care. One of the most gorgeous and eloquent of millennials, Emma Watson, time and again, expresses the views of many millennials. Surrounded by beauty care products that promise the perfection of flawless female beauty, she says, “There is nothing interesting about looking perfect – you lose the point. You want what you’re wearing to say something about you, about who you are.”

This is the crux of millennial thinking. They don’t wish to be what others want, and they don’t want to be lectured to, or pitched at. This has made them distrustful of traditional advertising. As the first generation to grow up with technology, millennials place faith in discussing with peers on social media, the qualities of a product they wish to purchase. American best-selling author, Seth Godin says, “Marketing is no longer about the stuff that you make, but about the stories you tell.” And companies have realized they cannot be successful if they continue to market in the same old way. The cosmetic company Nyx, which was acquired by the L’Oreal group in 2014, has opened ten stores in France and one hundred-odd stores worldwide. In 2016, Nyx increased its growth by an incredible 125% year-on-year. Its customer base mostly comprises millennials, so it does not advertise on TV or in magazines. Instead, it focuses on communicating with customers on social media.

The reason for the corporate sector concentrating so heavily on millennials, is their being the largest living generation in the US, having overtaken the Baby Boomer generation. Gen X which is the generation in the middle, is expected to peak this year, close to 66 million.  According to Pew Research Center, there are 75.4 million millennials as against 74.9 million Baby Boomers. Many millennials are in their late 20s and early 30s, and in jobs, building up their finances. In the years to come, they will become the prime spenders in the economy. Focusing on this point, the beauty care industry is wooing them, having studied their unique perspective and behavior.

Millennial shoppers appear to be different from earlier generations as they don’t care to think in a conventional manner. Emma Watson said, “I remember the first time someone asked me, “What are you wearing?” – speaking designer – and I thought “What strange question. Obviously, I’m wearing a dress.”  Her thoughts are echoed by many millennials. “I don’t want other people to decide who I am. I want to decide that for myself.” Millennials also prefer more natural products, with an eye on sustainable growth and the environment. Beauty products are becoming more “organic, “natural” and “green.” Emma Watson, expresses millennial sentiment, “I think that the most beautiful people are those who look as if they have no makeup.” Millennials also appear to consider beauty as a fun activity. They are going in for tattoos, nail art and smokey eyes. As Emma Watson says, “I love fashion. I think it’s so important because it’s how you show yourself to the world.” They are going in for smaller, lesser known brands like Elf that have fun products at attractive prices, passing the more serious, sophisticated products of established brands like L’Oreal, Revlon, Johnson & Johnson and Proctor and Gamble. Added to this, millennials are focused on living in the moment. They belong in a generation that is used to instant gratification and instant results. This perspective has spilled over to the world’s $13 billion cosmetics industry. Millennial females need quick fixes – they want a flawless complexion for a selfie now. They don’t want to wait years and years to slow down the effect of aging, as traditional products promise.

Having lived through the financial meltdown and its hostile repercussions on a fantasy world, millennials believe in being rooted in reality. Emma Watson says, “With airbrushing and digital manipulation, fashion can project an unobtainable image that’s dangerously unhealthy. I’m excited about the aging process. I’m more interested in women who aren’t perfect. They’re more compelling.”

Millennials are living in a whirl of constant upheaval, and the only constant in their world is change. The millennial women making a fashion statement on this with eye-catching colors they use in their appearance. A recent survey by Alcon and Kelton Global found that millennials have abandoned the simpler colors and designs of Generation X for bolder colors used with flexibility and freedom. 71% of women surveyed said adding color to their look was one of the most effective ways to present their personality. 60% of the women believe that the use of different colors can enhance their natural look as well their self-confidence. Emma Watson says, “I’m a multidimensional person and that’s the freedom of fashion: that you’re able to reinvent yourself through how you dress and how you cut your hair or whatever.”

However, millennials appear to return to the traditional when it comes to saying “I do,’ and so, diamond rings, contrary to expectation, are in vogue, when millennials are getting married.

This whiff of tradition somehow jells with the streak of conservatism that colors millennial perspective on what adds up to dressing sexy. Baring all is not in vogue, it appears. Says Emma Watson, “The less you reveal, the more people can wonder.” Millennials have transformed fashion into focus on style, which, as Dominican-American fashion designer Oscar de la Renta says, is more about being yourself.

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