A homogeneous approach to sustainability: a global view of the beauty and personal care market

A homogeneous approach to sustainability: a global view of the beauty and personal care market

Bringing together industry leaders and professionals in the cosmetics and personal care sector, in-cosmetics Global recently hosted two pioneering Co-Lab events looking to address the significant challenge of sustainability. In addition to featuring insightful presentations from a variety of industry experts, attendees also had the opportunity to share their knowledge and experiences through a range of group activities, discussing consumer sustainability trends across the global market.  


With the detrimental effects of climate change becoming increasingly evident in everyday life, the emphasis on sustainable products and practices is a growing priority for consumers worldwide.  

While the demand for sustainable cosmetics and personal care items is global, variation can be found among the different global and regional markets. With the help of its recent Co-Lab events, in-cosmetics Global sought to explore these nuances in more detail – looking at the UK and French markets in particular.  

Exploring the financials  

According to data from the Cosmetic, Toiletry and Perfumery Association Limited (CTPA), the UK and France are two of the largest markets for cosmetics and personal care products within Europe – with France sitting at EUR €12.882 billion, and the UK not far behind with EUR €10.487 billion. However, when it comes to consumer trends, habits, and preferences, they’re somewhat contrasting.  

At a more granular level, research from Cult Beauty found that French and British consumers are currently spending very similar amounts of money on beauty and personal care items; For example, the annual amount spent per person on beauty products hit £184.06 in the UK, and was slightly lower in France with £180.62 pp. However, they’re making distinct choices. 

Cost vs sustainability 

While sustainability has been identified as a priority for consumers when it comes to their cosmetics, these preferences are often being superseded by cost. Amid a global cost-of-living crisis, not only are many consumers looking to make cuts in their spending, but the products they do buy must live up to certain requirements and ideally serve them in more ways than one. For example, multi-use treatments such as makeup which doubles as skincare are likely to rise in popularity.  

Trends among UK and French consumers 

According to research house, Mintel, as environmental claims have grown, eco-friendly products have become an expectation for UK consumers in the beauty industry.  That, as cost becomes an increasing priority for consumers, brands using sustainable claims to prove a product’s value, for example, cheaper refill packs, will stand out in the market. 

When discussing the topic, beauty and personal care professionals at the Co-Lab event held in London noted that there was a big difference between consumers’ beliefs and actioning them. Though consumers have good intentions when it comes to sustainability, their concern, first and foremost, is always efficacy.  

While this is understandable, it can produce challenges for brands and formulators. To create a sustainable product, formulators may need to adjust the ingredients, quantities or process which can disrupt the efficacy and or effectiveness of the product. As such, balancing sustainability with efficacy can be a tricky task to execute.  

Across the channel , sustainability appears to be just as important to French consumers. According to data from Klarna, for 60% of consumers, it’s important that raw materials are sourced naturally and 33% believe that respect for eco practices should become mandatory. Similarly, survey data from NATRUE in 2021 found that – although many customers found it difficult to identify genuinely ‘natural’ cosmetics – they would be willing to spend more on certified cosmetic products.  

Despite this, the ongoing cost-of-living crisis has led consumers across the globe to cut back spending on non-essential items. According to research from NielsenIQ, almost half of French consumers planned to spend less on beauty products in 2023. Of the consumers surveyed, 27% said they would reduce the number of products in their regime, while 41% said they would buy cheaper products to cut back on beauty expenditure.  

Beauty and personal care professionals at the Co-Lab event hosted in Paris discussed the impact of financials on French consumers. Many of the experts agreed that some sustainable, organic, and natural cosmetic products are too expensive, and this poses obstacles even for the greenest consumers. 

A delicate balance 

Industry experts and professionals at both the London and Paris Co-Lab events agreed that moving forward, creating sustainable products, and adopting new practices will be essential in the beauty and personal care sector. However, as the saying goes, Rome wasn’t built in a day and this feat won’t be achieved overnight.  

How seamlessly and effectively these sustainable practices are able to permeate the different global cosmetics markets will rely on a number of factors. A challenge for brands in particular will be understanding sustainability from a consumer perspective and how external factors will play into the complex matrix of purchase intention. It is evident that organisations across all sides of the cosmetics value chain will need to come together to make this a reality.  

Currently, it is clear that both the UK and French beauty and personal care markets are moving in very similar directions when it comes to sustainability. While they may embark on different routes to success, and achieving their industry goals, only time will tell which markets may take the lead. What is certain, however, is that time is of the essence and change is needed sooner rather than later.  


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