Consumer perspective

Michelle Niedziela

Scientific director

HCD Research

United States



Kathryn Ambroze

Manager of Behavioral & Mktg Sciences

HCD Research

United States

Today’s consumers expect more from their beauty products than just product efficacy. Moisturizers are not just for smoothing wrinkles, but also expected to smooth stress. A focus on health and wellbeing and a holistic, healthy lifestyle is a growing trend among consumers that beauty brands need to address. Today’s beauty care products need to provide beyond standard cosmetics promises and think outside the box on how to fit into a wellness lifestyle routine.

The health and wellness product space, which includes health and well-being related consumer products such as nutritional supplements, cannabinoids, and other plant-based phytocompounds and natural actives, is booming. Products featuring functional ingredients, including phytoceuticals, nutraceuticals, and herbaceuticals, and other natural actives, have become increasingly popular and warrants a closer look. Wellness encompasses a wide range of activities and products, from fitness and training to diet, nutrition, beauty and more. 

We live at a unique time where beauty, health and wellness are rapidly converging in meaningful ways. Consumers understand that beauty is more than “skin deep”, a realization that we can only be our most beautiful selves when we are in our most healthy state, be it physically, emotionally, socially, intellectually, professionally or spiritually.  

Wellness and the desire for a holistic, healthy lifestyle has been a growing trend among consumers across the globe. The wellness movement is about making healthy lifestyle choices and maintaining well-being physically and mentally. As more and more people around the world begin to recognize the importance of wellness, a trend which has seen the value of the industry increase year-on-year, brands that enable consumers to incorporate wellness activities and lifestyles into their daily lives through products will find more success. 

Beyond cosmetics and added benefits 

Consumers these days expect more from their products. Consumers increasingly are turning to items that not only help them stay healthy, but mitigate certain health conditions and ailments. They don’t want to take another pill and they increasingly shun chemicals and artificial ingredients. Instead, they want the products they use to keep them healthy. They are looking for products that provide added functional benefit and claim substantiation to address their specific health and wellness needs. 

But what makes a product functional? 

The relationship between good nutrition and good health is well established. Thanks to innovations in food and drink, functional ingredients are commonplace to consumers and can be defined as ingredients resulting in a positive, beneficial effect on a particular function of the body. Well-known functional ingredients, such as probiotics, vitamins and superfoods, have gained recognition as health and wellness essentials. As this trend grows, consumers seek additional added benefits from other consumer products, like cosmetics, that relate to their outer appearance and inner emotional wellbeing. More cosmetic manufacturers using terms like detox, inner beauty and wellness to describe the added benefits of their products, beyond cosmetic efficacy.  

Today’s cosmetic customers are well versed in the beauty and topical skin care space with the advent of a consumer segment known as “skin-intellectuals”. The supplement and functional ingredient space will likely see further consumer education driving consumer shopping lists in the future. Consumers relate vitamin to fruits and vegetables, something natural, and so it's easy for them to understand the benefits.  


In particular, the beauty industry is taking an interest in the wellness revolution as self-care becomes an essential component of physical, mental and emotional health. A bit driver of the self-care trend is stress, which is known to negatively affect the quality and appearance of skin. Recent studies have revealed that skin is more sensitive and reactive when faced with high levels of emotional stress. New products are filling this space more and more. From sprays and body butters through to oils and balms, consumers are looking to purchase more active recovery and relaxing products that reverse or prevent the harmful effects of stress in daily life. 

Consumers are looking for self-caring solutions to a broad range of problems in their daily lives. From decompressing from the daily grind, to getting better sleep, to feeling psychological more fit, consumers are expecting their products to help them help themselves.  

Stress causes the body to release high levels of cortisol which can lead to the skin barrier function deteriorating, and ultimately damage to the skin. Interest in traditional ingredients, such as chamomile and neroli, which have calming and relaxing properties has been growing. 

Further, with busier and more stressful lifestyles, sleeping habits are also changing. Sleep is very important to appearance, well-being and health. And more recently, brands have been embracing night-time skin products like eye masks, gels and anti-aging creams that may help consumers obtain better sleep. As consumers look to embrace ‘beauty sleep’ as part of their nightly skin care routine, brands will have growing opportunities for new products, devices and ingredients to join in. 

Another part of self-care and well-being is emotion and self-confidence. The body positivity movement is an important topic in today’s health and wellness space, aiming to celebrate all types of bodies and normalize different body weight representation. In recent years, the conversation around body positivity and mental well-being has welcomed a new movement of body neutrality, which encourages that beauty is not indicative of their worth and neutralizing the impact of appearance on a person’s lifestyle and wellbeing, detaching confidence and self-acceptance from outer appearance and surface beauty. Consumers want their products to help them feel good about themselves.  


We are living in the marijuanaissance with more and more products including CBD (cannabidiol, the second most prevalent of the active ingredients of cannabis) in ingredient lists. As medical research continues to demonstrate the benefits of hemp-derived ingredients, like CBD and related terpines, its use as a functional beauty ingredient is also becoming more and more popular. Claims range from skin benefits, such as anti-itch and refortifying the skin barrier to aiding in anti-inflammation and even psychological and emotional effects.  

Loosening of cannabis laws and consumer enthusiasm around the emerging science on its uses has legitimized the beneficial claims surrounding CBD. There is some stigma, still, around the ingredient and people didn't really know about how beneficial CBD can be prior to legalization. So there is still a lot of room for consumer education. But consumers are beginning to view it as more of a vitamin or botanical supplement with its increasing popularity. 

Topical CBD’s most relevant attributes for cosmetics are its anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties, with evidence that it can treat dry skin, psoriasis, acne, and eczema. Product applications can range from moisturizers to rubs and balms, used for achy joints or sore muscles before and after workouts. These same properties make CBD oil a good match for massage lotions, too. 

The sky seems to be the limit regarding adding CBD-based products to skin care routines and therefore a no-brainer for brands interested in adding CBD products to their portfolio. However, it needs to be noted that this type of product research requires specialized knowledge and expertise – from making claims to running consumer and sensory testing – the nuances of designing, implementing and analyzing such research can be challenging. 

Not a product but a lifestyle 

A holistic approach to achieving physical and emotional equilibrium has become a key motivator of consumer behavior. Interest in holistic and wellness consumer products is driven by health awareness, often encouraged by both the media and governments. ‘Wellbeing,’ explores how wellbeing is no longer limited to looking after oneself in broad terms. Adults are adopting a multifaceted approach to health and choosing products and services that complement their personal wellness and evolving needs. 

Being able to identify these needs and offer products that can be incorporated into healthy lifestyles and routines is of utmost importance to cosmetic brands. Cosmetics are a part of everyday life for both men and women, core to daily routines. Many people want to look good and feel good, and they use cosmetics to achieve this. The wellness lifestyle is caring for oneself and taking actions today to ensure a healthier tomorrow. Common activities used to maintain everyday health and wellness are gaining cross-category attention as adults want to look and feel their best. 

Finding the best way to fit a brand into this lifestyle requires a multi-step approach focusing on leveraging consumer habits to identify unmet needs in the market. By understanding habits and areas for innovation, we can create behaviorally driven products that disrupt the industry and fulfil consumers unmet needs. 

  • Understanding Habits & Language: People are motivated by a variety of things, and great marketers understand that success is predicated on understanding those motivations. It’s important to get the VOICE OF THE CONSUMER, with their direct language of the cues, routines, and rewards that influence their decisions. 

  • Prioritize Needs: Utilizing the consumer language surrounding their habits, researchers can rank consumer expectations for product categories to better understand top needs and drivers for purchasing within the space.  

  • Uncover Brand/Product Perceptions: Based on consumer language, researchers can explore consumer experience with specific products and brands. Understanding brand and product perceptions, researchers can compare those needs against their experiences.  

  • Identify Need Gaps & Opportunities: When integrated, these approaches synergistically identify need gaps and innovation opportunities. Understanding where the gaps may lie in perceptions helps identify attainable opportunities for nudges to drive behavior and change habits (change in behavior/change in state of mind). 

Consumers want to look and feel their best without extra effort. Beauty products that work with consumers health goals, such as getting a good night’s sleep and reducing inflammation will stand out to the growing number of adults seeking products to complement their wellness and beauty needs. Since adults are spreading out their health management efforts, it’s likely they aren’t experts in any one area, allowing brands across categories to supply accessible, wellness-focused solutions. 

Wellness cosmetics – More than just a pretty face