The WWD Beauty CEO Summit has always been a place where the industry gathers to decode the future. From Leonard A. Lauder’s debut keynote presentation at the very first conference, in which he predicted everything from the blurring of channels to the rise of China, to Pharrell Williams charting a new beauty vibe in 2022, the Summit has become a hub for new ideas.
On the eve of The Silver Summit, to be held May 9 and 10 at Cipriani South Street, we asked some speakers from the past to look into the future, and answer the question, as you look to the future of beauty, what is one key change that you believe will be transformational?
Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Shiseido Co. Ltd.
The convergence of beauty and wellness should come as no surprise to regular readers of Beauty Inc. This and other outlets have reported at length on their rapid intersection. But this concept is hardly new. At Shiseido, we have always seen beauty as holistic, and it has informed our approach to skin beauty for decades.
While perhaps not a strictly Japanese concept, the idea that appearance and physical wellbeing are intrinsically intertwined is deeply rooted in the Asian mindset. Today we know that this relationship is much more than a cultural convention. Hard science backs the evidence of our own eyes — truly beautiful skin begins with a healthy mind and body. A well-balanced diet, a regular sleep schedule and the vigorous management of life’s stressors affords the gift of healthy skin to those who keep these habits as a matter of course.
The beauty industry, with our wealth of intimate consumer data, our troves of research and, perhaps most importantly, our deep and lasting relationships with our consumers, has positioned us for this future. We know that our consumers continue to redefine beauty for themselves more broadly today than they did just a few years ago. If our goal is to stay ahead of the consumer trend toward wellness and holistic care, not only must we learn these new definitions, but in time, help write them.
Today, we dream of a future where cosmetic blemishes are magically erased with a customized ingestible pill, or sagging skin is instantly tightened with an at-home procedure guided by AI. While relatively few consumers could conceive of these ideas as part of their beauty regimen today, those very same consumers may take no exception to entrusting a beauty app with a summary of their daily food intake in exchange for dietary or exercise advice aimed at improving skin appearance from head to toe. Meeting the customer where they are through a connected experience, earning their trust and becoming a partner in the pursuit of beauty through a more holistic lifestyle is well within the realm of possibility.
Sooner than we imagine, the line between beauty and wellness will fade in the eyes of the consumer, not only in products, procedures and practices, but, before long, in lifestyle choices from diet, to fitness, to travel and beyond. As this day looms ever closer, we must consider our role not only as innovators and marketers, but as caretakers. At Shiseido, the trust we’ve built with our consumers is among our greatest assets, and it is to them that we have the greatest obligation, particularly as we innovate within the wellness sphere, a space that by necessity draws us closer to the consumer than any of us have ever been before.
Esi Eggleston Bracey
President, Unilever USA; Chief Executive Officer, Personal Care North America
While the fundamental values bringing people to beauty remain consistent, I believe our own longevity — the fact that we are living longer and doing it stronger and more boldy — will drive tremendous industry transformation. We are redefining beauty and wellness needs along a much broader spectrum than we could have envisioned before with mind-blowing innovation in health science and technology as witnessed this year at CES (Consumer Electronics Show).
Our kids’ generation could easily live to 100! The demographics of America will also continue to evolve, and with it, differing needs and beliefs about aging that will need to be addressed. And as the continued evolution of beauty becomes as much about how you feel as how you look, we’ll see increasing elements of holistic wellness entering the space — our beauty experience will be more additive to our life experience and the balance of daily life, creating products that people truly desire and that are personalized to their needs.
With more of us living longer, that of course puts more stress on our planet, and we have a critical need to address our planet crisis. Vital, technology-driven and truly environmentally friendly innovation — from packaging to ingredients — will be necessary to address the crisis we are facing. It will take efforts from companies, people who use our products and government alike, which is why we support regulation like Extended Producer Responsibility, which means that companies like ours will be financially responsible for the collection and processing of the packaging we produce. Companies that are transparent about their science and that prioritize responsible growth will reap the benefits.
We’ll see the embrace of a new era of beauty. One that’s inclusive, equitable, regenerative, positive, so that people and the planet can thrive together.
Chief Executive Officer, P&G Beauty
It’s becoming increasingly clear that the future will belong to those brands that most effectively bring together all of the notable transformations already happening in the beauty industry, including sustainable practices, transparent approaches, digital engagement and data-based ecosystems.
Through P&G Beauty’s Responsible Beauty platform, we’ve already learned that no one shift on its own will be sufficient. Instead, we need systemic transformation of how brands operate, communicate, learn from and connect with consumers. Truly, the bar has never been so high, making this an especially exciting moment to be part of the beauty industry.
Chief Executive Officer, L’Oréal USA; President, North America Zone
Every company is talking about putting their consumers at the center of their activities and strategies, but the truth is that consumers have done this all by themselves. Consumers have moved themselves to the center with new desires and demands and I believe they are there to stay.
In the future, the brands that win will be the ones that best organize around the central position of the consumer and build more authentic and truthful connections with them. The major revolutions that have touched our industry in recent years (digital, sustainability, transparency, technology, inclusivity) are essentially one revolution of consumer expectation.
Consumers now want a direct relationship with the brands they love, wherever they are. They want near-total knowledge about the products they use and they want to learn about these products from their networks of influence. They want to make sure their favorite brands and products are kinder to the planet and are aligned with their values. They want useful technologies that solve age-old problems and services that enhance the product experience so it feels like it was made just for them.
Consumer-centricity is a permanent fact of life for all companies. This something that inspires and energizes me, and I know it does the same for all my colleagues who are connecting with consumers in new and different ways every day.
Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Skinfix
With increasing access to information from chemists and dermatologists and skin care experts, the consumer will become more and more knowledgeable, demanding and discerning. Brands will be held to higher standards regarding how they formulate. Ingredients will be dissected for their efficacy (such as the percentage concentration), their function in a formula and their sustainability.
This shift will lead to better formulations that truly deliver thoughtful, effective and nutritionally dense formulas — without compromise. I also believe that the redefining of clean to be less about “natural” and more about sustainable will lead to a robust adoption of fermentation and other biotechnology-derived ingredients.
Chief Executive Officer, Olaplex
One key change that will be transformational would be for the beauty industry to come together to stand for what is factual and help educate consumers to separate facts from hyperbole.
If we believe that we serve our customers and that the customer reigns supreme, then our goal is to deliver knowledge that is grounded in real science. This does not mean it takes away from marketing and the brands’ ability to customize our brands’ message. It means that we hold ourselves to a higher standard and take the harder road of taking on popular culture that may be steering consumers to the wrong place.
A specific example is what defines clean versus safe. We are so quick to drop what popular culture points to as “bad” that we do not defend the proven standards of preservatives that have taken scientists years of research and chemistry to come up with. There is a reason why we’re finding more and more problems with products that fail stringent safety standards as we move towards unproven preservative alternatives.
Another example is the push back on dimethicone. There are good and bad silicones and yet the broad stroke of calling all silicones bad runs the risk of the beauty industry adopting unproven alternatives.
We have scientists, chemists and industry professionals who have been through the rigors of proving their theories and hypotheses, publishing their findings and filing and protecting their patents, yet many of them are not given the respect or the authority they deserve, much less celebrated.
As a beauty industry we have the platform, the audience and the duty to provide a narrative to the customers whom we serve.
My first thought when I saw the question about what will transform the future of beauty, I thought about generative AI, which would have been less controversial and maybe more enticing. However, generative AI is only as good as the information and data that it is learning and iterating from. If the information and data are compromised to begin with then generative AI is essentially reinforcing “compromised facts.”
The 2006 movie Idiocracy is largely a parody of how people degenerated to being spoon feed by technology because they could not think for themselves. For example,, that Gatorade is seen as a water source instead of water! While the movie seemed far-fetched, it really is not if we allow “half-truths” or hyperbole to take the place of science and research.
Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Briogeo and NancyTwine.com
The future of AI is already happening in real time and its impact on all industries, including beauty, will be profound over the coming months and years. As it relates to the beauty industry, specifically, I believe AI will lead the transformation of how consumers select and educate themselves on which products are best suited for their needs (both beauty concerns and ingredient and price preferences) and how to use those products for the best results.
AI will be transformational in helping to build multistep and full beauty routine recommendations by leveraging multiple points of data, inclusive of ingredient lists, clinical data, reviews and product interaction data. The impact of AI will change how we shop, both in-store and online, and how retailers think about building customer service and clienteling platforms.
AI will also develop to meaningfully and accurately analyze images of the skin to identify skin conditions and provide recommendations for appropriate skin care regimens. This can help consumers identify and address skin concerns early, leading to more effective skin care regimens. In addition, AI has the power to be at the forefront of innovation ideation. Meaning, AI can assist in the development of new beauty products by analyzing vast amounts of data, such as ingredient databases, customer reviews and market trends as a way for brands to stay innovative and produce truly effective formulas over time.
AI’s impact on the beauty industry will be profound over time and will ultimately help consumers find the best and most effective products for their needs, and help support the future of innovation within the category.