Beauty trends are driven by ‘conscious’ consumerism

  • Style
  • Thursday, 10 Jun 2021

Today’s beauty consumers are an educated lot, a generation that places importance on consuming products that are plant-based and produced in an ethical manner. —

Vegan, natural, cruelty-free – these buzzwords have been going around in the beauty industry in the past decade and beyond, but what do they actually mean?

Today’s beauty consumers are an educated lot, a generation that places importance on consuming products that are plant-based and produced in an ethical manner.

Taking conscious steps to find alternatives to traditional or conventional skincare solutions, whether it’s driven by the need to source products for different skin needs or from an ethical standpoint, there has been a steady increase in demand for products that tick off all these boxes.

Claire Organics offers handcrafted skincare products and essential oils that are plant-based and cruelty-free. — Claire OrganicsClaire Organics offers handcrafted skincare products and essential oils that are plant-based and cruelty-free. — Claire Organics

Natural skincare means plant-based products that don’t contain chemicals, vegan products are made without animal-derived ingredients, and cruelty-free means products that were not tested on animals in any step of the way.

A natural approach

Louise Chu, Claire Organics founder and director, was inspired to set up her skincare brand when her daughter, Norra Claire, was born.

Claire Organics offers handcrafted skincare products and essential oils that are plant-based and cruelty-free, built on the idea of inspiring a kind and green society.

Louise Chu, Claire Organics founder and director. — Claire OrganicsLouise Chu, Claire Organics founder and director. — Claire Organics

“I wanted to provide my daughter with a healthy and chemical-free environment, ” shares Chu, who started with learning how to make bar soaps from her own breast milk. “Then I decided to share these natural handmade soaps and home remedies with everyone else, naming the brand after my daughter. Norra Claire means ‘clear and pure’ in French which translates into exactly what the brand stands for, ” explains Chu.

Many, though not all, products derived from plants have proven effective in managing sensitive skin, eczema-prone skin and psoriasis.

Chiew Yee Sian, who founded Root Remedies with husband Lo Juinn Cherng, discovered plant oil which worked wonders on her skin, inspiring her to come up with natural skincare.

“The Root Remedies philosophy is simple: provide high quality, clean natural skin care products as well as educate on how to use them correctly, ” says Sian.

The Root Remedies philosophy is to provide high quality, clean natural skin care products.  — Root RemediesThe Root Remedies philosophy is to provide high quality, clean natural skin care products. — Root Remedies

“Our products are vegan, practical, clean skin care products made primarily from naturally derived ingredients. We also carry a lot of high-quality pure oils and show our customers how to use them via social media and other sources, ” explains Sian.The quest to find the perfect lip balm with colour for her sensitive lips was what drove nutritionist Evelyn Marieta to set up Wunderbath in 2015.

She would spend hours after work researching and experimenting with food ingredients to create chemical-free cosmetics and bath products.

“I realised as a consumer who loves plant-based handmade products, the product selections that we have in Malaysia at the time were limited, ” explains Evelyn.

“I decided to take matters into my own hands and started formulating vibrant lip balm ranging from black, purple, pink and red for myself using the knowledge I have as a food scientist, ” added Evelyn.

Wunderbath has a range of products which are quirky and fun. — WunderbathWunderbath has a range of products which are quirky and fun. — Wunderbath

Common misconceptions

Conventional skincare solutions have been a part of our lives for so long that shifting one’s mindset to adopt natural products can be tricky.

Brand owners are constantly faced with skepticism built on the belief that their products don’t work as well as products containing chemicals.

“There is this idea that all skin conditions need to be medicated, ” says Sian. “While this can be true for extreme cases, for most people, having a simple, natural routine can contribute to smooth, clear skin, simply by providing your skin with the nutrients and building blocks it needs to rejuvenate itself.”

On the flipside, there’s also the idea that just because a product is natural and cruelty-free, it should automatically work for all skin types.

Evelyn believes that consumers need to be willing to research and assess various products before deciding which ones work best for the individual.

Evelyn Marieta, Wunderbath founder — WunderbathEvelyn Marieta, Wunderbath founder — Wunderbath

“These days the term vegan and cruelty-free is also widely misinterpreted as ‘clean’ products too. I’d encourage each customer to assess every product they purchase based on the ingredient list and product suitability to their skin, independently from the vegan claim alone.”

Sian found that the initial reaction to using face oils wasn’t overall positive, as people believed oils would make their skin feel greasy and would feel “heavy”.

“The reality is, a face oil will probably feel lighter than most cream moisturisers you encounter, ” explains Sian.

With price points per product varying anywhere from RM8 to over RM200, consumers are made up of the urban young aged between 25 and 45.

“The market for cruelty-free products is getting bigger these days as awareness is much better among highly educated consumers, ” says Chu, whose all-natural raw materials are tested and selected from sustainable sources abroad, with the final products handcrafted locally.

Her products are marketed mostly via online channels, farmer’s markets, retails channels and physical stores. She adds that word of mouth, positive feedback and reviews through various channels are also how the brand’s popularity has grown.

Wunderbath got its start through word of mouth and online platforms have helped boost their popularity.

“We have very active social media platforms, a retail store within an artisanal marketplace and our official website, ” says Evelyn, whose handmade products are made in the brand’s lab in Malaysia. Chiew, whose products are made locally says she has a broad range of customers aged between 18 and 50, men and women.

She says her brand focuses a lot on online marketing on social media and online customer service.

Conscious consumers

Uproar over testing products on animals is not a recent matter – for decades, organisations like People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) have been campaigning against it.

While testing on animals is still ongoing in many countries, things are improving with nations taking small steps in the right direction.

In 2019, China began moving away from post-market animal testing, previously required by law, and just weeks ago, they ended all mandatory animal testing for a majority of general cosmetics. This means companies will be allowed to market most imported cosmetics, including shampoo, body wash and makeup, without animal testing.

Chiew Yee Sian, founder of Root Remedies — Root RemediesChiew Yee Sian, founder of Root Remedies — Root Remedies

Previously, cruelty-free beauty brands such as Rihanna’s Fenty Beauty were restricted from importing products directly, due to the requirement that they pay for their products to be tested on animals.

While this is a big step for the second largest cosmetics market (which brings in over RM23bil) after the US, the list doesn’t include many hair products and sunscreens.

It was awareness and exposure of these issues that brought the industry to this point.

“More people are embracing cruelty free products. Consumers are becoming more highly educated and understand that animals are being subjected to trauma and distress for the sake of beauty, ” opines Chu.

“All our products are cruelty-free, neither the products nor the ingredients or components have been tested on animals, ” she adds.

Evelyn notes that the moves by China and Europe (in 2009) to end mandatory animal testing are a reflection of the public’s sentiment, who are not just embracing cruelty-free products, they are demanding for change.

“There have been plenty of efforts made by organisations, for us to reach to this point. Some have used videos to appeal to the public such as the recent viral Save Ralph short clip by the Humane Society International.

“Animal testing is no longer necessary these days, there are tests that could be done to ensure the safety and efficacy of cosmetics without the use of animals, ” says Evelyn.

Some of these techniques include using human cells and tissues (also known as vitro methods), advanced computer-modelling techniques (often referred to as in silico models), and using human volunteers.

Beauty founders like Sian have done their research and observed that an increasing number of consumers care about whether products are made in an ethical manner.

“As we continue to educate and promote natural products, more and more people are realising that they work just as well, if not better than a lot of conventional products.”

“Overall, we are very optimistic about vegan and cruelty-free beauty as the awareness of how products are produced and sustainability grows, ” she adds.

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beauty , vegan , cruelty-free , cosmetics , skincare


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