How the beauty industry will evolve in 2023

The trends, movements and innovations shaping beauty this year.

Harper's Bazaar India

The only constant in beauty is change, and never more so than now. With technology accelerating the industry on- and offline at an unprecedented pace, alongside the troubling economic, environmental, and political times we find ourselves in, 2023 will look like no other. With our priorities shifting alongside our ethical expectations, the industry is increasingly becoming more transparent and inclusive. And, whether it’s with innovation (from personalised supplements to gene-influencing skincare), our love for nostalgic trends (hello ‘butterfly’ haircut), or artists inspiring avant-garde experimentation, beauty is truly enabling uninhibited self-expression as well as evolved self-care.

Below, see eight of the ways in which beauty will evolve in 2023:

Meaningful beauty will become our priority

While recovering from the pandemic, we’re dealing with the extortionate cost of living and energy crisis, environmental collapse, and political turmoil. All this is driving intentional spending with a desire to connect to things that feel meaningful, whether that’s with products that spark joy or do more for less—all while aligning with our evolving ethical expectations. “We can't afford to launch something meaningless,” master perfumer Francis Kurkdjian recently told us about his plans for future products. With more than 5,000 beauty brands operating in the UK (according to the British Beauty Council), only ones “that successfully combine commerce with purpose will survive in the long term,” Avon’s global chief marketing officer Kristof Neirynck says.


A post shared by BEAUTY PIE (@beautypie)

Beauty brands should also expect shoppers to challenge transparency, honesty and accountability in 2023. “Consumers demand more proof behind the claims that brands are making and for them to demonstrate the efficacy behind their products and ingredients,” Neirynck tells me. Marcia Kilgore, the visionary entrepreneur and founder of Beauty Pie, predicts that the industry will begin to embrace “radical fairness”, across everything from price points to product efficacy. Collapsing traditional hierarchies in the beauty business—as she has done with buyers’ club Beauty Pie—is one way we’re seeing this happen. 

If you want to discover which brands can boast a proven positive impact around key issues, from pricing to sustainability, look to this directory created by Provenance, a transparency communications platform for beauty. The new tool lets you view the impact on people and the planet of more than 200 brands and products including The Ordinary, Weleda, Hourglass, Medik8 and Tropic. Backed up by evidence and/or independent verification, it empowers shoppers to make buying decisions that truly match their values.

Multi-use hybrids will monopolise our beauty bags

While some of the original and best beauty products—such as the cold cream—are multi-use, 2022 set the bar high for modern hybrid formulas. In a recession, they look set to thrive, given our preoccupation with both performance and price. So, a beauty buy that does more jobs for less (and with less packaging) will stand out for the right reasons.

Dr Colette Haydon of Lixir Skin says, “I believe that a good formula does it all. We don’t need an extra cream for the eyes, neck, etc. Especially with the cost of living going into 2023, people are looking to pare back their skincare, yet still get exceptional results.” Whether it’s multitasking skin, hair or body care, hybrid cosmetics fusing make-up with skincare actives, or functional fragrances that enhance specific moods as much as smelling good, innovation will abound.

Some of our favourite new hyper-tasking products include Maybelline’s Perfector 4-in-1 Glow Makeup which primes, conceals, highlights and evens all with a simple sponge applicator attached; Herbar’s Adaptogenic Face Oil which calms, balances and fortifies the skin for a one-and-done evening routine; and L’Oreal Paris’ Wonder Water which can be used in place of a conditioner, mask, and styling products like a shine spray or serum. The latest version, the Hydra Hyaluronic 8 Second Wonder Water, is ideal for dehydrated hair. 

Nostalgic trends will continue to dominate

When it comes to hair and make-up looks, we will keep looking back when moving forward, with nostalgia remaining rooted in the zeitgeist. According to trend expert Agus Panzoni, who recently collaborated with Klarna on a reflective report, nostalgic themes dominated fashion and beauty this year, with hyper-femininity such as the ‘Barbiecore’ movement; counterculture rooted in ‘80s, ‘90s and ‘00s youth genres like Goth, grunge and pop-punk; and Victorian and Regency period styles all trending.

In a separate, future-looking report, Beauty Pie analysed millions of data points for hundreds of different trends to confirm that nostalgia will still play a big part in the hairstyle and make-up trends dominating 2023. From ‘Barbie beauty’ (influenced by the impending release of the Greta Gerwig-directed film) to ‘glam grunge’ inspired by the likes of Avril Lavigne’s ‘Y2K’ era.

Sarah Rose Pearce, make-up artist and hair stylist at S Blend Makeup tells me, “It’s very common to see hairstyles acting in a cyclical way, from perms to mullets, but now make-up is having a nostalgic moment, too. Seeing the kind of grunge make-up looks from Avril Lavigne – dramatic smoky eyes with a very dialled down base—is a throwback to the early ‘00s, while Barbie-style make-up is very ‘90s as it relies on frosted eyeshadow and pink glossed lips.”

Specific styles Beauty Pie’s report calls out for 2023 include the twist knot bun, the ‘butterfly’ haircut, which combines long and short layers, and stick-on face gems.

We’ll bask in unbridled self-expression

Whether with nostalgic looks or not, beauty will facilitate unbridled experimentation for self-expression this year. Colour cosmetics will continue to bounce back post-pandemic, says Neirynck, with us “ready to tap into the latest trends and explore new product innovations”. Indeed, there is an appetite to experiment, he confirms, “may it be with multipurpose products, emerging brands or completely new looks. Think high-impact products that require little skill but allow expression of emotions through impactful looks”.

Fragrance feeds into this movement, too, he notes. “We also expect fragrance to continue its post-pandemic resurgence, in particular in the space of more niche and unexpected olfactory combinations as consumers are seeking to express themselves in unique and distinctive ways.” This chimes with the thoughts Chanel’s Thomas du Pre de Saint Maur, head of global creative resources for fragrance and beauty, shared with me recently when discussing fragrance and Gen Z—a cohort he says are more curious than their elders. “People browse more fragrances because they are exploring different facets of themselves,” he explained. He feels ‘signature scents’ could become less appealing, as “now what can be part of forming your identity is this fluidity of the different roles you want to play”.

This “ephemeral expression” is a trend cited in the The Future of Aesthetics guide produced by Allergan – leaders in the cosmetic injectables game. It states that “creativity is coming to the fore” with tweakments too, and that “demand may rise for minimally invasive and more temporary treatments”. But this trend doesn’t necessarily mean we’re chasing perceived perfection. Fantasy looks mean different things to different people, and the likes of avant-garde make-up artist Isamaya Ffrench (behind Rita Ora's latest look, below) and prosthetics make-up artist Francesco Fabiani, are becoming hugely influential in challenging the rigid conventions of beauty.

Indeed, 2023 is the year to smash outdated beauty standards, says journalist Anita Bhagwandas. Her book Ugly, debuting in February, unpicks the ways in which beauty ideals have been constructed throughout history, and explores the societal systems that have influenced what we see as beautiful (or not). “We've been told to just 'love ourselves' but that's so hard to put into practice—and truly believe—when we don't know how and why we were made to feel like we didn't fit into a beauty standard in the first place,” she tells me. “I believe it's time to break free of limiting beauty standards because they've controlled and oppressed people for long enough; we all deserve to live our lives without being made to feel ugly, and knowing the backstory can help disrupt and challenge norms of appearance.”

Tech will transform beauty on-and offline

There’s no question that digital technology is transforming the beauty industry, from the varied experiences involved to the physical products. “Connectivity, convenience and community are the buzzwords” for 2023 says Neirynck, “with brands tapping into on-demand apps and connected wearable devices”, as well as social commerce. Tech and data will also enhance our experience of beauty offline, “through advanced diagnostics that enable personalisation,” he adds. Here, look out for innovation in personalised skin tech—one of the fastest growing sectors of the beauty industry—with the likes of Neutrogena adding to its line-up, which includes Skin360 and MaskiD.

In 2023, beauty looks central to the merging of online and offline formats, with the metaverse having a profound impact and important consequences for self-expression as we explore 3-D spheres as avatars. Allergan’s report anticipates the metaverse’s impact on the tweakments industry as having “implications in aesthetics for patient education and consultation as well as booking and purchasing decisions”.

More proof that the future is 'phygital'? The rise of virtual influencers in beauty. Permele Doyle, founder and president of the UK's fastest growing influencer agency, Billion Dollar Boy, tells me that digital natives like Gen Z and Gen Alpha “may find that they can relate just as easily to virtual influencers as they can with traditional influencers”—or perhaps even more so, as sometimes “real life influencers present an aspirational version of life that is frustratingly out of reach to many”.

She explains that “virtual influencers generate high engagement rates and offer brands a way to differentiate themselves from their competitors”. Ergo, expect “more and more interest from brands in exploring strategies involving virtual influencers”. This also means creating their own. “Existing virtual influencers are now facing competition from brands, who are increasingly launching their own avatars,” she notes. Prada, for example, recently launched Candy, and at the end of 2022 Nars launched new digitally rendered beauty ambassadors, Maxine, Chelsea and Sissi, all with distinct looks, personalities, and backstories inspired by three of the brand’s Powermatte Lipstick shades”.


A post shared by NARS Cosmetics (@narsissist)

Interestingly, according to a study published in the journal New Media and Society, viewers' parasocial response to virtual influencers doesn't differ significantly from their response to human influencers. However, there remain ethical questions around virtual influencers, Doyle notes. “Transparency is crucial to navigating these challenges and delivering a successful brand partnership, including providing clarity on who operates the influencer and what they stand for.”

The science of epigenetics may revolutionise skincare

“If you haven’t already, you’re going to be hearing a lot about skincare that targets epigenetic damage,” says Paula Begoun, skincare oracle and founder of Paula’s Choice. Where skin is concerned, epigenetics refers to the science of ageing and the issues caused by external factors, specifically environmental and lifestyle sources of DNA damage. Basically, anything other than your inherited genetic traits.

“Research has shown that most signs of ageing, skin problems and skin disorders are primarily epigenetic with some degree of inherited genetic tendency. The concept is, if we could avoid all external sources of DNA damage from birth onward, we could all have amazing skin in the long term.” Obviously, this is entirely impossible, but innovative skincare looks set to influence this with scientists busy working on ground-breaking formulas that help change gene expression patterns over time, so skin acts younger from the inside-out.

But your existing routine can be powerful, too: protecting your skin against sun and pollution damage is a must, and not using “bad ingredients that are known to cause inflammation,” says Begoun. “Inflammation damages the skin on many levels including DNA methylation.” Instead, reach for “skin-repairing ingredients, like retinol, niacinamide, peptides,” and “skin-replenishing ingredients” for hydration (think hyaluronic acid and ceramides). Essentially, without really realising until recently, Begoun has been formulating Paula’s Choice Skincare products to help prevent and repair ‘epigenetic damage’ for 27 years.

Celebrity beauty may pivot, while designer beauty brands grow

In 2022, beauty was a playground for celebrity business: countless famous names launched lines in all categories with some better received (think Hailey Bieber’s already award-winning Rhode) than others (remember Brad Pitt’s Le Domaine getting dragged?). In 2023 the mood for meaningful launches—as noted above—might see the stars take a different approach by investing in the beauty game, instead of adding to it. Take Dua Lipa recently becoming a major shareholder in haircare brand Dizziak, and Selma Blair becoming chief creative officer of Guide Beauty—two stars using their capital and influence to empower purposeful product lines.


A post shared by rhode skin (@rhode)

Another market dominating the industry is designer luxury, notes UK retail influencer and trend forecaster Wizz Selvey, with many new entrants over the last five years such as Christian Louboutin, Valentino, Gucci, Caroline Herrera, Dries Van Noten, Off-White and Stella McCartney. “Beauty has been shown to buck the trend through recessions, with the ‘lipstick effect’ showing true during many different periods of economic uncertainty,” Selvey tells me. These brands have contributed to a “luxe lipstick boom”, she says. Up next? Balmain Beauty, under Estée Lauder Companies, which is set to launch in autumn 2024. Meanwhile, there are whispers of a Prada beauty line which has fans in a frenzy.

“There are two main advantages of established brands launching new beauty products or lines,” says Selvey: “They have an existing engaged customer base, and the opportunity to convert aspiring customers with lower price point or entry level options”. A Prada palette? Yes please.

Beauty and wellness will completely converge

“As an uplifting category, beauty plays a key role in self-care,” notes Neirynck. In 2023 he thinks we will increasingly focus on products that sit on the convergence of beauty and health (think emotional, hormonal or sexual wellness), clinical skincare products that focus on the microbiome and hormones, as well as personalised vitamins and supplements”. Lisa Payne, head of beauty at trend-forecasting specialists Stylus, agrees that supplements will blur into beauty, confirming that “the supplements and beauty industries are merging as consumers embrace inside-out wellness”.

This “wellness-first beauty” approach will also mean that healthy-looking, fresh complexions will trend, says Payne. “Spanning skin-nourishing glossy formulas and youthful sun-kissed pigments, consumers will strive for complexion products exuding health and vitality.”

With a focal part of the wellness movement over the past few years being the gut—so coined our ‘second brain’—in 2023 we can expect brain health itself to get more of the limelight. Considering our cognitive, sensory, social-emotional, behavioural and motor functions, more brands will be focusing on neuroscience in wellness to enhance our quality of life.

Take the neuroscientist-made Noon Nootropic Drops, supercharged with nootropic herbs, adaptogens and CBD to amplify the mind. Their aim is to reconnect the body and mind, making the limited time we have for essential self-care more qualitative. In line, we expect a rise in products targeting the various pillars of brain health as conversations around beauty, the body and mind further converge.

This piece originally appeared in Harper's Bazaar UK

Lead image: Dua Lipa/Instagram