Q&A: top 10 trends in cosmetics, beauty and fragrance

Bird & Bird’s Nicola Conway says sectors will show more resilience, with the global beauty industry achieving significant growth
Conway Headshot

Nicola Conway is a senior associate in Bird & Bird’s retail and consumer practice

When Bird & Bird’s cosmetics, beauty and fragrance group released its top 10 trend predictions for 2024 earlier this month, Anne Gallagher interviewed report co-author and senior associate Nicola Conway for some highlights. 

What is the outlook for the global cosmetics, beauty and fragrance sectors?

It’s positive. My partners and I believe that these industries are about to enter into a new era and this seems to be supported by a lot of the current literature, research and news. For example, there are reports that, in the years to come and by 2027, the global beauty industry should record more than $580bn of retail sales, growing at 6% per year. Of course, there will be challenges, as there always are, but these sectors should continue to show resilience. From my vantage point of representing clients in these industries, the outlook is bright.

Telehealth has been a growing segment in the medical field and tele-dermatology visits – where consumers take photos of their face or skin for virtual evaluation – are also popular. Do you see this segment continuing to grow?

Yes, these types of services are growing in popularity because they’re so convenient for consumers, who can access them from home or on a commute. But they also have the potential to create significant social value, for example, these could be a first step in early diagnosis of serious issues like skin cancers. With that being said, expect to see regulators in 2024 scrutinising these types of services to try and weed out providers who should really only be providing cosmetic services but who are overstepping by offering the prescription of medicines or medical-level dermatological services without the required regulatory or professional approvals.

Whether it’s yoga and meditation, reiki or other forms of self-care, wellness seems to be a central part of beauty these days. What sort of controls are we likely to see in this area?

I agree; the wellness industries are not showing any signs of slowing down. Research consistently shows that consumers are willing to spend more on products and services that claim to have mood-boosting properties, but that doesn’t mean that brands should rush in blindly. We can expect to see some heat on brands that are making claims that products go further than being cosmetic or enhance general wellbeing, for example, to claim that they are medical-grade and/or will improve your physical, emotional or mental health. You need to walk a fine line with making claims in the wellness space; there are obvious legal risks in the UK and the EU when making a cosmetic claim versus a medical claim, a medical claim being that a product can treat or prevent a medical condition. When brands make medical claims, they open themselves up to medicinal regulatory red tape and, in some cases, the need to obtain necessary regulatory approvals from the medical and/or healthcare regulators.

Your report mentions a new ‘hero’ ingredient in cosmetics called ECTOIN, something that might be the new competitor to niacinamide and hyaluronic acid. That’s exciting but what cautions do you have for luxury brands about this ingredient?

The claims about ECTOIN are amazing; dermatologists globally are saying that this is an effective hydration agent with antioxidant properties that will protect the skin against environmental stressors – so it’s exciting to imagine the possibilities. But the issue with ingredient booms is that once they hit the headlines, any retailer that isn’t already formulating and manufacturing with that ingredient may fall behind that quarter or that year. One of the key takeaways that we learned from our brand clients in 2023 was how much they rely on watertight contracts with manufacturing teams that can create first (or fast) to market concepts, even with new ingredients, within a flexible production plan and with scalability on demand.

Tell us a little about how you got into a cosmetics, beauty and fragrance legal practice?

When I first started my legal career, I was really lucky to have a supervisor who had built a client portfolio of some of the world’s biggest and most beautiful luxury brands – some being beauty brands but also others in the worlds of fashion, fitness, wellness, lifestyle and so on. So I had the opportunity to dive into and immerse myself in these worlds early on, and I’ll always be grateful that I got that exposure because I immediately knew that the luxury sectors would be where I would specialise. For me, it’s the perfect way to blend my legal capabilities with my own personal  interests. My cosmetics collection is getting out of control but I can just use the excuse of industry research, right?

Nicola Conway is a senior associate in Bird & Bird’s retail and consumer Group in London, and also a member of the firm’s international luxury, fashion and retail leadership team. Her work is primarily focused on the following focus sectors: fashion; cosmetics, beauty and fragrance; health, fitness and wellness; home and lifestyle; and luxury industries across the board. She can be reached at [email protected]

As part of the Luxury Law Summit and Awards London, Bird & Bird was named 2022 Luxury Law Firm of the Year - International Firm. The awards recognise the skills needed to guide luxury businesses and their brands to profitable success. 

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