Every month various beauty industry analysts from The NPD Group write about the latest trends being seen in beauty, based on the firm’s market information and insights. Through a partnership, Beauty News will publish NPD’s blog the day it’s posted to keep you in-the-know. March’s post is by NPD’s Jen Famiano and focuses on skin care’s new minimalistic turn.

COVID-19 altered many facets of consumers’ lives, including their definition of wellness. Prior to the pandemic, the pursuit of wellness was more focused on physical fitness, along with self-care rituals where skin care played a large role. But as the pandemic variants surged and continued to place stress on everyone’s lives, the collective notion about wellness began to shift — and so did the skin care industry landscape.

In the years leading up to the pandemic, wellness in skin care was closely linked to the rise of natural brands. In fact, at one point natural brands captured the largest share of the skin care category. However, COVID-19 changed consumers’ approach to wellness, as greater appreciation for the medical community and interest in proven anti-bacterial chemicals became top-of-mind. Clinical brands founded by doctors, chemists, apothecaries, or aestheticians have always gone head-to-head with natural brands for market share, but the pandemic helped shift consumer attention to clinical brands, which pushed these brands higher. Clinical brands now account for 34 percent of skin care category sales in the U.S., while natural brands have stalled at 28 percent.

Lockdowns and social distancing added another layer to the wellness evolution. At first, creating a spa-like environment at home meant putting on a face mask and lighting a candle. It was more than enough to give a moment of “om.” But two years of COVID-19 (and counting) has reinforced the need to address mental wellness. Consumers are grappling with COVID fatigue and searching for products, rituals, and activities that not only bring them a moment of piece, but can also bring them joy.

The additonal self-care habits that incorporated more steps in skin care routines during the pandemic might need to be slimmed down as social activities return and fuller schedules are established. That’s part of the reason the concept of “skinimalism” has been trending, garnering more than two million hashtags on TikTok. The main idea here is to use fewer products that have the biggest impact on skin. Consumers are looking for products that have vitamin C, retinol, and other potent ingredients that provide a multipurpose effect. In fact, nearly 60 percent of  women in the U.S. report that the inclusion of vitamin C is important when making skin care purchase decisions. Nearly half (47 percent) said the same about retinol, according to the 2021 Facial Consumer Report from NPD.

Wellness continues to be a state of being that consumers strive for, but wellness priorities are evolving and, in turn, are fueling skin care trends in a different manner today, than they did before the pandemic. Brands that stay with their followers on this journey and engage with them accordingly will earn their business.