By 2020, Gen Z will be the largest generational group comprising 40 percent of consumers, according to the American Marketing Association. CEW Beauty News reports on how brands are resonating and connecting with this up-and-coming generation.

Generation Z is flexing its might.

Both in terms of size and spending power, Z-ers are an increasingly influential group, seeking out brands whose purpose and values are aligned with their own.

Gen Z, the generation after millennials, are currently 24 years old or younger, born between 1995 and 2015. They are true digital natives (exposed to the internet since birth), contributing approximately $830 billion to U.S. retail sales each year. They are spending $368 annually on beauty, with skin care being a leading driver, and this represents an 18 percent increase over the previous year, according to a 2018 survey by asset management firm Piper Jaffray.

Thanks in large part to social media and influencer culture, Gen Zers embrace self-expression, diversity and experimentation, refusing to define themselves according to gender or any stereotypes. As the most racially and ethnically diverse generation in history, inclusivity is a major beauty platform.

For Gloria Noto, founder of the ethnically-sourced botanical brand, Noto Botanics, the meaning of beauty is being open. Noto (the name originates in Sicily and means noted or notorious) is multi-use. The brand focuses on inclusivity, self-expression and what it calls activism through identity.

“Identity has always been a form of activism. What you believe in is a large part of identity. It’s not just the way you see yourself, but what products you use. When you support a brand like mine, you’re supporting activism and freedom,” said Gloria, who is also a makeup artist and visual artist.
Gloria sees polarity among Zers.

“There is the space where they don’t care what is behind a brand, the Kardashian space, and on the flip side there are the inquisitive, young activists like Tavi Gevison and Greta Thunberg who really care where the world is going.”

These Zers value transparency and honesty, and socially responsible brands that make a positive impact, especially with regard to sustainability.

“We have to go deeper now to claim sustainability. We are cultivating a brand that is multi-use and gender-fluid. This is a huge cornerstone of why we are sustainable. You need fewer products, you are replacing six products that you would normally buy with one product,” she said.

Gloria, who formulated all the products, points to Noto Botanics’ Ono Ono Multi-Bene Stain Pot which is multi-use color for lips, cheeks and eyes. Agender Oil—a use-it-anywhere hair and body oil—is non-gender specific, and features organic hemp seed oil, vetiver and lavender.

“In a world where we are always trying to consume the next new thing, I am trying to retrain the mind with loyalty for the product you are using and make it your ritual. I love that dedication to the thing that you love, and not moving on to the next new thing,” she said.

Agender Oil is also Noto Botanics’ first non-profit product with 100 percent of its profits going towards rotating organizations such as Planned Parenthood and LGBT Youth Center. “We are very loud and proud about what we care about.”

Most of Noto Botanics’ ingredients are locally sourced. Its main suppliers are vegan, cruelty-free and/or fair trade certified. “Sustainability also has to bleed into every effort. Palo Santo oil is quite endangered, and ours is gathered from branches that have fallen off the tree,” she said.

Gloria also strives to weave inclusivity into the heart of the brand.

“When you claim inclusivity but the branding is one-dimensional, then you’re just trying to sell something. Inclusivity needs to come from more than just the photos you present to the world, but how you function as a company. We may choose a model who is also an activist, or an artist who produces feminist work. I like to choose people who are curating change, beauty, growth and expansion in the world. What a company believes in is not only in front of the camera, but behind it.”

Noto Botanics opened its first flagship store in Los Angeles in January, part of Gloria’s vision to open stores in a variety of locations and create community-based experiences in those cities.

“Our stores, like our brand, will be multi-use. I want them to celebrate the community. That means getting involved, finding the makers and speakers in those communities, and celebrating their history.”

Blume is on a mission to empower young girls as they enter puberty. The subscription-based brand offers organic tampons and pads, in addition to personal care and skin care such as the bestselling Meltdown (oil for acne-prone skin).

“Blume is the brand that girls grow up with. We are all about helping our customers grow into the best version of themselves, and embrace all parts of growing up and womanhood, including the good, the bad and everything in-between. When you ‘Blume’, you grow and flourish,” said Taran Ghatrora who cofounded Blume with her sister Bunny when they were Zers themselves (in their early twenties).

A key part of the brand’s mission is to address the taboos around puberty and menstruation. “Blume’s mission is to break down stigmas surrounding our bodies, while also creating products made with a transparent list of ingredients that are good for our bodies, inside and out,” said Taran. “This transparency surrounding ingredients is super-important to Gen Zers.”

The brand fosters a community that demystifies puberty, and validates all the feelings that come along with it, she said.

“Blume University is our online space with tons of information about all things acne, puberty, sex ed and more. We open up topics of conversation for our community to educate and empower themselves in an approachable way.”

Blume is also active in the area of sex education.

“Our website, The States of Sex Ed, has the tools to make sex education accessible, relatable, and inclusive for this generation, including free-to-download curriculums, a list of mobilizers we’re working with across the country, and an Action Button, to demand better sex ed policies from your local congressional representative,” said Taran.

“We meet our customers where they are without being patronizing.”