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Fast beauty vs clean beauty: who wins?

With retailers like Holland & Barrett and Lush flying the flag for conscious beauty, we’ve been thinking about the disruptive trends which are fuelling the multi-billion pound beauty industry.

And right now, there seem to be two big ones: ‘Clean’ and ‘Fast’ beauty – and they’re pretty much at the opposite ends of the spectrum.

So with one all about conscious, considered consumerism, and the other about fast turnaround at low prices – are these two trends so extreme, that they can actually co-exist? Are they even going after the same consumers? And will one be an outright winner? Let’s check their form…


Clean Beauty: a conscious knock-out

Products in the clean beauty corner have few or no harmful chemicals –and ‘clean’ brands work hard to leave no damaging footprints on the environment.

In fact, saying a product is ‘natural’ doesn’t even cut it anymore. To be in the ‘clean’ gang, it needs to be free from aggressive ingredients, be sustainably made and have a transparent, ethical supply chain too.

However, there are also discrepancies as to what is ‘clean’ and what isn’t. Cult US brand Drunk Elephant for example, cut out essential oils and a bunch of other ‘nasties’ from its products, while Balance Me advocates for the tried and tested benefits of essential oils. With clean beauty, the consumer has to be aware, and educate themselves as to what is and isn’t acceptable to them. 

Who are the ‘clean’ brands?

Clean beauty brands tend to be independent disruptors like Instagram hit BYBI, REN, Lush and The Soap Co. But big traditional brands have also jumped on board with clean ranges – like Clarins with their vegan skincare, and Wella Professional’s plant-based hair colour.

Holland & Barret has also expanded its clean beauty credentials, with a new ‘Clean & Conscious’ concept store in Birmingham – stocking hundreds of the most sustainable, vegan, water-reducing products from all over the globe.

Image: thedailymash

What are the benefits?

Clean beauty’s benefits are obvious. Better for the environment, fewer aggressive chemicals to irritate the skin, and a more ethical way of managing the supply chain.


Fast Beauty: quick-footed and agile

While clean beauty is all about conscious consumerism, fast beauty’s priorities are placed on cheaper, easier, faster.

It’s a trend that’s gained traction over the last two or three years, and involves jumping on the latest fashion and beauty trends… and producing products in super-quick time.

Where the whole process of bringing a beauty product to market used to take up to two years, it can now all be done in as little as 12 weeks. Which is great for fashion-ready consumers who have grown used to the catwalk-to-highstreet turnarounds of fast fashion.

This speed has built-in risks, of course. Corners are often cut, quality isn’t always up to standard, and things can go wrong at any point in a non-transparent supply chain.

Who are the ‘fast’ brands?

Lots of fast beauty brands have disrupted a market previously monopolised by a few big names. Kylie Cosmetics, Be For Beauty, ColourPop, Winky Lux and others answer consumers’ demand for ‘more, more, more’ – quickly, and at an affordable price.

The business model of these brands is clever. Be For Beauty, for example, launches not just lots of products, but a number of new brands every year. They take a gamble; they know not all of them will take off, but they rely on some succeeding. They need to be agile and quick-footed – which means planning ahead often takes a hit.

Image: hypebae

What are the benefits?

For agility, profit heft and sheer two-ton-truck disruptor power, fast beauty is doing pretty well. There’s huge demand for low price beauty and instant gratification – and with the rise of the #shelfie, consumers are falling over themselves to be seen to have the latest beauty trend.

So who gets the prize?

While ‘fast’ is growing, well… fast, there’s also an ever-growing appetite for more conscious purchasing. Movements like #LowBuy, #NoBuy, #ShopMyStash and #ProjectPan are encouraging people to buy less, and use up what they have.

And clean beauty’s ethical stance feeds into that; buy well, buy consciously… and when you do buy anything, make sure its packaging doesn’t end up in landfill.

So can the two co-exist? Potentially yes, as they seem to be aimed at different types of customer, at two ends of a scale. And as for longevity, with climate concerns rising ever higher up the worldwide agenda, clean beauty looks set to be the contender with the most long-term potential.

Personally? We’re #TeamClean all the way.

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