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UK Insights

Beauty comes from within(stagram)

Kirsty Cooke

Head of Digital Content, UK

Social 09.11.2017 / 13:00

beauty makeup

Social media micro-trends show how people engage with beauty brands

Last week, Kantar Added Value and its partner Olapic hosted an event on how social media is changing the face of the beauty industry, highlighting – like a good bronzer – the micro-trends emerging through user-generated content on Instagram. What are these trends, and what do they mean for brands?

Analysing 2000 images related to #beauty, our cultural experts found that most related to ‘expression’ (44%), 27% were about ‘identity’, 16% explored ‘expertise’, 10% were centered on ‘physicality’ and 3% related to the emerging trend of ‘masculinity’. Every micro-trend can be said to reflect a broader cultural shift, and each is disrupting the themes that have been most dominant in the beauty market in recent years.

Beauty Wheel


The biggest new theme in social user-generated content, ‘expression’ relates to the idea that makeup can be used in increasingly creative ways. Less about enhancing natural beauty or covering blemishes, ‘beauty’ is now a way to express yourself, treat your face like a blank canvas, and take a playful approach rather than a precise one.

This plays into the notable increase in the beauty industry’s interest in festive make up looks, such as GiffGaff’s Halloween makeovers and Debenhams’ Glamoween campaign. It relates to cultural shifts in terms of gender fluidity, festival ‘looks’ and ‘kidult’ activities (ball pits for grow-ups, anyone?). Everyone on the event panel commnented that ‘Halloween was massive this year’, with even premium brands like Dior getting involved.

Thanks to influencers like Ugly Worldwide; brand campaigns such as ASOS Face & Body, and the explosion of interest in funky face masks (see #maskmonday), creative expression in beauty is becoming more about having fun and making the most of your unique quirks instead of showing off your painstakingly artistic makeup skills. It relates strongly to the next theme of identity: being brave, bold, and fearlessly YOU.


While body positivity has been a popular topic for a while, it’s becoming less about self-acceptance and more about self-love and activism – and identity is becoming big in beauty. As more than a quarter of our analysed images showed, talking about beauty now means talking about who you are – challenging traditional beauty standards but still using products that celebrate diversity and cater for more types of face and body.

Glossier makeup and influencers Callie Thorpe and Tess Holliday play into the radical space of body positivity and challenging beauty standards, while Fenty Beauty and Freddie Harrel’s Big Hair No Care represent a wind change in the way in which women of colour are catered to and represented. As consumers demand inclusion and realism, evidenced through the rise of more honest conversations on race and gender on Instagram, so brands that are real and inclusive thrive (see Fenty’s $72m valuation for proof).

Of course, this doesn’t mean it can’t be fun.


Beauty on an overall level – wellness, body positivity, the post-workout glow – is another trend we identified from UGC. It’s less about pushing your body to its limits and more about knowing yourself, treating yourself well, and embracing downtime as well as exercise time.

Arianna Huffington’s #SleepRevolution, our new-found obsession with mattresses and apps to track our sleep, mood and hormones, and skincare brands with integrated sleep-enhancing products such as Kiss the Moon all point to the idea that beauty isn’t solely about physical effort, but about getting to know the ins and out of our individual biorhythms.


Rema Gouyez-Benallal, Digital Engagement Manager at Kiehl’s, confirmed that, based on their findings, how-to videos were still the most popular form of social content – particularly when you can get an expert involved. But when it comes to makeup tutorials, it’s not just the well-known influencers who are keen to film a how-to guide. The whole world of beauty, while becoming more technical in many ways, is also becoming more democratic – accessible to normal people thanks to expert-level products and low prices.

For example, brands like The Ordinary make expert skincare products at affordable prices, and consumers have access to expert diagnosis and treatment thanks to tech products like HiMirror.

Beauty -event -olapic


Until recently, beauty products for men were simply that – the same product with ‘for men’ and some matte black packaging added as something of an afterthought. In the same way as race is being considered at a product rather than marketing stage (all hail Fenty), so gender is increasingly baked into the products in question: we see that men are adopting a form of care regime tailored specifically to their needs, instead of simply carrying out masculine versions of feminine beauty treatments. Good examples are Zero Skin, MMUK and Brickell.

More male micro-influencers have emerged, and there seems to be a far greater level of comfort among men in talking about skincare and beauty, as well as their emotions and mental health (see Professor Green and Freddie Flintoff’s views on male mental health, and the ‘bromance’ of Love Island’s Kem and Chris).

All this said, there is also a move towards creating unisex products, and panel member (makeup artist and social influencer) Danny Defreitas noted that he would prefer to see less overt ‘this is for women’ in products’ marketing. ‘It might make men feel more included and comfortable if the marketing was gender-neutral,’ said Defreitas. ‘Brands do need to listen and think about who’s really using their products – and reading the press releases!’ 

Source : Kantar Added Value

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