Welcome to the February edition of The Beauty Conversation.
"There are no trends anymore”, declared hairstylist James Pecis to our co-founder Katie backstage at Antonio Marras in Milan, against the hum of his team’s sewing machines, which were busily stitching up hairpieces for the show. He may be right – we have known for a couple of seasons now that the old rhythm of biannual ‘trends’ doesn’t fit today’s digital consumer model. But after almost a month of travel around the backstage areas of some of the biggest fashion brands, we can tell you that this season it’s all about hair.

In the words of Fleabag, “hair is everything.’ Inspirations have been broad and sweeping. French pastries inspired Sam McKnight’s twists at Fendi, while Billie Eilish and her electric hair have been name-dropped religiously in each city from Rag & Bone to Ashley Williams. Box braids and cornrows aren’t slowing down either and we predict a spike in hairline smoothing and shine products after Milan’s penchant for hair back off the face. Some of the best hair however has been on the street style circuit; influencers @tamara and @inthefrow have been my essential follows from how show hair is being taken to the consumer. 

As always, we love hearing your feedback. Join the conversation on Instagram.

This month we’re talking about…

Tracking travel retail. Coronavirus is rattling the travel-retail industry — including its largest category, beauty — which has been heavily reliant on Asian consumers, especially from China, for growth. “Coronavirus is a major concern for the travel retail industry, with GlobalData recently predicting it will wipe $9 billion off the market,” Alison Farrington, associate editor of DFNI tells us. Estée Lauder has already cut profit goals; P&G has done the same citing supply chain disruptions, while L’Oreal has said that lost business has been partially offset by strong online sales. “Short term, the industry will need to manage this crisis and stay calm. When it does bounce back, the travel retail industry may well have to focus on digital and more diverse ways of reaching global travellers with exclusive travel retail offers,” says Farrington.  

R.I.P Glossier Play. Glossier is hitting the pause button on its sub-brand, Play. In an interview with Business of Fashion, Glossier founder and CEO Emily Weiss highlights underwhelming sales as the reason. We think the line’s approach to launch perhaps contradicted the Glossier brand of ‘no make-up, make-up’ and the excessive packaging seemed to turn off fans who constantly expressed disappointment that the brand was not being more sustainable. What’s most important is that Glossier has already moved on (since nobody likes to see a brand dying slowly), incorporating the successful products from the range into the mother brand and critically it’s being transparent about learning from its mistakes.

A return to retro. From all-purpose hemp soaps to small-batch coconut lotions, classic formulas from the ’60s and ’70s are having a moment thanks to their nostalgic appeal. Brands like Bathing Culture, Skin Trip and Jao Brand are finding new appeal with their earthy, do-it-all formulas made with uncomplicated plant-derived ingredients. Kari Molvar, a freelance writer specialising in beauty and wellness writes in the NYT that this new wave of products capture a moment “when wellness didn’t feel like a marketing concept, and you could relax in a salt bath without feeling the urge to document it on social media.” Expect to see a boom in rosehip face oils and rhassoul clay masks as brands look to tap into this trend.

Mindful facials. Addressing your mental health via your beauty routine isn’t exactly a new concept, writes TBC contributor Donna Francis, but thanks to a new breed of skincare healers, 'counselling couches’ normally reserved for therapists have now reached beauty treatment rooms. Harley Street skin specialist Dr David Jack's ‘Mindful Facial’ consists of a peel, dermaplaning and high intensity (but relaxing) face massage, all while renowned hypnotherapist, Malminder Gill sits alongside giving a guided and targeted hypnotherapy session, which not only leaves you with better skin, but a better mindset too. Nearby at Harvey Nichols, cosmetic acupuncturist and healer Sarah Bradden has a natural way of encouraging people to open the floodgates via a combination of acupuncture, light therapy, reflexology and reiki. With the spotlight on mental health and toxic trolling in recent weeks, beauty therapy clearly has a new meaning. 

Using less. We’ve talked a lot about closing the loop and waterless beauty at TBC but we were really struck by the innovative approach that Swedish design studio Form Us With Love have taken to launch Forgo. This new subscription-based cosmetic brand avoids plastic and minimises carbon by delivering a mix-it-yourself hand soap in the form of concentrated powder. The next Aesop? We’re sold. 

Why can’t women sleep? Women in the UK are twice as likely as men to take over-the-counter sleep remedies. Is this because women are more susceptible to marketing? Or is getting a good night’s sleep simply more challenging for women? A survey last year found that 65% of women aged 55-64 experience sleeplessness and 52% of women aged 35-44 reported similar troubles. Mariella Frostrup argues that a range of factors including menopause symptoms, the domestic burden of household chores and childcare, and those sharing a bed with a snoring partner are all to blame!

Are fashion hydration accessories, the new handbags? Last year we reported on the decadence of Virgil Abloh X Evian limited edition water bottles and now reusable water bottles retailing at $5,000+ have made it onto the catwalk. Maura Brannigan, Fashionista editor-at-large sees it as a positive step towards encouraging sustainable consumer behaviour, claiming that Chanel's quilted lambskin holsters are helping us get there. Not to a point of zero-waste, but by showing that you don’t have to sacrifice style to participate in sustainability. What do you think about this trend? Let us know on Instagram!

The rise of refillable lipsticks. The Financial Times (pay wall) reports on the wave of luxury refillable lipsticks from Hermès, La Bouche Rouge and Bond No 9. With prices ranging from £58 (at Hermès, with £33 for the refill) to $193 (at La Bouche Rouge, with $41 for a refill, although these are entirely plastic-free), there’s some interesting number crunching courtesy of Beauty Pie’s Marcia Kilgore. (Spoiler: only about £4 of the cost goes into the actual product.) Which gets the FT wondering, is conscious beauty only for the rich?

What’s on this month in culture? Surrealism, montage and make-up are on our minds this month. Make time to see Fantastic Women: Surreal Worlds from Meret Oppenheim to Frida Kahlo at the Schirn Kunsthalle museum in Frankfurt; Dora Maar at Tate Modern London; and Linderism at Kettle’s Yard, by multi-disciplinary artist Linder Sterling, best known for her radical photomontages exploring gender and sexuality. And we’ve signed up for the Screen Star Makeup symposium on March 14th, examining the role of make-up in the creation, maintenance and dissemination of the star image.

In other news…

Korres is targeting a new life-stage with a range aimed at the post-menopause. Crown Affair is turning hair brushing into a calming ritual. Selfridges bans the sale of plastic glitter beauty products. Holland & Barrett trials a beauty-only concept store. Peach & Lily receives minority investment from Sandbridge Capital. Man Repeller has launched a text based subscription service costing £25 month. NYT covers the modern appeal of Black Lipstick. Naza Beauty is the new DryBar for Black hair. ZitSticka drops skin discipline to teach acne prevention. Performance beauty that won’t sweat off with Session Skin.

(Image credit: Brock Collection AW2020 by Runway Beauty, photography by Tom Chapman, direction by Katie Service)

The last word from The Beauty Conversation. Next month we’ll be exploring the business of beauty. We’ll bring you the latest acquisition news, the key start-up trends and the big deals garnering VC investment. This is a new format we’ll be trialling as we look to diversify our content. If you are a brand founder, a VC or an entrepreneur in the beauty and wellness space, we would love to hear from you. Email us at

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