Fast Beauty – how the beauty industry is changing, but is it for the better?

Nov 29, 2019 |3 min read
beauty industry fast

While most would be familiar with the phrase 'fast fashion', many may be unfamiliar with the rise of 'fast beauty'.

Beauty as a category has traditionally been much slower moving than the frantic, season by season mania of the fashion industry. Beauty innovations typically originate from the R&D team at top manufacturers and gradually trickle down to the mainstream via big launch campaigns. As a consumer, this means experimentation within beauty has generally been limited to the super engaged among us, with most experimentation not reaching the mass market until a lot later.

This has all changed with the arrival of social media.  Suddenly, exposure to new beauty trends is at everyone's fingertips and 'fast beauty' as an industry has arrived to try and meet this new consumer demand.

Beauty influencers have been particularly influential at helping to launch 'fast beauty' as a concept. By speaking directly to their audience through social media, they have removed the need for time & cost intensive launch campaigns favoured by the big brands. Thanks to them, exposure to new beauty products & trends (via tutorials and reaction videos) are reaching the masses much quicker. Consumers are then responding in kind by jumping at the chance to buy into the latest trend.

A recent example is the collaboration between YouTubers Jeffree Star & Shane Dawson on a new eyeshadow palette. Their palette sold out before it had even launched online, after an intensive promo campaign across both their channels. Kylie Jenner meanwhile, continues to grow her billion-dollar business by surprising and delighting her fanbase with new product launches every few months, all promoted heavily via her social media accounts. 

Glossier is another pioneer of this 'fast beauty' industry. As a company, they originally launched to fill the gap where traditional beauty brands were letting consumers down. Their belief is that "beauty isn't built in a boardroom", so their online community of customers is the backbone of their business. The community is a space where customers can suggest new product ideas, which Glossier will then feed into future NPD. The result is a very engaged community who feel invested in every new product launch and fuel the demand for more.

Finally, fast fashion brands themselves have started to get in on the act, with Topshop, H&M and Primark (among others) all launching their own make-up ranges in the past 10 years. All of their ranges have launched at the same competitive prices and quick turnaround that we are used to seeing for their apparel and accessories.

So, what does this mean for the future?

While being celebrated for putting the consumer first and being reactive to trends, 'fast beauty' is also starting to be criticised for its lack of concern regarding sustainability.

The downside of this quick turnaround of NPD is that products are being made quickly & cheaply, contributing to the production and waste of plastics. Products marketed as the latest beauty trend also become irrelevant fast and churning these out fuels the need for consumers to constantly replenish.

The tension between brands being trend driven, reactive to consumer needs and competing within the marketplace versus creating sustainable products is a difficult one and something which even fast fashion hasn't mastered yet .

So, which way will the beauty industry go? Will we see the emergence of 'fast beauty' brands with an environmentally-friendly backbone? Or will these 'fast beauty' brands curb their responsibility for sustainability - all in the name of pursuing the next big trend?