Brands new and old are cashing in on ‘active beauty’

The ultimate status symbol today is being “well,” a process that, naturally, involves lots of exercise. Eager to capitalize on this trend, beauty brands are creating product lines meant to be best for before, during and after the most rigorous sweat session.

Meet “active beauty.” Pretty Athletic, Sweat Cosmetics, SweatWELLth and Yuni Beauty are just a few of the brands devoted to the category that have cropped up in recent years. The products they encompass are wide-ranging, including foundation that withstands sweat, perfumes meant to motivate, post-workout blotting papers and sunscreen that blocks exposure to pollution. They’re reflective of a larger cultural desire to look and feel your best at all times, regardless of your surroundings — after all, the gym is an Instagram opportunity-in-waiting (not to mention the new church).

“Consumers are not slowing down anytime soon when it comes to their lifestyles,” said Alison Gaither, beauty analyst at Mintel, which dubbed active beauty a top beauty trend for 2017.

Tarte and Birchbox kicked things off in 2016 with their (respective) athleisure-inspired assortments. In skin care, there’s Clinique’s Fit line, which targets exercise-specific concerns like clogged pores and redness, and Supergoop’s Barre to Bar beauty set. Last year, the buzzy E.l.f. Beauty launched its Active range last year, complete with products like a Workout Ready Eyeliner Pencil and Sweat Resistant Mascara.

But the concept of long-wear products isn’t exactly novel, and some industry sources believe the trend is largely a case of different, smarter marketing. New packaging may emphasis an older formulation’s workout appeal, for example, while bundles may simply bring older products together under a new gym-approved theme.

“Beauty brands are just responding to the athleisure focus in fashion that’s been going on, and the overall increased emphasis on wellness,” said Kathleen Hou, beauty director at The Cut.

“With all of the new classes and fitness programs, especially for women, it’s no wonder makeup and beauty lines are jumping on this trend,” echoed Dr. Alan Parks, the dermatologist and founder of DermWarehouse.

But, according to Gaither, there are some interesting innovations taking place, pointing to Sweat Cosmetics as an example. Founded in 2015 by five former professional and Olympic athletes, the brand uses mineral ingredients and a rigorous testing process to create long-lasting products made to survive a workout.

“We saw a huge gap in the beauty and fitness markets,” said co-founder Leslie Osborne. “More and more women are striving to be active, and we wanted to create a product that would not just hold up in our professional sports careers, but in any active lifestyle.”

Its foundation required more than 18 months — and 8 different rounds — of testing with a chemist before its launch. The powder formulation was also tested by the founders’ teammates, moms, friends and people at local gyms, who all provided feedback. The founders themselves tried it out during 90-minute soccer games, hot yoga sessions, long runs, SoulCycle and more, she said.

Dr. Parks believes that the category does have potential beyond marketing, especially at the rate that new technologies are currently being developed. “[Advances in technology] make it easier for companies to come up with products that will do well in different environments and under different circumstances,” he said.

According to Rebecca Killian, the executive vice president of creative and product development for SweatWELLth, it’s her brand’s special “SW Encapsulated Defense Technology” that provides a unique benefit in the market. The proprietary formula is said to prevent harmful fungus from growing, and has antibacterial properties for relieving skin irritations and healing wounds. When it launched earlier this month, sources told WWD they expect the company to bring in between $2 million and $5 million in first-year revenues.

There’s certainly a market for these lines — just look to athleisure, which NPD estimates will surpass sales of $178 billion by 2019. Active beauty is likely to grow in step with this larger category, said Joyce Lee, the founder and CEO of Talk to Her and a beauty consultant for Opening Ceremony.

“Functional and multitasking products are embedded in our lives, and the demand for them will only grow,” she said.

And, even if the wellness bubble were to unexpectedly burst, said Hou, the core elements of these long-lasting products will still appeal to consumers: “Who wouldn’t want a lip and cheek tint that can last you the whole day, including at the gym?”

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