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Beauty Panel: Connection between wellness and beauty is beyond doubt

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NEW YORK — CVS Pharmacy couldn’t have dreamed just how impactful its Beauty Mark initiative in 2018 would be on the beauty industry. The chain announced a commitment to lead industry change around transparency in beauty and educate consumers on the difference between authentic and digitally altered photos. In 2021, the retailer announced it had reached its goal of full transparency for beauty imagery produced by and for CVS Pharmacy.

Andrea Harrison

Five years since Beauty Mark was first announced and a pandemic sandwiched in between, the link between wellness and beauty is amplified.

“If we weren’t critical of ourselves before, we certainly were once we stared at ourselves all day [on Zoom],” said Andrea Harrison, vice president of merchandising, beauty and personal care at CVS Health.

As the mental health landscape has evolved, so has Beauty Mark’s mission. In May, in commemoration of the initiative’s five-year anniversary, and aligned with Mental Health Awareness Month, CVS challenged consumers to join in its effort as allies for action and accountability to create a healthier feed for a healthier self-image through a Role Model campaign, which powerfully showcased the impact of altered social media imagery on the younger generation.

During a panel discussion, Harrison addressed issues ranging from the synergy between beauty and mental health to the role pharmacists play in beauty. Attendees included: Dimitri Foutres, senior vice president of sales and trade marketing for Coty; Richard Gallucci, senior vice president of sales at Kiss Products; RoC’s chief marketing officer, Hillary Hutcheson; Charlie Lang, senior vice president of sales at L’Oréal Dermatological Beauty; Gina Daley, assistant vice president of integrated health for L’Oréal; Elise Morgan, category and shopper insights at Emerson Group; and Conair’s senior vice president/general manager of the HBA division, Ellen Slicklen.

Dimitri Foutres

Harrison applauded those in the industry who have followed the lead of CVS Pharmacy to provide unretouched imagery. “It is more important than ever.”

Beauty retailers, she acknowledged, need to balance aspiration with realism. “The goal is not to force makeup, but to offer shoppers tools to feel good about themselves,” she explained.

Relatability was a key topic, and those on the panel noted a change from consumers being inspired by the likes of some influencers with unrealistic body and beauty goals to authentic trendsetters.

Conair’s Slicklen pointed to Alix Earle. The viral sensation of the moment is a senior at the University of Miami. Via TikTok she chronicles her flaws like acne as much as she touts her cool outfits (and luxurious influencer trips).

Peoples’ perceptions of their own appearance affect their well-being. RoC’s Hutcheson referred to her company’s research that found that an alarming 91% of women are negative about the future and the No. 1 driver was appearance and looking older, such as developing lines and wrinkles.

Hillary Hutcheson

RoC launched a campaign called the Look Forward Project leveraging the clinically proven power of optimism. Like CVS, the brand commits to no retouching of brand materials. And it has a rule that its content creators do not use filters.

Harrison gave kudos to the industry’s efforts regarding the image of beauty. “We have an appreciation for brands that are mindful of their impact and that are purpose infused.”

At the same time, there is the balance that beauty needs to have an aspirational side, too. “We all thrive on aspiration, but I think the goal is ultimately to ensure that aspiration is fueled by the possible, not the impossible,” Harrison explained.

Foutres from Coty noted the brand just launched a campaign called #UndefineBeauty to change the outdated and exclusionary dictionary definition of “beauty” to one that is truly inclusive and diverse. (Today’s dictionary example of beauty is “She was considered a great beauty in her youth.”)

Beyond the efforts of mega-brands to address consumers’ new ideals of beauty, Emerson’s Morgan said niche brands deliver innovation. “We see a lot of small brands coming into the space that are authentic and appeal to Gen Z with a more attainable view of beauty.”

The concept of wellness is more important in the beauty equation, and the definition has shifted. Five years ago, said Harrison, people were more focused on the clinical definitions. “Now that people have had time to reflect, you get responses [about wellness] that involve sleep, fitness, nutrition, mindfulness, mental health.

“Customers are viewing their personal wellness in a broad manner. As a retailer focused on being a trusted health and wellness destination, we have to serve the customer across all of those dynamics in order to actually deliver on that promise,” she said.

Wellness cuts across almost all beauty categories. For example, Conair’s Slicklen noted that consumers are impacted by hair loss, and that’s put a spotlight on scalp care “We’re becoming the leader in scalp brushes and providing education. We are giving consumers the ability to understand why their scalp is so important to regrowth after coming out of the tough period they’ve been through and continue to go through.”

Dovetailing with a quest for healthier lifestyles, consumers are doing more of their own research. They pre-shop, said Harrison, before they step into the store.

That presents challenges for retailers to present an easy-to-shop, edited assortment. “One of the topics that’s top of mind for us is what role retail plays, how do we help curate in a world where there’s not a lot of time to get that message across. We think about trying to make sure we stay a resource in this space, but in a way that makes sense for our customer,” Harrison said.

Elise Morgan

Using skin care as an example, shelves can be bewildering. “You have clean/naturals, you have derm brands … acne is growing fast right now, and sun care is undergoing unprecedented innovation,” said Emerson’s Morgan.

The experts delved into how to simplify the process tapping everything from pharmacists and beauty consultants to QR codes. The acne category is one where pharmacists can be called on to help. “The pharmacist probably knows the range [Rx and O-T-C] of product and can answer questions,” Morgan said.

Lang noted the synergy between being a health care destination and skin care. “The professionals inside the store can also act as a resource for education, awareness and direction, depending on a specific skin condition or a product recommendation,” he said.

Daley shared compelling data around the impact of pharmacists’ recommendations for skin care. One takeaway is that the customer initiates discussions with pharmacists, which underscores the accessibility of pharmacists and their role as a first stop in health care.

All agreed pharmacists are stretched thin and there could be other avenues to get shoppers’ issues addressed. Those questions are crucial in categories such as acne and sun care.

Richard Gallucci

Beauty advisors can play a big role. The industry has long struggled with how to best use beauty experts, especially entrusting them to do more than housekeeping. “Does the beauty advisor reemerge with a more active role that can supplement the pharmacist in the beauty category? Is that an opportunity?” asked Kiss’ Gallucci.

That sparked discussion of what type of training it would require for beauty advisors to have the authority, especially in categories such as skin care.

Last year, CVS launched an elevated Skin Care Center format in three locations, said Harrison, that are staffed by estheticians. The pilot is performing well, with more in the pipeline. In addition, CVS Pharmacy Beauty Service Consultants can be found in hundreds of locations throughout the chain and receive training throughout the year.

The presence of experts is valuable, Harrison confirms. “We do see bigger baskets, more frequent trips. They create relationships. Very often, we’ll get feedback (from customers) about our beauty consultants who have these amazing experiences with them. If a customer is going to stop and share a positive comment, you know that the person they interacted with really made their day and really had an impact,” she said.

“The feedback we’re getting, particularly when they are more trained in the Skin Care Center, also is really positive,” Harrison said.

Charlie Lang

A few other tools that can be employed to help education mentioned by the panel included QR codes, AR and telebeauty mirroring telehealth. One caveat with QR codes was not to overload shoppers with the tool. Gallucci suggested ways to reach consumers throughout stores such as signs near where people wait for prescriptions promoting the expertise of beauty consultants.

“On our e-commerce site, we actually tested online beauty advisors who were on the chat and consulted on regimen, ingredients, and gave skin care advice,” said RoC’s Hutcheson. “The consumer response to this resource has been pretty phenomenal, and we’re looking at rolling out this functionality broadly.”

Ingredients and processes associated with skin care have cascaded into almost all beauty sectors. That’s driving shoppers to look for higher levels of ingredients across the board.

“One of the big focus areas we have is how do we bring this idea of skinification through in a way that helps customers to navigate, understand, make decisions, de-select, because there is so much confusion,” Harrison said.

While a multichannel approach is key, Harrison said more consumers are returning to physical doors. “We see a return to stores, but also customers of all ages wanting to choose how they shop at a moment in time.”

Gina Daley

CVS is trying to bring direct-to-consumer brands that add excitement and help keep the chain relevant in a TikTok world.

“Within that, we continue to try to find things to make the shopping experience easier and more personalized across that wide range of brands and customers,” Harrison said. The retailer launched an elevated beauty department in 2018 and continues to look for ways to bring that experience across the chain.

“Now, we’re piloting some other formats across CVS, looking at different layouts for beauty and thinking about how we lay out experience can signal what we stand for,” she said.

She hopes to work with brands to find ways to simplify space without losing selection — while serving the needs of all ages. “We’re in this moment of revolutionizing the space in the best way we can for the footprint that we have, both for the layout, and through the entire shop experiences.”


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