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The top 10 beauty trends for 2021 revealed

Gaelle Walker
09 December 2020

Beauty brands will have to work harder than ever before to meet a demanding new series of consumer expectations in 2021, the first ever John Lewis Beauty Bets report has revealed.

Compiled by John Lewis’ own team of beauty buyers, along with detailed sales and consumer insight, the report outlines the 10 key beauty trends set to dominate the year ahead.  

Beauty to go 360%

Beauty brands will need to deliver a 360 experience, with products designed to make consumers both look good and feel good.

Products that promote and support inner beauty, sleep and relaxation will be key.

Make up bags to get smaller

The shift in beauty priorities as a result of lockdown lifestyles means that cosmetic bags are likely to shrink in size as consumers switch to "smart kits" featuring efficient, multifunctional essentials, rather than overly complex makeup.

“2020 has seen a re-evaluation of priorities in beauty; with many of us leading more of an at home lifestyle, we saw overly complex make-up become less of a focus as customers chose to allocate ‘me time’ to extended skincare routines instead,” the report said.

The smaller cosmetic bags of 2021 are likely to contain “hard-working essentials” such as a light base or tinted moisturiser, lip balm or tint (which are already soaring at +122%), a glow-giving cheek product and a lengthening, natural-look mascara.

Both cult and established brands are likely to launch an expanded offering of multi-purpose products, such as multifunctional serums (already up 168%) moisturisers that prime and offer SPF, lip and skincare hybrids and two-in-one eyeshadow and highlighting sticks, to help customers achieve a more streamlined approach that also cuts down on packing wastage and encourages healthy skin.

Menopause to become mainstream

John Lewis also expects the next 12 months to see menopause brought into the spotlight as negative connotations are shaken off.

As a key concern for its beauty customers, menopause will be an area of focus for John Lewis 2021 as it re-positions its beauty offering as a place of positive community and conversation.

Waking up to hair wellness

The concept of hair wellness is set to be “dialled up” over the next 12 months as consumers begin to consider the scalp as an extension of the face.

Products that repair hair (such as the “runaway success” of the salon-led brand Olaplex brand launched into John Lewis in August) plus scalp scrubs, serums and deep cleansers will become integral to weekly haircare routines.

Products that help to shift build-up and promote stronger and healthy-looking hair are likely to include many of the ingredients typically used in skincare, such as hyaluronic acid.


The unfiltered face

The year ahead is also likely to see “an about change” away from the trend towards flawless complexions that has dominated the past few years, with consumers embracing a more natural look.

Skin is set to take centre stage as full-face makeup declines, and individual characteristics and "imperfections" are celebrated.

Formulas will be developed in response to the trend that include skin benefitting ingredients to enhance the appearance of a natural complexion.

Estée Lauder is already “leading the charge in this area with the new Futurist Hydra Rescue Moisturising Make-up, which features probiotic technology, Ion-charged water complex and chia-seed extract to hydrate, plump and even skin tone,” John Lewis said.

The pristine Insta-brow will also be replaced by a fluffier, bushier look.

Futurist Hydra Rescue Moisturising Make-up

Home fragrance zoning to boom

Home fragrances will also rise up consumers’ priority lists in 2021 and beyond as “fragrance zoning” emerges as a trend to create moments and moods throughout the at-home day.

With homes having become not just living spaces but also offices, gyms, schools and restaurants, John Lewis has already seen online searches for candles up +182% year on year and reed diffusers up 1017%.

Dawn of the age of discovery

Beauty boxes, discovery sets, travel miniatures and virtual eventing look set to boom in 2021 as customers embrace new ways of educating and experimenting themselves.

Brands which present customers with a curated edit of products at a lower price point than full sized versions look are likely to benefit by offering shoppers a personalised and risk-free way to test.

The concept is already proving popular at John Lewis, with its Discovery Beauty Box, having sold out in six hours following launch earlier this year. (The box contained 14 skin, hair and body products and was available to customers who spent £100 on beauty online.)

Buying fewer buying better

Buying fewer and better is shaping up to be the “beauty mantra for 2021” according to John Lewis which expects customers to purchase less products overall, but spend more on premium quality products that last and perform. In 2020, John Lewis saw customers spending an average of 6.2% more per beauty item, with visit value also increasing by 6.6% as customers invested in more premium products.

A mood for self-gifting is also likely to pervade as customers reach for a “pick-me-up” purchases with an attainable luxe-factor.

Skincare to get serious

Powerful and proven performative skincare will dominate the next 12 months as customers increasingly reach for high-performing products from both heritage and discovery brands that offer visible results, John Lewis said.

Ingredients will be at the forefront of customers’ minds as they seek out professional results at home and gain confidents on how to use powerful active ingredients themselves via virtual masterclasses an online education. Vitamin A and C will be on their minds and they will expect results. Products including vitamin C have already seen a huge uplift of 248% at John Lewis in the past year.

The rise of the everyday ritual


Luxurious soaps, shower creams, scrubs and lotions will replace basics as customers look for achievable ways to indulge and unwind over the next 12 months.

Sales of indulgent skincare, body and hair products at John Lewis grew by 234% during lockdown compared to the previous year.  The retailer also reported a “huge surge” in customer demand for bath and body gift sets from brands including Diptyque, Le Labo, Molton Brown, Rituals and L’Occitane.

“Offering a full bathing kit, they allow the customer to experience an end-to-end ritual at home without having to spend on full-sized products,” it said.


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