Are Beauty Devices Changing the Rules in Skin Care?

While beauty devices have been part of the beauty market for some time – from hair dryers to straighteners and laser hair removal – it has only been in the past five years that the category has expanded into skin care. Increasing demand for more sophisticated offerings in skin care in mature markets as well as skin care’s great dependence on the gadget-loving Asia Pacific region has helped beauty devices garner more attention in skin care.

Facial cleansers – the entry-level category

The acquisition of Clarisonic by L’Oréal in 2011 cemented facial cleansing devices as the entry-level skin care category. With design based on the principle of the electric toothbrush, their popularity has grown for three key reasons. Their high-performance characteristics cater to consumers’ desire for greater efficacy and more specialised products in skin care. Their claims going beyond thorough cleansing to improving skin quality by reducing the appearance of pores and skin tone adds value for consumers. Lastly, the major media buzz and beauty bloggers’ endorsements of facial cleaners have elevated their image to a “fashionable” or even “cult” beauty product for beauty enthusiasts.

Devices shake up the competitive field

The success of Clarisonic, which averaged 60% growth in the US in the past five years, inspired other beauty players to enter the market across both the mass and premium price spectra. Olay’s Olay Pro X Brush Cleansing System in 2011 was one of the first mass offerings, but retailers have quickly followed suit with their own offerings, from CVS in the US to Lidl in Europe. In the premium segment, Clinique’s Sonic System Purifying Cleansing Brush, brought out in the summer of 2014, is a potential strong rival to the Clarisonic, which saw its growth slow significantly over the past year to just 4% in the US, highlighting a gradual saturation in the competitive field. However, the technology differs: vibrating for Clinique and other players, while the Clarisonic and Olay devices oscillate. Consumer awareness of the difference in the technology behind these offerings will play an increasingly greater role in purchase decisions.

Furthermore, consumer appliance manufacturers have also been moving into the industry, with Conair and Hitachi launching facial cleansing brush devices in 2012, Philips releasing its much-acclaimed VisaPure facial cleansing brush in 2013, and, most recently, Braun introducing its own version in 2014. Investment from consumer appliance manufacturers has also been in the form of collaboration with beauty players. Some key examples include the Panasonic and Shiseido set of Ultrasonic Moisturising devices using Shiseido Aqualabel Moisture Lotion and the Clarisonic and Lancôme facial cleansing device set. Collaborations have the benefit of driving sales for both brands with less investment risk and financial cost.

Beauty devices eye skin care expansion

The continuous rise of anti-ageing, expected to be the biggest contributor to skin care absolute growth globally to 2018, has made the category an obvious target as manufacturers use facial cleansers as a platform to capture consumers. Some examples include Neutrogena Microdermabrasion System and Tria Beauty’s Age Defy Laser Device. Further investment is also seen with facial toner devices that use microcurrents to tighten the face. Examples include NuFace Microcurrent Toner and the much-talked about StriVectin Facial Toner.

These anti-ageing devices are part of a greater trend most prominent in mature markets, where consumers are considering salon alternatives that are more affordable but provide similar results to those of professional skin care treatments. This has been most noticeable in the US, currently the biggest market for beauty devices, where visits by skin care professionals are not covered by most healthcare providers and the price can range from US$50 to US$200 per session. The use of anti-ageing devices can help consumers minimise their number of visits without feeling they are compromising on treatments.

Beyond the US – Japan, South Korea and Hong Kong hold the strongest potential for skin care devices due to local consumers’ affinity with both skin care and electronic devices. Beyond mature markets, the next markets to watch are China, Indonesia and Thailand, where premium anti-ageing is growing fastest. However, much of their success will depend on marketing activities that raise awareness and education about the technology behind products as well as high-efficacy claims, both of which are vital for convincing consumers to invest in these products.

Learn more in our Global Personal Grooming Trends white paper.