4 Min Read |

(Dubai) – Just as consumers are now more informed about the ingredients of their food and grocery products, they are also looking for transparency when it comes to their skin care and makeup. Brands have started to realise that many consumers will no longer accept putting harsh, unheard of chemicals and compounds on their skin and are making it simpler than ever to understanding ingredients and are keeping them as natural as possible. So what better way to know the ingredients of a product than by making it yourself?

In an effort to demystify their beauty products, beauty stores are popping up globally which invite customers to create and mix their own products. Driven by the media and consumers alike as part of the ever-growing agenda to ‘know your ingredients’, these laboratory-like beauty counters allow customers to create their own concoctions of beauty based on their skincare needs, or hair and cosmetic trends.

Across the UAE there is also a growing expectation among consumers for products that come from ethical companies with a minimal environmental impact. Recent work by Prof Gerard Bodeker emphasizes the importance of sustainability to Islamic society; “the nutritional, healing and beauty traditions across Islamic cultures are the last, lost, great bodies of traditional health knowledge that must and will be discovered”.

As customer expectations are constantly shifting, brands big and small, are striving to be amongst the first to meet those expectations. The introduction of labs, kitchens and interactive pop-up shops are feeding the curiosity of customers as the market moves towards total product sustainability. Encouraging consumers to create their own products enables them understand the thinking behind the choice of ingredients and how simple the whole process is.  It also brings consumers closer to the product as they can feel it is totally personalized.

Bleach London

Among the first brands to offer experimentation to their consumers was Bleach London. The company started out in 2010 and soon became a global brand offering the palest bleach and pastel colored hair dyes. Since the company’s inception it has grown to include DIY make up to its now extensive range of products in the form of BYO (build your own) color palettes. Since 2017 the palettes have been sold empty for the consumers to create their own custom selection of eyeshadows, blushers, highlighters and bronzers.

Essence Pop-Up Berlin

Following Bleach London’s personalized beauty approach, the iconic German beauty brand Essence introduced a pop-up maker’s lab in Berlin. The shop stayed active for two months, giving customers the opportunity to create their own unique beauty products. The pop-up store allowed eager experimenters to create their own lip glosses, and custom shades of nail polish. After donning safety goggles and white lab coats customers were able to create their own gloss formulations, tailoring their product with their chosen color, glitter and aroma. Taking personalized beauty to the next level, the pop-up stall also enabled customers to create a custom nail polish, using digital color matching, to replicate the colour of any object from shoes to a garment.

Big Brand Involvement

It’s not uncommon for the big beauty brands to jump on the band wagon following the success of a smaller brand’s experimental innovations. In 2017 St Ives (owned by Unilever) opened a ‘mixing bar’ in Soho New York for six weeks where customers got to choose from 50 ingredients to make their own custom face scrubs and body lotions. The products retailed at just $12 USD each, and allowed the customers to try out new ingredients that have never been offered before such as volcanic sand, pink lychee, kale and ginger.

Shea Moisture also launched its own Beauty Hack line which allows consumers to choose a base, fragrance and oil to create a wide variety of products including clay masks, body oils and sugar scrubs.

As more and more consumers are reaping the benefits of tailored and personalized beauty products, it’s becoming increasingly clear that when it comes to skin care especially, one size just doesn’t fit all. Experimental labs and pop-up shops are picking-up on customers’ appetites for stamping their own identity on products following the success of brands such as Lush. Personalized beauty is more than just a niche, soon, it will be regarded as a mainstream necessity. Personalized beauty is also appealing to the growing number of consumers interested in organic, ethical, and natural skin care products. In the past small independent beauty businesses have filled the gap, however now, big brands such as L’Oreal and Unilever are keen to get in on the action. Natural ingredient customization stations allow brands to engage with consumers in an innovative new way that allows them to make informed choices when it comes to their beauty regime.

Customers have grown weary of the smoke and mirrors sales pitches and are no longer sold by flash editorial ads and billboard posters, they want proof before purchase alongside an increased knowledge of how ingredients work, complement each other and benefit their skin. Experimental labs or kitchens provide a degree of transparency on the effectiveness of product ingredients. Add that to the curiosity factor and looks like these labs will become a regular feature.

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