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Top Takeaways From WWD’s 2023 Beauty & Wellness Forum 

by News Desk

This week, WWD hosted its second live Beauty & Wellness Forum in New York City, with experts across the category’s segments, including tattoo care, clean medicine, retail, fitness and women’s health. 

While the day was filled with informative speakers, including Naomi Watts, Michelle Crossan-Matos, Ashley Tisdale, Dr. Barbara Sturm and Dr. Will Cole, it wasn’t all work and no play. Robbie Bent, cofounder and chief executive officer of social wellness club Othership, led attendees through a short visualization. Kristin Sudeikis, founder, CEO, creative director and lead instructor of Forward_Space, led guests through a tech neck movement break. And during “wellness breaks,” attendees had the opportunity to get a hair and makeup refresh with Glamsquad, write a message of confidence with marine collagen water brand B’Eau or test out some sunscreens with Elta MD. 

One sentiment rang true during the day. Wellness is here to stay; it’s not a fleeting trend brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. “There is definitely a hunger. There’s definitely a market,” said Tonya Lewis Lee, founder of supplement brand Movita Organics. “There’s definitely dollars out there for this. We’re all seeing it in our businesses.” However, the trends may look a little different, as consumers focus more on longevity, rather than immediate immunity boosters.

Throughout the day, several key themes arose, including the importance of kindness, the ever-growing intersection between beauty and wellness and the importance of community in the face of a loneliness epidemic.

Here, the top takeaway’s from WWD’s Beauty & Wellness Forum. 

Kindness is king! 

Two words kept coming up: kindness and joy. For Beekman 1802 and, it’s at the center of their origin stories and it’s smart business. “Kindness is a strategic and competitive business strategy,” said Josh Kilmer-Purcell, cofounder of Beekman 1802. And within beauty and wellness, Ulta Beauty has found shoppers are looking for compassion. “They want to feel joy,” said Crossan-Matos, chief marketing officer of Ulta Beauty, introducing the brand’s new Joy Project, an initiative for the brand to instill joy in customers.

Beauty is wellness. 

“The worlds of beauty, wellness, health [are] all merging together,” said Allie Egan, chief executive officer and founder of Veracity. Simply put if you don’t feel good on the inside you won’t feel good on the outside. “Your beauty comes from your wellness,” said Devin McGhee Kirkland, cofounder and CEO adaptogen-based brand Deon Libra. With this the beauty and wellness categories continue to converge. “Medical and wellness are combined because the journey for skin care, body care, health and well-being, it’s really a transition and a journey,” said Amy Shecter, founder of cosmetic dermatology company Ever/Body.

It’s all about rituals. 

When it comes to shopping, Crossan-Matos explained “people want rituals.” Tisdale, founder of Frenshe and Being Frenshe, had this same impetus behind creating her brand. It was a throughline throughout the day as brand founders emphasized the importance of creating rituals, in order to promote compliance. According to Crossan-Matos, brands with a ritual-based assortment will drive growth. 

Lead with education. 

Wellness can be confusing, but consumers are more savvy than ever and are willing to do the research. “There is this hunger for telling me what I need and telling me how to buy it and telling me how to use these products,” said Michelle Jacobs, cofounder and chief operating officer of menopause solutions brand Womaness. With this packaging, marketing materials and direct-to-consumer websites become key places for content. “Your own website needs to be the hub of your brand,” said Oliver Zak, cofounder and CEO of tattoo care brand Mad Rabbit. “That’s where you have the most control of the narrative.” Jacobs seconded this, noting their goal is to offer customers a “place to start your journey.”

Simplify and be bold.

While education should be top of mind, be careful not to overwhelm the consumer. “More isn’t always better,” said Cole, a functional medical expert. With this, think about bold but straightforward messaging. “They [consumers] love the boldness,” said Kelly Fanning, general manager of United States pain, cardio & dermatology at Bayer Consumer Health. “But they need the simplicity of how to shop.” Products and packaging featuring direct use cases were emphasized throughout the day — think Genexa’s “clean medicine” or Stripes’ Vag of Honor product.

Tear down taboos, especially around women’s health.

“We can’t educate people if it’s a taboo topic,” said Dr. Fahimeh Sasa, chief innovation officer and founding physician of fertility clinic Kindbody. With this, women’s health came up as a topic throughout the day, often considered taboo. But as Naomi Watts, founder of Stripes said, “A woman’s story matters at every age.” And with this retailers, brands and consumers are championing the category.

Wellness is for everyone. 

Wellness must be accessible. “When you get down to real wellness, there is such an opportunity that’s lacking,” said Lewis Lee. “It’s more than just putting a Black face in an ad….If you’re trying to market your products to people of color you need people of color in your offices who can really respond to that.” Here, research is also lacking, as the majority of medical studies and clinical trials within the beauty industry have been based on white men. “If you’re not going to do the research or talk to the community in their language…at least support the brands that are already doing the work,” said McGhee Kirkland, emphasizing the importance of financial support.

Innovate to win. 

Bold ideas are driving the category’s growth — think Genexa’s clean medicine, Mad Rabbit’s tattoo care or Othership’s 32 degree ice baths, all businesses that are rapidly expanding. “Don’t give up if you ever have an idea,” said Tisdale, especially a bold one, because you never know what could happen. 

Consumers need personalization. 

Julie Wainwright from Ahara summed it up best. “One size does not fit all,” she said. And consumers are eager to try routines and products specific to their needs. “There are so many products out there that people can be overwhelmed,” said Craig Elbert, CEO and cofounder of supplement company Care/of. “Personalization is a means of providing guidance for what could be right for you.”

Create community and experience! 

When it comes to wellness, consumers are overwhelmed by all of the options, making experience and a sense of community key, especially in the face of a loneliness epidemic. “It’s a human business,” said Julia Klim, vice president, strategic partnerships and business development at Equinox Group, noting the brand taps its community before scaling new innovations nationwide. For Ulta Beauty, it’s the same. “The magic happens in store,” said Crossan-Matos. Bent, cofounder and CEO of social wellness club Othership, seconded the importance of community: “Social experiences are what people want.”

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