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Following the easing of CDC restrictions in the US, masks that protect against COVID-19 are coming off and Americans are showing their full faces again. Will the beauty industry see a surge in a different kind of mask buying as consumers reignite beauty regimes?

What you need to know

The facial skincare category is projected to see slower than originally anticipated growth as a result of COVID-19 as consumers’ priorities shift. However, as restrictions are lifting, typical beauty and personal care routines are resuming. Traditional skincare staples like cleansers command the highest usage, suggesting routines post-COVID-19 will look similar to those in place beforehand. COVID-19 has acted as a catalyst to several emerging movements that will shape the future of new product development and brand messaging.

Where the opportunities are

In addition to physical health, consumers are seeking ways to cope with high levels of stress and anxiety caused by the pandemic, increasing the connection between self-care and skincare. Increased demand for products that focus even more on their positive impact on people’s wellbeing will create new avenues of innovation.

To stand out in the competitive and saturated skincare market, brands must demonstrate their added value to individuals, communities, and society at large, including:

  • wellness concepts for humans and the planet
  • upcycled, plastic-free, zero waste, and compostable new product development
  • microbiome-friendly certification and ultra-clear labels

Trading one type of mask for another

Check out some of the latest facial mask innovations:

Chioture Fermented Mask (launched in China, April 2021)

A facial mask with a non-acid formulation and an ice cream texture for everyday mild peeling benefits. Why is it innovative?

  • The product targets young consumers who may have concerns about traditional peeling masks that use AHA or BHA.
  • The non-acid formulation contains two key ingredients, Prunus lannesiana flower extract and Oryza sativa (rice) lees extract, at a breakthrough ratio to bring mild and everyday-use-friendly peeling effects.
  • The product has an ice-cream-like texture and can be used in multiple ways: a thin layer can be a rinse-free mask, and a thick layer can be an intensive treatment for those whose staying up late is affecting their skin.

Florence by Mills Hit Reset Moisturizing Mask Pearls (launched in the US, January 2021)

Crushing these moisturizing pearls adds a fun element to the face care routine; they work as an overnight mask or a leave-on mask during the day. Why is it innovative?

  • The mask pearls are squeezed with the fingers and applied to the face where they work to reset dry skin and leave it hydrated and soft.
  • The pearls are rich in niacinamide, soothing shea butter, nourishing apricot kernel oil, and hyaluronic acid.
  • Adding to the convenience aspect, the mask can be left on overnight or used as a leave-on mask during the day.
  • Squeezing the pearls before application adds a sensory and experiential element to face care routines.
  • Per Mintel Trend, ‘Sense of the Intense’, there is huge potential in maximizing sensory benefits and innovating textures to give users a more pleasant and exciting experience, for example, one in five US skincare users who look for fun effects when buying face masks. What’s more, nearly seven in 10 of US skincare users are interested in trying solid formats.

Moia Elixirs CBDerma-Repair Nano-Fiber Mask (launched in the Czech Republic, August 2020)

This 100% biodegradable mask combines CBD with patented nanofibre technology for enhanced absorption of active ingredients. Why is it innovative?

  • Unlike most sheet masks, this dry mask is activated with water to provide a faster application of the actives.
  • Its patented nanofibre technology was developed after seven years of research into the most efficient transfer of substances to the skin.
  • It features CBD, vitamins C and E, hyaluronic acid, and PHA gluconolactone within the nanofibres to smooth skin, prevent wrinkles and improve elasticity.
  • To offset its use of recyclable plastic packaging, it donates to The Ocean Cleanup organization.
  • Per Mintel 2019 Global Beauty and Personal Care Trend, ‘Beauty with a Brain’, it uses technology to give a novel solution to beauty concerns and uses CBD, fast becoming a BPC staple.
  • The mask has potential in the US, where three in five skincare users want smoother skin, three in 10 find masks an effective skincare step and more than a quarter say facial care routines are time-consuming.

AKIMIA Electronica Microcurrent Sheet Mask (launched in Singapore, July 2020)

A sheet mask with coated fabric that generates and carries a microcurrent to effectively deliver serum’s benefits to skin. Why is it innovative?

  • The sheet mask fabric is coated with elemental metal; when it comes in contact with the included serum, a redox reaction occurs and a microcurrent generates on the surface. The mask utilizes iontophoresis through printed battery technology that enables iontophoretic transdermal delivery of the serum’s active ingredients via electrorepulsion.
  • Tests carried out by AKIMIA and Trans Lab confirmed that within five minutes, AKIMIA’s microcurrent sheet masks can carry serum to skin depths unreachable by conventional masks even after 15 minutes of use. If applied for 15 minutes, AKIMIA’s sheet masks can achieve a penetration depth of up to four times that of regular masks.

Haeckels Bio-Restore Membrane (launched in the UK, July 2020)

Algae-based undereye masks that are ‘grown to order’. Why is it innovative?

  • 100% natural, compostable eye masks made of a bio-membrane activated with water.
  • Reduces signs of tiredness thanks to a blend of seaweed, hyaluronic acid, and Aloe vera.
  • Contains agar extracted from seaweed and is grown in-house for three weeks.
  • Growing ingredients instead of harvesting existing natural resources make a stance against resource depletion.
  • Patent activity around algae in skincare has been growing in the past 10 years, as these ingredients respond to demand for sustainability, naturality, and efficiency.

Silk Life Lab Felisheet (launched in Japan, May 2020)

An overnight eye mask made of nanofiber material and formulated with Midori Mayu Silk Extract. Why is it innovative?

  • The product features a moisturizing formula with Midori Mayu Silk Extract, a plant-derived beauty ingredient that is rich in antioxidant flavonoids and has a moisture retention property. This ingredient is extracted from ‘Midori Cocoon’ through in-house processing at a sterile factory.
  • The eye masks are made with a 0.004mm nanofibre material developed in collaboration with Shinshu University-approved venture company NafiaS. This material provides optimized fit and effectively delivers nutrients to the skin.
  • The product uses locally sourced natural ingredients that strengthen the idea of local pride, which ties in with Mintel 2018 Global Beauty and Personal Care Trend, ‘Playing Mother Nature’.