2 February 2021
Author: Lucy Hardcastle
These ongoing health incidents, combined with the impact of the climate crisis on resources and supply chains, makes us realise how fragile and vulnerable we are. In response, people are re-evaluating how to interact with beauty products and nature.
This has triggered a mindset shift and accentuated a spectrum of attitudes and physical presentations: one end embraces a hyper-natural approach to beauty, while the other indulges in transhumanism, using technologies or devices to modify or augment the body and mind.
The hyper-naturalists accept and embrace universal differences and imperfections as beauty. Relying on the benefits of natural ingredients, they are forming their own category of activism and inclusion that drastically affects the way they scrutinise beauty and cosmetics products – and the companies behind them. Innovators such as Geltor and Ginkgo Bioworks are meeting their needs with bio-positive formulation development, creating products that are wholly derived from natural ingredients, but utilise synthetic biology to reduce impact on the planet.
While the hyper-naturalists believe it’s more progressive to optimise our natural state than augment it, in a world that’s as digital as it is physical, there are always individuals who want to play and transform their outward appearance. In 2027, these are the body augmenters.
With augmented reality (AR) face filters a normalised and accepted part of people's daily presentation – in fact, they’re now passé – transhumanism is building global momentum for people who no longer see physical reality as central to their identity. For the body augmenters, modification of their being goes beyond the screen.
Holographic wearables are now emerging that use 3D mapping to project visual attributes onto their face and skin. Others are transforming skin-embedded technologies such as data chips and wellbeing trackers into decorative body adornments that hint at a form of neo-tribalism.
In a world worn down by pandemics, how we find meaning through beauty remains in flux. Past views of perfection have lost their power, as a search for shared values, communities and digital subcultures shapes how we choose to represent ourselves.
Infiltrating every area of our lives, screen-based visual communication has drastically overtaken the written and audible word. The average person now looks at screens for about 10 hours a day – almost four hours more than in the previous decade.
This visual simulation is having notable neurological effects, with studies showing that the barrage of information, moving imagery and sounds associated with our screens and devices is leaving our brains in constant fight-or-flight mode. In fact, most of Generations Z and Alpha are teetering on addiction to the dopamine hit that tech delivers, finding comfort in the closeness of devices.
Physiological nostalgia aims to be the solution. A new form of anti-screen self-care, it transforms our domestic spaces into meditative zones where we can engage our other senses as a form of escapism. Central to this are sensory memory devices – screen-free technologies that revive memories or nostalgic moments to induce relaxation.
In this way, physiological nostalgia uses neurological cognitive processes and memory dependence to challenge our brain functions – slowing down our cravings for newness by tuning us in to solace.
Each sensory memory device helps users to revisit logged moments in time, recorded as audio, scent or haptic textures. After the rise of audio escapism in the early 2020s, scent wearables that offer olfactory moments have become a lucrative product line for fragrance innovators like Givaudan. Furniture, too, is becoming part of this; for the affluent, the Atmosphère chaise longue has become highly desirable, creating an at-home wellbeing bubble around the owner.
Giving people an object to replace the familiar comfort of holding their smartphones, hand-held sensory devices take cues from soft robotics; linked to a database, they can recreate any known surface texture. This provides textural grounding and comfort as a form of meditation for users, while bringing to life saved memories.
This Scenario builds on Absent Beauty: The Experience of Beauty in the New Normal, a speculative provocation and presentation by Lucy Hardcastle, providing insight into how our post-pandemic reality will prompt adaptations for beauty as both a physical and virtual ‘user experience’. Lucy is offering beauty and wellness brands access to Absent Beauty's video presentation and insight report – please contact her for more information.
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