Cosmetics & Personal Care

Keeping up with the millennials

By our Editorial Team

We look at the influence of ‘athleisure’ and the millennial population’s lifestyle trends on the textiles, cosme

We look at the influence of ‘athleisure’ and the millennial population’s lifestyle trends on the textiles, cosmetics and personal care markets.

What is ‘athleisure’?
It’s more than a trend – it’s a whole lifestyle and attitude that is sweeping the globe, demonstrated by clothing, cosmetics and personal care items designed for workouts and athletic activities being used in other settings, such as at the workplace, school, and non-sporting casual or social occasions.1

If you’ve ever looked around you and wondered why it has become acceptable to wear yoga pants, leggings or shorts in settings that used to require more conservative dress, athleisure is to blame. In fact, a type of athleisure is called ‘technical wear’, which describes clothes that are more suitable for wearing to the office, while being comfortable.

There is a large and increasing consumer demand for improved textile materials for athleisure clothing, and innovations in beauty and grooming products. In 2016, the global athleisure sector was valued at over $83 billion, but this is growing rapidly. Some analysts believe that global sales may rise to over $350 billion by 2020.  Whether you embrace the trend or not, the speciality chemicals industry need to be aware of athleisure, and the impact it is having on materials and technology.

A recent survey by GlobalData suggested that healthy eating and exercise are two of the major factors driving athleisure. Many people no longer view working out as a chore, but rather as part of their social activities. As such, more than two thirds of people surveyed by GlobalData claim to exercise once a week or more, and more than more than 80% consider healthy eating and exercising to be important in creating a feeling of wellbeing.2 Another contributing factor is social media, which feeds into another complementing trend affecting the cosmetics and personal care industry – the need to always be ‘selfie-ready’.

Considering the factors, it will come as no surprise that athleisure is being driven largely by the millennial generation. Among this population, 72% claim to exercise once a week or more, 44% proactively seek products that improve their health, and 58% are concerned about the impact of diet on their health and appearance.2 That’s not to say that other generations are disinterested in athleisure products – 45% of generation X and 38% of the baby boomer generation claim to be interested in athleisure products2 – but unsurprisingly, most companies have so far targeted the millennial generation that has driven this lifestyle and attitude, and which maintains the largest market share.

Textiles for athleisure
Due to innovations in textiles and technology, improvements have been made in functionality, such that sports clothes and footwear have become more breathable, lightweight and waterproof. New garments are performance enhancing, in the sense that they allow wearers to carry out everyday activities easily. New fibres enable greater odour reduction, sweat-wicking, stretchability to conform to the body’s shape, breathability to allow air in and out, and protection from dirt. Some clothing designs permit selected parts of the clothing to allow more breathability while other parts can have greater tension, perhaps as a way to aid posture.

As demand for these items increases, so does demand for products such as dyes, solvents and polyfluorinated chemicals that are used to make athleisure textiles resistant to water, grease and stains, and siliconized textile fabrics appear to be at the cutting edge of this trend. Fine-coating or impregnation with skin-compatible silicone rubber can render clothing water-repellent, abrasion-resistant, elastic, wash-resistant, wrinkle-free and comfortable, while imparting a pleasant soft hand to the textile. Examples of companies capitalizing on this opportunity include Wacker Chemie, which produces a range of silicones for coating textiles and fabrics under its ELASTOSIL brand, Elkem (a Bluestar company), which makes Bluesil products for textile coating, and Dow Corning produces a range of XIAMETER liquid silicones that are designed specifically for use in sportwear.

Innovations in beauty and grooming
The athleisure lifestyle and attitude is also driving changes in consumer demand for cosmetics and personal care products. Whereas consumers have historically sought products that reduced visible imperfections or combatted skin aging, 56% of respondents in GlobalData’s survey said that, when choosing beauty and grooming products, they perceive greatest benefits in products that promote a healthy appearance and make them look healthy.2

This is leading to a shift in cosmetics, as more consumers look for products that help them to achieve a natural appearance – cosmetics that look as if the wearer is not wearing any cosmetics. This drives demand for lightweight and illuminating formulations, and natural powders and colours. Brands capitalizing on this aesthetic include Clinique, Mac, Sport FX, Sweat Cosmetics and Birchbox.

“We recognised the significance of the athleisure movement and knew our customers were among the women embracing the trend,” Birchbox’s Jenna Hilzenrath said in an interview last year with the consumer magazine InStyle.3 “No one had approached this space from a beauty perspective, so we saw an opportunity to translate the concept of all-day activewear for the beauty category and create high-performance products that achieve an effortless, natural look. We’re seeing that women want to look their best without looking like they’re trying too hard—they’re gravitating towards breathable, easy-to-use products that achieve a barely-there effect.”

Brands creating effective products made specifically for an active lifestyle have also bloomed out of this athleisure revolution. In order to target the active consumer, companies developing beauty and grooming products for the millennial generation need to make their products ‘functional’. For example, as well as looking good, products need to protect users from pollution and sun exposure. Skin protection from pollutants has been big business in Asia for several years, but western consumers are now also demanding this protection from their skincare products.

In February this year, Clariant re-launched its innovative skin defender against pollution and aging, RedSnow, after skin explant and clinical tests demonstrate its efficacy to combat the negative effects of air pollution on skin. Sport FX has created a sweat-resistant formula that contains a vitamin complex to protect and repair skin from environmental damage and pollution. Azelis won Gold at Cosmetagora in 2017 for its D-Tox Magnetic Mask that protects customers from urban stress. Furthermore, Azelis’s mask is a no-rinse formula, offering giving it the additional advantage in today’s world in which products need to be designed for people ‘on the go’. For example, Innospec has developed a ‘waterless’ powder face wash (consumers add water to the powder to make a foam), which enables consumers to travel with the product despite – for example – flight baggage restrictions. Rahn has also created a powder face wash, and a solid perfume stick, for the same reason.

Companies also need to consider that, for consumers on the go, packaging is of vital importance. This means selling liquid items in quantities that comply with flight baggage restrictions. It also means using portable packaging that doesn’t weigh down your gym bag. Increasingly, brands are producing ‘travel size’ personal care packages that provide functional ingredients in convenient packaging.

Athlesisure2_pixabay download.jpgWhat’s next?
According to GlobalData, athleisure trends that leading innovators should be aware of include: climate-specific products that are able to protect the skin in every climate or season; wearable technology gadgets that allow consumers to track sun exposure or hydration levels; and convenient and customizable active beauty subscription services.2

Innovators in speciality chemicals might like to look to these trends, to keep one step ahead of competitors in terms of meeting the demands and expectations of tomorrow’s consumers.

Because love it or hate it, this is the future…. until the next trend comes along, of course.
1. Gay W., 26th July 2017.
2. Neophytou L. Presentation at in-cosmetics Global 2018 (
3. Moorhouse V., 23rd January 2017.