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Don't Let the Sustainable Beauty Movement Brush By

Updated: Mar 4, 2021

Key Takeaways

  • Substantial demand for sustainable beauty. Explosive growth rates seen across product segments, with body and skincare dominating the market.

  • Highest engagement with beauty products among flexitarians. Analysis reveals higher likelihood of flexitarians to pursue sustainable consumption choices outside the food space.

  • Mexico and the UK show potential as emerging vegan beauty markets. Elevated consumer interest and rapid review growth highlight potential market opportunities.

  • Global retailers lead the market across multiple product segments with sizable competition from boutique brands. Investigation suggests viable opportunity for disruption in the vegan fragrance space.


Full Report

The clean beauty movement has established a strong foothold in the beauty and cosmetics market in recent years, and continues to grow at staggering rates. Although there is currently no regulated definition, clean beauty products are designed with human, animal and environmental health in mind, using nontoxic and plant-based ingredients with transparent labelling. (1) The global vegan beauty products market is expected to reach $25.3 billion by 2029 with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 5.9%. (2) Key drivers of this growth include rising awareness of cruelty-free beauty and the importance of environmentally viable products, as well as the superior quality of natural personal care and cosmetics. (3) Through the analysis of over 565K consumers reviews on our platform, this report presents key data insights on consumer attitudes towards sustainable beauty and promising market segments for skincare, cosmetics, hair and fragrance products.

Substantial demand for sustainable beauty

Evidence of the widespread clean beauty trend can be seen in the remarkable rise in demand for vegan and cruelty-free beauty products. Body and skincare products currently dominate the market, comprising more than half of all beauty reviews. Products in this segment also experienced steady growth throughout 2020, growing 8.5X by the end of the year. Hair and fragrance products achieved similar growth during the same period. Such massive growth can be attributed to increasing consumer focus on ethical standards and sustainable practices in the beauty industry. Major beauty retailers are moving quickly to meet consumer demands; Sephora announced their commitment to sustainable beauty with the launch of their clean beauty line last year. Ulta Beauty followed shortly after with their new conscious beauty initiative. (4)(5)

Fragrance by far has the lowest share of reviews among vegan beauty products. However, with observed growth exceeding that of all other product segments, fragrance could be clean beauty's next frontier. According to Women's Wear Daily (WWD), fragrance is the second most requested category when it comes to clean beauty, and is growing at a rate of 21% per year. (6) The comparatively smaller growth seen for cosmetics and nails can be attributed to the COVID-19 epidemic, which has led to a shift away from makeup towards self-care products such as skincare. Demand for cosmetic and nail products can be expected to rebound post-pandemic.

Highest engagement with beauty products among flexitarians

Digging deeper into the food identities of reviewers on our platform reveals that flexitarians have the highest level of engagement with beauty products, followed by vegetarians and omnivores. On the other hand, plant-based members have the lowest engagement within this segment, but have the highest engagement with food products. This reflects the higher likelihood of flexitarians to pursue sustainable consumption choices outside the food space, relative to individuals who identify as plant-based or vegan.

Flexitarians also exhibited the highest growth in demand compared to other consumer groups, growing nearly 14X in 2020. Moreover, despite a lower share of beauty product reviews, omnivores and pescatarians displayed a substantial expansion in demand, growing more than 4X and 6X last year respectively. This underscores the rise of the clean beauty movement which has permeated across consumer groups in both vegan and non-vegan markets, driven by cruelty-free, sustainability and health considerations. 26% of beauty reviews on the abillion app specifically mention ethics, sustainability, transparency, clean and nontoxic ingredients and/or cruelty-free. Furthermore, mention of these topics has increased 19% since the end of 2019. Awareness and concerns for these topics are expected to keep growing substantially as consumers continue to make ethical buying decisions a lifestyle.

The momentum clean beauty gained over the last couple of years is only going stronger as consumers are more conscious about cosmetic ingredients and sustainability. Brands like CoverGirl, whose “Clean Makeup” campaign pioneered the movement, and Natura have risen to meet these expectations. This growth is certainly palpable in terms of cosmetic reviews on abillion. Cruelty-free makeup and skincare is currently a badge of honour to an increasing number of brands, luxury and indie combined.

-Dorra, Content Manager, abillion

Mexico and the UK show potential as emerging vegan beauty markets

Analysis of beauty reviews by country points to Argentina, the US and Spain as the largest markets for vegan beauty products. Beyond number of reviews, we also use the proportion of beauty reviews among all product reviews on the platform as a measure of how popular sustainable beauty products are among conscious consumers. Mexico shows the highest interest in beauty products and saw the third highest growth in demand, highlighting strong market opportunity in this region. In addition, despite having the smallest proportion of beauty reviews so far, the UK saw the highest growth in demand compared to other top markets. This suggests that there is room for the UK to expand their presence in this space.

Among the top three markets, Argentina and Spain both exhibited high levels of growth and engagement, which will allow them to sustain their position as a key vegan beauty market. Analysis of country reviews by product category shows body and skincare products as the top product segment by far in all countries except Mexico, where demand for cosmetic and nail products is almost equivalent. Also interesting to note that demand for hair products approaches or exceeds that of cosmetic and nail products in Argentina, Italy and Spain, whereas the opposite is true in other regions.

We performed sentiment analysis on text from beauty reviews using Natural Language Processing (NLP) techniques, assigning a sentiment score ranging from -75 (very negative) to 0 (neutral) to +75 (very positive). Italian consumers appear to be happiest compared to other top markets, with top sentiment scores across product segments. South Africa has the lowest sentiment score for body and skincare products with a score of 22, despite demand exceeding that of cosmetics and hair products by more than 3X. Additionally, Spain has the lowest score for hair products, but ties for second in cosmetics, when demand for the two is almost the same. Regional comparison of consumer sentiment and demand highlights localized market gaps that will be helpful for brands looking to enter the vegan beauty space.

Global retailers lead the market across multiple product segments; fragmented presence from boutique brands

Analysis of top brands on the abillion app reveals the established presence of global brands across multiple product groups. Natura dominates the beauty market with the largest number of reviews and highest consumer ratings across all categories. They are also the top brand in both Argentina and Mexico. Furthermore, having achieved a growth rate of 6.4X last year, Natura's foothold in the vegan beauty market can expect to strengthen even further over the next several months. Lush, the top brand in the UK, also appears as a top brand across skincare, fragrance and hair segments, along with The Body Shop. Both of these brands are appealing to consumers not only with their ethical product ingredients, but with their sustainable packaging as well. (7) Clean beauty brand Pacifica is the top brand in the US market. More and more global brands are transforming themselves to become key players in the vegan beauty space, leveraging their pre-existing channels and established consumer base to break into this lucrative market. CoverGirl, for example, launched a new range of vegan cosmetics in 2020. (8)

Competing with these versatile global brands is a strong presence from specialized brands, such as NYX, e.l.f. Cosmetics and Biferdil, who have carved out a place for themselves in their respective product segments. NYX experienced the highest growth in reviews compared to other top cosmetic brands, achieving high growth through specialization, not diversification.

The sustainable fragrance segment is dominated by brands spread out across multiple product categories, with no top brands specializing in fragrance specifically. This suggests that there is ample opportunity for a high-quality boutique fragrance brand to disrupt this space. Fragrance is currently regarded as a trade secret, meaning that brands are not required to disclose ingredients. Nonetheless, more consumers are demanding transparency in fragrance products, prompting huge conglomerates like Unilever, Proctor & Gamble and Johnson & Johnson to commit to fragrance transparency in recent years. (2) Reviews for sustainable fragrance on our platform have grown 8.9X in the past year, reflecting strong demand in a space with limited product selection. Firms should invest strategically to capitalize on this emerging segment.

Sustainable beauty is going mainstream

Our study of over 565K reviews on our platform reveals sharp growth in consumer interest for sustainable beauty products. Driven by awareness of cruelty-free, environmental and health concerns, demand for skincare, cosmetic, hair and fragrance products has grown significantly in the past year. Argentina, Spain and the US proved to be the largest markets for vegan beauty, but Mexico and the UK show exceptional promise as emerging market leaders. Analysis of food identities among reviewers showed that flexitarians engage with beauty products the most compared to other consumer groups and also exhibited the highest growth in beauty reviews. Followed by vegetarians and omnivores, this shows increased interest across the consumer spectrum to explore the vegan lifestyle in a non-food setting. Finally, we identified top brands within each product segment, finding that several brands are market leaders in multiple categories. However, there is strong competition from specialized boutique brands whose presence can be expected to grow even further as the sustainable beauty movement progresses.


Emily Dothe, @emdothe77

Ravi Gopalan, @ravi-gopalan



  1. Harpers Bazaar (2020) The Ultimate Guide to Clean Beauty. Retrieved from

  2. Prophecy Market Insights (2020) Global Vegan Beauty Products Market. Retrieved from

  3. Grand View Research (2018) Vegan Cosmetics Market Size, Share, Trends & Analysis Report. Retrieved from

  4. Forbes (2020) How Sephora Sets The Standard For Bringing Clean, Safer Products To The Marketplace. Retrieved from

  5. Ulta Beauty (2020) Conscious Beauty at Ulta Beauty™ Reinforces Commitment to Sustainability, Transparency. Retrieved from

  6. Women's Wear Daily (2020) On the Cusp: Why Clean Fragrance Could Be Beauty’s Next Big Bet. Retrieved from

  7. Marketing Week (2019) Vegan beauty: How conscious consumers are driving innovation in ethical cosmetics. Retrieved from

  8. Allure (2020) CoverGirl Launched Clean Fresh, an Affordable, Vegan Beauty Line. Retrieved from

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