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The In-depth Cosmetics Sector Guide

Vivien Christel Vella
Vivien Christel Vella
6 min read
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collage of people using cosmetics

The cosmetics industry is in a period of innovation, driven by consumer demand for highly personalized experiences. In such a competitive landscape, how can your business keep up? Our cosmetics industry export guide explores the latest industry trends to inspire your product innovation, and the logistics best practices that will get your goods to customers without delay. 

The cosmetics industry: Overview

The global cosmetics market is thriving, having bounced back at a remarkable rate from a slump during Covid. In 2024, revenue in the worldwide cosmetics market is expected to reach US$108.4 billion, growing to US$128.9 billion in 20281.  

But businesses wishing to take a slice of this very lucrative pie will need to keep a close eye on industry trends. The cosmetics sector, much like fashion, moves quickly, driven by ever-changing consumer preferences. This year, demand for sustainable, “clean” beauty is fueling new product innovations and alternative ingredient sourcing. AI is playing an increasing role in the industry too, with its ability to enable the personalized experiences shoppers want when buying makeup and skincare.   

With 2024 underway, let’s take a closer look at some of the trends set to shape the cosmetics industry this year.    

Innovation and trends: Cosmetics’ science era

For so long, the cosmetics industry has been aesthetically led – from the flawless, airbrushed models used in marketing to the beautifully packaged products lining the (online) shelves of luxury brands. Yet consumers are increasingly viewing cosmetics as a science rather than a branding exercise. They’re taking a more considered approach to purchasing; researching beauty products’ ingredients and wellness claims before buying. Market research agency Mintel2 calls this movement “sophisticated simplicity”.   

Amidst this, brands such as The Ordinary3 have experienced extraordinary growth. Launched in 2013, the skincare company focuses on high quality products at affordable price points, with the ethos of “clinical formulations with integrity.” It has eschewed fancy packaging for pharmaceutical-style containers to emphasize its scientific approach to product innovation. The strategy is working; in 2021, it was the most searched-for skincare brand online in over 40 countries4, and sells more than one product every second around the world5. Elsewhere, leading brands such as La Roche-Posay and CeraVe have adopted similar marketing strategies.  

woman rubbing cream on hand

“[Cosmetics] brands that can provide research, clinical studies or certifications to substantiate their claims of effectiveness will gain credibility and trust.”

Mintel(6)

This focus on science-based ingredient development is also driving an innovative new era of colors and textures that redefine traditional beauty norms. “The trend foresees a future where products go beyond conventional formulations, incorporating groundbreaking textures that transition upon application, creating a sensorial experience that transcends traditional skin care routines,” an industry report noted7.    

Consumers’ closer consideration of the ingredients within cosmetics includes the sustainability factor – they’re actively seeking out cruelty free, environmentally responsible and ethically sourced products. In response, many cosmetics brands are leaning on biotechnology – the harnessing of biological systems and organisms – to inform product development.  

The natural world already provides many of the most popular ingredients in beauty products, but with advancements in science and tech, their extraction can now be facilitated in a more sustainable way. Fish eggs, for example, have protective molecules that filter out UV light. Whilst conventional ingredient-making methods would involve extracting from the fish eggs, biotechnology can instead read the DNA and replicate the UV filtering properties for suncream formulas.  

woman handling pestle and mortar

Between 2023 and 2028, global revenue in the natural cosmetics market is expected to grow from US$12.9 billion to US$18.0 billion.

Statista(8)

Beaut-AI: Artificial intelligence and personalized cosmetics

Technology is also playing a leading role in enabling the personalization the cosmetics industry demands. “Beaut-AI” has emerged; tapping into cutting-edge artificial intelligence to develop customized formulations.  

woman looking at mobile phone screen

75% of shoppers would pay more for beauty and skincare products if they received personalized online shopping experiences.

Bolt(9)

The tech is also facilitating virtual try-on experiences. US beauty giant Sephora10, for example, has enlisted tech company ModiFace’s facial analysis tool11 which can “read” over 20 characteristics in a customer’s selfie – including skin tone and face shape – to make ultra-personalized makeup recommendations. Global beauty brand Coty, Inc.12 and luxury goods conglomerate LVMH13 have also made substantial investments in similar technology.  

It’s perhaps unsurprising that the worldwide ‘AI in Beauty and Cosmetics’ market size is expected to reach US$13.34 billion in 2030 – an impressive Compound Annual Growth Rate of 19.7% from 2021 to 203014. With the speed at which AI develops, expect to see further exciting cosmetics innovations in 2024 and beyond.  

LOGISTICS FOR COSMETICS

Insights and best practices for success

woman packing soap in a box

SUSTAINABLE PACKAGING

  • In a recent global survey of beauty consumers, 65% of respondents said they have “gone out of their way” to buy products in environmentally friendly packaging15.  

  • Prioritize compostable, recyclable and reusable materials. 

  • Follow the lead of the “refillable” model that is gaining popularity in the cosmetics industry. One example is natural deodorant brand Fussy16 – customers buy the main container just once and then subscribe for regular refills, reducing the amount of plastic used.  

  • Offer supersized options for your products to reduce packaging quantities. This option cuts down shipping emissions too.  

     

cosmetics in a box

SHIPPING BEST PRACTICES

  • Some cosmetics require controlled environments for shipping, such as those which are temperature or light sensitive. If you’re exporting to a tropical climate, you may want to choose a more durable material that won’t be affected by humidity or moisture. Likewise, if your products require refrigeration during transport, you’ll need to select materials that are insulated and can keep temperatures regulated during the entire shipping journey.   

  • Fragile items such as eye shadows or glass-bottled perfumes will need lots of padding to avoid shock damage during transit.  

  • For perfumes and sprays, carefully pack them inside leak-proof boxes in an upright position.  

  • Rules and regulations regarding the import and export of cosmetics vary by country, so speak to your shipping partner for guidance. 

     

sign on a lamp post

CUSTOMS CONSIDERATIONS

  • Before shipping cosmetics overseas, it’s important to familiarize yourself with the border regulations of the destination country. Some markets classify perfumes as Dangerous Goods due to their flammable nature, so you’ll need to check before shipping to avoid your products being seized.   

  • Some carriers will not accept fluids or liquids for transit through their network, so be sure to research before you send your package. You can check DHL Express’ prohibited items list in your origin and destination countries on MyDHL+

     

DHL courier handling parcel

INTERNATIONAL SHIPPING: HOW DHL CAN HELP

Did you know that 23% of Gen Z and 24% of millennial shoppers made beauty purchases cross-border in the 12 months to April 2023?17 As a leading international shipping specialist, DHL Express is in prime position to help businesses of all sizes reach this lucrative group of consumers ready to explore new brands:   

  • DHL’s MyGTS (My Global Trade Services), is a free, user-friendly platform that will help you navigate all aspects of international shipping regulations. Access accurate HS Codes for your shipment(s), calculate Landed Cost for goods in any country, and receive guidance on import restrictions before you ship.  

  • DHL’s Export Guides are packed full of country-specific insights that will help your business attract and convert local consumers – including their preferred payment and delivery methods.  

  • DHL Express Commerce. Integrating with a large range of e-commerce platforms – including Shopify – this tool manages every step of your fulfilment process, from order importing to shipping, leaving you with more time to work on your business. 

  • Dynamic Discounting. A competitive pricing program that rewards you with increasing discounts as your shipping volume grows, so the more you ship, the more you save. For in-depth cost estimates, speak to your Account Manager.  

Take your cosmetics business to new markets by partnering with the international shipping experts.

Open a DHL Express Business Account