Gen Z

From lashes to nails, Gen Z consumers are helping to boost certain beauty categories

Beauty shoppers craving convenience and low price points are driving sales.
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Blanchi Costela/Getty Images

· 4 min read

As anyone on BeautyTok knows, Gen Z likes to mix it up when it comes to their ~aesthetics~, whether it be cold girl or crying girl or mermaid core…it can be hard to keep up.

And while these often bold looks may seem a little, uh, out there, Gen Z’s interest in the beauty category is nothing to scroll past. The increasingly powerful demographic—which has a penchant to “treat themselves” with beauty products more than any other generation, per Mintel—has started to have a notable impact on a number of beauty and personal care categories.

“These are shoppers that are setting their purchasing habits for their life,” Anna Mayo, VP of Nielsen IQ’s beauty vertical, said. “So I think it’s extremely important to focus on them.”

From nails to lashes to fragrances, Gen Zers are changing long-standing beauty category dynamics, and establishing new subcategories, impacting CPG sales and innovation strategies along the way.

Faking it: One of the most notable categories seeing a Gen Z boost is artificial nails. NielsenIQ found that sales of artificial nails are set to outpace nail polish sales this year after artificial nails, aka press-ons, have seen four years of consistent growth, thanks in large part to Gen Z shoppers.

  • Quarterly in-store sales for artificial nails hit $160 million in Q4 of 2022, beating nail polish’s $154 million in sales. While Gen Z buyers are driving growth in both nail categories, the Gen Z artificial nail buyers grew by 39% YoY in 2022, compared to 9% for millennials.

Nielsen’s Mayo said the rise in artificial nails comes as the products themselves have improved, costs of nail salon visits have risen, and trends on social media have leaned toward elaborate nail designs (on TikTok, #pressonnails has 6.7 billion views). And more players are getting into the fake nail game: Olive & June debuted press-ons in 2021, while nail polish giant OPI introduced its first press-on nail products, xPRESS/ON, last year.

Gen Z has also given rise to a similar “fake” product: false eyelashes. Per a 2022 Mintel report, 33% of Gen Z women use false eyelashes, compared to 17% overall. Dollar volume was up 7.8% for the total US and 36.4% among Gen Z customers YoY as of May 2023.

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Clare Hennigan, Mintel’s senior global analyst of beauty and personal care, said the rise of these two categories signifies Gen Z’s “desire for convenience.” When Mintel asked teens aged 13 to 17 the top word to describe how they want their beauty and grooming routine to be, 65% said “easy,” followed by “fast” at 42% and “fun” at 40%.

Products like acne patches, a relatively new subcategory within acne care that is particularly beloved by Gen Z, have mixed convenience and fun. The total category is worth nearly $188 million, growing 88.6% YoY as of September 2022, which is also when search interest for the term peaked, per Google Trend data shared by NielsenIQ.

“This notion of convenience is something [brands] should really focus on, particularly considering that an added layer of convenience helps consumers justify price points,” Hennigan noted.

Smells like Gen Z spirit: TikTok is also, surprisingly, helping boost fragrance sales among Gen Z, Mayo noted. Despite the fact that consumers can’t actually smell perfume through the phone, #fragrancetok has amassed ~958 million views. And Gen Z consumers are buying fragrances like a “wardrobe,” buying multiple perfumes to fit different occasions, unlike previous generations’ interest in securing a signature scent, she added.

And it’s not all about duping or finding low-price perfumes, as luxury fragrances have become an “affordable splurge” for Gen Z, Hennigan noted, compared to, say, a designer handbag—a fact that has helped give Coty, owner of brands like Marc Jacobs and Gucci, a boost in fragrance sales.

Zoom out: It’s tough to tell which Gen Z interests are passing fads and which will stand the test of time. Those products and categories based on Gen Z values like convenience or being financially savvy (Gen Z has a higher savings rate than other generations), will likely have more staying power, Mayo said. And you can’t forget; Gen Z is influencing more than just their own generation, Mayo noted: “Especially through the reach of social media, if they’re talking about how much they love artificial nails, or how important sunscreen is, that will trickle to other people as well.”

Retail news that keeps industry pros in the know

Retail Brew delivers the latest retail industry news and insights surrounding marketing, DTC, and e-commerce to keep leaders and decision-makers up to date.