The changing face of South Africa’s beauty landscape

Aqeelah Harron-Ally_Photographer Abdul Malick Ally (24)

Fast changing views of beauty are being driven by diversity, inclusivity and empowerment, reshaping what it is and what it isn’t. And in the process dismantling age-old traditional beauty ideals.

In the global beauty market, a new breed of bold, smaller beauty brands are shaking up the industry and challenging the more entrenched, more established multinational brands with their alternative approach to product and branding.

Precipitating some of the biggest changes in the global beauty landscape is Rihanna’s disruptive and trailblazing Fenty Beauty brand, the runaway success of Kylie Jenner’s lip kits, the celebrity status Kim Kardashian West KKW Beauty brand and the highly appealing Huda Beauty brand of influencer Huda Kattan.

Clearly, global beauty markets are being transformed, new narratives are taking hold, telling of a new beauty story governed by the needs and wants of today’s beauty consumers.

South Africa, which is home to a diverse nation that defies a traditional homogenous tableaux of beauty, is undergoing its own metamorphose of sorts, driven mainly by factors that include new entrants of local beauty brands, a sizable millennial generation, the growing influence of beauty bloggers and the impact of digital technology and connectivity.

The need to be perfect or perfectly proportioned is passé.

The transformation, however, may not appear to be as seismic or dramatic in comparison because the local cosmetics industry is still dominated by major international beauty brands and companies.

With South Africa’s beauty market worth over R27 billion (2017), over 85% market share belongs to global beauty brands. It is historically entrenched with well-established brands such as Revlon, L’Oréal, Elizabeth Arden, Estee Lauder and MAC etc.

When Independent makeup artist, Marlinette Newman first started her career, MAC and Bobbi Brown were the only brands in the country that catered for a wide(r) range of skin colours. Echoing what many makeup artists still, say today she had to learn how to improvise on that and custom mix colours according to her clients’ needs. “There is a still a great need for more product availability in South Africa that addresses specific skincare needs.”

Keagan Cafun, a Cape-based Make-up Artist concurs: “Global brands have not yet mastered the art in creating formulas suited to the African region where climate and skin attributes are different.”

Aqeelah Harron-Ally- successful beauty blogging takes passion, time, and consistency.

Albeit a small slice of the total global beauty market, South Africa’s beauty market has shown growth over the last two years at an estimated compound annual growth rate of 4.6%, according to ReportLinker (2017). It presents a potentially exciting beauty space, especially for smaller, more disruptive players.

The business of beauty start-ups

It took four years for Uso by African Dermal Science to appear on the local beauty scene. “A significant gap existed for a quality, science-based accessible skincare brand that solves the unique needs of melanin-rich skin tones including uneven pigmentation, seasonal dryness, oiliness and even difficulty in finding the right sunscreen that does not leave the skin looking grey,” says Founder Dr Theo Motsoa-Frendo.

It is a  well researched, tested and world-class anti-ageing skincare range developed right here in South Africa. A proudly South African skincare range that aims to inspire trust, confidence and African pride.

“I believe the key success factors for local brands lie in having an in-depth understanding of local customers, their unique challenges, daily regimes, lifestyle and local culture. “

It’s clear even considering current global patterns that quicker, more significant transformation is brought about by the introduction of challenger brands raising the competition.

And in the South African context, “no one should understand the South African consumer better than South African brands,” says Nicola Cooper, a trends analyst and founder of Nicola Cooper and Associates. They (should) have a unique understanding of the local beauty challenges and (should) better be able to meet local needs.

The local industry is supported by The Cosmetics Fragrance and Toiletry Association (CFTA).  Executive Director of CFTA, Adelia Pimental says the key to ensuring entrepreneurship thrives in South Africa’s beauty market is providing support to Small Medium Enterprises.

And in conjunction with the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), the CTFA assist companies in the cosmetics space with product development, formulations, market access, business management skills, financial management and export training in several incubation hubs.

“Improving access to the market for local brands is key to growing the industry,”  says Dr Theo Motsoa-Frendo. To be competitive we need to be in the same stores and on the same shelves as the dominating foreign brands.

Upping the diversity stakes

In terms of diversity and representation, Revlon South Africa earlier this year rolled out its own version of the new global ‘Live Boldly’ campaign, introducing four different women in a celebration of diverse beauty. Each from different backgrounds, different ethnicities and skin types. Prior to this, circa 2013, in a historic announcement, Bonang Matheba was named the first South African brand ambassador.

Since then beauty’s new faces are influencers and celebrities such as Nomzamo Mbatha, Thembi Seete, and Somizi Mhlongo all becoming brand ambassadors for Neutrogena, Ponds, and Black Opal respectively.

But legacy brands may need to reinvent and renew their product offerings to remain relevant to a millennial market certain to be at the forefront of driving even more significant change. Making up 27% of the population, this market comes with a different set of values, choices, access to information, and commercial options to previous generations. Along with Generation Z, their expectations will reshape the future of the industry.

Take Swiitch Beauty, for instance, a new, smaller, independent brand and online beauty store founded by South African teenpreneur Rabia Ghoor. The business model goes direct to consumer, building and fostering reciprocal relationships and communications at the touch of a button.

“I wanted to create high quality, affordable and cruelty-free essential products that actually do what they say they’re going to do. A product the South African girl felt proud to purchase and use,” says Rabia.

Bigger brands that are unavailable here in South Africa were constantly launching on-trend innovations in the industry, while South Africa lagged behind. The end goal in mind was to introduce a brand that was innovative in creating trends, that spoke to girls, and not at girls.

Beauty in the digital era

Photographer credit: Abdul Malick Ally

Technology and social media enable an interconnectedness and greater access that tilts both power and impact towards consumers. Gauging social conversations, beauty perspectives are shifting as consumers embrace topics like ‘natural’, ‘authentic’, ‘inclusivity’, ‘positive’ and ‘empowering’. Including as Nicola Cooper has noted, talking about the reality of real-life beauty issues that affect people daily such as freckles, stretch-marks, and scars. Acknowledging how beauty is not always perfect.

“This growth and change have been really incredible to see,” says beauty blogger Aqeelah Harron-Ally. With over 50,000 Instagram followers, Ally has been full-time blogging for three years and says a growing fashion and beauty trend celebrates what previously would have been seen as an imperfection. It celebrates relatability, practicality and is far more realistic.

The beauty industry especially has become a lot more inclusive and there are so many successful beauty content creators who represent women and men from all walks of life.

Online, beauty bloggers have evolved into influential voices.

“The connection between the influencer and the follower is more personal, more relatable and there is more trust,” says Ally.

Some of South Africa’s top beauty bloggers have tens of thousand plus followers, like Thandi Gama (14.1 k followers), Cynthia Gwebu (24.1K followers), Nosipho Xolo (21.4k followers), Rushana Isaacs (71.6k followers), KandyKanemakeup (15.4k followers),  Qaanita Orrie (55k followers) and Mihlali Ndamase (449k followers).

“South African beauty bloggers have an important role to play in reshaping perceptions around beauty because of their large followings and ability to connect to audiences in a way brands cannot,” says Cooper.

The greatest opportunity in the business of beauty lies in recognizing the needs of a multifarious consumer market. Especially with the unmet needs of those previously seen to be outside the boundaries of traditional commercial beauty.

The reshaping and transformation of South Africa’s beauty story has diversity at its core. As a starting point, it may be the genesis of a much bigger shift that South Africa desperately needs.

The South African Fashion Handbook

-Contributing writer Sonya Fuglem Ngwenya.



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