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Executives weigh in on the major issues impacting beauty in 2023

Drug Store News assembled a panel of industry leaders to discuss critical issues impacting the beauty industry.
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Beth Ann Catalano, president and CEO, North America, Ahava.

Even as consumers face rising prices, most don’t want to give up on buying beauty, especially wellness and clean products. Mentions by TikTokers don’t hurt, either. 

Drug Store News polled several industry leaders, via a “virtual roundtable,” to dig into several critical issues impacting the beauty industry.

DSN: Do you have experience with influencers, and what is the impact?

Beth Ann Catalano, president and CEO, North America,Ahava: Yes – at Ahava we have used influencers in the past and have continued to push this style of marketing. We have used influencers to promote new and existing products. We see the importance of influencers, whether macro- or micro-influencers, and the impact they have made on Ahava, especially with brand awareness. The impact on sales has been significant.

Scott Kestenbaum
Scott Kestenbaum, chief growth officer for Maesa

Scott Kestenbaum, chief growth officer for Maesa: In today’s world, modern beauty brands cannot survive or thrive without an influencer marketing strategy. In the earlier days, the golden era of YouTube, many of our brands undoubtedly gravitated toward collaborations with mega influencers – those with millions of followers. Some of our best-selling weeks in Flower Beauty were directly attributable to content that our founder, Drew Barrymore, created with the likes of Tati Westbrook, Carli Bybel, Nikkie de Jager, as well as MannyMUA.  

Nothing, however, beats a truly organic viral post. When Maesa launched Believe Beauty in Dollar General, the brand immediately got a lot of buzz on social media. Jeffree Star pulled up in his Lamborghini to a Dollar General store in Grand Rapids, Mich., bought the entire Believe Beauty line, reviewed the products on his YouTube channel, gave them his stamp of approval, and over 14 million views later, our brand sales went through the roof.  

We have diversified from mega- to macro- to micro- and now to nano-influencers, who have a genuine affinity toward our brand. values. We have learned over time that the number of topline followers is not the most valuable metric for ROI.  What matters today is engagement and authenticity.

Today, Tik Tok, aka BeautyTok, has become the ultimate destination for beauty discovery and democratizer, whereby the quality of content counts much more than the size of someone’s audience.

[Read more: L’Oréal acquires Aēsop]

yamit sadok
Yamit Sadok, vice president of, marketing, TwinLab

Sarah Freedman, Walgreens director, business optimization and integrationWith regard to micro-influencers, we have a real opportunity to reach a younger generation through social media. Having a skin condition, such as acne or eczema, can really influence someone’s mental health, so using micro-influencers to reach teens can let them know they aren’t alone.  

Jasteena Gill, vice president of marketing, CeraVe: CeraVe frequently collaborates with influencers and content creators to amplify their brand love and our messaging among their followers. 

Over the last several years, we have worked with a diverse group of influencers spanning different categories—like beauty, lifestyle and parenting—, as well as with dermatologists and other credentialed influencers to make educational content on the importance of caring for your skin accessible to a wider audience. As a brand rooted in dermatology, we’ve continued to prioritize our partnerships with dermatologists as trusted voices, leaning into their roles as the true experts in skin care to ensure accurate and easy-to-understand information is shared across social channels like Instagram and TikTok. 

Yamit Sadok, vice president of, marketing, TwinLab: Influencers with fewer followers create more relatable, authentic content than overly polished celebrities. These types of influencers include those with 10,000-100,000 followers and those with less than 10,000. Reserverage has received a lot of media impact value from these nano influencers.   

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Brian King, senior vice president of sales, RoC Skincare

Brian King, senior vice president of sales, RoC Skincare: At RoC Skincare, influencers are ingrained in our business. We have many organic fans with online influence who have posted about us—and in many cases, we have evolved those existing genuine connections into sponsored partnerships to benefit both the brand and these creators. We now have a deep roster of influencer partners that we regularly work with, from traditional beauty creators and “skin-fluencers”— – to socially -savvy dermatologists and residents. Skin care is a complex category with a tremendous amount of consumer confusion. We believe explaining a complex technology story with the help of influencers is a great way to explain features, benefits and how to use or combine different ingredients. In this case, influencers act as approachable experts to help answer consumer questions. When education is done well via influencers, we have seen quite notable sales spikes around specific products. 

[Read more: DSN updates Inside Beauty brand with new logo, website, video series]

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Penny Coy, vice president of merchandising, at Ulta Beauty

DSN: There is a lot of chatter on social media about wellness. Can you dig into the link between health and beauty?

Penny Coy, vice president of merchandising, at Ulta Beauty: There is a clear connection between beauty and wellness, which has continued to strengthen among our guests—especially Gen Z— in recent years. Our Wellness Shop plays a unique role as an easy-to-shop destination, where guests can discover new brands and products for the mind, body and spirit. 

In-store, the category is brought to life through a dedicated Wellness Shop offering, making it even easier for guests to discover brands and products across categories.

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Gina Daley, assistant vice president, Integrated Health, L’Oréal Dermatological Beauty

Gina Daley, assistant vice president, Integrated Health, L’Oréal Dermatological Beauty: We know that skin health can reflect overall health. We’ve seen that knowledge grows among consumers, who are also increasingly looking for simple routines and product recommendations from trusted sources like dermatologists. Our mission has always been to provide therapeutic skin care for all by offering access to affordable and efficacious products and formulas developed with dermatologists. This remains our priority even as skin care trends fluctuate frequently.

DSN: How does your brand fit into the wellness movement?

David Horwitz, vice president of Pura d’or: Pura d’or is absolutely part of the wellness revolution. We are a clean brand, clinically proven, and a full collection for hair thinning for a variety of reasons like genetics, stress, pregnancy, hormones, etc. We have found that retailers are very supportive of wellness in general. They are receptive to our problem/solution hair care, and they are willing to work together to bring the consumer products needed for healthy living. 

[Read more: Consumers seek out hair care formulas addressing hair thinning, overall scalp health]

Annette DeVita-Goldstein
Annette DeVita-Goldstein, senior vice president, global marketing, Kiss products

Annette DeVita-Goldstein, senior vice president, global marketing, Kiss products: Beauty products, like Kiss fashion nails and false lashes, are all about confidence building, self-expression and self-care, certainly part of the wellness umbrella, or the desire to simply feel good about yourself. But the definition of wellness is evolving all the time. Understanding the changing and broadening needs of the consumer is critical. Retailers, just like brands, need to adapt and bring forward products, information, promotions, or experiences that are most meaningful to today’s consumers in their pursuit of personal wellness.

Brian King: We believe we have a responsibility to champion not only skin health, but also mental well-being. As a result, in 2022, RoC skincare started a new initiative dedicated to providing education and resources on the scientifically proven power of optimism and its positive impact on mental well-being, stress reduction, skin health and longevity. We have asked our retailer partners to join us in amplifying the message.

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Chris Lopez, marketing director, OKAY Pure Naturals

DSN: Clean ingredients are often mentioned when talking about wellness. What’s driving the interest?

Chris Lopez, marketing director, OKAY Pure Naturals: Consumers are extra aware of the ingredients within their beauty products and are using the marketplace to find that one perfect product made just for them. Consumers now have the option to purchase natural and vegan and eco-friendly beauty products, and many of them are now available at affordable prices. This has expanded the growing demand for everyday consumers seeking out natural and pure products. Why buy an expensive synthetic shampoo when you can now easily purchase a natural one that works even better than the synthetic one at a more affordable price?

[Read more: Beauty and wellness brands discuss how to weather the current economic climate]

vera oh
Vera Oh, co-founder, glowoasis

Vera Oh, co-founder, glowoasis: Consumers are increasingly interested in discovering what’s new in the beauty, health and wellness categories while also being concerned about the impact that their beauty products have on themselves and the environment. This has led to a growing demand for clean and sustainable beauty products. Consumers are also equally interested in proof behind product claims and efficacy, therefore creating the need for and value in ingredient-led and science-based products plus sustainable packaging. The overall trend continues to be beauty products that promote self-care and an overall sense of well-being.

At glowoasis, we pride ourselves on our clean beauty standards and innovative vegan probiotic skin care collection that is also cruelty-free, non-GMO, and safe for all. We genuinely care about skin health which is why we have created skin care that is 100% vegan and, natural, yet still incredibly effective. 

creighton kiper
Creighton Kiper, vice president of beauty at Walmart

DSN: Creighton, can you discuss the new Walmart clean beauty initiative?

Creighton Kiper, vice president of beauty at Walmart: Clean Beauty at Walmart is an online shop that helps our customers find beauty products that are made without ingredients they may not want. We have been working to make our clean beauty standards the best in class. Walmart’s Clean Beauty products are made without any ingredients included on our Made Without List [MWL]. To rigorously develop this list, we reviewed state and federal regulations, consulted suppliers and called on experts such as the Environmental Defense Fund [EDF]. And we listened to customers —– who increasingly desire products without certain ingredients as well as better transparency around what goes into them. That’s how we ended up with over 1,200 ingredients on the MWL.

The future of Walmart’s Clean Beauty category starts with conversations with suppliers. In addition to making products without certain ingredients, many of our clean beauty brands are reimagining entire products— – exploring more sustainable packaging alternatives, evaluating the carbon emissions associated with production and adopting cruelty-free and ethical standards. If we can make it easier – —and affordable— – for our customers to make mindful choices about their beauty products while also reducing our environmental footprint, we can truly help our customers live better. 

DSN: What are the major shopper trends you have observed this year? Any trading down from prestige to save money? Will people curtail their purchasing?

Brian King: Despite well-known macroeconomic challenges, we believe mass skin care has held up quite well. The consumer has remained quite resilient despite facing higher prices and more uncertainty. Category growth has picked up in the first part of the year. While there may be some trade down from prestige to mass, we are seeing the consumer still willing to spend on luxury indulgences like facial serums. When there is an interesting innovation in the category that solves consumer problems, we see the consumers are willing to make the investment in affordable luxuries, like RoC Fill & Treat Serum.

Annette DeVita- Goldstein: Consumers with very little disposable income are feeling the burden of inflation and adjusting spending to the essentials. However, for other consumers with less financial pressures, they are continuing to spend on beauty. Beauty products bring joy whether it's a prestige beauty product or mass beauty product.  So right now, yes, “feel good” purchasing is still the trend.

Scott Kestenbaum: If history is a predictive indicator of the future, beauty will be just fine. At a macro-level, we are amid a once-in-a-generation sky-high inflation, fast-rising interest rates, a looming global recession, and consumers with less discretionary spending power.  However, consumer spending has been remarkably resilient— – particularly with beauty. This past year, unit sales and prestige and mass beauty revenue have been growing at double digits across multiple categories. So, while consumers have pulled back on big-ticket items such as houses and cars, they show no signs or desire to cut back on smaller splurges such as beauty.

Jasteena Gill: We’ve seen minimalist skin care continue to be a trend over the last few years in the media and among consumers., This aligns with CeraVe’s core belief in effectively simple skin care solutions. We’re proud to offer products that work at affordable, drugstore prices, so that consumers do not need to choose between taking care of themselves and their skin. 

David Horvitz: Our Pura d’or brand hair care products are focused on solving a consumer’s problems, particularly problems of hair thinning and hair loss due to breakage. As such, Pura d’or tends to have an extremely loyal customer base. Once they try Pura d’or shampoos and conditioners and see the results, they tend to remain Pura d’or users. Therefore, we don’t see fluctuation in our business when the economy turns down as inflation turns up.

DSN: Newness drives beauty. What are you doing to keep a constant flow of innovation?

Creighton Kiper: As we continue to keep customers’ interests in mind, we’re always looking for new ways to innovate and expand our assortment. That’s why we’ve brought back our beauty accelerator program, Walmart Start, for a second year.

 Walmart Start is designed to help up-and-coming brands scale at mass. The program offers five unique brands access to key resources, including execution, and operational and individualized support, specific to launching successfully at Walmart.