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Gen Z beauty: affordability, ethics… and a little bit of fun

A Gen Z girl has her makeup done

Our Youth Brand Youth Affinity Tracker puts affordable beauty at the top of Gen Z’s list – but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re sacrificing ethics.

From the moment they picked up their first makeup brushes, Gen Zs have brought their own unique style to the beauty industry. But they’ve also been the catalyst for the sector to enjoy a glow-up of its own.

Our Youth Brand Affinity Tracker offers a closer look at where Gen Z are getting hold of their beauty products – and the frontrunners may come as a surprise. With a myriad of niche ethical brands and online disruptors to choose from, British high street staples, Boots and Superdrug, still come out on top for Gen Z.

A Gen Z girl has her makeup done

So, what exactly is it about these two beauty retailers that make them such a hit with Gen Z? We know that trust is a huge factor in students’ purchasing decisions – and Boots and Superdrug score strong points in this area. The first time young people venture out into the world of physical retail, Superdrug and Boots serve as safe, affordable spaces to experiment with beauty and understand what works.

Gen Z beauty: experience or convenience?

There’s another key reason why the humble high street beauty retailer is held in such high regard by 16-24-year-old shoppers. In stocking a vast range of products – from budget to luxury, from make-up and skincare to everyday toiletries – these retailers speak to Gen Z’s love of convenience.

A man washes his face

You’re highly likely to find a millennial queueing for the latest beauty pop-up, or getting a makeover in a luxury branch of a beauty brand. But Gen Z is here for the quick, easy option that will add the most value to their lives. Indeed – the fact that they can pick up a prescription, select a shampoo refill and discover a new lipstick within one shop is a winner.

The ethical question

Within our Youth Brand Affinity Tracker, ethical beauty brands are slowly making their way up the leaderboard – which is consistent with the value-driven purchasing decisions of Gen Z consumers. One in five say that making sure a brand is ethical is their top priority when making health and beauty purchases.

A woman applies lipstick

But this doesn’t necessarily rule out stores like Boots and Superdrug, which stock a huge breadth of brands – including vegan and cruelty-free options. With affordability a strong consideration for Gen Zs, they’re likely to find dupes (that’s cheaper alternatives in Gen Z language) that are just as ethical – for a fraction of a price.

A digital future for beauty?

With youth affinity scores well in the top percentile, we can expect the likes of Boots and Superdrug to continue to win favour among Gen Z for years to come – and it’s all helped by the fact that both offer a student discount.

Some makeup brushes

That said, Gen Zs confidence in online beauty retailers has skyrocketed in recent years. We need only look at Glossier – which shot to fame with a well-targeted Instagram campaign – and LookFantastic, which collates luxury brands and offers lucrative deals for students – to see that there’s a digital revolution at play. Beauty tutorials and Youtube hauls omit the need to try products instore, making it easier than ever for Gen Zs to trust online beauty retailers. We predict a strong future for ethical beauty brands with affordable offers for young people – and of course, a strong social media presence. 

Take a closer look at the beauty brands that are blowing Gen Zs minds. Our Youth Brand Affinity Tracker is now live.

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