Prestige beauty brands are fighting for Gen Z’s attention

Jamé Jackson
In The Know

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If your mom is like mine, then she’s probably sworn by the same products and brands for as long as you can remember. Sure, she’ll try a new concealer here or nail polish there, but she indefinitely knows what prestige beauty brands are her go-to’s.

Beauty has had its fair share of prestige branding — you know, the variety of items you could only purchase at department stores that were often met with a slightly spiked price tag. Prestige wasn’t found among designer makeup brands such as Armani, Dior and Chanel, but they also weren’t the bottom of the barrel. These products had a bit of, well, “prestige” added to the name for their high-end formulations and formidable price point.

However, gone are the days of selectivity with beauty, whether that be socio-economic background, ethnicity, geographical base, or even age. Thanks in part to businesses like Sephora and Ulta that now offer a bit of everything for everyone, prestige brands are targeting a new consumer as it looks to remain relevant and progressive in the beauty sphere: Gen Z.

Credit: Getty Images

With the shift of Gen Z’s attention to celebrities and influencers for product recommendations, prestige brands have had to play catch up. A 2019 survey revealed that 80 percent of teens say they get their beauty tips from influencers, and only one heritage brand, Clinique, ranked among the generation’s 10 favorite skincare brands.

In 2019, the U.S. prestige beauty industry generated $18.8 billion in sales, according to The NPD Group. Brands such as Anastasia Cosmetics, Nars, Tarte, IT Cosmetics, MAC and countless others have now taken front row for beauty consumers due to accessibility. Many of these brands are also giving bigger brands a run for their money.

Perhaps that’s why more and more prestigious brands have tapped young ambassadors to bring their products up to speed: Zendaya for Lancôme, Kaia Gerber for YSL Beauty, Iris Law for Burberry beauty — and the list continues to grow.

With a need for familiarity, Gen Z is now pushing the beauty conversation by sharing products with friends and family in an effort to close the gap and enter the world of masstige — a mix of prestige-esque products at the affordable mass-market price.

Masstige offers the best of both worlds to consumers looking for a more affordable option to a luxury product without sacrificing efficacy or results.

Credit: Getty Images

But who is the Gen Z masstige consumer? Think of the Glossiers, ColourPops, Limecrimes, Fenty Beautys and Kylie Cosmetics of the world. Brands aren’t stopping at product innovation, either; many have also adopted integrations and revamps of heritage staple items for a Gen Z shopper.

For instance, Clinique adapted its Dramatically Different Moisturizer in a lotion, gel and clear jelly to cater to an Instagram consumer. Sephora Collection launched a clean skincare collection of products that all retailed for less than $20, transparently showing the percent of natural ingredients on each label while making the packaging simple and chic for photos.

More brands have sought to offer their streamlined beauty sets for a fraction of its initial costs that cater to teens and 20s skincare needs. The growth of brand transparency and clean beauty statements that are tailored to highlight natural ingredients and cruelty-free positioning have also taken off as two concepts that are important to Gen Z, and brands are following suit.

Needless to say, Gen Z is redefining the rules when it comes to exclusiveness in beauty, and brands are jumping to get on board (and if they’re not, well, best of luck).

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