Self-Care Hero

Industry • Best Practice

Self-Care Is Essential. Here's How Our Habits Are Evolving in 2021

Self-care has gone from mere indulgence to bare necessity since the start of the pandemic. That’s a big opportunity for beauty brands.

One of the many fundamental changes that COVID-19 inspired in the public consciousness is a turn to self-care. In the midst of a chaotic time, self-care was something that people could control. Because it is an inherently comforting and safe activity, people embraced self-care both as an emotional anchor and as a positive pastime to keep their spirits up. 

By the end of 2020, the self-care industry exploded to a total of $450 billion. 73% of Americans say they became more conscious of their self-care needs during the pandemic, and 67% say that their new routines have become a fixture of their daily lives, pandemic or not. 69% say they plan to increase their investment in self-care in 2021 compared to 2020. 

This article dives into the shape of self-care trends since 2020 and investigates what the booming self-care industry will mean for the future of beauty businesses in 2021 and beyond.

A lesson born of pandemic self-care discovery

Yes, self-care is a feel-good activity. But that feeling does not have to stop at the physical sensation it provides the hair, skin, or nails. On the contrary, among the great lessons of the pandemic was the idea that self-care reinforces resilience. Finding moments of attention consumers might not previously have dedicated to their own pleasure and wellbeing was a powerful collective experience. Self-care rituals and routines became a buoy during the emotionally challenging pandemic months, a way to keep ourselves afloat no matter what life had in store for us next.

What’s more, those self-care routines have extended beyond physical experiences to include and overlap with emotional, mental, and social factors, among others. This graphic from WeNurses on Twitter encapsulates the many types of self-care.

self-care graphic

As consumers carry their pandemic-born routines into their post-COVID lives, the resilience that self-care offers will simply shift its target. Once the collective grief experience of the pandemic is eventually behind us, what will remain are the everyday challenges of being human. Whether consumers feel stress at work or at home, whether they’re struggling toward high-reaching goals at work or simply trying to get through the evening news, the lesson that self-care helps humanity handle hard times won’t be quickly forgotten.

Salon closures forced self-care to stay home

When sudden lockdowns were imposed nationwide, public-facing businesses were forced to go on indefinite hiatus. Beauty businesses were hit hard, and spas and salons across the country closed their doors without any idea of when they’d be able to reopen. Cut off from their favorite stylists and technicians, many consumers interested in experimenting with self-care and personal wellness during the pandemic were forced to get creative at home.

Because of the social distancing restrictions in place, beauty businesses dedicated to in-person appointments took a backseat to the brands that were prepared to facilitate, support, and supply in-home spa treatments. Self-care conscious consumers relied on well-timed beauty industry trends like subscription boxes, AR-powered try before you buy programs, and private one-on-one consultations to construct their new wellness rituals. Through it all, consumers across the country and around the world discovered that self-care is much more than just a once-in-a-while Saturday night indulgence.

Post-pandemic beauty brands and the new self-care

Throughout 2021, cities around the world have slowly begun to re-emerge from the cocoon of lockdown. Even through the fits and starts of science-backed reopenings, salons, day spas, medical spas, and brick-and-mortar beauty retailers have seen a marked uptick in consumer demand since vaccinations started rolling out in earnest. Self-care will continue, and it’s very likely to relocate from the sofa back to the salon chair.

It’s safe to say there are also a whole new host of motivations sending consumers back into the open arms of physical beauty businesses. In addition to wanting to look and feel good, that idea of pampering now carries the weight of necessity. Salon and spa customers sold on the emotional, mental, and social benefits of self-care have come to understand beauty treatments as sessions that support their ultimate goals in the world. Instead of viewing self-care as an indulgence, it’s now viewed as an everyday necessity.

In that sense, beauty businesses fulfilling the self-care fantasies of the post-pandemic masses are doing the good work of helping us look our best so that we can feel our best — and give our best to those around us. As consumers return to the work world, regardless of whether or not that means entering physical offices, many are reconsidering their priorities. To that end, questions about wellness abound after the pandemic forced society to face what’s truly important. Instead of burning the candle at both ends and prioritizing productivity above all else, people are returning to work with the understanding that self-care isn’t a distraction, it’s actually a secret to success.

This renewed emphasis on self-care also has economic implications and presents an enormous opportunity for retailers. According to a new report from NC Solutions, 39% of American consumers plan to increase personal care spending in the coming months. As consumers’ interest in wellness grows, so does their willingness to invest in products and services that support and sustain it. There are countless opportunities for beauty businesses to satisfy the growing demand for self-care, and those that adjust their mindsets to account for the new focus on resilience and holistic wellness are sure to win big.

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