One of the first questions every beauty editor hears at the beginning of each year is, “what will be this year’s new hyaluronic acid?” In previous years, the answer to this question has included everything from mushrooms to bakuchiol, but for 2021 Middleton says it’s going to be all about polyglutamic acid: a powerhouse humectant capable of holding and trapping in four times as much moisture as hyaluronic acid.
“With COVID-face—the phenomenon of dull, sagging skin caused by more time indoors in front of screens and wearing masks—on the rise, consumers are seeking new science-backed solutions that deliver deep hydration and polyglutamic acid (PGA) ticks all the boxes,” she says. “The secret to its magic is the large molecules that form a thin film on the skin’s surface, preventing water loss and plumping fine lines and brightening lackluster complexions. Early adopters of PGA include Charlotte Tilbury’s Magic Serum and The Inkey List’s single-ingredient serum of the same name.”
As the concern over blue light damage continues to grow among consumers who remain stuck working from home, many retailers have also noted an influx of innovative new products designed to combat its harmful effects. According to Inge, the demand for these products has become so great in recent months that Cult Beauty has since unveiled a dedicated category on its site called Blue Light Radiation Protection. Some of the blue light protection products that she’s most excited about are those that harness the power of marine ingredients—a trend that she’s calling “oceanic beauty.”
“This trend is driving interest in ingredients such as sea plasma, marine collagen, astaxanthin, and forms of algae to address consumers’ growing concern over protecting their skin against blue-light radiation,” she adds. One of the leading brands to note in this space, she says, is One Ocean Beauty, which formulates its products using lab-grown marine bio-ferments to limit the unsustainable large-scale harvesting that’s common with most other ocean-derived ingredients. “The brand’s products also come in 100% recyclable packaging,” she adds, “and gives back to the charity Oceana. This type of 360-degree impact consideration for brands is becoming increasingly more important, as we see a new type of customer—the ‘Values Shopper’—emerge for whom greenwashing simply doesn’t cut it.”
This increased interest in plant and botanical ingredients isn’t relegated solely to the ocean either. While interest in cannabinoids continues to grow, no doubt, in response to the mounting stress and anxiety that we’ve all experienced in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, WGSN is predicting the rise of a new cannabis compound. Enter CBN.
“Another derivative of the cannabis plant, CBN has stronger sedative qualities than CBD, making it particularly relevant during this post-pandemic era where ‘Covid-somnia’ and anxiety is part of the new norm,” says Middleton. “With sleep also vital to a strong immune system, wellness brands such as Californian-based Kikoko and Colorado-based Slumber CBN are creating CBN nighttime tinctures and gummies to aid restorative sleep and boost overall health and wellbeing. Also, watch out for ‘cannabinoid layering’ in 2021. Similar to fragrance layering in beauty, compounds, including CBN, CBD, and THC, are blended to enhance their individual benefits via the ‘entourage effect.’”
Should cannabis-infused products not be your thing, don’t worry. As evidenced by Google’s annual report of the most-searched beauty trends of 2020, staple ingredients like retinol, vitamin C, and hyaluronic acid aren’t going anywhere. If anything, they’re only getting better. “I will always put my money on proven, researched ingredients like retinol, vitamin C, and hyaluronic acid,” says Choi, who anticipates seeing high-tech upgrades to these ingredients in the form of new encapsulation methods and innovative freeze-dried formats, such as Saro de Rúe’s Freeze-Dried Hyaluronic Acid Anti-Aging System—one of our favorite new K-beauty launches.