By Amy Davies VP, Insights Publishing
October 19, 2023


In the second annual R29 Beauty Breakfast, Refinery29 Deputy Beauty Director Jacqueline Kilikita and Unbothered UK Editor L’Oreal Blackett joined forces with some notable beauty industry experts, including hairstylist and trend forecaster Tom Smith, certified fragrance specialist Eudora Nwasike, and award-winning medical and cosmetic doctor Dr. Ewoma Ukeleghe.

They came together to decode the essence of beauty and to delve into five cultural shifts identified in “Beauty for the Road Ahead 24,a report from VICE Insights & R29’s latest research that offers an in-depth look at how these shifts are impacting the beauty sector. Here are a few key takeaways shared by our beauty insiders:

Beauty As…Wellness:
Our panel agreed that the beauty industry isn’t immune to the financial challenges affecting consumers across the UK. Products now need to offer more than just aesthetics, and it’s for this reason that smart marketers are embracing a new ethos — one that champions longevity, resilience, and value for your money. 

As Tom Smith noted, “Beauty has evolved into a practice of mindfulness and self-care amid life’s chaos.” Whether it’s immersing yourself in the delightful notes of a perfume, treating yourself to a transformative haircut, or investing in a skincare regimen that feeds your soul, beauty is your sanctuary. Fragrance specialist Eudora Nwasike emphasised, “People should choose perfume to suit their individual moods and occasions. It’s about removing barriers to entry: It doesn’t matter if it’s £20 or 100, it’s about the pleasure the scent brings.”

Beauty As…Connection:
Post-pandemic, clients are forging bonds with their hairdressers that go beyond the salon chair. It’s an intimate space where you can confide your deepest secrets, knowing your stylist will keep their lips sealed (at least around your inner circle, that is). However, it’s essential to strike a balance, as the recent R29 article 
‘Trauma Dumping’ Is Real & Your Hairdresser Needs You To Stop Doing It highlighted, we do need to avoid unloading emotional baggage on our hairdressers. 

It’s happening virtually, too: Dr. Ewoma Ukeleghe says that people are investing more time and energy connecting online, specifically on TikTok, asking more personal skincare questions and actively sharing skincare advice to others in the comments. L’Oreal Blackett is also seeing this with Unbothered’s Instagram community, who aren’t shy about getting involved. They often challenge the team if they feel their needs aren’t being recognized or, in some cases, if long-held traditions (such as methods of haircare) are being put under the spotlight and questioned by Unbothered. It’s a community, a safe space, and as such, people feel able to share their opinions openly.

Beauty As…Education:
Knowledge is power, and the beauty world is witnessing a revolution in information consumption. Today’s beauty consumers are not just savvy, they’re also demanding authenticity. L’Oreal Blackett’s advice was clear: Never endorse a product you haven’t tried yourself, and provide genuine feedback. As a hairstylist, Tom Smith said he takes it a step further by backing his advice online with scientific evidence, not just anecdotal claims.

In the world of skincare, brands are putting forth a plethora of launches that give consumers more accessibility and more options (sunscreen is one example of this). Dr. Ewoma Ukeleghe believes “choice is good.” And yet, there’s a countertrend of “de-influencing” afoot, a movement that toes the line between constructive criticism and negativity.

Beauty As…Escapism:
Beauty is now more than just a product — it’s about the stories and emotions that they evoke.  Eudora Nwasike offers an example: the hype surrounding PHLUR’s Missing Person, a fragrance that gripped TikTok because users shared such poignant narratives that it drove consumers to “blind buy” the fragrance, resulting in sky-high profits. In the R29 article, The Story Behind ‘Missing Person’: A Perfume That Broke The Internet, beauty influencer @mikaylanogueira held back tears while telling her 13.6 million TikTok followers: “I don’t know how to explain this. It smells like a person that you love and miss.”

Today, you’re buying a story, a vibe. Or as Tom Smith beautifully summed up, “We’re not here to find ourselves. We’re here to create ourselves.” In summary, beauty is no longer skin-deep; it’s a journey of self-expression, connection, and personal wellness. 

For a complete dive into these insights, visit the full report. Reach out to R29’s commercial team at, or contact our intelligence team at

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