Fad or Fab: 6 beauty trends decoded

These trends are already a rage and are touted as the breakthrough trends of 2023 — but are they really pushing the envelope? Here, we weigh the hits and misses for you.

1. Biotech Beauty

It seems ironic that something nurtured in a lab should be the most sustainable and cruelty-free kind of beauty. Sadly, many of our organic, green, and natural products may exert too much pressure on nature to meet our beauty needs. Biotech Beauty (besides the added issue of greenwashing claims) ticks the three Es—ethics, environment, and efficacy, that new consumers, especially Gen Z, seek. Biotech mimics nature and tries to recreate natural alternatives in a lab using biological processes or natural products as a starting point.

An often-cited example is recreating plant-derived squalane in the lab as a substitute for squalene from cruelly hunted sharks because squalene is such a powerful skincare ingredient. Similarly, if farming monocultures are being created in poorer countries to feed the beauty business, we must question labour equity and what happens to the economy when an ingredient goes out of fashion. When it comes to future beauty, synthetic and lab-grown, do not have to mean harmful.

2. The Retinoid Spectrum

With the caveat of supervised dosage, retinoids have proven effective in managing and reversing a range of skincare issues from acne to wrinkles, hyperpigmentation to psoriasis. With the identification of retinoid receptors in the body, it has become easier to target collagen synthesis or block inflammatory pathways and help the skin cells make choices of regeneration. I am not a scientist, so this is a simplistic understanding of the retinoid boom. It began with low-strength retinol (technically not a retinoid) to stronger Tretinoin and super strong Tazarotene. But there are side effects, so you have to be cautious. I am sure scientists will find ways to deliver more efficacious results with safer, newer retinoids, but the old rules apply—not if you are pregnant, not if you are exposed to the sun, always at night, however many beauty brands claim otherwise and should always be backed by a dermal consult.

3. Age-agnostic Beauty

There was a time when beauty products and regimes were neatly divided into your 20’s, 30’s, and 40’s. Thankfully it isn’t quite so neatly boxed anymore. The approach has become more flexible as many issues are age-agnostic—antioxidant fixes to beat environmental stressors, brightening creams for dull skin, managing dark circles, or skin hydration. A new generation of products simply tell you their benefit—you decide if they work for your age and concern.

4. Menopausal Beauty

I recently heard Michelle Obama refers to menopause as the Big M in an interview. Menopause used to be the ‘small m’, whispered about or not mentioned too much. Now thanks to articulate women, it is taken seriously, and everyone is discussing menopause and perimenopause-related issues and solutions. An entire industry has sprung around menopause, including beauty products, well-being and mood-enhancing products, supplements, and nutraceuticals. With a whole generation of demanding millennials already in their forties, expect this segment to grow and grow.

5. The Great Barrier Leap

If there is one thing we have learned, a broken skin barrier is the worst damage you can do to your skin. Abrasive scrubs, wrong cleansing techniques. Retinoids and peels are wrongly used, with too little to no SPF—the list of what causes the damage is long. Your skin barrier is your first line of defense against the world, and a host of barrier-protecting and barrier-repair products have emerged as a new skincare category. Look for products with extra hydration for some skin flooding, niacinamide, peptides, probiotics (yes, the skin has its own microbiome), or simply give your skin a soothing break with natural aloe vera, homemade yogurt, or a gentle calendula mask. Preventing and protecting is a better strategy than repairing, so don’t let your skin barrier reach that stage.

6. Bold Colours

After a long run of little or no color and the natural nude, it is time to let your imagination go wild. Red lips are always classic, but bring on the bold pink, dark wine, and autumn rust. There are no day or night rules here and no age rules. Wear as you, please. Two trends I hope aren’t coming back in a hurry—fierce brows and heavy contouring.


  • Geeta Rao

    Geeta Rao, is a renowned beauty commentator, founder of Geeta's List, and former Beauty and Health Director at Vogue India. She's passionate about red lipstick, art, and exploring new places. Her mission: "Live many lives in one lifetime." follow her on https://www.instagram.com/geetaslist

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