Lindsey Frimming’s Field Notes from Cosmoprof 2019:

Picture it: a young girl discovers Sephora, makes her first purchase (the Urban Decay Ammo Shadow Box and Benefit’s Lemon Aid eye primer, if we are being specific) and falls head over heels in love with the beauty industry. A decade-and-a-half later, this same girl (who is still super young, by the way) catches a plane to Las Vegas to attend the leading B2B beauty trade show -- Cosmoprof NA.

The show was BIG. I mean, like, an endless landscape of beauty booths, beauty products, and beautiful people. True story: on day two, I was still trying to find my way to an exit when the lights started dimming. I’m not kidding. This show was huge.

But on to the things that Cog was paying me for, yes? For you in the cheap seats in the back, us Cogs don’t just attend events to fortify our internal capabilities and add to our collection of free swag. We attend to keep an eye out for what our customers are looking for, as well. It’s safe to say that sustainability is at the top of nearly everyone’s list, and therefore, was at the top of mine (closely followed by the sweet beauty samples and swag, of course). Sustainability is still very much the word of the hour, but my attendance at this event only seemed to confirm the many interpretations of this word in the industry. 

A couple of examples: 

1. Express Tubes initially drew me in with their sugarcane tube technology, but the white, eco-friendly tubes looked so much like their plastic counterparts, I wondered how consumers would understand and appreciate the nearly identical swap out. Since the most universal traits of eco-friendly packaging are natural fibers and tones, I dug a little deeper with Express Tubes. They introduced me to their Bio-Jars. These attractive containers are made from recycled FSC-certified wood chips, and come in an array of chic colors -- including the traditional unbleached Kraft Tone. I’m dying to see which brands and products start setting up shop inside.

2. I was honestly attracted to the Miibags booth after locking eyes on some zippered pouches that featured bright fruit pattern prints (that sh*t is bananas!), but learned that the bags themselves were actually crafted from the fibers of the featured fruit on each bag. Consider me on the wait list for samples.  

3. An interesting facet about sustainability at the show was the idea of multi-use, refillable containers and corresponding programs with brands.  The Pure Factory had a mini-manufacturing setup where powder highlighters were being produced and housed in refillable compacts. You could snag your own custom set, if you filled out a survey on the likelihood of your participation in future refillable cosmetics campaigns. Needless to say, “refillable” is steadily becoming a big deal for the foreseeable future. Side-note, the highlighters are fabulous.

 In contrast to the eco-friendly packaging (located appropriately in the CosmoPack section), the middle of the trade show floor was dominated by eco-friendly products, where I noticed that most of the eco-message was in the ingredients list, as opposed to on the packaging. This opened up to large, glossy, cartons with dynamic dielines borrowed from the facets of crystals, soft touch coatings, and of course, loads of foil. I was curious -- did these brands face any challenges or pushback during packaging development? Feedback from booth personnel was minimal and, quite frankly, timid after a quick glance at my badge. I spent most of my time there listening in the sea of onlookers. I got the vibe that these small brands were banking on their beautiful, flashy, packaging to catch the eye of a bigger fish. I can’t argue with that logic, especially at an event equivalent to a visual candy store. Lucky for all of us (the weather averaged 112º that week!) there were several aluminum-free deodorant brands, with generous samples. Special shoutout to the wonderful people at Sway for not running away when they saw I wasn’t a buyer. :)

It was no surprise that Asian skincare -- particularly Korean, or “K-Beauty” -- had a huge presence, but I was surprised to see so many single serving products, such as sheet masks and skin treatments, at a time when sustainability is such a major theme. That said, I’m looking forward to trying the fragranced masks someday. What a multi-sensory experience! I discovered an amazing Korean volcano-inspired brand, Accoje, and scored a hydrating aqua toner that has my skin glowing after just a week of use. 

The Winner’s Showcase lined the outer lobby with the brightest and best in formulations, sustainability, packaging, and decoration. Italy’s Premi Spa won in sustainability for its cosmetic collection combining luxury with refillable AND biodegradable containers. While eco-friendly, they can still handle premium deco techniques such as hot stamping, metallization, and 3D inkjet. This is, obviously, music to Cog’s ears. The Sincere Dynamic Duo Water Base Blob Gloss by B.Kolormakeup in Italy (say THAT five times fast) was a real show-stopper for me. Their simple, see-through gloss component allows the viewer to experience the product’s natural chemistry, which I liken to a lava-lamp effect. The sheer brilliance behind the brand’s choice to highlight the beauty of the product’s formulation in lieu of choosing flashy, opaque packaging should leave us all wondering why we didn’t think of it first. Sometimes, all the sex-appeal a product needs is the actual product. The industry may be slowly shying away from plastics, but there’s no denying the consumer reaction to the simple experience and truth of seeing beyond the secondary packaging,whether it’s a window on a carton or a cleverly designed container.

Final takeaways?

  1. The quest for sustainability is one of many paths, and it’s each brand’s unique challenge to find the one which speaks closest to both their products and eco-conscious messaging.

  2. Consumers crave interaction and a connection with their beauty products now, more than ever.

  3. Hello Kitty can sell just about any product.

It was big! It was beautiful! It was Cosmoprof 2019. I was there and you can bet I’ll be back for more next year.