The 2021 skincare trends you need to know about

Skincare is a £1.18 billion industry, which is constantly innovating. But it’s not just about hot new ingredients – brands are coming up with ways to be more ethical, as we’ve discovered...
Photography: David Lineton

Once upon a time, ‘cleanse, tone and moisturise’ were the skincare steps to note. It didn’t matter that your new moisturiser came packaged in cellophane, or that excessive tissue paper and pretty ribbons were just part and parcel of the buying experience. But over the past few years, things have seriously changed. Now, along with the plethora of serums, essences and mists, there’s more to think about than just the products you’re using or how posh the packaging is. There’s also the eco credentials to consider. The future of our planet is a growing concern, but it’s only in recent years that we’ve started to see impactful changes being made by both brands and consumers.

In 2021 these changes are set to ramp up further, and sustainability is where the focus will be. As Rebecca Pow, environment minister, says: ‘New laws mean the industry will have to think even more about what their packaging is made of, how much they use, and what happens to it when it’s finished with – or pay the price.’But it’s a confusing landscape to try to navigate. There’s already been a start: 2018 saw microbeads become illegal, while a ban on plastic-stemmed cotton buds came into play last October. But the shift towards environmental accountability isn’t just coming from government – the industry is starting to self-regulate, too. Boots co-sponsored a British Beauty Council piece of research and report into sustainability in the beauty sector, focusing on what brands and consumers can do to make positive changes. ‘There’s so much greenwashing out there, it’s key that brands are as transparent as possible,’ says Jessica Smith, a creative beauty consultant. ‘Developing more sustainable options and making it easier for consumers to recycle packaging will help to reduce damage – but we can all go even further for our precious planet.’ And she’s right. So what exactly does the industry have in store? Here’s what to expect over the next year.

Going waterless

Turning on the tap or shower is something we all do without a second thought. Whether it’s a quick splash on your face before bed or an indulgent Sunday-afternoon bath, water has always just been there. But demand is outstripping supply, thanks to ever-growing populations, and the World Wildlife Fund states that two-thirds of the globe may face shortages by 2025.

It’s for these reasons that some brands are cutting back, whether that’s by reducing usage in supply chains or developing products without water in them. ‘Waterless beauty has emerged over the past four years as brands have started to understand the impact choices have on the world,’ adds Jessica. French haircare brand Klorane recently said that swapping one shower a week in favour of dry shampoo can save up to 500 litres of water per year (try its Aquatic Mint Dry Shampoo IN STORE ONLY), while shampoo bars – which are much more concentrated than liquid shampoos containing up to 80% water per bottle – are becoming more commonplace. Garnier is the first mass-market brand to venture into the world of shampoo bars, with its NEW Solid Shampoo, while both Ethique and Faith In Nature are seeing increased demand.

"Waterless beauty has emerged in recent years, as brands have begun to understand the impact choices have on the world"

Waterless skincare is also a growing market. EXCLUSIVE Moxi Loves Powder Pod Cleanser is a revolutionary powder-to-foam formula, designed to be activated at home with a couple of drops of the wet stuff fresh from the tap. Natural skincare brand True Skincare is also free of water. Instead, it uses the hydrating properties of skin-loving oils to nourish and replenish lost moisture. Check out its certified Organic Rehydrating Rosehip & Rosemary Facial OilONLINE ONLY.

Sustainable packaging

It’s not just what’s inside a product that counts – it’s also very much about packaging. According to Zero Waste Week, a UK campaign that happens every September, there are over 120 billion units of packaging produced globally every year by the cosmetics industry. But it is, thankfully, being taken extremely seriously.

‘Upcoming new laws will require the industry to think further about what their packaging is made of and what happens to it when it’s finished with,’ says Rebecca. As far as the Government’s involvement goes, there’s a newly implemented landmark Environment Bill to make companies pay the full cost of managing and recycling their packaging; and from 2022, there will be a new tax brands have to pay on any plastic packaging that doesn’t have at least 30% recycled content.

As consumers, we have to make sure we’re playing our part, too but, thankfully, brands are slowly starting to make it easier than ever. Estée Lauder has pledged that by 2025, all of its packaging will be recyclable, refillable, reusable, recycled or recoverable; and Clinique has recently repackaged its iconic NEW Moisture Surge Intense 72H Lipid-Replenishing Hydrator in glass jars instead of using plastic. Then there’s Mark Hill haircare. Mark changed his product packaging after his young daughter educated him on the importance of recycling. Now his range is made from 100% post-consumer plastic – including the NEW & EXCLUSIVE The Hair Lab By Mark Hill Blow Dry Cream, in a recyclable tube. And Beauty Kitchen is a 100% natural brand designed for sustainability – try The Sustainables Citrus Burst Organic Vegan Body Cream‡. Empty bottles can be returned to the brand, where they’ll be sanitised and reused – an even better initiative.

Less is more

The ‘more is more’ attitude is slowly beginning to change: we should be buying less, but buying better. ‘The focus should be on quality, not quantity,’ says Anna Brightman, co-founder of pro-eco brand UpCircle. ‘We need to be more aware of what we buy and why.’ Obviously, fewer products means less packaging/waste. Skin experts have long championed the use of fewer products, too – instead, the focus should be on ingredients that work harder, with long-term benefits. Which is where multi-use products come in. NEW & EXCLUSIVE L’Oréal Paris Revitalift Filler Hyaluronic Acid Eye Cream For Face is a lightweight, hydrating, gel-like eye and face cream, which is suitable for even the most sensitive of skin types. CeraVe had a similar thought process with its much-anticipated NEW Hydrating Cream-To-Foam Cleanser, designed to cut through make-up. Then there’s the contentious issue of face wipes: 3.4 billion wet wipes are thrown away each year, making them the third most wasted product in the world. But 2021 is about replacing them with reusable cotton pads that can be washed time and time again – hello, Bambaw Reusable Make-Up Remover Pads.

Make the swap today and we promise you won’t regret it.

Recycling payback
Recycle those empties in store

Register at and take photos of your empty products before dropping them off and scanning the QR code in store. Available in 50 stores – go to for details.

Shave off your toll on the planet

You can get rid of old razors by emailing and you’ll be sent a freepost envelope. Gillette will recycle them, turning them into picnic tables and even park benches.


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Smooth operator

Think wrinkles are here to stay? Think again, because the new men’s anti-ageing skincare regime, NIVEA Men Hyaluron, has landed. The range is made with ingredient hyaluron, which promotes cell renewal and stimulates skin layers to help smooth the appearance of wrinkles and firm the skin, in just two weeks. Impressive!

†Certifying body is The Soil Association. ‡Certifying bodies are The Vegan Association and Cruelty Free International.