Re-Commerce Acquires a New Category: Beauty

From penny-pinching to being eco-conscious, the motives behind second-hand beauty buys have evolved after 2019 was declared the year of sustainability. With Japanese millennials leading the trend last year, it’s no surprise that make-up resale is gaining popularity now. When it comes to beauty and skincare, the west has long been contoured by emerging trends from Asia.

Japan’s globally recognised beauty market boasts of domestic names like Shiseido and SK-II, smaller locally-approved make-up stores and international luxury labels. From Tokyo to Kyoto, every city caters to the make-up obsessed locals who spend maximum income on cosmetics and skincare per capita, according to Euromonitor International. The country’s beauty practices are still a reflection of their culture and traditions, influenced largely by geishas and viewed almost as a ritual with layered processes, making it quite heavy on the pocket.

Cue in C2C platform, Mercari, the go-to for beauty re-commerce in Japan, launched in 2013. It allows younger Japanese consumers access to high-end luxury cosmetics that are previously owned (marketed as pre-loved), unused and unopened, at just a fraction of their original price. However, factors beyond affordability contribute to the expansion of beauty resale in Japan; the ‘social shopping experience’, a sense of community and the more obvious - environmental concerns.

Jenni Middleton, director of beauty at WGSN states: “The social shopping aspect of beauty resale really appeals to Gen Z and millennial shoppers.”
When it comes to K-beauty vs. J-Beauty, resale of cosmetic products and skincare is one war that Japan is winning. However, U.S based platform Glambot lends serious competition by tackling the biggest hurdle associated with this sector: professional sanitization. A recent survey conducted by global market research firm Ipsos found that 68% of participants avoided resold beauty products due to concerns about hygiene and bacteria, while 34% were held back by the mysteriousness of who the previous owner was.

Glambot, founded in 2013 by Karen Horiuchi, increased consumer confidence by introducing pre-sale product cleaning. Different procedures exist for each category, such as skimming off top layers from pressed powders by using cling film, q-tips or pressured air and lipstick tops sliced off with clean blades. Resale rules, though self-induced, are followed by different platforms; Glambot mandates that merchandise is unexpired and contains at least 50% of the original product, whereas Poshmark (that launched second-handy beauty in 2015) refuses all but brand-new, unused cosmetics and most websites regulate liquid products to be completely unused. Other platforms that enable beauty #shelfie takers to clean out their cabinets and reduce green-guilt are eBay, MUABS and even some dedicated Facebook groups.

Despite second-hand beauty being slow to catch-up to the apparel resale sector (currently valued at $29 billion, according to source GlobalData), Middleton believes it’s the recent boom of the latter that has led to renewed talks of the former. Moreover, the aftermarket isn’t just speaking to the psyche of those who covet the thrill of acquiring a luxury label at a steal. These cheaply priced products cover-up the flip side of the beauty re-commerce sector, which is a money-making opportunity for many. Limited edition collaborations like last year’s KKW x Winnie and Revlon x Gurls Talk, that are immediately sold out on brand websites, find their way to these resale platforms at exorbitantly inflated prices, quite similar to the sneaker resale culture. 2020 can expect more than just 100+ posts of #secondhandbeauty on Instagram, considering how online platforms are normalising circular beauty and the very minimal shade being thrown its way!

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