Remember when the world had clear, definable boundaries? There was your career, there was your social life and there were holidays. And each had a wardrobe to match. Yet in recent years, the increasing interest in healthy eating, fitness and mental health has blurred the boundaries between work, working out and socialising, calling for a new type of clothing that covers all bases. The solution has come in the form of the booming athleisurewear trend, which is expected to be an $83bn business by 2020.
Now in the same way that Lululemon leggings are an acceptable wear-everywhere item, experts are predicting that “active” or “athbeauty” will soon breach the threshold of the changing room door to become a mainstream product category.
“Beauty is breaking free from the confines of cosmetics and skincare,” says Victoria Buchanan, strategic researcher at The Future Laboratory. “It’s taking its place in the modern wellness pantheon, incorporating aspects of fashion’s athleisure trend, the food sector’s obsession with all-natural products and the health and fitness industry’s drive towards optimisation and mindfulness.” Vivienne Rudd, director of insights, beauty and personal care at Mintel, agrees that a shift in the consumer mindset means that women increasingly treat their body as a holistic “system”, thinking not merely about surface appearances, but their integral “skin and hair fitness”. So the benefits of “athbeauty” products are manifold – whether one works out or not.
First, there’s the matter of performance. Just as a sweat-wicking fabric keeps the body cool and dry when working out, new beauty formulations also offer targeted solutions for before, during and after exercise as body temperature, blood circulation and sweat production increase. Products are often multifunctional too, promising to streamline our beauty routine and lighten our load, with take‑everywhere packaging or mini sets that minimise the need for water or fiddly make-up brushes and other tools. And let’s not forget the prevalence of fitness-inspired looks – from fresh-faced “sporty skin” to the flushed “post-yoga glow” showcased on the Isabel Marant and Stella McCartney catwalks over the past few seasons. It’s a call to action that means looking healthy and active is the current beauty ideal – even if you’re not a dedicated gym bunny.
“The rise of the sporty beauty look reflects the desire to appear and feel strong, energised and resilient as women go about their busy and increasingly more nomadic lives, switching between home, work and travel,” says Jen Chamberlain, who heads up Procter & Gamble’s global trend division. “So whether you exercise on a daily basis or simply live and breathe a hectic lifestyle, athleisure beauty will fit seamlessly into your busy world.”
To this end, Aum Aromatherapy’s Activate Body Mist (£26 for 100ml) contains citrus and eucalyptus to energise – whether it’s before working out or for a boost when feeling frazzled. Apply it directly to the skin, mist onto a yoga mat or use it as a room spray – you can also carry it in your bag as a pick-me-up throughout the day.
Likewise Yuni, founded by yoga teachers, is a brand that brings benefits both during and post exercise. The Hot Head Microveil Hair Treatment (£25 for 120ml) is a heat-activated mist that responds as body temperature rises and the hair cuticle opens. Rich in argan and kukui oils, the treatment conditions and hydrates hair as you condition your body. It even contains calming frankincense and lavender aromatherapy oils to enhance the meditative elements of yoga. Then there’s the Sweat, Refresh & Go mini set (£32) containing water-free Shower Sheet Body Wipes, a Flash Bath No-Rinse Body Cleanser, Chillax Muscle Recovery Gel and My Om World Aromatic Body Mist – which all come in a cotton bag that’s as handy for holidays and business trips as it is for working out.
Yuni, available from e-tailer Cult Beauty, is part of a dedicated “workout beauty” edit that Alexia Inge, Cult Beauty co-founder, decided to launch when her data analytics team reported a 113 and 247 per cent increase in year-on-year customer searches for these types of products. Similarly, extensive consumer insight research by Clinique convinced the prestige beauty brand that women wanted solutions specifically targeted towards an active lifestyle. The result was a capsule collection called CliniqueFit.
Mindful of a common tendency to use a harsh cleanser or scrub to rid skin of sweat, grease and shine after exercise, the CliniqueFit range includes a Post-Workout Mattifying Moisturizer (£18 for 40ml). Containing a natural sugar called trehalose, it acts as a skin protector and delivers antioxidants to neutralise the skin-damaging free radicals that are produced during a workout. ‘‘The release of sweat, salt and nitrogen onto the skin surface during exercise provides a natural detoxification. Yet the loss of moisture and lipids can deplete the skin, leaving it dry,” says Estée Lauder’s Tom Mammone, vice president of skin physiology and pharmacology. “So, counterintuitively, the period post-exercise is when the skin really needs moisture and restorative antioxidants to hydrate, feed and protect it against degradation.”
Free from sweat and properly moisturised, you could follow with CliniqueFit Post-Workout Neutralizing Face Powder (£19.50). Like a breathable running vest for the face, it’s lightweight, yet contains just enough yellow-based pigments to counteract flushing, so you don’t arrive at your morning meeting quite literally red-faced. It also comes with an in-built sponge applicator, so you can dab it on, blend and go.
And looking to the future, Mammone hints that Clinique is already talking to sports apparel and tech companies about the prospect of sensor-enabled clothing that sends data concerning skin temperature and hydration levels to a synchronised app, with instructions to release certain conditioning agents onto the skin at any given time.
Mintel’s Rudd expects brands to also turn attention to HEV – High Energy Visible or blue light – which has been linked to skin pigmentation, dullness and the development of fine lines. Crucially, says Rudd, HEV is not only emitted by digital devices, but often by gym lighting too. So, products like Uriage’s Age Protect Multi-Action Cream SPF 30 (£28.50 for 40ml) with blue-light protection will form a key part of skincare routines.
Another important component of athleisure beauty is its convenience factor. Sarirah Hamid, founder of global beauty forecasting company Pretty Analytics, predicts the rise of products such as IGK Hair’s anti-frizz Swipe Up Smoothing Hair Wipes and anti-humidity Charcoal Dry Shampoo Hair Blotting Tissues (both £16 for 16), Mai Couture’s shine-absorbing, press-on Makeup Papiers (£15.50 for 50), and Arrow’s oil-free Revive Cooling Cheek Tint (£14). Minus the need for gym membership, these products can create the requisite post‑exercise look and slip discreetly between the sheets of a notebook or into a clutch bag.
“Ideas about what constitutes luxury beauty are changing rapidly,” says Hamid. “Now it’s not always about price point. In a world where advanced biological research offers a more sophisticated insight into our overall physical and mental wellbeing, health really is the new wealth.”