Loving The Big Apple! International Esthetics, Cosmetics & Spa Conference
Posted March 12, 2019

Paul Langston

On March 10-12, Spot On Beauty attended the IECSC show at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Centre in New York City. This show is the first major North American esthetics exposition of 2019. The combined hair and esthetics show covered approximately 800,000 sq. ft. of exhibition space and boasted well over 500 exhibitors and 150+ education sessions. The crowds we saw on Day 1 and 2 would indicate that the attendance will easily eclipse that which was projected of 70,000.

In speaking with people manning the booths, attendees were in a buying mood and those who ran education sessions found that the interest was strong. Surprisingly, there were many exhibitors from overseas; countries represented included Korea, Taiwan, China, Japan, Italy, Israel, Austria, Spain and many more.

There was a consensus amongst many exhibitors that 2019 has presented a tough start for salons, distributors and brands alike. The weather in the Northeast, Midwest and states that border with Canada has played a meaningful role in dampening demand for services and products. In general, the industry is eager to see both temperatures and activity levels heat up in the coming weeks!

Many education sessions were keying on ways to drive salon growth and profitability in a rapidly changing world. Leadership optimization, human resource management, differentiation, charging your worth, embracing retail, intelligence gathering were themes being delivered and talked about.

Ongoing and accelerating trends in the marketplace were in full view and part of most conversations. Prominent themes for this show were simplicity and everything express service related, as well as appliances to improve treatment efficacy. Noteworthy, was the ongoing cross-over of hair and esthetics, both in terms of the combining of booths as well as the products that are being brought to the forefront. In particular, treatments that are not requiring an esthetican to provide service, such as sheet masks infused with skincare serums and moisturizers are clearly taking hold in hair-dominated salon environments. As opposed to being dedicated to facial treatments, masks are now also being used for body treatments, i.e. décolletage and other areas. Massage treatments (whether manual or appliance aided) are also being marketed as a service upgrade to the hair appointment.

Not only were sheet masks pervasive at the show but the focus on multi-step facials being delivered in express formats (30 minutes or less) was clearly a focus of most skincare brands. As one brand CEO indicated “the market is clearly becoming polarized wherein the express oriented treatment (sheet mask and facials with fewer steps) is seeing tremendous growth in traditional spas, as well as new environments versus the big facial that is trending in more of a high performance/medical direction.” In other words, consumers are looking for a quick service to fit their time-starved schedules or alternatively one that delivers customized solutions to problems or areas of concern. Seemingly gone are the days of the experiential “feel-good” facial in a typical salon environment; these are now almost exclusively the focus of the destination or luxury day spa.

Brows were yet again a hot topic at this year’s show with lots of products to define, enhance (fibre; thickeners; fillers) and colour. However the eyelash extension category has seemingly decelerated somewhat as evidenced by a smaller number of exhibitors, smaller booths and fewer in-booth demonstrations, as compared to passed shows. This is in contrast with the number of lash growth serum products being exhibited. All of the major players were in force, as well as several new-to-the-market entrants from Europe and Asia. The latter are bringing innovation and excitement to the segment with formulae that do not include some of the more controversial/regulated ingredients associated with the well-known brands.

CBD (Cannabidiol) and Hemp infused products were trending along with everything organic. The most active booth at the show appeared to be Farmhouse Fresh, a Texas based organic and natural product portfolio. This company not only has fabulous natural products but is a leader in giving back, with a particular focus on animal rescue and abuse prevention.

The nail world is also delivering innovation. The show was spotlighting nail health; i.e. 5/7/8/9-free polishes and a trend away from gels. The odour-free and air-dry application benefits of dip powders were being showcased by most of the major nail brands.

The portable appliance market was ever present, with many light therapy and micro-current devices on display. Light therapy equipment is claiming to be the next wave of enabling technology to treat wrinkles, acne prone skin and other imperfections. The micro-current device trend is similarly alive and well. The technology is well known to the physiotherapy market but it is now becoming mainstream and a mainstay of aesthetics practice; namely facilitating deeper and faster penetration of serums through increased blood-flow to a specific area. Portability is the name of the game with these devices. And the aforementioned themes of efficacy and efficiency (express services) are being addressed by these electronic aids.

Overall, the IECSC New York show was well worth the time and expense. The industry is full of innovation, energy and well-being. Now we all just need the weather Gods to get as excited about mani, pedi, body and facial treatments!


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