11 Wellness Trends To Watch In 2018

Photo: mbg Creative

In 2017, the definition of “wellness” shifted. At mindbodygreen, we know that wellness is bigger than any individual’s journey. We are banding together to heal one another, our communities, and the planet. mbg’s new look and feel are reflective of our evolved purpose, and so is our new mantra, one we hope will illuminate the way to a better, brighter 2018: You. We. All.

We’re excited that this year’s trends set the stage for a world in which wellness is more accessible than ever. In previous years, our predictions were spot on. Back in 2015, we called out supplement startups and the role of telomeres in aging. In 2016, guac was everywhere (we’re not complaining), healthy tourism became an industry, and people made their homes sanctuaries complete with greenery and succulents. Last year, we were one of the first to call women’s spaces and circles a trend, and we also saw personalized nutrition, medicinal mushrooms, and ketosis take off.

This year, big corporations are responding to consumer demand for better personal care products, higher-quality food, and sustainability practices. At the same time, cutting-edge research on intermittent fasting and the microbiome offer promising outlooks for feeling our best and healing disease. Protecting the planet with #zerowaste initiatives will catch on big time in 2018, and femtech will drive a new wave of women’s empowerment.

If our annual revitalize event was any indication, our priorities are shifting rapidly—giving us renewed motivation to take care of ourselves, one another, and our Mother Earth. We spoke to industry experts and pored over the latest research, and all signs point to a 2018 that’s more intentional, purposeful, and mission-driven.

It’s time to use the incredible practices we have established to make the world a better place for ourselves, our children, and our planet. Here’s to a progressive 2018!

1. Protecting the planet will become an integral part of our wellness routines.

A record year of hurricanes, earthquakes, wildfires, and extreme weather events has left us shaken—and ready to act.

The experts have spoken: Atmospheric researchers and climate scientists have told us that, yes, human actions do affect the likelihood and intensity of such catastrophes. One especially sobering piece in New York Magazine this July (which went on to be the publication’s most-read article of all time) warned that, without major change, the world could become uninhabitable—a dystopia of constant draft, insufferable heat, and resilient diseases—in the next 100 years. And we are already starting to see evidence of climate change affecting our health. Our food supply is feeling the heat, chronic diseases are worsening with pollution and temperature extremes, and our mental health is even taking a beating in some cases. This puts the onus squarely on us to clean up our act for our collective health, our children, and the future of our planet—and thankfully we’re starting to step up to the plate.

While Donald Trump announced plans to pull America out of the Paris Climate Agreement this summer, many local governments announced plans to continue moving forward with its goals regardless. As of today, 47 cities have committed to generating 100 percent of their community-wide energy from renewable sources, and solar and wind power accounted for a record percentage of energy production in the United States this year. Paul Hawken, the spirited environmentalist who wrote New York Times best-seller Drawdown and who won this year’s mbg lifetime achievement award, is confident that sustainable trailblazers can and will reverse climate change. “If you look at the science and you’re not pessimistic, in a sense you don’t understand it,” he says. “But if you look at the people who are addressing the problem at hand and don’t feel hopeful, then you don’t have a pulse.”

It’s no coincidence that in 2017, more and more companies and corporations started prioritizing sustainability and ethics protocols. We are heartened to see many wellness brands continue to set an example in this space. “For us, sustainability is the world’s greatest innovation challenge,” Nike’s chief sustainability officer Hannah Jones told Surface Mag. They recently launched Flyleather, a sneaker made with sustainable leather that has half the carbon footprint of a normal one. Earlier this year, adidas released an UltraBoost sneaker made from plastic found in the ocean—each pair uses the equivalent of 11 plastic bottles.

These brands are marketing to health-conscious consumers who are more savvy than ever about the power of their purchases. They’re shopping smarter and paying attention to their footprint as zero-waste living becomes aspirational. Popular wellness bloggers like Lee Tilghman have taken on zero-waste challenges of their own this year, following the lead of sustainable trailblazers like Bea Johnson and Trash Is for Tossers. The #zerowaste hashtag has now amassed 640,000 posts on Instagram and reminded us unpackaged fruits and veggies are the ultimate zero-waste snack. In 2018, those of us who are passionate about our personal wellness will be stepping up our commitment to healing the planet, seeing it’s the only way to be well.

2. Big technology is the next big tobacco.

While technology and social media represent a wonderful way to stay connected, they have been met with their fair share of resistance this year. New research shows that those who spend more time on social media feel less socially fulfilled, and the more platforms we are on, the more stressed out we become. Entrepreneurs who have been in the digital space for years are now beginning to step back, one by one, and assess what it is they really want to be creating.

Facebook’s own Sean Parker revealed that the platform’s goal was always to find the answer to, “How do we consume as much of your time and conscious attention as possible?” Other ex-Facebook execsare speaking publicly about its harmful effects on how it’s changed human interaction. For a society with a rapidly growing addiction to technology, knowing of the conscious intent to “hook” users and seeing it work is disconcerting. Earlier this year, 60 Minutes releaseda special on the psychology of technology. We love checking our phones because the apps are designed to grab and keep our attention. “Inadvertently, whether they want to or not, they are shaping the thoughts and feelings and actions of people. They are programming people,” Tristan Harris, a former Google project manager, told Anderson Cooper in the interview. Media bigwig and creator of REDEF Jason Hirschhorn recently wrote about how harmful tech really is in a spot-on REDEF post. “The irony that these platforms were built to bring us closer together but may be tearing us apart is not lost on me.” The one and only Steve Jobs even told journalist Nick Bilton that his kids were not allowed to use iPads, and he’s one of many tech execs who currently impose strict limits on their kids’ screen time.

Smartphone addiction, which is currently a hot topic on Google trends, has a dark side. There’s been a cascade of brand-new research and concern about how tech, which is designed to grab and keep our attention, could be affecting our brains. Research has found that young people are especially susceptible to changes in brain chemistry, which can lead to increased drowsiness, anxiety, and may be linked to the tragic increase in teenage depression and suicideslately.

The good news is that addiction is reversible in most cases with cognitive therapy. And as we begin to crave a more intentional relationship with technology, the industry is responding with mindful offerings of its own. Moment is an application that allows you to set a limit on the number of times you can check your devices each day, and the Forest App plants a tree after you spend a certain amount of hours off your phone.

Dave Morin, a former Facebook exec who’s founded his own VC firm, Slow Ventures, and now serves on the board of directors for Esalen, is on board with unplugging. In relation to his latest project, Sunrise, a mental health startup to fight depression, he explains this inverse relationship: “The brain is designed for making real-world connections with other humans and learning from real-world experiences. Anything that takes away from that reduces your well-being. So the challenge is in finding balance.”

At the same time, in-person meeting circles continue to facilitate a return to face-to-face contact. The Wing, an NYC-based female-only co-working space (one of our trends from last year), recently landed a $32 million investment from WeWork, and similarly communal spaces like JIG+SAW, Loom, and WMN Space are also welcoming new members in droves, showing that millennials crave more in-person connection. “Mindful relationships with anything are all about spending time intentionally. Set up your digital life so that you are in control of your attention—not technology companies,” suggests Morin. So keep using that phone, but make airplane mode your friend too.

3. Our gut health depends on more than just good bacteria.

For years the science of gut health has focused on probiotics and maintaining the balance of good and bad bacteria living in the digestive tract. Lately, however, research points to the beneficial role that gut fungi—not just bacteria—play in our health.

This expanded awareness of gut health started with prebiotics, foods that contain the fiber that nourishes beneficial bacteria in the gut, like chicory root, apples, and Jerusalem artichokes. We also learned more about the metabolome—like microbiome 2.0, the metabolome includes the beneficial bacteria in the gut but also a number of metabolites and compounds like amino acids that they produce and interact with—all of which affect our overall health.

Mahmoud Ghannoum, Ph.D., one of the world’s leading microbiome scientists, has been studying gut health for a long time. And in recent years, he’s focused on BIOHM, the leading gut-sequencing company offering at-home testing kits and probiotic supplements. Dr. Ghannoum was the first to discover the critical role that fungi play in gut health, a role that recent research suggests is even bigger than we originally thought. Historically, fungi have gotten a bad reputation—mostly because of a pesky fungus called Candida that can cause a host of health problems when it grows too much. According to Dr. Ghannoum, “The rapidly evolving field of the microbiome is highlighting exciting new discoveries showing that both bacteria and fungi play a critical role in optimizing digestive health. These studies are showing significant cooperation between bacteria and fungi that can impact our overall health and wellness.”

The key take-away? In 2018, we’ll be optimizing our gut health in innovative new ways. We’ll start to see protocols arise for how to create a supportive environment for our microbes, and just like we learned with bacteria, we’ll start to see the bright side of fungi. Probiotic supplements with added prebiotic fiber will become prominent, and plenty more will start to include beneficial bacteria and fungi. It’s time to zoom out and look beyond just bacteria.

4. With buy-in from consumers and corporations, natural beauty becomes the next “organic food.”

Until the last few years, natural beauty was a mixed bag. Select products were efficacious while others couldn’t hold a candle to their conventional counterparts. More recently, the best ones were high-end and not accessible to everyone. Now, in 2017, all of that has changed. Not only are we more aware of what’s going into our products thanks to watchdog organizations like the Environmental Working Group (and its ingredient database and ranking system, Skin Deep) and increased demand for transparency, but large corporations are finally hearing our call.

Target has been leading the charge on natural beauty since 2008. Since then they’ve offered natural and “better for you” brands, including Burt’s Bees, Yes To, Pacifica, Seaweed Bath, S.W. Basics, W3LL People and Fig & Yarrow. “This year, we’re rolling out a new beauty store experience and are dedicating prominent space near the center of the beauty department to natural beauty offerings,” said Courtney Foster, a Target spokesperson. In addition, they’ve launched a natural beauty page to make finding naturals products easier. “Given how important it is for our guests to what is in—or not in—their products, Target recently implemented a new chemical strategy that is one of the most comprehensive chemical policies in US retail. This policy promotes ingredient transparency and bans certain chemicals in beauty, baby, personal care and household cleaning product categories by 2020,” Foster said.

Another example is Unilever. It has emerged as one of the most progressive players in the natural beauty space. Earlier this year, the company promised improved transparency in its ingredient lists, specifically lifting the veil from “fragrance,” one of the most mysterious items on a product’s ingredient list. At present, manufacturers selling products in the United States aren’t required to disclose the ingredients that go into the fragrance under the guise of “trade secrets,” but many natural beauty companies do anyway, and by the end of next year, so will Unilever. The company also launched a new in-house brand, ApotheCARE Essentials, in November 2017, to meet the needs of consumers demanding hair care, body wash, in-shower oils, and body moisturizers with a cleaner ingredient list. In the same month, Unilever also announced its acquisition of Sundial, which houses brands like Nubian Heritage, Madam C.J. Walker, and SheaMoisture, specifically created for people of color.

Natural deodorant is another hot topic, which is projected to grow more than 15 percent every year until 2022. Procter & Gamble got a head start and acquired buzzy brand Native, which is aluminum- and paraben-free. Like Unilever, the corporation vowed to disclose the ingredients in “fragrance” by the end of 2019.

“I expect the M&A market to continue to be very active in 2018,” said Patrick Finn, founder and managing partner of Finn Capital Partners, a San Francisco-based investment fund focused on early-stage brands in the health and wellness space like Ursa Major Skin care and Kjaer Weis. “I also expect that strategics won’t acquire only one natural brand to fill a gap but a handful—which means there should be a number of seats at the table for scaling brands should they choose to exit.”

“I am very bullish on the natural beauty category,” said Kara Cissell-Roell, co-founder and manager of venture capital firm VMG Partnersand investor in nontoxic beauty brand Drunk Elephant. “In particular, natural beauty brands that use high-quality, safe ingredients but also deliver exceptional results—this is the holy grail of today’s beauty market.”

Growth in the market for large-scale green beauty companies like Sephora and Ulta Beauty is happening right alongside growth of the homespun boutiques we’ve long loved like Detox Market, CAP Beauty, Credo Beauty, and Follain, who were instrumental in shifting the demand for clean personal products.

5. Collagen becomes the ultimate gut-healing superfood.

Scoop by heaping scoop, collagen has gained mainstream interest over the past year as everyone adds the superfood to their smoothie—and in 2018, it’ll make its way into every facet of our lives.

Collagen is one of the cleanest types of protein powders, free of many additives that typically fill the supplement aisle. Consumers are increasingly interested in knowing where their food comes from and exactly what’s in it, and collagen, with its single-ingredient label, serves that demand. Collagen also has gut-healing properties and is increasingly being used to treat many modern ailments from anxietyto acne. “Collagen is a protein found naturally in our bones, joints, cartilages, and skin,” explains Bindiya Gandhi, M.D. “Unfortunately, as we age, the natural production of collagen decreases. Supplemental collagen is great for skin care, anti-aging, repairing the gut, improving wound healing, immune system, and more.”

As for why collagen is suddenly everywhere: “Emerging science is finally reaching a critical mass and trickling down to everyday consumers,” says Will Cole, D.C., a functional medicine practitioner. “People are yearning for ways to deal with the rise of the health problems we are facing as a society. Microbiome and gut health research is a catalyst for people to take responsibility for their health.”

Vital Proteins, the category leader in the collagen space, has seen 250 percent growth over the past year, and, after the influx of $19 million of capital, that number should only continue to rise in 2018. The brand recently launched collagen creamer and collagen matcha, both of which joined their existing beauty water and bone broth powder product debuted earlier this year. “Expect to see us in even more retailers nationally,” founder and CEO Kurt Seidensticker told mbg. “In the next year, collagen will become a foundational product that people use throughout their day. Our goal here is to find convenient opportunities for consumers to take collagen on a daily basis.”

Bone broth, the richest natural source of collagen, will continue its expansion to the mainstream as well. Brodo, an NYC-based broth shop, has started selling their frozen broth online, joining the ranks of larger companies like Pacific. Companies like BRU and Bonafide Provisions are redefining what broth can be, with their coffee-infused bone broth and bone-broth-based drinkable veggies, respectively.

In 2018, look to have a healthier gut as collagen infuses every facet of your day, from breakfast to dessert.