In times of economic strife, one barometer could typically be counted on to assess the state of the economy. If the “lipstick index” or “lipstick effect,” a phrase coined by Estée Lauder chairman Leonard Lauder decades ago to track sales of lip products, was up, consumers were investing in small, affordable luxuries and the economy was typically in bad shape. Yet in 2020, the economy is clearly in turmoil, but lipstick sales are down—way down.
For the three-month period ending June 14, sales of lip products, including lip color, lip stain and lipstick, were down 59 percent compared with the year-earlier period, according to market research firm Numerator. A spokesman notes that fewer people are going to work or leaving their homes due to the coronavirus. In addition, when they do, many are wearing masks. While face masks help protect consumers against COVID-19, they don’t mix well with lipstick, consumers are finding.
“If you're wearing a mask, it’s going to rub off pretty much on anything you’ve got—foundation, lipstick,” says Sarah Jindal, associate director of global beauty and personal care at Mintel, noting that the beauty category across the board has taken a hit in recent months. “No one can see half of your face anyway.”