Face masks are suffocating sales of lip products, forcing brands to refocus
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.”
Rather than focusing on the “lipstick effect,” Jindal says her team is talking more about the “mask effect.” This indicator looks at how mask wearing is affecting brand sales and marketing of beauty and skincare products. She says categories such as skincare, nail care and hair care are all on the rise as consumers turn to do-it-yourself treatments at home.
Consumers are also looking for more tutorials on how to wear their makeup to emphasize the part of the face that is shown above the mask—searches for “mask makeup looks” are trending, Jindal says. Some brands are using it to their advantage by showcasing more eye-focused cosmetics such as mascara, eyeliner and eye shadow, she says. Brands such as Urban Decay are also advertising innovations like smudge-free products and setting sprays that can keep makeup neat under a mask, for example.
“We’ve seen a pivot in how some of the brands are marketing their products,” says Jindal. “As people start going back to work, they’re going to want to put on makeup eventually and take the mask off—do they want to touch their face after the subway and get to the office?—they’re thinking about that sort of thing.”
Interested in learning about more retail trends? Attend Ad Age Next: Retail, a virtual event on July 8. Register here.