Masks that challenge the cosmetics market

Béatrice Peyrani

By Béatrice Peyrani14 décembre 2020

With Covid-19, women’s beauty routines are being challenged: hidden lips, fragile skin, highlighted eyes. Facing these new needs, brands are offering unique products and clients are turning to online sales and digital tools.

900 M

the lipsticks sold in the world every year before Covid-19


sales of lipsticks in April 2020 in France


online sales of hand creams in France in Q1 2020

Cosmetic consumption contracted by 37% during lockdown in France, according to the Asterès estimate (Shutterstock)

On the Guerlain booth of a Swiss department store, the brand’s visuals display Natalia Vodianova’s smile, shining as bright as the lipstick she is wearing, her hair in the wind. Yet there are no lipsticks on the showcase racks. During Advent, the famous KissKiss models of the brand are conspicuously absent.

“We have pushed our lipsticks to the background”, admits the brand manager. In their place stand the new duo: “Hygiene & Softness hand gel moisturizing with honey concentrate” and “Youthful Hand-Repairing Balm”. “The gel is very sought after, so much so that we have stocked out and are waiting to be restocked in the next three days.” Who would have thought, a year earlier, that a hand creme and gel with Ouessant honey and a fragrance signed by the nose of the House, would be the star in this big Swiss store? In France, on the selective retail market, Chanel, la Prairie, Dior, Sisley among others have had an explosion in hand creme online sales, reaching 74% during the first semester, whereas lipstick sales have dropped by 75% during the month of April alone.(étude Asterès).

Before the pandemic and the wearing of the mask, 27 tubes of lipstick were sold around the world every second (Shutterstock).

A camera for home-testing

Nars campaign for his Climax Extreme mascara (DR)

“Needless to say, lipstick is not the main buy at the moment”, as confirmed on the Armani booth a bit further. Of course, we encourage our clients to always hydrate their lips with a balm, even under their masks. Women mainly ask us about incredible products for their eyes. They need to highlight what they don’t have to hide. They want performing mascaras or eye shadow.” Products that the most undecisive ones can virtually try at home, thanks to an online camera on the Armani website, which shows their face wearing makeup with the shadows of their chosen colors. On the Clarins counters, rather than focusing on makeup, the focus is on body care. Not a word about Covid-19 in the text, yet wearing a mask is not ignored. “It is necessary to our safety… but it’s a problem. What about you?” explains Clarins. Worn during several hours, it attacks the skin. Which is why the brand encourages the use of its cremes and serums.

Keep on dreaming in spite of the pandemic

Enriched with the new Platinum Multipeptide and the Exclusive Cellular Complex, La Prairie's Platinum Rare High Rejuvenation Collection has just been launched on the global market (DR).

Interest in makeup remains important, “even though women spend less time using makeup during semi-lockdowns, it remains one of the most discussed topics on social media”, admits L’Oréal Switzerland’s spokesperson. But the color and the trends to follow are not the first preoccupations anymore. During the pandemic, “female consumers rather wonder about how to adapt their makeup to the sanitary constraints or to remedy the inconveniences caused by applying the mask over products, comments the press office of L’Oréal’s Swiss subsidiary. More is also being said about expressing one’s personality and looks, and how to get there.” Since the pandemic, women have wanted to intensify their look. As though to smile with their eyes. The result: global sales, mainly digital, have been reported on mascaras, eye liners and eyebrow pencils. Temporary adjustments? “If some product categories have skyrocketed, we don’t believe make-up will be rethought on the longer term. It will make a come-back as soon as the masks fall”, assures L’Oréal Switzerland. The only question remains whether all continents and all generations will share the desire to return to sophistication.

Five questions to Mathieu Arsac, Operational Marketing Director Switzerland of the Shiseido group

How has Covid-19 impacted the cosmetics market in Switzerland?

Like in most parts of the world, the pandemic has doped care product sales. Swiss women wanted to take care of themselves during this alarming period. Therefore, they bought more premium face care cremes, more body products and more hair masks. On the contrary, makeup products, lipsticks and gloss were penalized since the semi-lockdown. In Switzerland, makeup sales have dropped by 30% on average over the first ten months of the year.

Why such a dislike for makeup?

Obviously wearing masks, confinement, a pause on social relations did not benefit it. Furthermore, when women work from home, with the images being somewhat blurry, many consider they need to use less foundation or tinted moisturizers than when they go to the office. Finally, sending makeup artists in shops was, up until now, the best way to encourage sales. The sanitary crisis has of course stopped these demonstrations in shops… and their induced sales!

Do you have an alternative?

We have organized several live Master Classes for makeup tutorials on social media such as Instagram. And we will develop over the next few months new remote testing techniques with digital tools in collaboration with our retailers’ sales platforms. In Geneva, on the Nars booth at Globus, we are already offering our clients to test their makeup via an iPad software. These types of experiences mixing virtual and reality will certainly intensify over the coming months.

In spite of everything, has there been a good surprise this year?

The online sales progression is a good surprise. In Switzerland, digital sales have increased by 80%. Of course, sales that did not happen during the shop closures have not been reported to 100% on the web, but that means both channels will become more and more complementary.

Do you think the epidemic, once it is under control, will reshape the cosmetics market?

Yes, certainly. I don’t expect a total disruption, but I am convinced that skincare will continue to expand. It is very possible that while facing a certain and probably lasting anxiety, consumers will want to do better with less and will favor qualitative skincare products without turning to new products for the sake of newness. Furthermore, they will continue to buy online and will want more virtual experiences, as they have started to enjoy them.

The bareMinerals brand created in 1995 is known for its paraben-, phthalate- and formaldehyde-free products, among others. Here Hailey Bieber, brand ambassador (DR)

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