How the Global Pandemic Is Changing the Face of the Beauty Industry

Michael Loren

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Photo by kyle smith on Unsplash

I have not purchased makeup since February, I have had exactly one manicure since March, and I can almost sit on my own hair. And my girlfriends love repeating the phrase, “Covid hair, don’t care.”

But there are a significant number of people who DO care.

People that earn their livelihood from products and services that help make people more beautiful.

I have not been contributing as much money to the beauty industry as I was before the Covid-19 pandemic. It seems that the rest of the world, though, has been following suit. Needless to say, beauty product companies are taking a pretty serious hit. And one of the most affected corners if the beauty industry is cosmetics sales.

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A dip in beauty spending

Consumer spending on cosmetics as of August 2020 was down 9.9 percent in the United States, down 12.5% in Germany, and down a whopping 13.3% in the UK. Some companies have found some success in pivoting to online sales and DIY tutorials, but the overwhelming majority of companies that sell stuff to make people pretty . . . aren’t looking so hot.

The image above shows the stock price of Revlon Inc for the first ten months of 2020 (you’ll see a pretty significant drop around March from which they haven’t fully recovered). Additionally, the graph for the stock price of Sally Beauty Holdings (SBH) looks similar:

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According to McKinsey and Company, about 30 percent of higher-end beauty product stores have shut down in response to the pandemic. And there are many people that think they may not ever open back up.

Three main factors affecting the beauty industry

First, with the average unemployment rate around the world soaring, more and more people don’t have the disposable income to pay for nonessential items like lipstick, hair color, and bronzer. Thus, the beauty industry suffers and people either use up all of the products lurking under their sinks or embrace their natural beauty.

Second, according to Stanford News, almost twice as many employees are working from home. The pressure to “look good” in the workplace has dwindled to bathing (maybe) and putting on a jacket over one’s jammies for Zoom meetings. The standards for employee appearance at places of employment have (understandably) diminished in a world in which, to be completely frank, people are barely getting by.

Third, and this may just be me, all things beauty were previously non-negotiable. If I didn’t get a mani/pedi every two weeks, I was somehow embarrassed that I had lowered my beauty standards. A full face of makeup was standard every day and the only thing that was an optional item was false eyelashes.

The longer I am outside of my regular beauty routine, the more I question whether it was ever a necessity at all. I enjoy having the extra disposable income of (yes, this is pretty sad) over $500 per month. Sure, I miss facials, spa treatments, waxing, and the like, but I also realize that it took up a lot of my time.

Where does the beauty industry go from here?

The important question is: If there are other people like me that, post-Covid, will be less dependent upon the beauty industry, where do companies that produce beauty products pivot?

Is “natural beauty” making a resurgence? Will eyeliner, perfume, and lipstick go the way of the crimping iron and florescent green mascara? Shiseido sure thinks so. According to Strategy Online, after seeing profits plummet in 2020, Shiseido announced that it “aims to grow skincare from 60% of its sales in 2019 to 80% by 2023, achieving market leadership by 2030.”

You can throw a virtual rock anywhere on the internet and find an article that says something like, “natural beauty is back”. Refinery 29, Stars Insider, and even WFMJ are declaring that natural beauty is the newest and hottest trend amongst celebrities and laymen alike.

A silver lining?

So, it seems like Shiseido is on the right track. If women (and men) are purchasing fewer products to cover and color over their natural beauty, it would only make sense that beauty companies should pivot to products that enhance that beauty.

Skin brightening creams instead of skin-covering foundation, nail strengthening supplements rather than nail polish, and hydration rather than highlighter.

Interestingly enough, what may actually happen is that the sudden downturn in the beauty industry may, in fact, inspire people to live healthier lives and take better care of their bodies. Without yellow-colored goop to cover under-eye bags, perhaps consumers will turn to more sleep and hydration. Or, rather than bronzer, lipstick, and blush, people will get out in the sun or exercise a little bit more (with sunscreen).

Maybe, just maybe, Covid-19 could inspire people to be a little bit healthier in the name of natural beauty.

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Writer, dad, entrepreneur, observer, cautious optimist

Burbank, CA
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