“The success of this category is truly the linchpin to the recovery of our industry, especially in the US, as it is the only country where makeup dominates sales,” NPD beauty industry adviser Larissa Jensen said.
Overall, prestige beauty sales reached nearly US$5 billion, a 25 per cent increase, during this period. Standout categories include fragrance and hair care, which recorded the highest growth since pre-pandemic levels. Skincare has also been on a steady climb, powered by a spike in serum sales.
Although makeup sales are accelerating, some products are doing better than others. Lipstick and lip gloss have continued to plummet; however, eye makeup has gotten a push thanks to viral TikTok trends and popular TV shows like Euphoria.
The popularity of the Y2K aesthetic last year led many consumers to embrace bolder, brighter eye makeup, especially in the era of mask-wearing, when only the top half of your face is visible. This trend is among the few that experts believe will continue well into this year.
Jensen advised brands to capitalise on the makeup resurgence of 2022, “If early indicators stick, we are headed into a period of strong growth for this category over the next couple of years.”
After many years of neutral and contour-heavy makeup, made famous by the Kardashian clan, the pendulum is swiftly swinging back. Neon eyeliner, fluffy laminated eyebrowsand ultra bright blushes made the rounds on TikTok and eventually on the faces of everyday users.
Euphoria’s popularity has made mini gems and colour block eyeshadow popular again. The teen drama starring breakout star Zendaya has a massive Gen Z following and tutorials regarding the bold makeup looks from the show are a mainstay on TikTok; #euphoriamakeup has garnered more than 934 million views and counting. The show’s recent second season premier will probably have a seismic impact on makeup trends this year.
Gen Z’s willingness to experiment with fun looks has boosted the sales of many unexpected items, such as bright-coloured blush and cosmetic rhinestones. The ‘underpainting’ technique of applying blush before foundation went viral in June of last year and sales have since doubled compared with last year and even from 2019, NPD data shows.
Concurrent with the Y2K craze and sprinkled with a touch of nostalgia, rhinestones are also making a comeback in a big way. Pinterest searches for crystal and bejewelled eye makeup jumped 110 per cent last year. A noticeably increased interest in rhinestone pedicures/manicures and dental adornments can also be seen across social media.
Hair is the new skin
You heard it right, hair is the new skin. Just when we thought we had reached the limit with 12-step skincare routines, skin enthusiasts are saying the scalp is the next skin surface that we have to nurture.
Forget rinse, wash and repeat, the shampoo and conditioner combo is a thing of the past. High-end hair brands are introducing intricate hair-care ranges complete with two-step scalp serums, hair lotions, and toners. Some are even going as far as to rebrand shampoos to hair cleansers to mirror skincare.
Since the pandemic has limited our visits to the hair salon, consumers are investing more in shampoos and conditioners as well as treatment products like hair masks, bond builders, and scalp treatments.
The hair category is expected to be one of the fastest-growing sectors within beauty. “Hair health and protection have been top of mind for consumers, so products that go beyond styling and basic hair will drive consumer interest over the next few years,” Jensen said. “We are seeing brands entering hair at a rapid pace, and consumers are scooping up all of the luxury hair products they can.”
AI, your new beauty adviser
Shopping for new beauty products online has always involved some guess work.
Without access to samples, it is almost impossible to pick out the exact right shade just by looking at photos. But artificial intelligence (AI) technology is hoping to fix that.
A string of beauty brands are testing and developing artificial intelligence tools to assist the online experience. From AI-trained shade matchers to virtual skin consultations, virtual try-on technology will slowly become the norm for beauty.
Recently, leading beauty brand MAC cosmetics announced a partnership with AI and augmented reality (AR) beauty and fashion tech provider Perfect Corp, and online product sampling platform SoPost. The trio will collaborate to provide a new product sampling experience.
The digital-to-physical sampling process will roll out with MAC’s iconic Studio Fix Fluid Foundation. Soon to be available across MAC’s digital platforms, the experience will include an AR virtual try-on combined with personalised AI shade matching. Once chosen, the physical samples will then be delivered to the consumer and the final purchase can also be completed online.
L’Oréal is also investing in AI technology to improve the consumer experience. The French beauty conglomerate has its own technology incubator with over 30 physicists, engineers, UX specialists, hardware designers, and data scientists. In 2014, the brand launched the Makeup Genius app, which allowed users to apply virtual makeup in real-time with their phone camera.
Direct from Hollywood
Similar to the celebrity-fuelled fragrance mania in the early 2000s, the last two years have brought a litany of celebrity beauty brand launches. In just the last year, more than 13 celebrity-led makeup, skincare, and haircare brands made their debut.
Back in January 2021, Jennifer Lopez kicked off the year with the launch of her skincare brand, JLo beauty, made available on Sephora. Comedian Ellen DeGeneres followed suit and launched her own brand, Kind Science with industry veteran Victoria Jackson, focusing specifically on age-positive, plant-based skincare.
Ariana Grande’s R.E.M beauty, backed by Forma Brands, the beauty incubator behind brands like Morphe and Bad Habit, was launched late last year through an extensive international roll-out. Leaning into the Y2K and futurist-style, the brand’s metallic eyeshadows became an instant hit with her Gen Z fanbase.
The original hair-influencer, Jennifer Aniston, also launched a new hair-care range called LolaVie. Starting with a detangler gloss spray, the actress who first sparked a haircut craze more than 27 years ago is still being lauded for her tresses today. Despite only having two products on her roster, initial reviews indicate the brand is on an upwards trend.
Male celebrities are also betting on beauty.
The most anticipated beauty launch of 2021 was Harry Styles’ Pleasing nail polish line. Synonymous with his androgynous style, the singer’s entry into beauty was expected after years of experimenting with male manicures. The brand was launched with just four colours but has since expanded to skincare with the introduction of a face serum and a two-in-one eye serum.
Styles is not alone, rappers Machine Gun Kelly and Tyler, The Creator also launched gender-neutral nail polish ranges last year.
More celeb-led brands are rumoured to be in the pipeline, and experts believe many more will jump on the beauty bandwagon, due to the relatively low operating cost and high profit margins.
Will the beauty industry survive Omicron?
While the pandemic is still rearing its ugly head with more contagious variants, it is hard to predict beauty’s trajectory. If stricter mask mandates return, makeup will undoubtedly be the first to take the hit.
Another category that is potentially in jeopardy is skincare, as it is nearing its maturity.
“While we do expect continued growth in skincare over the next two years, it will be softer than what we’ve seen over the past year,” Jensen said.
Meanwhile, Jensen suggested keeping an eye on the fragrance category.
“This is the best time ever to be a fragrance brand,” Jensen said. The category was the top performer in prestige beauty – a complete surprise to industry experts. In Q3 of last year, fragrance sales pushed the US$1 billion mark – a rarity considering the period’s closeness to the holiday season, which typically accounts for 40 per cent of yearly sales.