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Beauty & Personal Care + COVID-19

Posted: 10/29/2020 | Author: Angela Ozar for Creatives On Call | Tags: Guides and Resources, Industry News

Beauty & Personal Care + COVID-19

Has your beauty or personal care routine changed since COVID-19? For many in the U.S. and worldwide, COVID-19 has shaken many habits, including getting ready for the day.

The beauty and personal care industry has evolved to survive in a world where there are more Zoom meetings, and “maskne” (mask acne) is a word. Pre-COVID-19, the beauty and personal care industry, which encompasses skincare, cosmetics, haircare, and fragrances, relied heavily on in-store sales. McKinsey sites, 85% of global beauty products purchased are purchased in-store—even by Millennials and Gen Z. 

What’s happening to an industry that’s bread and butter in brick and mortar sales in a socially distance culture? We’ll explore what’s happening to the industry today and what it means for businesses and consumers. 

The state of the beauty  

Beauty and personal care items are best experienced with the five senses. Stores such as Ulta and Sephora know this well. Their stores encourage shoppers to try on, play, and touch and feel products. 
Due to store closures caused by COVID-19, the $75 Millon dollar U.S. beauty and personal care industry, year-over-year sales declined by 50% at the peak of the pandemic.

Like other industries, beauty experienced an increase in online sales, but it was not enough to recoup in-store sales losses. In the past, beauty, like pet care, has been said to be recession-proof. 

For instance, in the 2008 recession, lipstick saved the day. Lipstick was seen as an affordable luxury compared to other expensive products like clothes and handbags. 

With mask mandates across the country, lipstick is irrelevant this time around. 71% of women surveyed in a study by NPD Beauty reported wearing less makeup due to COVID-19 related lifestyle changes.  However, other beauty segments have attracted sales such as eyes, brows, and skincare—anything above the mask. 

The pandemic care routine involves getting back to beauty basics. As remote work continues for many Americans, how will a remote and isolated culture impact long-term beauty trends?

The need for clean

COVID-19 has put cleanliness and clean ingredients front and center. Over the past several years, consumers have been searching for natural products with pure ingredients in almost every category, from food to cleaning products—beauty and personal care is no exception.

In research sourced from Supermarket News, nearly half of women who use beauty products agree it’s important to understand ingredients in the products they use. However, products with natural ingredients tend to have shorter self-life, which poses a pandemic problem.

Beauty brands need to put products on the shelf that are safe and as natural as possible without expiring quickly. For now, consumers may be willing to sacrifice natural ingredients for longer-lasting products. But the allure of natural products won’t fade away anytime soon.

Sanitization and skincare are also standing out. Consumers are searching for products that kill germs and are “touch-less.” Spray and stick applications of facial and cosmetic products are attractive because they avoid touching one’s face, which is to be avoided at all costs to stop the virus from spreading. 

Expensive skincare tools can do it all, helping consumers avoid having to touch their faces to treat their skin. According to VOX, sales of expensive skincare devices that help rejuvenate,  firm, and tone the skin have had tripled since the pandemic started.

People are spending more time in front of the mirror and looking at themselves on Zoom screens, drawing attention to their facial complexion. Consumers also have more time on their hands at home to do face masks and home treatments. 

Sanitization and self-care are of utmost importance to consumers right now. Brands have a unique moment to guide consumers on health and safety with products. Brands that can leverage these trends will sell more products and drive future innovation in the industry. 

Focus on digital innovation

For brands and consumers, there’s been an increasing focus on digital and digital experiences leading up to COVID-19. Because of how consumers have historically interacted with beauty and personal care products, brands in this category may not have developed their digital capabilities or online shopping experience to its full potential. 

COVID-19 has brought innovation and out-of-the-box thinking for many brands in their marketing, sales, and operations. Beauty manufacturers and retailers now have the same opportunity to rethink the path to purchase and innovate in the digital space.

For example, beauty retailer Sephora was one of the first in the category to implement chatbots. The company uses chatbots to supplement the in-store experience, leveraging bots to book in-store appointments and help customers pick cosmetic colors using their phone’s camera. 

Technology that allows consumers to try on products virtually with a selfie and AI can help brands innovate the digital shopping experience, getting consumers more comfortable with purchasing beauty products online. 

DIY and self-care are trending 

Without assuming everyday beauty routines because of the pandemic, consumers have had to adapt to DIY treatments at home instead of going to the salon. 

Mass nail polish grew 37% in the first half of 2020, primarily driven by online sales. According to Nielsen data, at-home hair color treatments saw similar growth to nail polish trends, increasing by 36% year over year.  

Consumers are getting more comfortable doing their own hair and nails. And brands are helping by aiding consumers with new content tutorials and mani/pedi kits. 

Now that consumers have new skills, it’s tough to say if they will return to their old salon habits. DIY beauty care is cheaper, convenient, and safer during this unique time. Salons can get in on the action with online tutorials, DIY kits, and in-home service to help offset sales losses from COVID-19.

What’s next?

COVID-19 has shifted what’s most important in consumers’ minds. Personal and self-care are a necessity and a comfort amid uncertainty. Cosmetics and fragrances have taken a back seat to beauty basics such as skincare and above the mask facial features. 

When considering product innovation, brands should emphasize natural, sanitizing, and touch-free. Brands may also want to think about pushing sales of larger sizes and incentivizing buying in bulk for consumers who are still not comfortable going into the store or salon. 

Beauty brands can adapt to the post-COVID world by allowing consumers to experience products digitally before purchasing. And brands that use online content to teach consumers about safe and healthy products and care methods, have the best chance of gaining and retaining customers. 


This is a time for marketers to step up to the challenge and get creative in meeting current demands and behavior changes. Creatives On Call call supports your business through this. Contact us here.  We have Marketing professionals ready to start in areas including:

• Strategy & Advisory

• Design and Production

• Content Creation & Management

• Customer Engagement & Experience

• Learning & Knowledge Management

• Digital Technology & Transformation

Learn more here.


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