Lipstick Sales Just Skyrocketed 80%

Image Credit: iStock, LARISA SHPINEVA

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There’s no way to dress this up: 2020 was a hard year for the make-up industry. Sales plummeted with people home from work, no social functions, no restaurants, no weddings, no reason to look fancy.

But 2021 is different, and people are shopping to look good again. Take this, for example: U.S. lipstick sales hit $34 million in the four weeks ending April 18, more than 80% above the same period last year, according to new data from market research firm IRI.

Masks Off, Profits Up

Last year, as mask mandates took hold, it became readily apparent that the make-up industry’s sheen was about to wear off. Sales of “lip care and color” products on Amazon fell 15% in the month leading up to April 11, 2020, according to McKinsey & Co.

Without much reason to leave the house, and every reason to cover one’s face, makeup stayed on the shelf:

  • High-end makeup sales declined 34% in 2020, according to market research firm NPD. (Unsurprisingly, the one silver, smokey lining was sales of eye makeup, which surged 204% year-over-year.)
  • And, as mask mandates remained in place early this year, lipstick sales fell 32% in the first quarter of 2021.

But the stellar U.S. vaccine rollout summoned a lush red rebound by April. National sales are still below pre-pandemic levels, but America’s biggest retailer Walmart said lipstick was the top performer across all segments of cosmetics in its latest quarter.

“We have been preparing for this renaissance in makeup for the last six months,” said Sam Cheow, head of makeup innovation at Estée Lauder. “As places continue to open up and we go out, lipstick is like an instant gratification, a pick-me-up that we haven’t had in the last 12 months and we miss it.”

CDC Drops a Game Changer: Analysts believe there’s cause to pucker up for a lot more makeup sales. Last week, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control announced fully vaccinated people can stop wearing masks in most places. Now if someone could just take care of the shelves of hand sanitizer no one wants: sales are down 80% to $9.2 million for the week ended May 8.