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HomeIndiaLess lipstick, more eyeliner — how Covid has changed India's makeup market

Less lipstick, more eyeliner — how Covid has changed India’s makeup market

Companies involved in cosmetic sales say there’s been a shift within the category of lipsticks too, with buyers opting for smudge-and transfer-proof matte variants, as opposed to glossy ones.

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New Delhi: By making masks an indispensable accessory in day-to-day life, the Covid-19 pandemic appears to have effected a shift in makeup preferences. With lips mostly hidden behind face masks, lipstick sales have registered a fall since last year, even as purchases of other cosmetic items, especially those meant for the eyes, have grown, say industry insiders. 

According to companies involved in cosmetic sales, there’s been a shift within the category of lipsticks too. Those buying lipsticks, they say, are increasingly opting for smudge-and transfer-proof matte variants, as opposed to the glossy ones.

Mrunmay Mehta, head of Beauty, Grooming and Luxury Beauty at e-commerce giant Amazon India, which sells over 19,000 beauty brands, said “the lips category, which is the largest category in makeup, has been the slowest to recover to pre-Covid levels”. 

“Kajals, eyeliners and mascaras are categories that are seeing the maximum increase in year-on-year numbers,” he added.

Nykaa, another top player in the cosmetics category that deals in over 1,200 brands on its website, app and physical stores, said the growth in the lipstick category, as compared to last year, is not as high as in other segments.  

“On an overall level, skincare, hair, hygiene and personal care have seen significant momentum over the last few months. On a subcategory level in makeup, categories like eyes and nails have seen stronger growth compared to the lips category,” a Nykaa spokesperson said, adding that “products like eye palettes have seen a consistent increase in the category share across e-commerce as well as our stores”.

Hindustan Unilever (HUL), whose bouquet of products includes the brand Lakme, echoed the claim, saying that it has noticed “eye makeup and nail polish categories coming back much faster than lipsticks”. 

E-commerce player Flipkart, however, offered a different assessment. The company claims to have recorded an encouraging demand, with lipstick sales on the platform reporting a 75 per cent growth rate in comparison to the pre-lockdown period. 

Among other things, the rise in sales over pre-lockdown figures could be attributed to the fact that restrictions on public movement have led many people to opt for e-commerce portals over physical stores.

Flipkart, too, said the sales of eye-makeup products have picked up. “Eye makeup has no doubt become an increasing focus for consumers,” a Flipkart spokesperson said, adding that this is because eyes remain visible even when one has a mask on. The vertical for eye makeup is seeing two times faster growth than the entire category (of cosmetics), the spokesperson added. 

“Consumers are now upgrading from the basics such as kajal to add mascaras and eyeshadows to their routine, including in tier 2 and 3 cities across the country.” 

The HUL spokesperson agreed, saying “consumers are experimenting more with their eye makeup”.

Also Read: Quirky, elegant, stylish — designer masks are a big hit as world learns to live with Covid

Going matte over glossy

Within the category of lipsticks, one trend that Amazon India, Flipkart and HUL all testify to is an uptick in sales of variants that don’t transfer to surfaces upon contact. 

Mehta of Amazon India said transfer-proof matte lipsticks are picking up as a trend “and more and more brands are launching new products in this format”.

Brands like Maybelline, Faces Canada, Revlon, Swiss Beauty and Sugar Cosmetics “are innovating with products and also changing the communication to keep up with the new normal”, Amazon India added. 

As masks have become more prevalent, the HUL spokesperson said, “consumers are looking for long-wear smudge-proof lipsticks that do not stick to their mask yet are comfortable to wear”.

Flipkart echoed the claim.

Also Read: How cycling has become India’s greatest Covid lockdown love affair

Demand for grooming products up too

Another trend that has emerged from the pandemic is an increase in purchase of beauty products such as hair colours, hair-cutting scissors and tweezers, and self-grooming products like manicure & pedicure kits, what with the pandemic limiting access to salons.

“However, we have also seen an uplift in customer sentiment and the (cosmetics) category has been on a recovery trajectory since July-20, especially in the nails and eyes category, which is doing much better than before,” Mehta said. 

Over the last six months, Flipkart said it has seen consumers opting for niche verticals across makeup categories to experiment with primers, highlighters, concealers.  

“The Covid-19 pandemic has played a significant role in impacting the consumer shopping behaviour across platforms this year. In the course of the last six months, across the country, the definition of essentials has shifted to everyday items that a consumer accesses over the month,” the Flipkart spokesperson said.

“This could easily be seen through the increasing demand for replenishing some of the daily-used make-up products… such as sindoor, nail polish removers, eyeliners and bindis, among others, as consumers relied on e-commerce to cater to their needs,” the spokesperson added.

Also Read: Revenge consumption — the new shopping trend that can shake up sleepy markets post-Covid


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