When beauty blogger turned entrepreneur, Huda Kattan, filmed an advertising campaign for her new skin care line, she scolded the staff for the airbrush perfectly.
“You took my buttons, put them back!” she recounted in a recent Instagram video. “I want the photos to be as real as possible.”
Few have had the pulse of the American beauty market like Ms. Kattan, who in the past seven years has built a makeup business – Huda Beauty – valued at over $ 1 billion defending a heavily made-up look she has double “Cake face”. The fact that the 36-year-old woman has now switched to skincare reflects concerns about how the once-growing US beauty market – the world’s largest – has turned around.
Sales of high-end makeup fell 7% to $ 7.6 billion last year, contracting for the first time in a decade, according to NPD Group. The market research company tracks department stores and specialty retailers such as Sephora and Ulta Beauty, but not mass retail outlets such as Target. In contrast, skin care sales in the United States increased 5% to $ 5.9 billion, surpassing makeup for the third consecutive year.
This dynamic is already having repercussions for everyone, from the biggest players in the L’Oréal sector, Estée Lauder and Coty to new independent brands such as Anastasia Beverly Hills and ColourPop Cosmetics. Ulta Beauty, a US chain of beauty stores, lost nearly a third of its market value in a single day last August after issuing a profit warning and predicting continued weakness in demand for makeup.
Industry leaders have said an imminent exit from the crisis will eliminate so-called “independent” brands and challenge established businesses. Players struggle to adapt to an environment where the latest facial mask is more coveted than a new palette of eyeshadows.
“In the boom years, everyone was winning in makeup, but by now you will likely see a gap between winners and losers,” said Chris de Lapuente, general manager of Sephora, owned by LVMH. “We will see which of the new independent brands have long-term sustainability and which end up being fads.”
Sephora is unlikely to add as many new makeup brands as it has in the past, said de Lapuente: “If the category does not grow, then we will have to be more demanding than before.”
As Sephora continues to open up to 100 stores in the United States this year, skin and hair care products – rather than makeup – will benefit from more prominent display space near the front of the stores.
As the United States stutters, sales of cosmetics have increased at double-digit rates in much of Asia in recent years, while Europe has remained stable or slightly up.
Several reasons explain the slowdown in American makeup. Industry leaders and analysts have said they range from aesthetic considerations to the typical cyclical swing between skin care and makeup. Many believe that fatigue has settled in women who have simply bought too many products.
One thing is clear: the heavy foundation look is no longer fashionable. The technique of “contouring”, which consists in applying several shades of product to certain parts of the face to subtly sublimate certain characteristics, has been replaced by a more natural look. Launched on the market by influencers such as Kim Kardashian, contouring spawned an artisanal industry of makeup tutorials on YouTube and Instagram, which supported sales during the boom.
The change was reflected in the rise of the “VSCO girl,” a teenage fashion trend that went viral last year. Named after the VSCO photo editor and known for their casual, natural look, VSCO girls favor lip gloss and facial sprays – a stark contrast to the high-maintenance Kardashian aesthetic.
Piper Jaffray’s annual teen survey found that last year’s spending on cosmetics fell to 19-year lows, down a fifth to $ 106 per person per year. A growing number of wealthier teens say they weren’t wearing makeup at all – 12-20% in the past five years.
Women are increasingly shifting their spending from makeup to skincare products such as masks and serums, or opt for hybrid products such as tinted moisturizers that blur the boundaries between categories. This dynamic has helped large companies like L’Oréal and Estée Lauder – which also offer solid skincare offers – to weather the slowdown in make-up. But that left many independent cosmetic brands rushing to launch skin care lines, like Kylie Jenner’s brand did last year.
L’Oréal CEO Jean-Paul Agon said in an interview that the return of a more natural look was forcing some of the independent brands acquired in recent years to adapt. The NYX and Urban Decay by L’Oréal were emblematic of a certain look “very spectacular, visible and a little heavy” which was now in disgrace, he added.
“Brands just need to evolve,” said Mr. Agon. “Our teams in the United States are working to launch new products that better match what consumers want now.”
The slowdown of these brands led to a 0.8% drop in L’Oréal sales in North America at constant scope, thus ending more than a decade of consecutive annual growth. At the same time, in February, Estée Lauder recorded $ 777 million in impairment charges related to the decline in performance of its make-up brands in the United States, where sales fell 5% to $ 4.7 billion in the 30 June.
Brands that advocate a more natural look thrive. The direct-to-consumer actor Glossier has become one of the most successful since its launch ten years ago by popularizing a “philosophy of skin first, second make-up”.
Ali Weiss, marketing manager at Glossier in New York, said he created his Futuredew oil-serum hybrid product to meet women’s desires for a barely clean look. It’s “a matter of healthy hydration, radiance and dew,” she said.
Larissa Jensen, beauty analyst at the NPD Group, predicted that future makeup sales would be motivated by so-called “clean beauty” products that focus on natural ingredients combined with more sustainable packaging and manufacturing. “We think it will be important,” she said.
Others believe that the depressed demand for makeup reflects a deeper change and that the “less is more” spirit is here to stay. In videos posted on YouTube, influencers such as Jeffree Star tell their “anti-hauls” who explain what they didn’t buy, and discuss the “montage” of their huge makeup collections. Others post “project pans” on Instagram in which people choose products from their makeup collection and track their progress to the bottom of the bottle or bottle.
On the Reddit online chat platform, members of a group dubbed MakeupRehab post their experiences of “no-purchase” challenges in which they aim to spend months or years without adding to their collections.
A blogger wrote about overcoming a “dependency” on Sephora that cost him $ 4,000 a year. Eventually, the desire to buy faded, she said. “I realized today. . . Every dollar I spend, every minute I use to consume makeup is taken elsewhere. “