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Analysis: Pandemic Exit Drives Demand for Beauty Products

National Lipstick Day, which falls on July 29th, has only been around as an official holiday since 2016, but celebrating lipstick has been around for much, much longer.

Lipstick is believed to have been invented about 5,000 years ago when ancient Sumerian men and women used crushed gemstones to add personal flair to their face and lips. Lipstick has remained a staple of human cultures ever since. Sometimes used as a way to identify social status, sometimes reserved for a special night out, lipstick is a great way to add a little (or a lot) of personality to your day.

So with National Lipstick Day coming up, we thought we’d celebrate in our favorite way: by digging into our data to learn more about online demand for lipstick and other cosmetics.

Has online demand for cosmetics been on the rise? Or have Americans been cutting back? Did COVID-19 bring a huge rush on online demand? Has 2021 seen online demand drop as we’ve seen things begin to reopen across the country?

To find the answers to these questions and more, our data science team analyzed online demand for cosmetics starting in 2019 through the first half of 2021.

Which types of cosmetics experience the most online demand?

To say that “cosmetics” entails a wide variety of products is an understatement. So before diving too deep into the data, we first examined several major types of cosmetics categories to see which ones were the most popular on Amazon.

Here’s a comparison of some of the types of cosmetics categories we analyzed, ranked by how much demand each category saw from January 2020 through June 2021.

Lipstick was the most popular product category, with hair extensions, wigs and accessories a very close second.

Next up was a cluster of categories that received similar levels of demand: makeup remover, lash enhancers and primers, eyeshadow, mascara, and lip gloss. Foundation brushes, eyebrow color, and body bronzers were also fairly popular.

Outside of those top ten categories, we see demand start to drop significantly as category types begin to narrow.

Now that we understand which types of cosmetics see the most demand, let’s dive a bit deeper into some of those categories to see when demand for them is at its highest (and lowest).

Did COVID-19 increase online demand for lipstick?

We wrote this article to celebrate National Lipstick Day, and lipstick just happens to be the most popular cosmetic category in our analysis, so let’s start there:

Online demand for lipstick tumbled from mid-March through April 2020, during the height of the initial COVID-19 lockdowns. This dip was short lived, however, as demand returned to pre-pandemic levels by the end of April.

It doesn’t seem that lipstick relies heavily on any particular time of year to drive major sales. Demand peaked at the end of August, and remained consistently high until Spring 2021. This could be a softening of demand as things begin to reopen, or a simple seasonal trend.

For a clearer picture of this potential trend, we next compared monthly demand from 2019 through 2021 so far.

Here we can see that in a “normal” year, online demand for lipstick remains remarkably consistent from month-to-month. So the significant increase in online demand for lipstick last summer was almost certainly a result of Americans starting to go “back out” but preferring to shop for their lipstick online.

The dip in demand we’re seeing in 2021 so far, then, appears to be a return to normal. As more specialty cosmetic shops are opening their doors again, it seems that fewer Americans are seeking out lipstick online.

Despite this dip, however, demand in 2021 is well above 2019’s levels, and ahead of what we were experiencing in mid-2020. So while we wouldn’t expect to see online demand return to the highs we saw in late 2020, it’s clear that plenty of Americans who wouldn’t have turned to online shopping for their lipstick before COVID-19 are sticking with it even as things have begun to reopen.

How did the pandemic impact other types of cosmetics?

Online demand for lipstick was up big in 2020 compared to 2019, especially skyrocketing during the second half of the year. Did other types of cosmetics see the same kinds of trends?

To find out, we compared the change in demand for different types of cosmetics during the second half of 2020 vs. the second half of 2019 to see which ones got the biggest COVID boost.

Cosmetics of all kinds got a major boost in online demand as a result of COVID-19. Online demand during the second half of 2020 was at least double that of 2019 in nearly every category we examined, with only bronzers and eyeshadow bases and primers falling just shy of a 100% increase year over year.

Lips got plenty of attention during COVID-19, as lipstick, lipstick primers, lip liners, and lip gloss had the top four largest increases in demand in this view.

For another look at the widespread impact that COVID had on online demand for cosmetic products, here’s a chart comparing the change in weekly demand for lipstick, hair extensions, makeup remover, lash enhancers, and eyeshadow (the top 5 most popular overall cosmetic categories in our analysis):

Here we see similar trends across most of the different types of cosmetics in our analysis: an immediate dip in the earliest weeks of the pandemic followed by a rapid rebound to “typical” levels. Then during late summer and early fall 2020, demand surged in most categories.

Each of our top five most popular cosmetics categories has also seen online demand decline over the most recent months of 2021, further reinforcing the conclusion we drew from our lipstick data.

To close out this view, here’s our 2019 through 2021 view for the rest of our top five cosmetics categories:

During a normal year, hair extensions, wigs & accessories see demand rise through the late summer, peaking during the fall. 2020 actually saw trends stay true to form, only at an increased rate. 2021 so far has seen those trends remain elevated, but it appears that demand may be softening for this category as well.

Makeup remover had a strong 2020 compared to 2019, even during the depths of the early COVID dip in March and April. Demand was at its peak in early 2021, but has also begun to drop to 2020 levels as things have begun to reopen.

Online demand for lash enhancers bucked the trend of most of our other top categories, with demand actually surging immediately following the initial lockdowns, then softening over the summertime.

Demand then surged at the start of 2021, and has trended down as the summer began. 2020 saw a similar dip in demand during the summertime, but 2019 actually saw demand peak in July, so it will be interesting to see whether this is a “return to normal” or the beginning of a softening of online demand for lash enhancers.

Online demand for eyeshadow in 2020 saw demand crater during March and April, then rebounding strongly in May. Demand then rose over the fall and peaked in December, mirroring that of 2019’s pre-COVID trends only with much higher overall demand.

Once again, 2021 saw the year start with high online demand, only to see it soften as the year has progressed and the world has begun to reopen.

In summation, it looks like online demand for most cosmetics categories is slowing down. More people are going out, which would most likely indicate a rise in overall demand for cosmetic products, so the most likely explanation is that as more brick and mortar locations have reopened, people are less likely to be shopping for cosmetics online.

A lesson for brands

Our data shows that COVID-19 has had a major impact on online demand for all types of cosmetics, including lipstick.

Understanding the factors that influence consumer behavior can help brands better understand how to forecast demand for their products on online marketplaces, and even inform product design and marketing strategy.

For example, we may see online demand for cosmetics continue to decline as more shops reopen, but we might also see demand stay high as more people have grown used to buying their cosmetics online.

To stay up to date on consumer behavior and ecommerce news, info, and trend analyses, be sure to subscribe to Pattern Insights on the right.

And, if you’d like to learn more about how you can best leverage our data to help your brand win online, holiday or not, schedule a demo today.