Industry Insight: Color Highlights and Lowlights in 2020


Read articles related to this in our November/December 2020 edition. . .

Amidst the grave realizations of COVID-19, we’re clawing our way back to some sense of normalcy; albeit very cautiously and, unfortunately, with heavier hearts. It feels like a slight improvement over the full stop in day-to-day life we experienced in March 2020, when news spread of the potentially deadly unknown threat we were facing. It took several weeks but as science uncovered facts and elucidated steps we could take to protect one another, the industry slowly rebooted under newly digitized and socially distanced measures, and we began adapting to a new “normal.”

This progression is reflected in nearly every industry but closer to home, color cosmetics visibly paint a picture of this dynamic. To begin, in February 2020, Mintel’s NPD Group noted1 a serious sales dip in the makeup category going back to 2019 and projected a “bumpy ride” through 2022. At the onset of the pandemic, this bumpy ride took a cliff dive.

In April, Kline reported2 the overall cosmetics market was on track to experience the steepest decline recorded in 60+ years: -2.5%. As demand for “rescue categories” such as hand sanitizers and soaps spiked, eye, lip and facial makeup were viewed as “can-wait,” according to Kline—although nail polish was a bright spot, offering a small indulgence for consumers in quarantine at home.

Consumers settled into a new dynamic around June, which included wearing face masks in public. In relation, mascara became a priority, according to a Social Standards Report,3 and nail color continued. Week-over-week, the makeup sales decline began to soften in the latter half of the second quarter, NPD reported in July.4 The firm noted eye products grew 6% from May to June, led by false eyelashes (up 14%), mascara (up 8%), eyebrow products (up 8%) and eyeliner (up 7%).

Stella Rising cited a “Zoom beauty boom” in September,5 which skyrocketed e-commerce sales although these did not make up for prior losses. The group underlined consumers’ steady interest in skin care and an increase in hair care but a continued decline in color cosmetics. However, makeup is expected to recover as individuals are increasingly on camera and looking for a little fun in their lives.

“The color cosmetics brands that are strong digitally and communicate appropriately will outlast and then thrive,” the company wrote. It projects the color market will see an overall decline of 7% in 2020, with market recovery not likely until 2022. Facial makeup is expected to see a 13.4% decrease in 2020, while the lip segment may fall by 12.2%. Eye makeup will understandably suffer the least, with just a 6.6% drop.

Stella Rising adds, however, “To simply paint this as a negative story would be to miss the nuances and unique changes happening within this industry. Makeup is intrinsically tied to emotion for many female consumers, and offers the chance for a bit of fun during a stressful time. Brands should continue focusing on products that multi-task and enhance natural beauty, while creating moments of both normalcy (through routine) and frivolity.”

In fact, Beautyque NYC reported in October6 that, of some 328 consumers (18 years and older) surveyed, 53% said they have not changed their makeup routines, whereas 26% stopped wearing makeup and 21% only wear makeup for video calls. Also, on a daily basis, 61% report wearing mascara, 55% use complexion products and 49% apply lipstick.

The road ahead for color cosmetics may indeed be a bumpy ride, with highs and lows along the way. Of course, if nothing else, COVID-19 has taught us to expect the unexpected.


  1. Global Cosmetic Industry (accessed 2020, Oct 16). The beauty 2020-2030 forecast. Available at:
  2. Kline (2020, Apr). Impact of COVID-19. U.S. beauty and personal care market. Available at:
  3. Global Cosmetic Industry (accessed 2020, Oct 16). 6 Trending beauty topics during the pandemic. Available at:
  4. Global Cosmetic Industry (accessed 2020, Oct 16). Beauty 2020 results and forecast. Available at:
  5. Stella Rising (accessed 2020, Oct 16). Infographic: Curious about color: What’s at play in 2020’s color cosmetics market. Available at:
  6. Global Cosmetic Industry (accessed 2020, Oct 16). Top makeup habits during quarantine: Survey results. Available at:
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