COVID-19 is changing the face of the beauty industry

The pace of decline in personal care occasions in the United States has continued to accelerate.
13 July 2020
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Lockdowns and social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic are impacting consumers’ health and beauty practices according to Kantar findings, signaling a significant impact on the beauty industry.

Kantar data from the first month of the pandemic (from mid-March) showed that personal care occasions in the US had decreased by an average of once per week. However, these were early days, when many states were not yet locked down and masks were not yet the norm. An early look at month two in the US (from mid-April) shows that the loss of occasions has, in fact, been more substantial, dropping to an average of 4 fewer occasions per week.

American Personal Care Occasions Covid

And the potential for steeper losses is even greater. Pre-COVID data showed that people who worked from home at least once a week had up to 11 fewer personal care occasions in the average week than those who didn’t. Further, in Spain, where complete lockdowns occurred swiftly, personal care occasions fell by an average of 13 per week in the first month. Applying this data in the midst of the pandemic, with many Americans now working at home full-time—and planning to do so for as long as possible—the impact to occasions has the potential to be staggering.

Among the occasions lost or shifted, Kantar data shows that the categories most impacted are those where usage is most tightly tied to seeing others (cosmetics, hair styling and fragrance) while those least impacted are tied to personal hygiene (oral care, body cleansing and face moisturizers). However, even one lost occasion per week is significant, especially for highly impacted categories, which are potentially seeing weekly occasion reductions in the tens to hundreds of millions.

What beauty brands can—and need—to do

Consumers are caring for themselves differently than they did before the pandemic, and the resulting challenges for the health and beauty industry are not going to go away anytime soon; regardless of whether stay-at-home orders are lifted, Kantar finds nearly a quarter of all consumers say they plan to continue working from home even after lockdowns end.

Beauty brands will need to adjust now to meet consumers where they are and guide them forward, grabbing opportunities for growth along the way:

  • Educate consumers on how to address skincare/face protection needs for those who wear a mask.
  • Innovate around evolving makeup needs, including new focal points (eyes vs. lips) as well as products that feel good and hold up behind a mask. Adjust creative strategy/content to reflect evolution.
  • As consumers remain more conscientious about their health and well-being, translate demand to health and beauty ingredient/product benefits that help buyers feel good about their choices (sunscreen, vitamins, nutrients, natural ingredients).
  • Offer new and innovative DIY luxuries or treats for at-home service replacements such as hair masks and skin treatments, perhaps coupled with usage instructions, meditation apps and other pampering guidance to meet the needs of the nearly three-quarters of consumers who indicate they aren’t comfortable returning immediately to the salon, according to Kantar data.
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