How face masks have changed the beauty industry

Who knew a year ago that this now compulsory accessory would force us to overhaul our make-up bags? Beauty director Edwina Ings-Chambers reveals the products we can’t get enough of.

I suspect I’m not alone in saying that my most purchased item (other than food) this year has been face masks. And these face coverings are doing more than changing my accessory purchase – they’ve had a seismic effect on the entire beauty economy. First up, there are the brands that have expanded into new products. Take Slip, a company known for wrinkle-reducing silk pillowcases. Since the pandemic hit they’ve turned their expertise to masks, and despite the hefty price tag (£39), they’ve had a huge response. And, of course, every brand has created a hand sanitiser, from chic, plant-based Puritx (£12.50) to high-street favourite L’Oréal Paris (£3.99). But 2020 has had more far-reaching effects on the beauty landscape than creating demand for sanitiser. Old faithfuls like lipsticks – now that pouts are hidden – have seen sales decline, while products that amp up our eyes have soared.

eye make-up for masks
Antonio Terron/Trunk ArchIve

Maskne marvels

‘Maskne’ refers to acne around the mouth and chin caused by the build-up of humidity and bacteria inside a mask. This year, according to Google, there’s been a rise of over 5,000 per cent in searches for ‘maskne treatment’. Unsurprisingly, this has affected product sales. While I’ve been using Murad Blemish Control Rapid Relief Spot Treatment (£20, murad.co.uk) more, Space NK has seen a 141 per cent hike in sales of blemish treatments and 108 per cent rise in cleansers. A great one is CeraVe SA Smoothing Cleanser (£12, boots.com), while The Inkey List Oat Cleansing Balm (£9.99, uk.theinkeylist.com) is effective at soothing stressed skin. The trend is also making stars of products that are normally more chorus line, as La Roche-Posay has noticed with rising sales of its Effaclar Serum (£32, boots.com), which is specifically for adult acne.

Focus on eyes

Meanwhile, as I predicted on my beauty pages back in July, eye make-up is doing brisk business. Marks & Spencer says online sales of its eyeshadows eyeliners and mascaras rose by 80 per cent during the first lockdown – I love its Smoky Eyeshadow Palette (£9.50, marksandspencer.com). In July, meanwhile, Space NK had its fastest-selling mascara launch ever: Hourglass Unlocked Instant Extensions Mascara (£29, spacenk.com) flew out of stores at a rate of 1.6 tubes a minute. It’s a similar story at Cult Beauty, whose surprise sellout product was Revitalash Advanced (£89, cultbeauty.com), a serum said to boost lash growth. The online beauty emporium’s co-founder Alexia Inge tells me, ‘Each time we restocked it we’d sell out again.’ She believes it’s a result of people looking to enhance their ‘smize’ (smiling with their eyes).

Bases with added benefits

According to John Lewis, sales of light bases and tinted moisturisers with skincare benefits are also booming. Its beauty buyers predict customers will turn to bases that tackle spots, too. Of these hardworking heroes, try Oskia Nutri-Bronze Adaptive Sheer Tinted Serum (£58, naturisimo.com) and Typology Tinted Serum (£24.80, uk.typology.com).

On trend for lips

Forget the Lipstick Index – the idea that in troubled times lipstick sales stay buoyant as women invest in little luxuries. Mask wearing has seen lipstick purchases decline. However, not all lip products are created equal: John Lewis reports that lip balms and tints are flying off the shelves, with sales more than doubling this year. Meanwhile, Cult Beauty’s lip balm and treatments division grew by 243 per cent. If you’re after a balm, I love Sensai Cellular Performance Total Lip Treatment (£75, harrods.com) and Dr Sam’s Flawless Lip (£12, drsambunting.com).