COVID-19 wiped away lipstick and re-applied eyeshadow

e.l.f. cosmetic’s Rose Gold eyeshadow palette sits on display. Sangeetha Koomar/Lariat

Masks cover from the nose down. There is no visibility of lips, cheeks, nose or chin, the eyes now are the first thing people will look at. They are the new dignifying feature no matter what. 

As a result, from March 20 lipstick sales are on the decline and instead demand for products like eye shadow are on the rise as consumers begin to experiment with above the mask beauty. 

Many makeup artists, like Jessi Hayeiz, see this turn of events as just an add on to her bordemon. 

“I would make my makeup tutorials with a full face and everything,” Hayeiz said. “Now, I scroll through the comments on the video and people are like, ‘why do lips and highlight when I’m wearing a mask 24/7.’ I understand, but like now my views are going down because nobody wants to watch a video on a full face and it’s just boring because I could do only eye tutorials but there’s so many of them out there already.”

Consumer interest in eye makeup has been building for months, tracking closely to the increase of face mask usage since COVID-19, at the beginning of the year.

Gayitri Budhraja, vice president of brand at e.l.f. Cosmetics was interviewed by Fortune on her take about the uptick in eyemakeup and the downfall of anything the mask covered. 

“We’ve seen a shift from categories like foundation to a trend towards lighter-wear makeup or products that help you be ‘Zoom-ready,’ like concealer, for example,” Budhraja said. “And while fuller pigment lip color is down, traditionally a lighter form, such as lip gloss and lip balm, is up.”

Emily Raburn, owner of the Amazing Lash Studio in Texas, was also interviewed by Fortune to gather her understanding on the reason behind the spike in cosmetic sales. 

“I believe this is due to women putting greater emphasis on the appearance of their eyes with mask mandates in place,” Raburn said. “Because of mandates in most states currently, I believe that eyelashes are becoming even more popular now than before the pandemic. Even while wearing a mask, other people can still see your beautiful eyes— not your makeup or your lips— just your eyes.”

According to reports by Business Insider, eye makeup sales are up 204% year over year for the three month period ending on June 28, suddenly a surge of how-to guides for bold eyes and tips on how to apply mask makeup are popping up everywhere among beauty influencers on YouTube and TikTok. The trend of hashtag #MaskMakeup received more than 53 million views from videos as quarantined individuals look for time passing looks or looks to make their eyes pop.

Riya Raj was one of the many million to take part in this trend and tried out many of the looks. 

“I didn’t want to download TikTok but COVID made me do it,” Raj said. “I never even got into eye makeup like that and then I saw all those mask makeup looks and I was like damn let me try this out. Now I’m going out with Mardi Gras eye makeup to a Target, your eyes are the only thing shown and everywhere is closed, so make the most out of that Target trip you know.”

Lipstick, on the other hand, has been an early casualty of the pandemic. According to Fortune, sales of “lip care and color”  have dropped 15% and as a result many companies have declined the prices by 28% until April 11.

The demise of lipstick is challenged by the COVID-19 restrictions of face masks as a requirement. As a result consumers were stocking up on various eye makeup as a substitute. 

Since then, the term “Lipstick index” was developed by Estee Lauder’s executive chairman William P. Lauder.

The Lipstick Index explains the rise in lipstick sales during periods of economic turmoil. While many other news outlets proved Lauder’s theory to be incorrect in the past, it proved otherwise during the current situation.

In a July 29th interview with Women’s Wear Daily (WWD) Lauder said the concept of the Lipstick Index could pave the way for new versions of accessible luxury during the coronavirus pandemic, with shoppers turning to products like eye makeup and skincare. 

“We could talk about a ‘mascara index’ or ‘nail polish index,’ but I wouldn’t call it a hard and fast mathematical correlation. It’s more anecdotal,” Lauder told WWD. 

McKinsey & Company gave a comprehensive projection on May 5th of the beauty industry’s future. While it has proven relatively resilient thus far, it still has a long way to go to make up for lost sales when stores were temporarily shut down early in the pandemic. 

The news outlet anticipates, “that the overall global beauty market currently valued at a whopping $500 billion — will decline by 20-30% in 2020 as a result of the coronavirus.”

The Global Eye Makeup Market gave a comprehensive report gathered from quantitative data to report projections of the sales in the eye makeup industry. The report was conducted by assessing the top popular brands in the county: L’Oreal, Estee Lauder, LVMH, SHISEIDO, Amore Pacific, Chanel, Avon, Revlon, Mary Kay, Amway, Sisley, e.l.f., Kate, Coty, Kose, Carslan, Mariedalgar, Lansur and Maogeping. 

The Market also considered popular products such as eyeshadow, eyeliner, false lashes and any other common eye product. As a result the Global Eye Makeup Market gave its prediction on Nov. 19, while also taking COVID-19 into account. 

“The market size is projected to reach USD 26750 million by 2026, from USD 17730 million in 2020, at a compound annual growth rate of 7.1% during 2021-2026,” reported Global Eye Makeup. 

On Oct. 21, Allure Beauty reported that peoples’ mindsets are reconsidering even using foundation and lipstick anymore because of the inclusion of face masks. 

Allure conducted an interview with the senior vice president of merchandising in color and fragrance, Allison Hahn.

“We’ve seen an increase in demand for lash enhancement products,” Hahn said. “People are more interested in making their lashes healthy or for the popular mask look.” 

Lash and eye health has become an issue nowadays. Many influencers have taken this opportunity and began promoting it on their pages, while also trying them out on themselves. 

“I remember when hair and skin was a thing and everyone was posting daily about it,” said Laura Park, a start up Instagram influencer. “Now I am like getting boxes from GranDeLash and RevitaLash and I’m just posting about what to do for eyes. I’ve started investing hundreds on eye creams, serums, brow stuff and I totally get it because you’re going out— you need to make the eyes look good, you just have to.”

Analysts from the News Product Development (NPD) reported an increase of market share for the eyeshadow department as big as 22%-25% during the pandemic. 

Grocery stores have now been made as reasons to glam the eyes, bold the brows and dramatize the lashes. Masks may have been seen as a slight loss in individuality, but that does not mean all is lost. 

Even though gatherings are socially distanced, or not happening at all, and although mask regulations are still intact, all hope is not lost. It does not mean that while smiles are hidden from the rest of the world, eyes cannot be the new, glamorous feature.