Future of Beauty Industry: Forecasting the Post-Pandemic World

How will the pandemic shape the cosmetics industry in the long term? Editor-in-Chief Shilpa Ahuja shares 11 predictions for the future of beauty industry.

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While most industries have suffered due to the coronavirus pandemic, fashion and beauty industries have been hit especially hard.

The global beauty industry generates $500 billion in sales a year, according to McKinsey, and has been growing consistently at a rate of 4.5% annually since 2010. Not anymore though, as revenue decline of upto 30% is being seen in the first half of 2020.

Forecasting the Future of Beauty Industry

On the surface, beauty brands are selling their usual products and posting beautiful images on their socials. But dig deeper, and the impact of Covid on the beauty industry becomes clearer. Beauty retailer Sephora laid off over 3700 employees in April, and Estee Lauder Companies, which include beauty brands like Clinique, Aveda, Bobbi Brown, M.A.C., Estee Lauder, Smashbox, and many more, is planning to lay-off 1500-2000 employees according to recent news.

So, analyzing the short and long term impact of Covid, I discuss my predictions for the future of beauty industry, and how the pandemic will shape the industry going forward.

1. Brands will focus on Authentic Conversations

To research for this article, ShilpaAhuja.com reached out to many beauty brands for quotes on how Covid has impacted their sales figures and what new collections they’re planning in light of the pandemic. Some of the biggest beauty brands in the world declined to comment, however, which shows just how much uncertainty there is in the future of beauty industry.

“Unfortunately the brand will not be able to share inputs this time,” wrote a spokesperson for M.A.C Cosmetics India, “as they do not have permissions from their regional/global teams for the same.” A spokesperson from Tom Ford global communications team wrote to me, “We are not able to participate at this time, but appreciate your interest in Tom Ford Beauty.” Chanel beauty followed suit.

Brands don’t know how to proceed, what to sell, and even how to communicate with consumers. To avoid the Corona conversations, most beauty brands, in fact, continue to post updates as usual on their social media, promoting older collections & products, pretending that nothing is wrong.

In these difficult times, the larger the beauty brand, the more scared they are to open up about pandemic-related issues.

On the other hand, individual players like MUAs are frank, which helps consumers relate to them. “As a creative I don’t ever plan for the, ‘what if?’ factor. COVID-19 has affected my business and made it disappear overnight. For us artists; everything will have to change,” Morag Steyn, a celebrity makeup artist, writes in her recent article for ShilpaAhuja.com.

For bigger beauty brands, however, this lack of transparency can cost them their authenticity and in the long term, loyal customers. So in the coming months and years, I predict the brands will focus on frank conversations. They won’t shy away from difficult topics, if they want to appeal to millennials & Gen Z, who are loyal to transparent brands.

2. Above-the-Mask Makeup Trends will be the Next Thing

One of the biggest reasons for lower sales in cosmetics this year is the actual lack of places one can wear makeup to. Work-from-home is common. Malls, weddings and parties have all become virtually non-existent. And one can wear makeup only to walk their dog or on grocery-runs. But then face-masks eliminate the need for lipsticks and even base makeup, which are large categories.

So in the post-pandemic era, brands will focus more on popularizing above-the-mask makeup trends. The web-design industry has a term called “above-the-fold,” in which the space in a webpage that we can see before we scroll down is considered the most-important web-real-estate. I can foresee a similar concept in the future of beauty industry.

Above-the-Mask Makeup Trends eye makeup 2020 latest

We’re already seeing the surge of heavy and colorful eye makeup looks. Also, excessive “watercolor” blush trend on Instagram is one of the top makeup trends for Fall 2020. Beauty brands will bank on more such trends next year.

3. Skincare Category will continue be more Profitable than Makeup

LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, one of the world’s largest luxury products group, recorded a revenue of 2.3 billion euros in cosmetics & perfumes in the first half of 2020, down 29% compared to the same period in 2019. They also suffered from a quarter-to-quarter revenue decline, with a revenue of 1.4 billion euros in the first quarter of 2020 (compared to and 0.9 billion euros in the second) in the same department.

As people spend more time at home, one of the categories that’s benefitting is skin care products. Even though LVMH group reported a 29% decline in revenue in the cosmetics/perfume division, its skincare brands including Dior Beauty & Guerlain Fresh performed better. The company statement reported “the success of Dior’s Capture Totale anti-aging skincare.” They also mentioned, “Guerlain continued its rapid growth in skincare.”

Similarly, Estee Lauder Companies reported a 16% growth in their skincare category with a net sales of $7.4 billion, while their other categories like makeup, fragrance and haircare reported losses of 18%, 13% and 12% respectively.

The group’s press release mentioned, “Our skin care category grew, and our online channel surged,” reporting double-digit growth in Estee Lauder and La Mer brands’ skincare range. It seems likely that as people spend more time at home, skincare category will continue to grow at 15% until 2022.

4. Artificially Intelligent Apps for Trying Makeup will become Common

Currently, store closures due to lockdowns are a big reason for the impact of Coronavirus on cosmetics industry’s revenues. Beauty sales depend a lot on in-store try-ons, especially those for makeup and perfumes. According to McKinsey, in-store purchases accounted for 85% of cosmetics sales pre-Covid.

Brands are coming up with alternative solutions like ‘Virtual Makeup Try-On’ by Yves Saint Laurent, and ‘Makeup Live’ app by European beauty retailer Feelunique. However, those are still far from completely replacing the need for store try-ons.

“Make Up is a ‘feel’, a texture and a color which we are so used to playing with before we buy,” says Morag Steyn. So I predict the makeup apps will try to use AI to introduce fun online features, which can provide newer experiences that retail shopping doesn’t provide.

In the coming years, every brand will have virtual makeup trying apps. In order to offset store sales, these apps will have to keep becoming smarter. By mid-2021, I foresee that these apps will be able to suggest suitable lipstick shades based on one’s skin-tone. Or they may suggest the proper eye makeup palette looking at your eye shape. They may also include VR/AR based features. In 5-10 years, maybe we’ll see a Smart Mirror equipped with iWands that can let us try new cosmetics.


5. Brands may collaborate with MUAs to set upcoming makeup trends

Makeup trends are promoted by online beauty gurus, fashion magazines and social media. And these trends are one of the top reasons for consumers to try out new makeup products. But where do these trends come from? These trends are set when makeup artists create new looks, mostly for fashion weeks and red carpet events. Lack thereof makes people less interested in following new makeup trends. In 2020, for example, new makeup trends have been far and few.

So to keep makeup relevant, beauty brands will try to directly collaborate with makeup artists to create their own editorials and promote trends. Artists already collaborate with brands, but currently mostly work behind-the-scenes, rarely ever taking the spotlight over models.


There are many talented artists in this industry who brands will want to promote, just like the music industry promotes music artists. These sought-after MUAs will become like the pop-stars of the industry, setting new trends.

6. Prestigious Brands will also offer Essential Products or Diffusion Lines

No one alive today has ever seen a pandemic like this. People don’t know how their lifestyles and livelihoods will keep being affected, and for how long. People have been focusing on the essentials due to salary cuts and lockdowns.

Currently, cosmetics are regarded as the luxury category, which people like to think of as impulse buys or splurges. This is why sales are lower for expensive and non-essential products at the moment.

To improve their sales, prestigious beauty brands will focus on creating relevant products like self-care, daily perfumery, wellness, and hair-care instead of special occasion products or luxury categories. The concept of “diffusion lines” is already popular in fashion industry, which is a range of comparatively less expensive mass-produced by a fashion brand, just like Versus Versace is that of Versace. Perhaps this concept could also take off in the future of beauty industry, too.

7. Brands will Foray into other Areas like Online Content

Currently, beauty brands look to online content as a way of product-placement or promotions only, not as an additional business. However, in the post-pandemic world, online content may become a supporting arm for beauty brands to increase their revenue.

Makeup reality show Glow Up on Netflix is already popular and well into Season 2, where contestants are judged by Val Garland of L’Oréal Paris and Dominic Skinner of MAC Cosmetics. Perhaps in the future of beauty industry, brands would host competitions, create TV shows, short-films or other content on makeup or skincare to keep cosmetics relevant & popular.

8. DIY Makeup for Kids & Adults will emerge as a New Concept

What’s the one thing people need in lockdown? Fresh ways to spend time, seem productive and do something they can brag about on social media at the same time! And I predict that DIY makeup could be the answer. Makeup has always been a ready-to-use category, and it would be quite fun to be able to create your own.

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Brands in other categories already do this, like meal prep delivery services like Blue Apron. In fact, Loli beauty already does something like this for skincare products. Their at-home skincare kits come with easy-to-use recipes using all-natural ingredients. In the future of beauty industry, perhaps makeup would become the top hobby that moms could take up with their daughters. Think of all the beautiful vlogs and Instagrams that could create.

9. Focus on Ultra Natural Beauty will continue into Mid-2020s

While 2010s was the time for no-makeup-makeup, it was in late 2010s that Korean beauty trends popularized extensive skincare, promoting natural beauty. And during the pandemic, people have a lot more time for DIY skincare routine, plus the demand for all-natural ingredients in skincare is huge, too.

Social media and overall mood plays a part in what people want to portray themselves doing. These days, the mood of influencers is leaning towards natural looks, authentic selfies with household chores and family time.

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The future of beauty industry will work with the requirement of natural beauty, as women aren’t finding the need to put on a full face of makeup. We surveyed our team of Fashion Staff Writers; 8 out of the 10 members surveyed said they put on makeup daily or occasionally pre-Covid. However, post-Covid, 5 said they wear makeup once a month or less, whereas 5 said they never wear makeup anymore.

Makeup artist Morag Steyn says, “Trends for the time being are really focused on inner beauty as whole, mind, body and soul. It’s now about focusing on getting the perfect skin you’ve always wanted and then through that using make up to complement it.”

This trend already started way before Covid in the fashion industry too, as earthy-organic looks were one of the top fashion trends in our Spring 2020 forecast. And I anticipate that 2020s as a decade will focus a lot on fashion without being ‘extra’ and ‘beauty without makeup’.

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10. Brands will focus on Online One-on-One Communications, combining Big Data & Loyalty Programs

Store closures and decline in offline media have removed touchpoints for beauty brands. So in the post-pandemic era, they may try to find alternative ways to forge connections with consumers to keep them loyal. Brands are already making use of video-conferencing or chatbots to suggest new products, or give personalized beauty advice. Clinique Video Chat x Skin School is one of the first steps in this area, where customers can chat with a ‘Clinique Consultant’ to learn makeup and skincare.

In the future of beauty industry, I predict that brands will make use of big data analysis to do individual consumer profiling. Perhaps in the future, we’ll each see a different online storefront for every beauty brand. Similar to Netflix, it will recommend products based on our skin-tone, skin type, hair type and perfume preferences.

Brands may also send personal style kits or small samples to consumers to replace in-store try-outs. This already happens in case of perfume samples; or brands sending out new products to influencers. However, in the future, any customer could earn a Gold loyalty card through regular purchases. Similar to Starbucks, it could enable them to receive makeup palettes or skincare samples.

11. Brands will try to normalize At-Home Makeup

Wearing makeup is a common practice for when we go out, mostly reserved for special occasions. However, in the future of beauty industry, brands may invest in heavy advertising campaigns to promote the need for wearing makeup at home, too.

I know this sounds like a stretch now, but in 1800s, so would have body hair removal. However, Gillette made this practice common by introducing women’s razors in 1915. And beauty brands can do the same for at-home makeup. Although I hope not.

smart mirrors makeup future cosmetics beautyindustry

In fact for many women pre-Covid, wearing makeup daily, even if they weren’t going out, was nothing new. I predict that in the next 5-10 years, beauty brands will introduce dual-purpose products that focus not only on aesthetics, but also on skincare. Currently, skincare and makeup are two separate categories, but their boundaries could merge in the future. For example, we could see lash-growing mascara, or anti-ageing concealers. Or nourishing BB creams that will benefit the skin if left on for 8 hours.

I invite you to leave your own thoughts in the comments below, or tweet @shilpa1ahuja with your questions & insights. on the future of beauty industry.

Read next:

How Makeup Artists can Cope: Celebrity MUA Morag Steyn gets Real
Fashion and Technology: Shilpa Ahuja Predicts the Future of Fashion

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