Mar 25, 2021
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Lockdowns and 'skinimalism' trend drive UK prestige skincare sales plunge

Mar 25, 2021

UK prestige beauty customers have been going back to basics in the past year and this meant 2020’s skincare sales at the upper end of the market fell 23%, according to a new report from The NPD Group.

Photo: Anna Shvets/Pexels

The skincare segment falling by almost a quarter last year is perhaps a surprise given that the biggest impact of the pandemic was expected to have been seen in areas such as colour cosmetics. Here, mask-wearing and the lack of social and office activity were obvious catalysts for consumers feeling they didn't need to buy lipstick and other products.

But NPD said the skincare decline came about as consumers began to adopt the trend for ‘skinimalism’,  a pared-down routine taking in skincare as well as make-up. 

They adopted the minimalist, back-to-basics approach, that was defined by Pinterest’s 2021 Trend Predictions Report. And NPD’s research suggests that UK consumers appear to have embraced this attitude in their skincare buying habits. 

This means that the total prestige skincare market dropped to a value of only £295 million last year. But of course, that wasn't only down to trends, but was also a result of practical issues with so many shops being closed and consumers unable to pop into a department store or beauty chain to stock up on high-end labels.

Looking back at that skinimalism trend, NPD said that three skincare sub-segments showed (relative) strength and summed up the changes in 2020, reporting declines in sales that were less than the total category. 

Sales of prestige face cream declined ‘only’ 20%, prestige face cleansers fell 17% and facial exfoliators managed an impressive result with a drop of a relatively insignificant 3%. All of these products were clearly about skin health and getting skin to look as good as it could in its natural state.

Emma Fishwick, account manager, NPD UK Beauty said: “Face cream, facial cleanser and facial exfoliators are the three sub-segments where consumers have gone back to basics while some ‘additional steps’ such as eye treatments and masks have declined in importance in face skincare as consumers have ‘skinimised’ what products they’re using.”

In fact, sales of eye treatment products have in 2018 and 2019 represented the third largest sub-segment by value within prestige skincare. But last year they saw a very weak result. In 2020, facial cleansers reported higher value sales than eye treatments, reinforcing the trend for a pared-down skincare regime. 

There were some other areas of particular strength as well, as last year’s lifestyle changes created new needs for many. Sales of anti-acne serums increased by 51% in value in 2020 as mask-wearing caused skin problems and consumers focused on skin-specific remedies to reveal their glowing skin.  

Fishwick said prestige spending was also likely to have been hit by consumers being more reluctant to spend, of course. And the fact that beauty shoppers seem to be purchasing fewer products, and the products that they’re opting for are more targeted, supports both that view and the skinimalism trend. 

This has also led beauty brands to really get to the point of what their products are all about and concentrate their messaging on the active ingredients in them. Some examples of brands doing this include Estée Lauder with its latest Advanced Night Repair Serum re-launch, Origins New Multi-powered Youth Serum and (in make-up) Charlotte Tilbury’s new Lip Launch called Hyaluronic Happikiss.

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