Makeup sales appear washed out as women go au naturel

Consumers demanding natural cosmetic brands for an unfiltered look

Skin is in.

The makeup market in the U.S. has slowed with consumer demand for more natural skin care products that give off an unfiltered look, and makeup artists are seeing an uptick in demand for the "less-is-more" beauty trend.

"People are starting to pick up on the fact that 'Instagram' makeup isn't so wearable for every day," New York-based celebrity makeup artist Elena Miglino told FOX Business. "People are starting to prioritize skin care first, and reaching for the more natural-based products."

Minimalistic skin care brands with vegan, cruelty-free ingredients are fueling the billion-dollar natural beauty movement as more consumers question what exactly is in their makeup. Miglino says more people are opting for products that enhance their natural beauty without covering it up. That means subbing in products like brightening, regenerating oils, hydrating serums and tinted moisturizers in for heavy foundations and cakey concealers.

Major cosmetic companies have experienced sales slumps recently. In its first-quarter fiscal 2020 earnings results, Estee Lauder reported a 6 percent sales decline in the Americas due to weak color cosmetics sales. Beauty retailer Ulta cut its 2019 growth forecast in August due to headwinds in the industry. What's more, like-for-like revenue at one of the world's largest beauty companies, L'Oreal, was down 1.1 percent in North America for the second quarter.

Shares of Estee Lauder are up 46.8 percent year-to-date, while Ulta is flat and L'Oréal is higher by 30 percent.

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Despite the success of celebrity makeup brands like Rihanna’s Fenty Beauty launch -- praised for having one of the most diverse lines of foundations, bronzers and concealers -- and Kylie Jenner’s namesake Kylie’s Cosmetics, the no-makeup trend seems to be the future of beauty. Jenner may be pivoting more to the skin care and the beauty space after fragrance and cosmetics company Coty Inc. announced it was paying $600 million for a 51 percent stake in Kylie Cosmetics. Jenner said in a press release she was looking forward to “building the brand into an international beauty powerhouse,” perhaps a sign that the brand may be diversifying its skincare products and relying less on cosmetics to boost its bottom line.

Overall makeup sales in the U.S. declined 4 percent to $1.8 billion in the first quarter, while more natural skin care products like tinted moisturizers and setting sprays to brighten skin became the fastest-growing segment within face makeup, according to market research firm NPD Group. Sales of skin care, meanwhile, grew 5 percent to $1.4 billion with men’s and women’s skin care markets growing by 5 percent, according to the report. What’s more, natural brands made up 27 percent of skin care sales earlier this year, showing there’s continued demand.

Hollywood has embraced the natural beauty trend in recent years. Singer-songwriter Alicia Keys has been embracing the bare-face look for years, appearing on the competitive singing TV show “The Voice” in 2016 sans makeup as one of season 11’s judges.

“I don’t want to cover up anymore. Not my face, not my mind, not my soul, not my thoughts, not my dreams, not my struggles, not my emotional growth. Nothing,” she wrote in an essay for actress Lena Dunham’s former newsletter site “Lenny” in 2016. And actress-turned-wellness-guru Gwyneth Paltrow built an entire business on the wellness and natural beauty movement through Goop, often appearing at events with little to no makeup.

“I don’t want to cover up anymore. Not my face, not my mind, not my soul, not my thoughts, not my dreams, not my struggles, not my emotional growth. Nothing,”

- Alicia Keys

A recent survey from Civic Science as reported by market research firm NPD Group showed that 25 percent of women aged 13 and up are wearing less makeup, with 9 percent reporting they used to wear makeup and no longer do.

“These statistics are consistent with the current shift towards the ‘no-makeup makeup’ trend that we’ve been observing,” Larissa Jensen, a beauty industry analyst at NPD Group, said in a new report.


And Gen Z consumers, born between 1996 and 2010, also seem to be spending less money on makeup. Cosmetics sales for this group dropped by 21 percent according to investment banking company Piper Jaffray’s “Taking Stock with Teens” survey.