Urban Decay founder predicts mascara and lighting device sales will boom during the coronavirus recession as Americans try to look their best on video calls and behind masks

FILE - In this March 1, 2020, file photo, a department store employee with a mask dresses a mannequin in Tokyo. Japan's economic growth plunged into recession in the first quarter as the coronavirus pandemic squelched production, exports and spending, and fears are growing worse times may lie ahead, according to a report on Monday, May 18, 2020. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong, File)Associated Press
  • Makeup sales plummeted by 22% in the first quarter of 2020 as Americans stopped leaving the house due to the coronavirus pandemic.
  • Urban Decay founder Wende Zomnir says the recession sparked by the pandemic will rejuvenate sales, citing the "Lipstick Index," which argues people shop for lipstick when more expensive luxuries are out of reach.
  • "This time around, the Lipstick Index is going to be the brow, mascara and liner index as we peer at each other from behind our masks," Zomnir said.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

The coronavirus is already changing the cosmetics industry, as makeup sales plummet.

Wende Zomnir, the founder of Urban Decay, says that as the pandemic stretches on, shoppers will increasingly pick products based on how they look on webcam and what people can actually see, as masks hide people's faces.

"People already feel less compelled to glam for their new WFH lives. But they are focused on being well, and staying safe," Zomnir told Business Insider in April. "Brands need to look toward products that are as cozy as our sweats, and caregiving, with lots of skin benefits. "Advertisement

Makeup sales dropped by 22% in the first quarter of this year, with sales plummeting during March, according to data from the NPD Group. Fragrance sales dropped 13%, while skincare sales fell by 8%.

Zomnic believes the upcoming recession will drive beauty sales, pointing to the Lipstick Index, a term invented by Leonard Lauder who was the chairman of Estee Lauder during the Great Recession. Lauder said that when people struggle economically, they spend more on little luxuries, driving sales of lipstick.

Wende Zomnir
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"The Lipstick Index is real, and I think beauty will see a steady hold or uptick as customers look to their favorite brands to deliver something that makes them look good on camera, and adds something new and exciting to their look and their lives at a time when more expensive splurges are out of reach," Zomnic said.

Zomnic continued: "But this time around, the Lipstick Index is going to be the brow, mascara and liner index as we peer at each other from behind our masks." Sales of lighting devices are also set to explode, Zomnic said, as "people strive to look their best for online meetings." Advertisement

The coronavirus pandemic has already created practical issues for the cosmetics industry, as shoppers are no longer able to test beauty products in stores.

Zomnic says technology will be crucial to driving sales. In the coming weeks, she predicts the industry will see a rise of virtual sessions with makeup experts, virtual shade matching, and more free samples to convince customers to buy products. Companies may also start giving customers virtual copy of a product, allowing them to "apply" the makeup via videoconferencing filters.

"How do we create connection without our artists and beauty advisors when the nature of what they do is to literally be right in someone's face?" Zomnic asked.Advertisement

"The obvious solutions are virtual, but will we be able to create the same sense of discovery and level of excitement?" she continued. "If the transformation doesn't happen on the customer's face IRL, is it as compelling?"

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