Freed from the bonds of traditional beauty standards, make-up is now playing on all fronts. From millennial “clean girls” to Gen Z’s “creative girls,” consumers want cosmetics that function as fashion and skin accessories to make their own. Read our exclusive report published in our sister magazine Formes de Luxe.
In 2022, make-up has performed incredibly well. While the category was slower to bounce back from the pandemic, it was ultimately the most dynamic in the beauty market, buoyed by fragrance and cosmetics. “Last year, complexion, eye and lip products all posted double-digit growth, which coincides with the end of mask mandates,” says Mathilde Lion, Europe Beauty expert at NPD. “But we’ve come a long way. For example, the lip segment, which was most affected in 2020, lost two-thirds of sales. While it still hasn’t totally caught up—at the end of October 2022, it was still down 26% compared with 2019—lipstick nevertheless grew by 58% compared with 2021. And lip gloss is up by 67%.”
As for complexion products—up 33% to date versus 2021, but still down 8% compared to 2019— tinted moisturizers, including BB and CC creams, continue to drive growth. “These items withstood the pandemic better than foundations, with a 25% increase compared with 2019. The same is true for bronzing powders (+13% versus 2019) and concealers and highlighters (+14% versus 2019). “Overall make-up grew 29% compared with 2021, but the segment is still down 11% versus 2019, and it appears there is increased demand for sheer products with more natural results,” says Lion. Among the top-performing innovations are a Light version of Guerlain’s iconic Terracotta bronzing powder (96% natural ingredients), Dior’s Forever 24H foundation (in a clean, matte version with more potent floral active agents), and Dior’s Addict Hydra Shine, a vinyl-bright lipstick with 90% natural ingredients. “These were the best-performing releases in 2022,” says Lion. “And if we zoom in on the mascara category, Lash Clash Volume Extrême by Yves Saint Laurent leads, followed by Lancôme’s mascara-serum 8 Hypnôse and the waterproof Lash Idôle.” This year, Lancôme enters the top three in color cosmetics, behind Dior (number 1) and Chanel (number 2).
At Peclers Paris and Carlin International, Lucille Gauthier-Braud, Beauty Director, and Iolanda Thiou- Ferreira, Fashion & Beauty Trends/ Projects say that while make-up has long promised “care” positioning, hybridization is now the rule. “Foundation, lipstick and nail polish were the first to explore the ‘skincare’ aspect of make-up,” says Gauthier-Braud. Thiou-Ferreira continues, “Make-up is no longer taking a camouflage strategy, now it’s a way to enhance beauty. It serves to combat a potential ‘mask’ effect and enrich skincare routines to reinforce and amplify their benefits.”
What about naturalness? “Developing clean products remains a real challenge,” says Thiou-Ferreira. “Conventional formulas still outperform in terms of staying power and richness of color. Although ‘pure’ cosmetics are having a clean revolution— led by small indie brands— make-up still has a ways to go. For reasons related to R&D and financial investments, large luxury players may be best positioned to take the lead.” Gauthier-Braud adds, “While skincare no longer has a monopoly on eco-responsibility, we’ve seen that the clean message is coming through via packaging in the makeup segment. Leading luxury brands are coming up with strong proposals as the demand for refills has increased.
As are independent brands like La Bouche Rouge, which makes packaging that doubles as precious accessories; Kjaer Weis, with its embossed boxes; and Eclo, via entirely compostable packaging.” Other bold initiatives include nail polish by Orijinal Cosmetics in returnable bottles, eye-liner pencils by Sprout that can be planted (the tip contains flower seeds), and Rose Pirate’s upcycling offer that includes receiving and cleaning used lipstick tubes, then filling them with a natural balm.
The clean claim
In a pseudo-clean jungle—rife with sometimes dubious claims that discerning consumers will vet with apps like Clean Beauty or INCI Beauty— there are a few trust-worthy names when it comes to make-up formulas: LAST, Illia, Pardi, Mi-Rê Cosmetics, Zao Make-Up, Kure Bazaar, Nailmatic, Le Rouge Français and Pomponne.
Other “skin food” concepts, like Be+Radiance, offer foundations and powders enriched with encapsulated probiotics to reinforce the skin’s microbiome. Gauthier-Braud remarks that in the US, waterless formulas are all the rage. “Water is going to be a major concern in the years to come, and brands are starting to address it now: we’re seeing waterless formulas emerge in the next generation such as in aloe-vera-based compacts.” How is what happens inside the body reflected on the outside? “The natural look has taken hold this year,” says Gauthier-Braud. “While ‘healthy skin’ and ‘natural glow’ are a must, we’re talking about meticulous aesthetics, nudes, and over-sophisticated tone-ontone looks.” This “less is must” look, popular among Millennials, contrasts with the rise of the colorblock, particularly popular with Gen Z, which grew up watching the series Euphoria. Colors are often saturated and liberated from conventional codes, applied in broad strokes on the entire face in a celebration of self, unfettered by norms.
The movement is also marked by the return of glitter and pigments with metallic effects, available in sticks, eyeshadows, gold or silver highlighter sticks, and lip lacquers by Byredo, Charlotte Tilbury, Violette_ fr, Fenty, Pat McGrath Labs, Isamaya, Haus Labs by Lady Gaga, Half Magic, and The Unseen. The latter brand proposes versatile retroreflective eyeshadow made from glass microspheres partially coated with aluminum. Skin jewelry is making a big comeback too: Virgil Abloh reinvented rhinestones, tattoos, skin graffiti, and trompe-l’oeil piercings, now available from Off- White as an Imprint Box and Color Matter Box complete with stencils.
“We’re seeing this ornamentation on temples, cheeks, and around the eyes,” says Gauthier-Braud. “Each person appropriates them to reinvent new, convention-breaking make-up applications.” Thiou-Ferreira adds, “This is self-affirmation through bold choices, make-up design with incredibly graphic eye-liner—and mascara— available in every color and used beyond the eye contour to claim new creative potential. Anything is possible depending on your mood, tribe, the place you’re going.” Anything, indeed—down to enhanced eyebrows, or brows that are muted to exaggerate the gaze, and over-glowy tints that create something akin to a post-jogging look, achieved by using liquid glitter. These shimmering gels have become popular as the viral “crying makeup” trend takes over TikTok: the look simulates a postcry face complete with red eyes, soft, puffy lips, and glistening gel applied to the cupid’s bow.
Is innovation flagging?
Despite an abundance of radically alternative approaches to beauty, cosmetic innovation leaves much to be desired. “The last major innovation was the cushion compact,” says Thiou-Ferreira. “And even if stick makeup—and especially all-purpose hybrid sticks—has considerably evolved, it can hardly be considered a disruptive innovation.” Gauthier-Braud adds, “All-in-one sticks by NARS and Byredo reflect a strong trend towards pragmatism, a kind of neo-Epicurean minimalism that favors quality over quantity. The movement is driven by a desire for sustainability that is found in skin treatment and that also contributes to the hybridization of treatment and make-up. But it’s not disruptive in and of itself. The current economic situation encourages a certain reserve: there is less drive to innovate at all costs.” Our trend forecasters note that these innovations are found less in makeup (colors, gestures, or textures)—than in the packaging. “Brands have made significant investments in mono-material design, refills, reloads, and recharges, resulting in products that are well-thought out both technically and aesthetically.”
Florence Bernardin, head of the Asia Cosme.Lab agency, has observed novel developments in Japan, Korea, and China that could take root in the West. For example, Holika Holika (Korea) makes eyeshadow with woolly effects enhanced by fabric softener scents, and Into You and Jooycee (China) make lip “muds.” “In the West, we’re moving away from overly scented products. But in Asia—where perfume was not traditionally present—we are seeing the emergence of blushes, which come after scented hair and hand-care products, with added ‘olfactory’ value, mainly developed for self-care/ well-being,” says Bernardin. This is true of Shu Uemura’s See, Feel & Smell range that includes a lipstick (Rouge Unlimited Amplified Lacquer) scented with mug wort leaves, traditionally used in moxibustion treatments. “In China, suppliers are exploring the polysensory potential of lip products, with surprising developments called muds. With a mousse-like texture, they are light, for a bare-lip feel, moisturizing, and transfer free. Muds, which usually come in small bottles and have been a boost to the lip segment, have sparked a new terminology that reflects the expanding range of matte aesthetics, from velvet to glowy.”
While personalization has gained ground, customization remains secondary, with a few exceptions, namely in lipsticks. These include Carolina Herrera’s customizable textures (matte, shimmering, or metallic finishes) that can be accessorized with a choice of pendants, tassels, and metal initials to hang on lipstick, mascara, a compact or eyeshadow.
There’s also Rouge Sur Mesure, launched last year by Yves Saint Laurent: based on the Perso system, this beauty tech product is a small digital box, paired with an app that allows customers to create the perfect shade of lipstick. They can even match the lipstick with their handbag! Using four sets of three color cartridges inspired by the brand’s universe (red, nude, orange, fuchsia), the user can create up to 4,000 shades—while waiting to double or even triple the stakes with the eventual launch of a version dedicated to the complexion.