Prestige Beauty Sales Fell 19 Percent in 2020

Prestige beauty sales dropped 19 percent in the U.S. in 2020 to $16.1 billion, posting a $3.8 billion loss year-over-year, according to year-end data from the NPD Group.

Brick-and-mortar declined almost 39 percent, said Larissa Jensen, vice president of beauty and industry advisor at the NPD Group, while digital sales increased 46 percent and represented over 50 percent of sales for both hair care and skin care for the first time.

Bright spots included prestige hair care, which grew 8 percent. Treatment products like masks did well, while styling products slowed the category’s momentum. “The category was growing double-digits and it still did soften,” Jensen said. “Shampoos, conditioners as well as specialty hair products like masks – the segment did well, which is due to the stay-at-home economy.”

Makeup sales bore the brunt of the crisis, plummeting 34 percent. The challenges the category faces are manifold. “The biggest markets for makeup are big cities, which are also having a harder time with economic recovery from the pandemic. Those cities have the steepest makeup declines,” Jensen said. “The declines in makeup are dragging the industry, and the industry’s recovery is tied to makeup.”

Although categories like eye and complexion have been heralded as bright spots, Jensen said that in 2020, every segment of color declined. “Makeup has a lot of headwinds. It’s up against a lot, in addition to the pandemic, it’s a homebound consumer,” Jensen said. Lip faced the steepest drops.

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Makeup is still the largest category in prestige beauty, but Jensen predicted skin care may overtake it by the end of 2021. Skin care sales dropped 11 percent, with the biggest losses in face creams, eye treatments, serums and lotions. More surprisingly, the typically staid body category softened skin care’s losses, along with hand soap, targeted skin treatments and facial devices.

Within skin care, clinical brands became the largest brand type in sales, overtaking natural. “Clinical, as a brand type, always had a higher penetration of sales in e-commerce. It makes sense online: it’s a technical category, you might want to be doing more research to learn more about products,” Jensen said. “When the entire industry moved to online, they stood to benefit from that. They actually posted growth, the only brand type to grow at 3 percent.”

As for fragrance, that category fell 8 percent, but showed resilience in the second half of the year. “Since August, fragrance has had positive monthly dollar performance,” Jensen said. “If you think of the broader things that are happening, fragrance lotions and soaps are doing well, as did home scents, which we’ve been talking about for a while now. Juices have really been the winner with the majority of volume, especially stronger concentrations.”

For more from, see:

Beauty Predictions for the New Decade, From the NPD Group

Ulta Beauty Sales Down in Third Quarter as COVID-19 Continues to Impact

Words of Wisdom: Beauty Execs’ Key Learnings From 2020

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