Skin-care brands are betting that shoppers haven’t totally abandoned makeup

Makeup sales may be in decline, but that has not stopped skin-care brands from making their way into the category. 

K-beauty brand Glow Recipe launched its second makeup-skin-care hybrid product on Tuesday: a liquid highlighter with hyaluronic acid and niacinamide. With its new Watermelon Glow Niacinamide Dew Drops, as well, the brand is the latest in a string of skin-care labels leaning into the tough market of color cosmetics.

“We predicted that 2020 would be the rise of skin-care-makeup hybrids, but wanted to ensure our entry maintained the integrity of our skin-centric ethos,” said Christine Chang, co-founder and co-CEO of Glow Recipe

Any company selling makeup these days faces challenges. After color cosmetics sales plunged in 2019, Covid-19 exacerbated their decline. Color cosmetics saw a 52% sales drop in the second quarter of 2020, according to The NPD Group. As a result, makeup brands have flocked to the skin-care category in search of growth opportunities. Skin-care brands are still moving into makeup territory, however, banking on the idea that consumer demand for makeup is not dying, but evolving. 

The makeup-with-skin-care-benefits model has been successful for Glow Recipe so far. Its tinted lip balm that it introduced in January 2020 was its most successful product launch of the year, said co-founder and co-CEO Sarah Lee. The product ranked in the top-three skin-care SKUs at Sephora and Cult Beauty, with the brand selling one tube every 30 seconds in North America within the first few weeks of launch and selling out at several Sephora physical locations, Lee said. Glow Recipe is collaborating with Dominique Cosmetics to further its connection to makeup, selling a gift set with a palette by the color cosmetics brand alongside its skin-care products. 

“Our customers have always asked us about expanding into makeup, but we knew our skin-care approach was essential,” said Lee.

Skin-care brand Tatcha has also inched its way into the makeup market, naming makeup artist Daniel Martin its global director of artistry and education in June 2020. Martin pioneered the brand’s foray into makeup, developing its Kyoto Red Silk Lipstick that was used for Chloe Sevigny’s Met Gala look in 2014. The brand launched a primer in March 2020, and sells other cosmetics-skin-care hybrids including tinted lip balm and a tinted eye treatment. 

Primers and foundation products tend to be the most common gateway into makeup-skin-care hybrids. Peach & Lily launched a primer in July, The Ordinary sells foundation, and a primer is one of the top-selling products for Dr. Brandt. Entry into color cosmetics through BB and CC creams, meanwhile, is a tried-and-true strategy pioneered by K-beauty brands like Dr. Jart. Brands are increasingly branching out into other color categories — sunscreen brand Supergoop, for example, launched SPF eyeshadow last year. Makeup brands, meanwhile, are also tapping into skin-care hybrid products by adding hyaluronic acid to blush or launching lip oils as a skin-care-driven update to lip gloss. The challenge for brands in both categories is to be able to establish themselves as an authority in an area outside their original field. 

Skin-care brands’ move into the makeup space is set to continue into next year.

“2021 will see exciting new innovations in multiple categories, with exploration outside the skincare space,” said Chang. “We’d love to continue to explore this skin-care-makeup hybrid category, [but] it will always be rooted in a skin-first approach.”

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