The Lipstick Effect

The Lipstick Effect

Tuesday, April 07, 2020

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The full impact of the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) on the beauty industry has yet to be felt, but predictions are its disruption will be less severe than other industries.

For years data has shown that when facing an economic crisis, consumers shy away from large purchases but still treat themselves to smaller luxury products like lipstick. This is known as the “lipstick effect” and can be traced back to the Great Depression of the 1930s. From 1929 to 1933, industrial production in the United States tanked, but sales of cosmetics rose.

Similar trends were noticed when the US entered into recession in 1990. As the economy suffered record collapse for eight months, employment in the cosmetic sector increased while people in other fields battled for work. At this point, we surmise that this isn't a mere accidental correlation, but rather an underlying psychology that has caused lipstick sales to perform well even as the economy grinds to a halt.

In early March as the world grappled with the COVID-19 pandemic, major cosmetics manufacturer MAC launched the new Barbie Style MAC Lipstick — a cool-toned, bubblegum-pink shade to honour the iconic doll's 61st birthday. A quick check on shows that the product has been an add-to-cart fave! And as of March 30, 2020, MAC matte lipsticks in shades Chili, Ruby Woo, and Marrakesh top the website's best-seller page.

Locally, several MAC store shoppers received an e-mail notification that the Sovereign store would be closed to the public effective Sunday, March 22 for two weeks. As #MACLovers wondered how they'd fill their make-up fix, the company announced an ordering system that would facilitate deliveries and kerbside pickup. Ruby Woo lovers breathed a collective sigh of relief.

Meanwhile, Christena Miller, marketing manager at The Beauty Spot, the sole distributor of L'Oréal and Maybelline in Jamaica, told Under the Dryer (UTD) that “customers are still buying”. By customers, Miller is referencing beauty supply stores and pharmacies islandwide. And though some rural locations have cut back on orders, business in the Corporate Area is still booming. “Fontana doubled its order,” shared Miller. Though, she admits, this may be a direct result of the initial uncertainty regarding imports. Miller says she relates to the lipstick effect, and understands that though women might not be doing their usual full-face make-up, they still want to add lipstick to “perk up the look”.

“I did it this morning! I had a video conference call, and used the L'Oréal Infallible Pro Matte Liquid Lipstick in the shade 362 Plum Bum and topped it off with the matching gloss for a little lift,” said Miller. The Maybelline Superstay Matte Ink Liquid Lipstick (which has made several UTD lists) and the new Ink Crayon are still voted most popular. The company's most recent launch, the L'Oréal Paris Makeup Rouge Signature Matte Lip Stain, is also projected to do well. “We launched the 'Empowered' shade on International Women's Day (March 8), then days after everything went haywire [as the first case of the coronavirus was confirmed in Jamaica],” Miller stated.

Shop Annibelleza principal Annelise Bond says there is “still no increase in lipstick sales, but people love lipglosses”. Bond says the Colourpop So Juicy plumping gloss and the NYX Butter Glosses are still highly requested even as she scales back the opening hours of her Half-Way-Tree location.

Store supervisor at Monarch Pharmacy, Sovereign Centre Lisa Wright says she has not noticed an increase in lipstick sales, but maintains that customers are still making regular make-up purchases despite the ban on in-store product testing.

Christelle Harris, director, Liguanea Lane and Discount pharmacies, shared with UTD that there has been an uptick in all personal items. “Traffic has definitely slowed, but the purchase of hair dye and nail polish, for example, has increased, the result of #socialdistance. Whilst sales of lipstick are certainly not what they were in February, for example, they are still high, especially among millennials who are making use of platforms like Zoom to socialise virtually. Plus, popping out to the supermarket or the pharmacy is, too, a reason to dress up, and dressing up includes applying lipstick.”

With compulsory #StayAtHome orders in force, it seems make-up, more specifically lipstick, remains a necessary luxury that not only brightens the face but lifts the spirit as well. A most welcome filip during the time of COVID-19.

Shop top lipsticks at MAC Cosmetics, your local pharmacies and beauty supplies store, and enjoy online shopping at




Senior Associate Editor - Lifestyle & Social Content:

Novia McDonald-Whyte



Alayne Richards



Naphtali Junior

Karl Mclarty

Joseph Wellington

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