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The Weight of the Beauty World

Makeup is carrying the prestige beauty category’s growth.

Makeup is carrying the prestige beauty category’s growth. (Skin-care and fragrance should thank color cosmetics.)

On Tuesday, The NPD Group’s senior category analyst and self-proclaimed beauty junkie, Kissura Mondesir, spoke at MakeUp in New York about the health of prestige beauty — it’s up 2 percent for the 12 months ending in June — citing makeup as the driving force behind the trend. “Makeup, I’m proud to say, was the first category to cross the $4 billion mark,” she said. “Yay, makeup! For every month, it’s been outperforming both of the other categories and for the rest of the year, we expect makeup to continue to outperform.”

This is thanks, in large part, to four brands — what NPD calls “A-List brands”: MAC, Urban Decay, Benefit and Tom Ford. “MAC is the number-one brand within prestige and it is a brand that is hard to reckon with,” said Mondesir. “Especially when it comes to social media.” It boasts two times the social media presence as other brands, plus MAC outsells them in dollars and units when it comes to distribution. But most noteworthy is the fact that this year, MAC’s lipstick Ruby Woo “knocked out [Clinique’s] Black Honey, which was the longest-running, best-selling lipstick within prestige, ever since NPD started capturing sales data back in 1997,” said Mondesir.

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With its cultish Naked palettes, Urban Decay has grown its business more than any other brand in the last five years. “Because of these little palettes, everyone and their grandmother has been running out trying to get one,” said Mondesir, admitting that she, too, succumbed to the trend. “I’m actually naked right now.”

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Benefit’s quirky messaging has helped connect the brand with its consumers, particularly online where sales are strong. It also works well in New York, where more than a quarter of They’re Real Mascara sales come from. Similarly, more than half of Tom Ford’s sales come from New York because, as Mondesir explained, the brand hits on perception, “where most consumers rate it as the number-one exclusive brand,” she said.

The runway shows are also helping get makeup in the hands of consumers. “When you take a look at the spring and fall 2014 shows, we see that a lot of women are trying to emulate these looks where it’s a strong focus on either brows, dewy skin or a strong, pouty mouth,” said Mondesir. All three categories outpaced makeup’s growth with double digits. One standout product is the illuminating primer, which has been growing steadily for five years. “And we know that their use among consumers has increased, especially among Millennials, black women and Hispanic women,” said Mondesir.

Color is driving the lip category, but gone are the days of pinks. “The most popular and the fastest-growing colors are strong purples and reds,” she said. “We like our bold lip colors and we like them matte,” as evidenced by four of the five top-selling colors in New York City having matte finishes.

Meanwhile, innovation has been a driving force behind makeup’s growth, from Grace Choi’s 3-D makeup printing to the cushion compact hailing from Asia. Benefit spent five years perfecting the They’re Real Pushup Liner, which launched in June.

“[Benefit] decided to think outside of the box, taking an existing gel format for eyeliner and taking it from the pot to the pen,” said Mondesir. That, coupled with the social-media blitz with bloggers and vloggers, helped the brand reach “$1.4 million in less than a month.”

Brands like Nars and Marc Jacobs are nailing messaging by featuring older models. For its 20th anniversary campaign, Nars hired 68-year-old Charlotte Rampling and Marc Jacobs named 64-year-old Jessica Lange as the first face of the beauty line. “We think this was an excellent move on their part,” said Mondesir. “Why? Because women who are 65 years and older are actually the largest demographic of makeup users and, to boot, they are also the most engaged in wearing makeup. They are speaking to their real consumers.”

Regardless of age, not all women are helping to increase makeup’s growth. In fact, 41 percent of women over 18 don’t wear makeup at all. With reasons ranging from laziness to cost to the trending hashtag #flawless, the hurdle for brands will be figuring out how to effectively communicate to these consumers that makeup is supposed to be fun. “They need to say, ‘If you wear this lipstick, it may boost your confidence a little bit, but it’s really not going to give you the confidence to go out there and conquer the world all on your own,’” said Mondesir. “I think that’s the way that makeup really needs to be messaged. It’s real women wearing it, so talk to us as we’re real women.”