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Complexion Category — Skin Care and Makeup Included — Posts Sales Gains

Skin care and foundations are growing in prestige beauty, while concealers are posting gains in the mass market.

Skin is in.

Between prestige and mass beauty, complexion products — things like skin care, foundations and concealers — are where the growth is.

The complexion trend is particularly prevalent in the prestige category, where skin-care growth continued to outpace others in prestige for the third quarter, with a 10 percent sales increase for the third quarter, up to $1.3 billion in sales, according to the NPD Group. Age specialist products were up 7 percent after a double-digit decline last year; face-mask sales were up 28 percent; sunscreen sales increased 37 percent, and self tanner sales were up 13 percent.

“The narrative around antiaging has changed by focusing less on antiaging benefits to creating stories around ingredients, wellness and healthy skin at any age,” said Jefferies analyst Steph Wissink in a note, noting that skin care as a category has higher margins than makeup. Wissink’s note reflects NPD data and trends also reported by beauty industry analyst Larissa Jensen.

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On the prestige side, “total face” makeup sales grew the fastest in the third quarter, according to the NPD Group, with 6 percent gains. Foundation, which captures the largest share of face makeup dollars, was up 7 percent, while primer sales were up 16 percent and tinted moisturizer was up 11 percent, NPD figures show.

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“The rate of makeup growth began to plateau and taper in mid-2016, but skin care had yet to accelerate,” Wissink wrote. “Our checks have spotlighted ongoing consumer interest in single-use disposable masks, serums and products with more immediate (vs. deferred) benefits. Thematically, the strongest-performing skin categories are those that provide for a makeup-ready foundation or that help skin recover from intense makeup-wearing occasions, suggesting that makeup remains an important mind share consideration, even when purchasing skin-care products.”

For the quarter, lip-color sales were down 1 percent, while gloss was up 7 percent for the quarter, according to NPD. Brow products are slowed down in the quarter, with only 2 percent growth. Sales of false eyelashes, a small subsegment of the market, were up 50 percent. Total prestige beauty sales for the third quarter were $3.9 million, a 5 percent year-over-year increase.

“Our tracking of new product releases within specialty and department stores suggests the number of new items/innovation in the makeup category has decelerated [year-over-year],” Wissink wrote. “The number of new items introduced into the prestige makeup category during 2015-16 was greater than the previous five years combined. That rate of newness was a key contributing factor to several quarters of double-digit category growth.”

In the mass market — where makeup sales broadly have been on the decline — certain subcategories of skin care and complexion have also been posting gains (though not all). Concealer sales were up 7.1 percent in the 52-week period ended Oct. 8, and makeup combo sales (makeup sets with different products, including palettes) were up more than 9 percent. In skin care, both facial cleanser and facial moisturizer sales increased during that period, 15.82 percent and 6.8 percent, respectively. Nielsen data showed that E.l.f. grew almost 1 percent in the facial cosmetics category, and that NYX also grew for the third quarter, according to a report from Citi Research analyst Wendy Nicholson. Skin care-makeup hybrids also have posted growth in mass —  Cover Girl + Olay Simply Ageless Foundation, which was launched years ago, did $56.3 million in sales for the 52-week period ended Sept. 10, up 17 percent, according to IRI.

Mass channels have seen improvements in skin-care sales as Millennial skin-care shopping focuses on more affordable brands. Some retailers have also bumped up their focus on the category — Wal-Mart, for example, has face masks as end caps in its newly designed beauty department.