The Covid-19 lockdown led to some seriously polarised attitudes to beauty. While some people were counting down the days until their next haircut or manicure, others enjoyed not having to pay as much attention to how they look. However, now that more stores and salons are opening up again, those in the beauty industry are waiting to see how the pandemic will affect their business going forward. As it stands, we can be confident that Covid-19 will continue to reshape the sector. Here are three of the most likely ways the beauty industry could change in the near future.

Major digital acceleration

Even though many beauty retailers and salons have reopened, technology is still playing a huge role for consumers. For example, L’Oréal reported e-commerce growth of 52.6% in the first quarter of 2020, representing almost 20% of its sales. However, this method of shopping still doesn’t appeal to all beauty consumers, considering they won’t be able test the products in the same way they would in-store.

With many still reluctant to go shopping in person, retailers need to give customers the best online experience they can. This will likely encourage more brands to make use of augmented reality technology, like Estée Lauder’s Virtual Try-On feature, allowing customers to test how different lipsticks would look on photos of themselves. The technology led to a 2.5 times higher conversion rate and improved customer loyalty, and the brand is currently looking to apply this to their other products.

Technology will also be important for maintaining communication with customers. For example, Salon Gold suggests that “a free FaceTime or WhatsApp consultation could be a great way to keep in touch with clients and recommend professional products they can use on themselves to help them to both look and feel better”. This tactic can also be just as valuable to staff. When Deciem launched virtual consultations in April, CEO Nicola Kilner told WWD: “We’re definitely wanting the consumer engagement, but we have 330 retail staff, so we wanted to see how we could definitely keep them on payroll.” Initiatives like these could be key to saving jobs going forward, while also catering to customers who aren’t yet ready to venture back into stores and salons.

New key products

Lockdown left beauty consumers waiting months for their usual treatments and regimes. However, while they may have become used to going without, it’s unlikely that they’ll have lost interest in beauty altogether. As a McKinsey & Company report points out: “In China, the industry’s February sales fell up to 80% compared with 2019. In March, the year-on-year decline was 20% — a rapid rebound under the circumstances.” Plus, in spite of the economic downturn, history suggests that beauty will continue to thrive. “Noting the uptick in lipstick sales seen during the 2001 recession, Leonard Lauder of the cosmetics company coined the term ‘lipstick index’ to describe this phenomenon,” the report reads. “The principle is that people see lipstick as an affordable luxury, and sales therefore tend to stay strong, even in times of duress.” That said, although beauty consumers will still be spending, their needs and priorities have undoubtedly changed.

First and foremost, the most popular products will be those applied to features that aren’t concealed by face masks. ‘Mask make-up looks’ have already been popularised by Chinese beauty influencers, and a series of livestreams in February have been credited with the 150% month-over-month sales increase of eye shadow palettes at the time. Conversely, this means that we should expect products like foundations and lipsticks to experience a dip in popularity.

Meanwhile, self-care is now even more important to consumers, particularly given that data suggests pampering was the most-anticipated post-lockdown activity. This is consistent with Amazon’s US sales figures (cited in the McKinsey & Company report), which show year-over-year declines in sales of most make-up, but increases in pampering and self-care categories like nail and hair care, and body wash, soaps and lotions.

Rise of DIY beauty

Before lockdown, many people would never have considered cutting their own hair or painting their own nails. However, with everything closed, the number of searches for DIY beauty treatments quadrupled in March and April compared to the previous year, with over a million related queries. Plenty of those who embraced this self-sufficiency appear to be interested in keeping this up, even as the beauty industry reopens.

The low cost and convenience immediately make DIY beauty more appealing. For example, one woman told The Independent she had started applying her own fake eyelashes during lockdown, and planned to carry on, as “it’s very easy, quick to learn and costs as little as £5 to do myself when normally I pay £40 at a salon”.

However, certain products and procedures should only be handled by qualified professionals, such as DIY shellac or gel nail treatments. These are very risky as poor quality polishes and amateur techniques can cause long-lasting nail damage. Hence why trend forecasting company WGSN believes consumers will adopt a “pick and mix approach”. In the same Independent feature, a representative explained: “People have lost a lot of their fear over DIY treatments but are also enjoying the low cost, low maintenance aspect too.”