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Why Does Lipstick Sell During Times of Crisis?

So what if it stains your face mask?
by Ara Eugenio
Sep 13, 2020
Photo/s: Unsplash

In the aftermath of the 9-9 online sale, many women are counting the days until their packages arrive. There’s a good chance it will contain the holy grail of beauty products -- lipstick. Stained face masks be damned.

People spend on beauty products regardless of economic uncertainty. The 2000s saw the establishment of the “lipstick index,” coined by Estée Lauder chairman emeritus, Leonard Lauder, to show that not even the global financial meltdown at that time could stop beauty purchases.

The index proves true during the COVID-19 pandemic, even if face masks and face shields will only cover up a meticulously dolled up face, if the consumer is going out of the house at all. It also doesn’t matter whether there’s uncertainty over the next paycheck. What gives?

Online marketplace Shopee said it sold a record 12 million items in the first hour of 9-9, peaking at 700,000 in a single minute across the region. All categories "performed well," Shopee said in a statement to reportr.

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Face masks were the top purchase for women (gadgets for men), and lipsticks remained "cult favorites." The top lipstick brands on Shopee? Maybelline, Colourette, L’Oreal Paris, Vice Cosmetics, and Happy Skin. 


On 9-9, women on Shoppee bought Maybelline Sensational Liquid Matte Lip Tint, Lamuseland Waterproof Liquid Lipstick and Original G21 Super Powder Tint for their lips.

“Beauty consumers, at the core, still seek comfort in the familiar. And makeup remains to be a symbol of confidence and empowerment, through the power of beauty,” said L’Oreal Philippines Marketing Head, Maia Ang, who knows lipstick and how to sell it.

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“Whether it’s looking your best for a Zoom call, or a quick grocery run, we fall back on a beauty routine that grants us a sense of normalcy and even excitement,” she said.

The Philippine beauty market has taken the brunt of the pandemic’s hit, for sure. But overall, the industry remains resilient in the face of this decline, she said.

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A face mask stained with red lipstick is shown in this illustration photo. Ara Eugenio


Marketing strategies are shifting and building on new trends that come with the health crisis. For one, “maskne”, a term which refers to acne caused by irritation due to physical friction when one is wearing a mask, has widely been capitalized on by beauty companies to keep their products relevant, especially in the skin care category. 

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Lipsticks are now being promoted as “multi-use” to encourage application on other parts of the face, such as the eyes that are still visible with a mask on. 

The pandemic also didn’t stop small-time businesses from going out into the lip market.

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Rachel Torres, whose brainchild is the  launched makeup and skin care hybrid, ToDewToday, said that it was a risk she knowingly took. She believes people are still willing to invest on “everyday privileged essentials”.

The target market of ToDewToday –  young people who stay at home and don’t have to spend on necessities – utilize the little spending power they have on a lip gloss that could keep them busy and presentable online, whether for zoom classes or simply in just taking that selfie for social media.

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