How COVID-19 Is Changing Our Makeup Routines


Earlier this month I packed up my apartment to prepare for a cross-country move that won’t happen until February; my entire kitchen, bedroom, and bathroom will sit in storage for the next three months, untouched. It wasn’t until two weeks after I had packed everything that I realized I’d thrown my whole makeup bag into one of the boxes destined for my yet-to-be-rented bathroom in Los Angeles. The only makeup I still had on hand was my emergency concealer, eyebrow gel, and mascara, all nestled inside the pocket of the fanny pack that’s become my everyday bag.

That’s not because I don’t wear makeup. I spent the better part of most pre-COVID mornings concealing, baking, and blotting. But sitting at a screen with minimal IRL interactions, along with Zoom’s handy touch-up feature, made me realize that maybe I didn’t need to worry about shade-matching or blending at 8 a.m. Similar conversations with friends and colleagues seemed to reveal more of the same: Most of our 15-minute routines had been pared down to skin care, brows, and concealer, if it’s really necessary and “only if I have a bad breakout or something,” one friend told me. So is anyone wearing foundation in 2020?

Daniel Martin, celebrity makeup artist and global director of artistry and education at Tatcha, says he thinks people are replacing covering up their skin with caring for it. It makes sense: In stark contrast to packing up my makeup bag, on moving day I carefully set aside my entire skin-care arsenal, along with my laptop and a few chargers.

“Mask-related skin irritation and makeup transfer are resulting in consumers using the pandemic as an opportunity to let their skin breathe, and as a result, wear less complexion makeup throughout the day,” Martin says. “Others are using this as a time to really care for their skin by experimenting with new products and at-home treatments where they may not have had the time to do so before. The result is healthier, more radiant skin, which also requires less makeup to enhance or perfect.”

Makeup artist Katie Jane Hughes, who’s best known to her 549,000 followers for her inventive looks and dewy skin, agrees: “I think that people are being more skin-care conscious,” she says, noting that she’s been reaching a new kind of audience on Instagram that may be more interested in simplifying their makeup routine these days.

A spokesperson for Sephora tells Teen Vogue that the company saw a 75% increase on Sephora from the beginning of the pandemic, proving that even if nobody seems to be wearing makeup, they’re still buying it. It comes as no surprise, then, that the top makeup products people are buying include color cosmetics like eye shadows — the only thing we can really see with a mask on — and the top new brands are already backed by celebs, like Rare Beauty by Selena Gomez, O/S by Patrick Starrr, and Makeup by Mario, the rep says.

“Demand across our makeup business remains strong.… Our skin-care business has been one of the largest areas of growth and demand the last few months,” the spokesperson continues, mentioning brands like Dermalogica and Ole Henriksen as top drivers.

To that end, with so many months of salon closings, customers looking for a little self-care time were forced to re-create it at home. Marissa Galante Frank, Bloomingdale’s fashion director for accessories and beauty, says that trend has been good for business: “Shoppers are creating at-home spa experiences with masks, peels, and night treatments, while also taking care of their skin behind the mask through hydration formulas and creams,” she explains, adding that all the time we’re spending looking at ourselves on Zoom and FaceTime has us reaching for “antiaging concentrates, luxury serums, eye creams, and overnight masks.” Bloomingdale’s also began offering video beauty tutorials, and next-day delivery through DoorDash for those who don’t want to shop in stores right now. “Bloomingdale’s is meeting our customers however and wherever they want to shop,” says Galante Frank. 





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