The UK and France are the two biggest European cosmetics markets after Germany (12.537 billion euros in 2015 for the UK and 11.357 for France, according to figures from Cosmetics Europe). However, consumption behaviours strongly diverge in the two countries, in particular for the prestige cosmetics segment.

English women buy more

While French women have bought 1.6 prestige beauty product per person on average last year, the annual average is 2.6 for British women. The difference is especially noticeable for the make-up category since the British are buying twice as much as the French (1.2 per unit against 0.5 in France). Similarly, and contrary to stereotypical beliefs, French women buy less fragrance than British ones (0.7 units per person per year in France vs. 0.8 in the United Kingdom).

Prestige beauty market 2016 - France

Prestige beauty market 2016 - France

"Beyond overall figures, it is interesting to look deeper into the different categories to understand the preferences and the buying habits of each market. While the French spend less overall, they invest more easily in certain types of products such as anti-aging creams," says Mathilde Lion, Beauty Expert Europe at The NPD Group.

Prestige beauty market 2016 in the UK - Source: The NPD Group

Prestige beauty market 2016 in the UK - Source: The NPD Group

According to NPD figures anti-aging creams account for 44% of total skincare sales in value in France, vs 32% in the United Kingdom. For their daily face care routine, British women seem to prefer make-up removers and cleaners, which represent 10% of the entire skincare category sales, the double than in France.

Make-up is a British obsession

While makeup accounts for 29% of total sales of the prestige beauty industry in the UK, this category is less important in France, where it accounts for only 15% of the prestige market. Makeup is the smallest category in France while it ranks in second position behind perfume in the United Kingdom.

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While eyebrow makeup is a strong trend both in France and in the UK, when make-up is concern, French women remain loyal to traditional categories. Mascara accounts for 14% of sales in France vs. 9% in the United Kingdom and lipstick sales are twice as important in France as in the UK (18% of total makeup sales vs 9% in the United Kingdom). However, foundations are much more popular in the UK, where they account for the half of total makeup sales vs. 42% in France.

New global trends

Despite cultural differences in purchasing habits, the NPD report shows that the two markets are converging with regard to the latest industry trends. The craze for eyebrows and masks, the rise of hair care, the development of anti-aging skin care products targeting eyes and lips, for instance, are transcending cultural boundaries.

"Historical differences regarding consumption habits in France and Great Britain persist for traditional categories. However, should we look at the most recent trends, it is clear that the explosion of borderless digital trends and the influence of global brands and celebrities are transforming prestige beauty into an open and responsive market able to bear universal trends that transcend borders,” concludes Mathilde Lion.