The U.S. prestige beauty industry generated $16.1 billion in 2020, a 19% sales decline compared to 2019, according to The NPD Group. By category, makeup sales were down (-34%) for the year followed by skincare (-11%) and fragrance (-8%), while hair grew 7%.

Shifting priorities

Shifting consumer priorities toward self-care and little luxuries, and broader lifestyle changes due to the pandemic moved the needle in unprecedented ways, creating pockets of growth amidst the industry’s overall sales decline.

Self-care became essential in 2020, with the winning areas of the market being those that helped to create a spa environment at home. The top market share gainers for the year touched on all categories, including hair treatments and masks; fragrance candles; face exfoliators; body creams/lotions, cleansers, and oils; and nail care.

Makeup was the most negatively impacted

Despite the tight race between makeup and skincare throughout the year, makeup ultimately maintained its position as the largest beauty category based on dollar sales for 2020; however, it has also been the most negatively impacted by the pandemic, as it was the case in France and in the UK.

Face remained the largest segment in makeup and sales declined faster than the overall category, but some products increased their market share including setting spray/powder, tinted moisturizer, bronzer, and concealer. Eye makeup gained share while lip saw the steepest declines, a shift that has, in part, been a byproduct of mask wearing. Nail was the only segment of makeup to grow in 2020 as consumers took nail care into their own hands.

Body care on the rise

In skincare, the areas of growth were not enough to compensate for the declines across the largest areas of the market: face cream, face serum, and eye treatment.

Most of skincare’s growth stemmed from body products, including body creams/lotions, exfoliators, cleansers, serums, and devices. With clinics closed and elective surgeries placed on hold, consumers turned to at-home microdermabrasion and body sculpting-type products to achieve results.

Parfums rather than eaux de toilette

Fragrance, while down for the year, declined at the slowest rate thanks to a second half rebound, similarly to what happened in France and in the UK.

Although the brick-and-mortar channel remained challenged, the rate of decline decelerated to a great extent during the second half of the year, allowing the accelerated online growth to offset that loss. In terms of the bright spots that helped fragrance overperform compared to the other categories, parfum sales grew double digits for the year, as consumers are showing a greater affinity towards longer lasting scents. Parfums also tend to be more expensive, which further helped boost dollar volumes for the category.

In addition, home scents, which have been on the uptick for the last few years, saw accelerated growth in 2020 as consumers brought the meaning of comfort at home to another level.