Historically, the “lipstick theory” has proven true, with lipsticks (during the four recessions from 1973 through 2001) and eye makeup (in the most recent 2008-2009 recession) performing exceptionally well during recessionary times. With the global economy heading towards what is likely to be a historic recession, will nail colours - and more generally nail care products - be the beauty product consumers choose to indulge themselves during difficult times?

Amidst the Covid-19 epidemic, sales of online nail products reported double-digit growth in the UK’s first weeks of lockdown, according to The NPD Group. Sales of prestige nail products online increased 12% in the week beginning 16th March 2020, when the general public were instructed to work from home, avoid pubs and restaurants and implement social distancing. In the week beginning 23rd March 2020, following the government order for all non-essential businesses to close, online sales of prestige nail products increased 24% compared to the same period in 2019.

Forget the ’lipstick effect’: online sales of prestige nail products increased 24% in the in the UK’s first week of complete lockdown (Photo: © Titov Dmitriy / shutterstock.com)

With nail salons and beauty businesses closed, UK consumers turned to at-home manicure rituals to maintain their nails and boost their mood,” commented The NPD Group in a statement.

Of course, the total value of online sales alone remains modest compared to total sales during normal times. In the week beginning 23rd March 2020 consumers spent £23,000 online buying prestige nail colour (average price £14.69). Sales of base coats/topcoats increased 102%, sales of colour enamel increased 18% and sales of nail care increased 13%.

During this phase of lockdown, pink, red and beige were the top three most popular shades.

As far as brands and products are concerned, the best-selling nail colours of the period are (The NPD Group):

Top Five Best-Selling Prestige Nail Colours (in alphabetical order)

Chanel - Le Vernis Long Wear 18 Rouge Noir
Chanel - Le Vernis Long Wear 504 Organdi
Chanel - Le Vernis Long Wear 562 Coralium
Dior - Vernis Rouge 999
YSL - La Laque Couture 01 Rouge Pop Art

The increase in sales of nail products online, particularly intense nail enamel shades, indicates that nail care could be the ‘Covid-19 Lipstick Effect’. Consumers are increasingly turning to self-care and home based beauty treatments like at-home manicures to improve wellbeing and boost their mood. An application of nail polish is quick, simple and provides an instant result,” said Emma Fishwick, account manager, NPD UK Beauty.