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2020 Beauty Sales Update from The NPD Group x CEW

Contact Author Jeb Gleason-Allured, content director
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At-home hair color, CBD skin care and makeup, clinical skin care brands, sunscreen and other select sectors are growing amid the pandemic.

During the CEW 2020 Beauty Awards* multi-day event, Larissa Jensen, vice president, industry adviser, The NPD Group, offered a view of where U.S. prestige beauty stands year-to-date. As has been true all year long, the results are greatly mixed.

Previous updates in this series:

Growth-driving Trends

Lockdowns and work-from-home habits have reshaped consumer needs, said Jensen, including around feelings of stress. In fact, she said, beauty buyers during Amazon's Prime Day over-indexed for feelings of stress.

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This correlates to increased demand that is forecast for mental health services and pints to the need for beauty and beauty routines to serve as self care, as outlined in a 2020 FIT Capstone presentation.

At the same time, home offices have led to big spending increases in tech products like mice, keyboards, WiFi routers, webcams, monitors and other related equipment.

With all the time spent in front of screens for virtual meetings and other tasks, perhaps it's no surprise that blue light makeup dollar growth rose by 100% through August, while blue light skin care expanded dollar growth by 77% in the same period.

Meanwhile, another behavior change, the rise of road trips U.S. consumers have taken amid lockdowns, may be behind the 12% dollar growth gain sunscreen has experienced through August 2020, Jensen explained.

Looking ahead, Jensen noted that some habits gained during lockdowns will persist, while others are less permanent. Shopping behavior changes (ex: e-commerce boom) are likely to be more lasting, she said, compared to the shifts in various categories (ex: makeup and skin care), which are likely to be more cyclical.

That said, while retail may have been forever changed by COVID-19, brick-and-mortar will remain absolutely pivotal.

Industry Dip

Jensen noted that, as of August 2020, U.S. prestige beauty** sales totaled $9 billion, compared to $12 billion at the same point in 2019.

Despite the rough numbers, Jensen pointed out that growth opportunities abound.


U.S. prestige makeup sales as of August 2020 have dropped 36%, year-over-year, compared to a drop of 7% at the same point in 2019. It's not all bad news. On lipstick day, July 25, 2020, lipstick sales spiked 58% over prior year. But this limited blip isn't the only growth area in the challenged color category.

No surprise, clean makeup brands gained 0.2 points of market share through August 2020, Jensen reported.

U.S. prestige nail care dollar growth increased 20% through August 2020, reflecting gains that have largely persisted since initial lockdowns.

CBD makeup dollar growth rose by more than 100% through August 2020.

Luminous finish face products gained 0.8 points of share of the total face makeup category, said Jensen, while concealer expanded at the same level.

Skin Care

U.S. prestige skin care sales dropped 13% year-over year as of August 2020, compared to a 5% gain in the same period of 2019.

More than 20% of surveyed women reported having changed their skin care routines as a result of COVID-19, Jensen reported, with 53% of those respondents washing and moisturizing more.

It's no surprise, then, prestige hand soap experienced a 177% gain in dollar growth, driven in part by a 55% rise in average price increase.

Clean skin care gained 0.4 points of market share through August 2020.

Clinical skin care brands gained 5 points in market share during the same period, outperforming both the category as a whole and natural skin care brands.

The spa-at-home movement inspired by lockdowns led to 9% growth for at-home facial devices. Facial exfoliators also rose 9% in dollar growth in the same period.

Supporting consumers' feel-good instincts, CBD skin care grew 73% year-to-date, Jensen reported.

Tinted moisturizer gained 0.6 points in dollar share to the detriment of foundation, said Jensen.


U.S. prestige fragrance sales dropped 21% year-over year as of August 2020, compared to a 2% gain in the same period of 2019.

Home scent has gained 9% in dollar value during the first eight months of 2020, Jensen noted, reflecting consumers' increased time spent at home, as well as a desire for comfort.

Artisanal brands gained 0.7 points in dollar share of the fragrance category as of August 2020, Jensen reported.

High-concentration scents, too, did well, with men's higher concentration fragrances gaining 3.2 points of dollar share and women's higher concentration fragrances gaining 1.9 points of dollar share.


U.S. prestige hair sales increased 3% year-over year as of August 2020, compared to a 16% gain in the same period of 2019. While the growth is notable, it is also significantly smaller than the prior year.

Clean hair brands gained 1 point of market share through August 2020, Jensen reported.

Lockdowns inspired a 46% rise in hair color dollar growth, with expansion persisting long after spikes in March and April.

Trending Claims

Consumers seeking brands and products aligned with their values have had a 3.4 point market share increase for cruelty-free claims, a 1.2 point market share gain for vegan claims and an overall 1.7 point market share gain for advocacy-oriented brands.

*The event's remaining components are as follow: Friday, November 13, 11:00-11:45 a.m. EST: "The Best of Beauty Networking Celebration"; 12:00-2:00 p.m. EST: "The Beauty Awards Winners Announcement with host Jill Kargman Monday"; November 16, 1:00-1:30 p.m. EST: "Roundtable Discussion with Winning Brands–Cultivating Digital Communities"; Tuesday, November 17, 1:00-1:30 p.m. EST: "Roundtable Discussion with Winning Brands–Building a Conscious Beauty Brand." Registration can be found here.

**NPD defines prestige as brands/products that are sold mainly in U.S. department and beauty specialty stores. The group does not track the mass channel or brands/products sold in food and drug stores.

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