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Colour Cosmetics Make a Bold Comeback

Colour Cosmetics Make a Bold Comeback

This week, Half Magic, the highly-anticipated beauty brand from “Euphoria” makeup artist Doniella Davy hits the internet, where it will be sure to sell fast with fans of the influential HBO series.

But Davy is betting that the line will draw in more than just makeup enthusiasts copying looks “Euphoria” stars Hunter Schafer and Alexa Demie made famous. Davy believes Half Magic’s highly-pigmented eye shadows, long-lasting glitter gels and neon face gems bundled in cosmic-themed packaging will also appeal to the growing subset of customers experimenting with bolder beauty looks.

“I think we’re in a makeup renaissance right now,” said Davy. “People are embracing colour and glitter, and I want the brand to feel like a giant welcome, with a modern, edgy Lisa Frank vibe to … join us in this weird world.”

After shoppers focussed on skin care during the pandemic and the “no-makeup makeup” look dominated the beauty market for years, colour cosmetics are back. Shoppers are buying products like neon eyeshadows in bright orange and green hues, and trying novelty makeup looks, like eyes speckled with face gems and floating graphic eyeliners.

Makeup is now growing twice as fast as skin care, according to recent sales data from the NPD Group. In the first quarter of 2022, colour cosmetics grew 22 percent, to $1.6 billion, while skin care grew 11 percent. Makeup sales were already on the rebound last year, bringing in $7.1 billion in 2021 and NPD predicts sales in 2022 will far surpass last year’s earnings.

“What we’ve been observing is this return to makeup artistry,” said Larissa Jensen, vice president and industry advisor at NPD. “Reds, yellows, greens [eyeshadows] with bright pigments are doing triple digits and that’s what is helping to drive growth.”

Products from Half Magic, the new beauty line of "Euphoria" makeup artist Doniella Davy.

At Sephora, shoppers have been flocking to products like the beauty giant’s in-house gel eyeliners in neon shades, said Brooke Banwart, vice president and general manager of Sephora Collection. At Estée Lauder, MAC Cosmetics has rebounded to perform double-digit growth last quarter, thanks to the sales of pastel eye and lip colours, graphic eyeliners and dramatic mascaras, said Philippe Pinatel, MAC’s global brand president. Sales of blush at NARS are up 30 percent since last year, said Julia Sloan, the brand’s deputy general manager of global marketing. Sales of NARS blush shades like its hot pink Coeur Battant and bright red Exhibit A are soaring.

The bold makeup boom is an opportunity for brands. But experts say that while labels can capitalise on the current appetite with new, brightly-hued product launches, they should be cautious about over-indexing on these products. Instead, they can work with more neutral colours with shimmer to appeal to shoppers who are eager to try brighter beauty looks but don’t want a full “Euphoria” face.

What’s Driving the Shift for Bold

The surge of bold makeup represents a major reversal of beauty trends. In 2019, makeup sales were crashing as consumers flocked to skin care. But now, beauty experts say shoppers snapping up statement heels and sexy dresses are applying the same idea of “dopamine dressing” to their beauty routines.

“I’m all about wearing party makeup to a mid-day lunch now because I missed that part of my style,” said Jessica Cruel, editor-in-chief of Allure. “It feels like it’s time to experiment, which is why you’re seeing high shine, lip liner everywhere.”

Beauty brands are also taking notes from TikTok. While Instagram ignited the rise of dewy, minimalist “no-makeup makeup,” the TikTok algorithm also rewards content with more colour, which has led to the platform inspiring more daring beauty trends like duo-chrome eyelids, and glitter-covered lips. Content with the hashtag #euphoriabeauty has over 2 billion views on TikTok.

“Some of my Coachella looks, where I did ombré pastel and bright orange and pink, really went viral because people are drawn to fun and colour on the app,” said Meredith Duxbury, a makeup artist and TikTok influencer.

Makeup artists and beauty influencers on TikTok gravitate towards bolder, at-times outrageous looks to please the algorithm, Duxbury added. But even if consumers don’t completely replicate a bold makeup look they see their favourite influencer share on TikTok, they’ll incorporate bits and pieces of it. In this case, that’s led to more shoppers experimenting with neon in beauty, Duxbury said.

Bold beauty looks from pop culture are also encouraging more daring looks, whether it’s personalities like Alana Haim and Emma Chamberlain sporting neon eyeshadow or haute couture runway looks from Chanel and Schiaparelli featuring exaggerated graphic eyeliner details. The endless appetite for all things Y2K has also contributed to the resurgence of colourful lipgloss and bright eyeshadows.

How to Capitalise on the Appetite

Beauty brands have responded to consumer demand with new products. Earlier this month, MAC launched Colour Excess gel pencil eyeliners in 12 vivid shades, including blues, pinks, greens and whites in both matte and shimmer. Huda Beauty’s new Colour Block Obsession eyeshadow kits, which debuted last month, come in two options, one with bright orange and purples, the other with greens and glittery blues. Ulta Beauty Collection recently debuted a collaboration with illustrator Steffi Lynn, with eyeshadows in teals, yellows and purples. About-Face, the musician Halsey’s beauty line, has leaned on neon and bright shades of “eye paint” to draw shoppers in.

“[It] is what we’re calling ‘joyful expression.’ Clients are using vibrant colours and textures as a … mood booster,” said Banwart of Sephora Collection. “This shift has caused an increase in … graphic eyeliners in bright tones, bold lips, and sparkling lids.”

Davy’s Half Magic line is well-suited for this celebratory moment. With a number of glitter-focused products — including “glitter pills,” tubes of sparkly gel that can be worn alone as a shadow or layered onto eyeliner for additional glow, and “light trap,” a high-shimmer highlighter which Davy promises will “twinkle properly in low lighting”— it’s perfect for consumers preparing for festivals or parties.

MAC Cosmetics' new Colour Excess gel pencil eyeliners come in 12 vivid shades.

But in a bid to be approachable to all shoppers, even those not in the neon camp, Half Magic also includes products in more muted colour shades, too. Part of the accessible feel, Davy added, was to make the label, which is selling direct-to-consumer, faceless and not rely on her celebrity coworkers.

Other beauty labels are also employing a similar strategy, selling shimmer products in more neutral colours. Bobbi Brown recently launched more shades for its cream shadow sticks and crushed oil-infused gloss. While they have more shimmer and pigment, the new colours still fit into pink and neutral palettes to appeal to shoppers who might not want too much colour, said Sandra Main, global president of La Mer and Bobbi Brown at Estée Lauder.

Lipstick’s trajectory also points to the need to balance bold with neutral. Thanks to the end of Covid-era mask mandates, lipstick is selling more than it was in 2020 and 2021 — sales are up 44 percent this year, according to NPD data. But it’s pinks, browns and nudes that are benefitting, not bright red hues, said Kate Oldham, senior vice president and general merchandise manager for beauty, jewellery and home at Saks Fifth Avenue.

“We always say [shoppers] pick a feature to stand out, and they aren’t necessarily highlighting eyes and lips at the same time,” she said.

Just as important as inviting shade offerings, Jensen said brands should be debuting makeup products that feel different and innovative enough for shoppers to buy. It’s not just about colours, but also about new textures, gels, and applicators.

“The big mega-pallets are still struggling because there were too many of them,” said Jensen. “Makeup still needs innovation. Excitement only comes from new things.”

Even as brands are already anticipating that bold colours and jewel tones will be the trending beauty looks this fall and holiday season, some say the “no-makeup makeup” look shouldn’t be written off completely.

“While current trends are moving towards colourful makeup … there will always be clients that prefer a minimalist look,” said Banwart of Sephora. “We anticipate continued popularity in products that deliver a natural, lit-from-within glow.”