‘Skinimalism’ surge: UK prestige skin care sales declined 23% in 2020, finds NPD Group

By Kacey Culliney contact

- Last updated on GMT

Sales were down in prestige face creams, cleansers and exfoliators, contributing to the wider total decline for the full-year of 2020, but sales of anti-acne serums were up (Getty Images)
Sales were down in prestige face creams, cleansers and exfoliators, contributing to the wider total decline for the full-year of 2020, but sales of anti-acne serums were up (Getty Images)

Related tags: Skin care, Prestige beauty, Prestige skin care, Uk, Npd group, COVID-19, beauty routines, Sustainability, Consumer trends

UK beauty consumers pared down skin care routines last year, adopting minimalist, back-to-basics approaches that led to a decline in overall prestige product sales, according to the NPD Group.

In 2020, the UK’s prestige skin care category was valued at €346.4m (£295m) but sales declined 23% amidst brick and mortar store closures and shifting consumer sentiment around at-home beauty routines.

Previous data compiled by the NPD Group had suggested signs of recovery​ across the entire prestige beauty market in the UK, which covered skin care, body care, makeup, fragrance and men’s grooming, but this spotlight on skin care painted a different picture.

Pandemic beauty – stretched budgets, declining confidence and sustainability woes

Within the overall 23% decline in prestige skin care sales, prestige face cream sales declined 20%; prestige face cleansers declined 17% and facial exfoliators declined 3%.

Emma Fishwick, account manager at NPD UK Beauty, said these specific segment declines, much like the wider decline in skin care, were fuelled by consumers taking a “back to basics”​ approach.

“As the pandemic hit, our skin care routine remained consistent when the country went into lockdown. However, consumer confidence has been hit, and people are more reluctant to spend. At the same time, consumers focus on sustainability also means that Skinimalism has become very topical. Beauty buyers seem to be purchasing less products, and the products that they are opting for are more targeted,”​ Fishwick said.

Additional skin care steps like eye treatments and masks had also declined in importance within the category in 2020, she said. Sales of eye treatment products in 2018 and 2019, for example, represented the third largest segment in value terms within the UK’s prestige skin care market but facial cleansers now held more value in 2020.  

‘Skin specific’ remedies and active ingredients push

NPD Group findings showed, however, that sales of anti-acne serums had increased in 2020, by 51% in value – a rise likely related to mask wearing that had created “new needs”​ and a consumer focus on “skin specific remedies to reveal their glowing skin”.

Homing in on specific needs and ingredients had also been seen on the industry side, Fishwick said. Many beauty brands, she said, had increased messaging around active ingredients in skin care and beauty products. Estée Lauder, for example, had done so with its advanced night repair serum re-launch; Origins had with its multi-powdered youth serum; and Charlotte Tilbury’s lip launch called hyaluronic happikiss also focused on the actives in the formulation.

This renewed focus on skin was an important trend highlighted in CosmeticsDesign-Europe’s feature Trend Reflections: 9 ways COVID-19 changed beauty consumption in 2020​, published at the end of last year.

Related topics: Market Trends, COVID-19, Skin Care

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