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Has Gen Z & Millennials’ Makeup Use Changed for Good?

Will Gen Z & Millennial women leave makeup behind now? These three stats hint at the future…

If you went by TikTok trends alone, you might thing that makeup was thriving during quarantines. Wild makeup looks (from blush on noses to elaborate and bizarre face art) have been trending, and beauty brands like e.l.f. have had successful hashtag challenges that have racked up millions of views. But of course, off social media the reality looks quite different.

Already, pre-pandemic outlook for the makeup industry was not entirely rosy. In November of 2019, Retail Dive reported that beauty brands were starting to suffer as Gen Z goes makeup-free. Ulta Beauty and Estée Lauder have suffered from stock downgrades because of a weak cosmetics market, with NPD group reporting that prestige makeup has fallen 7% over the last year—while skincare has increased 7%. YPulse’s beauty survey found that only 10% of Gen Z females say they wear makeup every day, and while beauty is still a popular category for teens, they only make purchases within their price range. In January of this year,  the NDP Group, reported that mascara sales were struggling—dropping 7% since 2016—as young consumers opted for a more “low-maintenance, no-hassle look.”

So, what have the last few months of quarantine and isolation done to young female’s makeup habits—and what does the future hold? Our recent beauty and personal care report dug into the topic, and we’re surfacing three stats that hint at whether Gen Z and Millennials makeup use has changed for good…

The majority of 13-39-year-old females say they have been wearing less makeup since the Coronavirus crisis began.

This should come as little surprise (unless you believed that everyone was wearing their full TikTok face regularly). Gen Z and Millennial females whether teen or late-30s have been isolating and staying home for the last three months. Not going to work or school, out to bars or restaurants, or over to friends’ houses was of course going to impact the frequency they put on makeup, and 66% of females tell us that they have been wearing less since the crisis began. Another stat to put this in perspective: in June 2019, 60% of young females told YPulse that they wore makeup weekly, and in June 2020 only 32% reported wearing it weekly. The industry has seen a clear impact: According to Fortune’s interview with the CEO of e.l.f. cosmetics, the cosmetics category saw a 38% downturn in the month after quarantines began. The question now is, is this a permanent shift away from wearing makeup, or will use go back to normal after they start to be in public more often?

Over three in five young females who wear makeup say the Coronavirus crisis has made them more comfortable with not wearing makeup.

Among young female makeup users, 63% say that they’ve gotten more comfortable not wearing makeup during this time—and 33% of young females say they will continue to wear less makeup even after stay-at-home orders are lifted. Both numbers are significant: The habits that young females are forming right now are making them more comfortable with a more bare-faced look, and many can already see themselves continuing to use makeup less going forward. For many years the cosmetics industry has been able to buck trends during economic downturns as women continue or increase their purchases of little luxuries (aka the lipstick index). But can the lipstick index be relied on when the cause of the financial downturn has actually been training women to wear less makeup? Maybe not—but other industries might inherit the trend. If makeup use continues to be lower, skincare will be an increasing focus. It was already stealing makeup’s spotlight pre-pandemic, and all signs indicate that this trend will continue. In fact, 22% of young females tell YPulse they are researching skincare techniques MORE OFTEN since COVID started.


Over two in five say they’ve used filters to make themselves look better on video or on social media during quarantine.

Here’s another piece of the puzzle. Roughly half of young females tell us that if they are going to video chat, they will make sure to put on makeup beforehand—but increasingly, their screens are doing that work for them. Teen Vogue has reported that Snapchat and Instagram filters have been surging during quarantine with makeup routines put on hold, and 44% of young females tell YPulse they have used filters to make themselves look better on video or on social media during quarantine. Zoom has a “Touch Up My Appearance” button, while Snapchat filters can be used in Google Hangouts, Zoom, or Skype with the Snap Camera software. Influencers are reporting a significant increase in their AR beauty filters, with filters like Butterfly Pretty going viral during the pandemic, thanks to influencers like Kylie Jenner. Beauty brands are collaborating with AR artists to reach customers at this time, some users believe that like physical makeup, filters can be a “mood lifter during this period of isolation.” With remove work and remote learning looking like they will be a more permanent part of routines, it’s not hard to imagine that young females would increase their use of filters that take seconds to apply and cost little to nothing, rather than keep their makeup bags fully stocked.