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Luscious lips and soft skin: Luxury beauty sees a lift as masks are shed

Outdoor activity boosted lagging beauty sales, but luxury skincare has been in demand throughout the pandemic

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Although the beauty industry had to pivot and adjust during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, experts say luxury products have remained essential to the wealthiest of consumers, and some products have become more popular as a direct result of mask use and germ fighting.

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“The luxury beauty industry is still recovering from the pandemic and has, like many other sectors, had to adjust and pivot to provide products that are emerging as sought after by consumers post pandemic,” said Diane J. Brisebois, president and chief executive officer of the Retail Council of Canada.

“Unfortunately the fourth wave slowed some of the recovery that the sector was experiencing over the summer months, but thanks to warm weather and consumers’ need to be outdoors – coupled with a resurgence of eating out at patios and the likes – the products that are seeing a lift are lipstick (as people are not generally wearing masks outdoors), eye products (mascara, eye shadow, brow pencils and related products), nail polish, and related products.”

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The Canadian cosmetic market was reported to have declined by 3%-4% in 2020, negatively impacted by COVID-19 and accelerated by nationwide lockdowns and social restrictions. Widespread closure of non-essential stores also led to a decrease in demand for cosmetics throughout the country, according to Canada Cosmetic Products Market report.

However, despite a decline in sales of lipstick and fragrance due to mask-wearing and stay-at-home orders, self-care and wellness became a top priority for many, leading to a steady demand for luxury skincare.

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“What continued to be in demand was moisturizer – body and facial,” said Brisebois. “And we expect that category to grow as the weather changes.”

At her studio in Yorkville, makeup artist and skin therapist Victoria Radford has seen the interest in body and facial care firsthand, as her clientele have become more keen than ever to know what they are putting in their bodies and on their skin.

“The past year has provided a period of reflection for both the industry and consumers. There was a major shift towards digital communication and learning,” said Radford, founder of Radford Studio and Radford Beauty. “I have found that people are asking important questions now more than ever – they are curious to learn about ingredients and results both in studio and at home.”

Radford says the shift allowed the beauty community to connect with their clients in “an intimate and meaningful way”, which in turn allowed creative artists like her Radford Beauty team to expand their product lines but also simplify the at-home facial and daily routine.

“At Radford we believe that skincare is self-care, and we encourage our community to take those little moments for themselves,” said Radford. “For example, our daily eye cream and eye mask, featuring real gold, not only soothes and nourishes but also keep our clients glowing.”

And it’s not just the Yorkville shopper who is indulging in high quality products while streamlining their beauty regime. Social media users are exploring luxury options, as well.

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Stephanie Valentine is a Toronto makeup artist and beauty expert with over a million followers on TikTok. She says she sees similar patterns with those who mainly follow trends online, and some products are suddenly in great demand as a result of so many months of mask wearing.

“I think people are spending a lot more on luxury skincare to feel good and look good,” said Valentine. “Skin care is the main focus. Mask-proof lipsticks and complexion products are currently trending.”

Despite spas being closed for the majority of 2020 and early-2021, NUVO Magazine reports that at-home spa treatments are hugely popular, with luxury skin products becoming priority purchases, even from afar. The magazine adds that exclusive products like those from Swiss brand Valmont’s Primary collection and L’Elixir des Glaciers range allowed Valmont to double e-commerce sales. Here at home, Holt Renfrew reports that, much like Radford’s clients, customers are more interested in skin-care education.

Holt Renfrew’s vice-president of men’s beauty and grooming, Christopher Novak, told NUVO, “Over the past year, skin care has become even more important as customers educate themselves about different products and ingredients. Clean options have seen huge growth.”

As more Canadians become vaccinated and venture into the new world, Brisebois says they are not shying away from bold new looks and sumptuous treatments.

“There was a lift in luxury beauty products over the past quarters as consumers were indeed looking at ways to pamper themselves and were flush with cash.”

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