Published: 17:43, April 16, 2020 | Updated: 04:36, June 6, 2023
Masks can't hide eye makeup, the new fashion normal of women
By Zhu Wenqian

An employee promotes cosmetic products via livestreaming at a shop in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province. (LI YAOHUI / FOR CHINA DAILY)

Wearing eye makeup over face masks has become the new normal for Chinese fashionistas amid the country's ongoing efforts to rein in the novel coronavirus pandemic, industry experts said.

Gone are the days when expensive lipsticks and makeup used to be the ultimate luxury possessions. Instead, they are fast being replaced by cosmetics that enhance the eyebrows and eyes, judging by the rate at which these products are flying off the shelves.

Sales of eyeliners and eye shadow products made by foreign brands rose by 40 percent on a yearly basis on Tmall, the online shopping platform of Alibaba Group, during the first three months of this year, according to company officials.

Chinese consumers are showing an increasingly high demand for quality lifestyles, and more people are buying makeup to look beautiful

Neil Wang, President of Frost & Sullivan China

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Sales of other cosmetic products, on the other hand, have been falling steadily. Cosmetic sales plunged by 22 percent on a yearly basis across all channels for the week to March 20. Sales of facial makeup and lipsticks fell by 19 percent and 39 percent, while eye makeup product sales rose 13 percent year-on-year, said a report from Kantar Worldpanel China, a consultancy.

"Cosmetics is not a necessity. There will be a phase of delayed consumption due to the epidemic. Once the contagion is over, makeup sales are expected to see a big rebound," said Neil Wang, president of Frost & Sullivan China, a consultancy.

"Chinese consumers are showing an increasingly high demand for quality lifestyles, and more people are buying makeup to look beautiful. After the outbreak ends, we will see a further strengthening in the online shopping habits and spending on cosmetic products," he said.

French cosmetics group L'Oreal said during the past two months, sales of eye makeup products, including eyeliners, eye shadows, mascara, and eyebrow pencils grew faster than other product categories in the China market. The company, however, did not provide any data to support its claim.

L'Oreal officials said face masks have become an essential part of life. People are now looking to source fashion products that complement the masks and it is an ideal opportunity for brands to promote such products.

Currently, Chinese consumers own 11 color makeup products on average, and their makeup procedures have become more professional and sophisticated, according to L'Oreal China.

"The penetration rate of eye shadow products in China has exceeded South Korea, where the makeup market is highly mature. In recent years, sales of eye makeup products have risen steadily in China," said Sarah Sai, China brand director of Urban Decay, a US brand under L'Oreal Group.

Since late January, some cosmetics retailers have started to raise the concept of makeups paired with surgical masks, and they promoted the content on popular social media platforms such as Weibo, WeChat, Douyin, and Little Red Book.

Domestic makeup retailer Perfect Diary Beauty promoted its primer, cushion foundation and powder by focusing on their durable effect when wearing masks. Besides, more makeup bloggers have started to post makeup tips for mask wearers.

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"For makeup retailers, the marketing strategies of combining old problems with new scenarios are a way of creating new demand and promote sales," Wang said.

Chen Jiaxin, a 27-year-old white-collar employee in Beijing, said she bought six eye shadow palettes since the COVID-19 outbreak. Though she has been mostly working from home, Chen puts on eye makeup when she goes to supermarkets or nearby parks.

"I would like to find a sense of ritual for myself. I change the colors of eye shadows every day to create a good mood. I even bought a purple mascara," she said. "Most of my purchases have been made via online platforms and I have also been able to get good discounts," she said.

He Wei contributed to this story