Lipstick sales make comeback as social calendars fill up again

Face masks and lockdown orders have kept lips largely out of sight in the pandemic. That, consequently, hurt lipstick sales last year.

But makeup sellers say the fate of the cosmetics staple is starting to turn around as more people get vaccinated and the pace of social interactions picks up.

According to the latest figures from market research firm IRI, which tracks point of sale data at retailers, lipstick sales hit $34.2 million in the four weeks ending April 18, up more than 80% from the same period a year earlier. They still fell short of pre-pandemic levels of over $40 million.

Walmart, the nation’s biggest retailer, told CNN Business in an email that lipstick is the top performer across all segments of cosmetics and that lipstick sales were a standout in its latest quarter ending April 30.

The retailer said shoppers were showing a strong preference for longwear and smudge-proof lipsticks that don’t rub off as easily inside of a mask. More recently, Walmart said customers are grabbing bright colors like purples or blues, as well as trendy browns, in what it called an “opportunity for customers to once again express uniqueness.”

A recent change in mask guidance could also work in companies’ favor. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said last week that fully vaccinated people don’t have to wear masks or practice social distancing indoors or outdoors, except when in health care settings, on public transportation, in schools, or in other areas where governments require mask.

One big cosmetics company is anticipating a resurgence in makeup use.

“We have been preparing for this renaissance in makeup for the last six months,” said Sam Cheow, global head of makeup innovation, portfolio and product development with The Estée Lauder Companies. Cheow said he expect to see vivid shades like orange, bright pinks, magenta and purple on lips heading into the summer.