THE BUSINESS OF BEAUTY

In 2020, Eye Shadow Sales Are Soaring

Sales of lipstick are on the decline. Eye shadow, however… 
Image may contain Flaviana Matata Face Human and Person

"Eyes are the windows to the soul," is a Biblically old phase, but it's also never been more true than in 2020. Since we rarely leave the house anymore, and a mask covers half our face even when we do, our once-anticipated morning cosmetic routines can feel a bit dissonant, an old habit from a world that no longer exists. Many former makeup lovers told Allure that the pandemic has caused them to ditch their 30-minute makeup routine for something more relaxed. But the eye makeup stays in the picture.

Take Reina, a 25-year-old writer in Brooklyn. She says that even though she’s been wearing less makeup overall since the pandemic started, she’s still doing her eye makeup every single day. "And taking selfies," she said. "It sounds so vain, but it makes me feel better. And it reminds me that no matter how bad things get, I can still do a killer wing."

Makeup colors: Danessa Myricks Colorfix Cream Color Metallic Liquid Pigment in Journey, Blk/Opl Eye Pencil in After Hours, Very Sextraterrestrial from Pat McGrath Labs Mothership Divine Rose II Palette, Night Sky from Ace Beaute Paradise Fallen Eyeshadow Palette. On Akon Changkou: Prada shirt, tie, and sweater vest.

It makes perfect sense. Since we aren’t performing for others anymore — coworkers at the office, strangers on the subway — many of us no longer feel obligated to show off bold lips or a perfect highlight. But we can still add color to the one part of our face that remains visible to the outside world. For Reina, makeup has stopped being a form of public expression, but one only for herself: Her eye-makeup ritual serves as a distraction from our grim political climate, a spot of color in a dark world.

Even before catastrophe, eye makeup was poised to conquer our faces in 2020: Maximal eyes and minimal lips ruled the (eerily prescient) February runway shows, which managed to showcase eyelid pigment in new and exciting shapes and applications. For our November issue, makeup artist Bea Sweet took note, painting five models of the moment — Jess Maybury, Ariish Wol, Akon Changkou, Lily Vogt, and cover star Kesewa Aboah — in the decadent colors and textures of products from some of our favorite Black-owned brands. 

Her only rule: No rules. Textures were layered and blended. Color stretched from the eyelids up to the brows and over to the cheekbones. The resulting looks — the ones you see throughout this piece — reflected an optimism that, in the beauty industry at this moment, is becoming harder and harder to find.

Advertisement

Many cosmetic brands have confirmed that their business has been hurt by the coronavirus pandemic, suggesting that people are reconsidering whether foundation or lipstick feels worth it anymore. Despite this, eye makeup sales remain relatively high, particularly in the lash department: "We’ve seen an increase in demand for lash enhancement products," Alison Hahn, the senior vice president of merchandising in color and fragrance at Sephora, told Allure. And at Violet Grey, the sale of mascaras and natural eyelashes have increased since March. 

Makeup colors from left: Danessa Myricks Color Fix 24-Hour Cream Color Liquid Pigment in Carrot Top; Flamingo from Danessa Myricks Waterproof Cream Vivid Palette; Colour 2 from Juvia's Place The Sweet Pinks Palette worn atop Danessa Myricks Colorfix 24-Hour Matte Cream Color in Neon Lollipop. From left, on Kesewa Aboah: Moncler 8 Richard Quinn jacket. Erdem dress. On Maybury: Paco Rabanne dress. Giuseppe Zanotti boots. Fenty earrings. On Changkou: Richard Quinn dress. L’Enchanteur earrings.

The NPD Group reported an increase in the market share of eyeshadow, from 22 percent to 25 percent, during the pandemic. China, the first nation in the world to grapple with the novel coronavirus, saw surges of interest in "mask makeup looks." A run of Huda Kattan eyeshadow palettes that launched in March on Chinese e-commerce site Tmall reportedly sold out in a single second

Makeup colors: Danessa Myricks Color Fix Cream Color Metallic in Limesickle, Juvia’s Place Wahala Palette in shades Fighter and Gossip. On Maybury: Emilia Wickstead top. Diaboli Kill earrings.

It might seem a bit silly that so many of us still want to apply eyeshadow or winged liner when the most glamorous trip we might have planned is the one to the grocery store. But our masks — and, in many ways, our global circumstances — have stripped us of our individuality: We can no longer see our friends, pursue our hobbies, or even showcase our smiles. At least we can paint our eyelids the color of sunshine. A little light, where there once was none. 

 A version of this story originally appeared in the November 2020 issue of Allure. Learn how to subscribe here.

Photographer: Ruth Ossai. Stylist: Gabriella Karefa-Johnson. Hair: Isaac Poleon. Makeup: Bea Sweet. Set Design: Luke Ossai. Production: Rosie Cartwright.

Lead image: Left, on Jess Maybury: Gucci cape, dress, and neckpiece. Right, on Ariish Wol: JW Anderson top. 

All products featured on Allure are independently selected by our editors. However, when you buy something through our retail links, we may earn an affiliate commission.


Beauty talks! More interviews here: 


Now see all of the products — and how to use them — from Allure's latest Beauty Box: