Lip Cosmetics Leap With Glossy Sales

“Lips so laughable, un-photographable.” Back in the '50s, ever other crooner's song said something about lips, maybe because lipstick was lustrous and thicker than ship primer. In case you haven’t seen photos of Taylor Swift lately, '50s lips are back, and the market is driven by young women.

Sales say it all. Chicago-based marketing research firm Mintel says nearly one-third (32%) of lip product users ages 18-24 are looking for intense lip colors, compared to less than 20% of respondents ages 25 and over. "This trend-driven and cyclical nature of the category has elevated the status of lip makeup, making it a 'must have' item for many women," says the report. 

Lip cosmetics in general, whatever the shade or purpose, are used by the vast majority of women, with nearly 90% reporting that they apply it. And while lip cosmetics are the smallest percentage of color cosmetics, it is the strongest performer in the segment. After a 2% decline between 2011 and 2013, the sales are glossy, gaining nearly 9% between 2012 and 2014. Sales are on track to hit $1.4 billion this year, per Mintel. Facial cosmetics, for example grew 6.4% to $4.8 billion this year, and eye makeup rose 4.2% to $3.4 billion in the period.  

In terms of overall market penetration, lip balms lead, with 60% of women using them, followed by lipstick at 58%. That's also true among younger consumers, with the lip balm to lipstick ration among 18-  to-24-year-olds at 72% versus 50%. The study says 44% of highlighter/illuminator users purchase from a prestige brand, compared to only 24% of lip gloss users who bought prestige. 

“Facial cosmetics, in general, are viewed as higher-risk purchases -- women want to be sure that products are appropriate for their skin type and tone and therefore rely on in-store samples and consultants for guidance," says the study, which says lip cosmetics, especially lip balm, are more inclined to purchase from budget brands in comparison to users of facial and eye cosmetics. Lip products are likely perceived as low-risk purchases, driven in part by their lower prices in comparison to face and eye make-up. 

Overall, the cosmetics category has been on a strong growth curve -- gaining 17% over the past five years to reach $9.6 billion, partly because of a big boost in prestige-brand area. And Mintel is bullish. The firm sees 19% gains through 2019. The leading brands are the big mass brands, L'Oreal, P&G and Revlon, which account for three quarters of revenue per Mintel.  

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