Goodbye Matte and Hello Shine: Lip Glosses And The Makeup Minimalism Movement
Lip gloss gets its time to shine thanks to the minimalist makeup movement.
Kylie Jenner is learning a cardinal beauty business lesson: customers quickly move on from a trendy cosmetics product.
After building a brand on track to generate nearly $400 million in sales this year based on the popularity of Lip Kits containing matte liquid lipsticks and matching lip pencils, beauty product shoppers are abandoning the opaque matte lip looks Jenner propagated in favor of subtler, shinier pouts. The changing consumer preferences are forcing brands that depend on demand for impenetrable liquid lipsticks to course correct and pick up their production of understated alternatives: lip gloss.
“Most girls want to focus on foundations and perfect skin, and [a strong lip] isn’t really a request,” says professional makeup artist Victoria Chae, who works with 100 clients a week on average. “Women today are obsessed with getting that perfect glow.”
Celebrity makeup artist Katie Jane Hughes detects a matte retraction as well. “Although we may still see matte liquid lip textures from time to time, people are slowly transitioning into this beautiful healthy hydrated glossed look,” she says. “Dewy fresh skin is so in, and I think people are starting to incorporate glossy features into their makeup routine.”
Heavy lipsticks are losing their once strong positions in cosmetics bags as women focus on no-fuss makeup, and lip and complexion products that bring out their best selves rather than alter appearances. With the beauty tides turning to enhancement rather than transformation, versatile and low-maintenance lip glosses and lip balms from designer, alternative and makeup artist-lead brands are emerging as go-to items.
“Although we may still see matte liquid lip textures from time to time, people are slowly transitioning into this beautiful healthy hydrated glossed look,” says celebrity makeup artist Katie Jane Hughes. “Dewy fresh skin is so in, and I think people are starting to incorporate glossy features into their makeup routine.”
“The trends of minimalism, simplicity and transparency present brands within the lip category the opportunity to focus their assortment so as not to confuse the consumer with an abundance of options that can inadvertently cannibalize sales and to market brand transparency,” says Larissa Jensen, executive director and beauty industry analyst for The NPD Group. “Both millennials and gen Z appreciate minimalism in the form of clean packaging and curated, focused SKUs that don’t overwhelm their purchasing experience and communicate product value and benefits clearly.”
Simplicity hasn’t been the calling card of the beauty market in recent history. As the color cosmetics segment swung into high gear a few years ago, brands like ColourPop, Dose of Colors, BH Cosmetics and Kylie Cosmetics responded to consumers clamoring for long-wearing lipstick formulas available in shades ranging from nude to black. In 2015, searches for nude lipstick soared 553% and those for matte lipstick skyrocketed 267%, according to a Polyvore report.
Since that heyday of dense lipsticks, the lip color category has stalled. NPD reports the lip color category has been declining for the past two years. Conor Begley, president and founder of Tribe Dynamics, says the artful lip trend may have been far-reaching thanks to influencers such as Jeffree Star and NikkieTutorials demonstrating it, but it wasn’t long-lasting. Lip color, though, remains responsible for a large portion of lip product sales. NPD finds that, for the 12 months ended in June, lip color represented 66% of total lip product sales in dollars. Lip gloss represented a mere 1%.
“The slowdown is more likely due to the oversaturation of lip color products on the market and the consumer fatigue in this area as a result,” says Jensen, “While last year saw a proliferation of interest and innovation in the realm of matte liquid lipsticks, the interest aspect is now temporarily peaking as a result of innovation in the areas of glitter, metallic and unique formats. Consumer interest is shifting to different sub-segments, namely applicators, eye shadow, and products like bronzers and highlighters.”
Rather than trying to revive the lip color category, brands are embracing a new edited approach to their lip merchandise and shifting toward universality. Take Rihanna’s sizzling cosmetics brand Fenty Beauty. Although the brand offers dozens of foundations, powders, highlighters and contouring sticks, there’s only one lip product so far, and it’s available in only one shade. The Gloss Bomb Universal Lip Luminizer, a rose nude gloss, is described by the brand as the unicorn of nudes meant to work on all skin tones covered by her line.
Hughes describes the Gloss Bomb Universal Lip Luminizer as “incredible.” She says, “It’s a beautiful rose nude shade which suites anyone who’s super fair to the deeper skin tones without it looking overly saturated on a fair skin or overly ashy on a deeper skin tone.”
“Liquid matte lipstick has really become synonymous with lipstick and, while I think these will always be a classic to have in rotation, glosses are really giving them a run for their money right now,” says Achelle Richard, global artistic director at E.l.f.
Another lip gloss formula making waves with consumers is Glossier’s Lip Gloss. It promises cushiony, crystal-clear shine thanks to a proprietary technology that actually binds reflectiveness to the lip. The product is making waves on social media. Begley says, “Anecdotally, we have seen a rise in content creation from influencers featuring clear, glittery, shiny lip glosses, with Glossier serving as something of a trendsetter.”
Artisanal indie brands are at the forefront of the new guard of lip glosses, lip balms and lip oils. Olio E Osso, for example, sells chic, multipurpose balms made in small batches with shea oil, olive oil and beeswax. Additional standout products include Jouer’s Sweet Tooth Long-Wear Lip Topper, Henné Organics’ Luxury Lip Tint, Napoleon Perdis’ Luminous Lip Veil Overcoat and E.l.f’s Tinted Lip Oil, a part treatment, part sheer lip tint.
“Consumers will always love a classic lipstick or a liquid matte lipstick. However, we recently saw lip glosses really spike this year with the trends in glosses that help create a plumped look or tinted oils that give a healthy sheen on the lips,” says Achelle Richard, global artistic director at E.l.f. “Liquid matte lipstick has really become synonymous with lipstick and, while I think these will always be a classic to have in rotation, glosses are really giving them a run for their money right now.”
The pivot toward glowing skin and sheer lips takes place in an American society coping with instability. Futurist Li Edelkoort, founder of forecasting agency Edelkoort Inc., believes consumers are looking to pair back in an overwhelming world. “Pastels and shimmering shades of beige, pink, and apricot – so-called non-colors – reflect women’s desires to embrace their natural beauty and the quest for eternal balance and happiness,” she says. “It’s about a return to our basic needs and, in a declining economic climate, a new appreciation for the bare essentials.”
- Cosmetics trends have expiration dates no matter how strong they are. While they fueled the growth of a number of makeup brands, matte liquid lipsticks have cooled off. In general, lip color sales have stalled, according to The NPD Group.
- Consumers are embracing a minimalist makeup aesthetic that’s given rise to versatile lip glosses, lip balms and lip oils. Fenty Beauty made a huge statement about the strength of lip glosses by making its only lip product out of the gate a lip gloss, the Gloss Bomb Universal Lip Luminizer. Indie beauty brands have jumped on multipurpose lip products as well with Olio E Osso and Henné Organics being among the leaders in the niche.
- The shift toward low-maintenance lip products could be part of a general shift toward paring back in a society that’s been rocked by instability. Makeup consumers don’t necessarily want to be applying tons of products to their faces daily when they’re searching for balance and contentment.