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Has Covid 19 changed beauty forever?

by Keysha Davis

With the beauty industry finally re-opened after months of lockdown, we examine whether the beauty has changed indefinitely following the global pandemic. 

Just like every facet of society, the beauty industry has endured an annus horribilis of epic proportions. When the world shut down in March due to the global pandemic, the adverse impact to the beauty industry was instantaneous. The National Health & Beauty Federation reported that the beauty industry suffered losses of £1.75billion in turnover during lockdown, with the beauty service industry in particular negatively impacted due to hundreds of closures of beauty salons, nail bars and brick and mortar stores that sell beauty products. Although some beauty companies with healthy financial reserves were able to react quickly and diversify their inventory selling products like hand sanitizers and hygiene products in response to the pandemic, the likes of self-employed make-up artists, nail technicians, shop workers and beauty counter consultants didn’t fare as well, with their business and sources of income virtually decimating over-night. 

Joy Adenuga is a hugely acclaimed make-up artist with an immensely engaged global audience. Like many, Joy experienced a whirlwind of emotions during the first few weeks when the world shut down. “The lockdown was so unexpected for me and I did struggle to accept the fact I was stuck home till further notice”, she tells loopbeauty.com “I was so close to a mental breakdown after the first 2 weeks dealing with multiple client cancellations and postponement. It almost felt like a bad dream I couldn’t wait to wake up from. I had just one negative – loss of income. With help from my agency I was able to switch to offering virtual services, but this came at a discounted price compared to being with the client in person.”

New beauty behaviours 

So many of us experienced similar feelings as Joy. Reliving those few weeks of March when lockdown came into effect, many will recall feelings of despair, uncertainty, panic and an unshakable sense of impending doom. Some turned to baking banana bread for comfort.  Others turned to connecting with family and friends virtually via Zoom or the House Party. For some beauty enthusiasts, our focus turned inwardly, and we became our very own beauty experts. Those emergency eyebrow tweezers that we’d only use for stray hairs became essential tools to keep our brows in check. Skincare routines became our stress saviour. That eye-palette purchased on a whim and quickly banished to the bottom of our kits, was dusted off and revisited now we had all the time and patience in the world to practice, experiment and play with our product stash. Netflix binge-watching, cooking and online shopping became our daily pastimes as we stayed safe indoors.  

Black Conscious Beauty 

Just as we settled into lockdown, the world was shocked to its core once again as we witnessed the callous and cold-blooded killing of George Floyd at the hands of a police officer in Minneapolis, US, captured on camera and beamed across the world via social media and rolling 24-hour news coverage. Amid an outpouring of grief, rage and frustration, every facet of society was forced to have an honest conversation about how structural racism is embedded into virtually every aspect of our lives, and every industry, with beauty being no exception. Conversations began to emerge across the Black Diaspora that centred on the need for self-reliance and wealth accumulation as an armour against social ills like police brutality and other forms of racial discrimination. Celebrities such as Beyonce and Stormzy launched initiatives to help bolster black wealth and fight racial discrimination with the Queen Bey launching The Black Parade, a directory of African owned small businesses, meanwhile The King of Grime, Stormzy, pledged £10 million pounds over the next years to try and help even the playing field for black people in the UK. Another well-received campaign was the Black Pound, which encouraged black people (and other races) to spend money on black business on specific days.

The New Normal?

With so much change and turmoil experienced this year, suffice to say the world is waiting with bated breath to return ‘back to normal’, to simpler times when life seemed a lot more predictable. But what does normal even look like anymore? Trend analysis website Econsultancy.com conducted a survey which revealed that 40% of their respondents claimed that the in-store experience was less enjoyable than before Covid 19 because of queues to enter shops, longer checkouts and restrictions from things like trying on clothes before buying. 

With the hair and beauty industry now finally fully opened and ready to serve the public, one can’t help but wonder if lockdown has changed how we consume beauty indefinitely? “Before lockdown I was the type of woman to visit the salon for my hair and beauty treatments every few weeks” admits Michelle Gordon, a business consultant from London. 

“When things shut down I was really frustrated and had to practically learn how to apply certain beauty treatments that I usually reserve for the professionals. It was definitely a case of trial and error, but I finally got the hang of it and I’m now at the stage we’re I’ve become quite confident in my beauty application skills. Although I’m now happy that things have now opened back, and it was amazing having that very first pedicure post-lockdown, I do believe that many of us will continue to do D.I.Y treatments at home and shop more frequently online for our hair and beauty products.” 

Like Michelle, many women adapted to the changes which presented themselves as a result of lockdown, but now they’ve become comfortable with taking a more hands on approach to beauty and will most likely try and find a happy balance between the two as the pandemic has left us particularly vulnerable, and there is a sense of us waiting on tenterhooks in case there’s another dreaded outbreak. We’ve also become super cautious of where we choose to patronize. We’re paying closer attention to things like hygiene, social distancing measures, whether or not staff are wearing adequate PPE. Beauty has become very serious business. 

But one thing we’ve learned is as a human species we’re robust, adaptable and possess an indomitable spirit that will overcome any challenge that comes our way. And even during a global pandemic what’s glaringly apparent is beauty will always remain relevant and important no matter how we access it. Yes, the industry might be changed forever, but it’s a change that will inevitably do us all good.