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The Makeup Maniac

The Makeup Maniac: Britain’s best selling makeup

October 21st 2016 / Anna Hunter

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Still life by Ian Skelton

We Brits not only buy more makeup than our French cousins, but we’re prepared to pay for it too. Here’s what we’re putting in our baskets…

Bought some pricy makeup lately? Don’t hide the receipt- global information company NPD Group Inc are onto you. NPD recently reported that not only is makeup the second largest beauty category in the UK, after fragrance, but it also accounts for 29% of prestige (spendy) beauty sales. To put that in perspective, in France makeup is the smallest sector in the beauty market, bringing in just 15% of prestige sales. We buy twice as many prestige makeup products as the French per person (1.2 products each vs. 0.5 en France), and it turns out that our buying habits are different too. So just what are us Brits being seduced by in beauty halls up and down the country, and what, in contrast, gets the French to part with their euros?

It seems us British have a base instinct- 50% of makeup sales in the UK fall within the face category (as opposed to eyes, lips etc.). We’ve got a penchant for foundation, concealer and face tools and gadgets in particular, while the French buy into mascara and lip colour more than we do. One feature we’re agreed on in terms of importance is the meticulously honed eyebrow- interest in brows is solid no matter which side of the Channel you’re on, with sales of brow products soaring to £20 million last year, with a whopping 1.1 million brow products sold in UK alone in 2015. Incidentally, the sales of brow products in Britain has increased by 210% since 2011 and brow bars are mushrooming across the land, possibly because we’ve all come down to earth since cartoon-like brows fell out of favour, as Senior Account Manager of NPD UK Beauty Teresa Fisher emphasises:

“The more exaggerated brow look that was prevalent on the high street, popularised by reality television stars, is diluting as people are seeking a more natural effect that suits their face shape.”

“The sale of prestige brow products continues to increase, reporting double-digit growth year-on-year. Brands are capitalizing on the popularity of this sector with new product development that is both innovative and exciting. Brands are using in-store promotions and cross-selling to ensure they maximize the insatiable appetite for brows. We predict that brows will continue to get even bigger!”

The likes of homegrown brow brands such as blink and Shavata are blazing a trail for British brow prowess, while Benefit is hands-down the world leader where matters of the brow are concerned (Clinique, MAC, Bobbi Brown and Estée Lauder aren’t far behind).

We’re not just seeking definition in the eyebrow area either, as highlighting and strobing trends that refuse to die (in a good way) are fuelling the sale of bone structure enhancing base makeup. The first noticeable hike in the highlighter sales occurred last year, when sales increased by 48.5% between January-April. Total sales peaked at £8 million, which isn’t bad going given 2014’s highlight (sorry) coming in at £5.5 million. Director of UK Beauty for the NPD Group June Jenson associates the sudden popularity of illuminators, highlighters and brighteners with the current strobing sensation:

“Makeup is really driving growth in the prestige beauty market fueled by the popularity of the selfie. Pioneered by celebrities such as Kim Kardashian, it’s a trend we see across the board and make-up is essential to creating the perfect look. At the same time strobing, which emerged in early 2015, is the year’s hot new make-up trend which is driving consumers to spend more on highlighters so they can experiment with this new way of accentuating the face.”

Creating such selfie-ready radiance also more often than not involves foundations in addition to filters, and as such foundations have seen a 16% rise in sales since 2014, with our combined foundation bill coming to £112 million last year. Obviously we require apparatus with which to apply said foundation, hence the demand for brushes and applicators, and we’re also keen on getting every scrap off at the end of the day- cleansers and makeup removers account for 10% of skincare sales in the UK, which is double the figure of the French market. Again, putting our best face forward has become more of a focus than holding back the years according to Teresa Fisher:

“Our analysis reveals that French women appear to focus on lines and wrinkles which is contrasted by the British who focus on the pure, flawless skin complexion, including products focusing on radiance, anti-pollution and energy boosting.”

Despite our contrasting tastes in some makeup and skincare sectors, some trends and preferences are truly global, as NPD Beauty Europe Industry Expert Mathilde Lion underlines:

“The prestige beauty markets in France and Britain are driven by historical differences in the purchasing habits of consumers. Whilst there are some stark differences, many of the recent trends such as the growing popularity of new eye and lip treatments, make-up professionalization, the success of the latest lip colour launches and the resurgent interest in face masks show that consumers both sides of the channel are equally excited in international trends that cross cultural boundaries and appeal to women all over the world.”

Liquid lipsticks are flooding most markets (Kylie Jenner has put lips back on the agenda, as ridiculous as that sounds), as is customisable beauty, but here are the products that are getting us Brits going in particular…

Benefit Gimme Brow Volumizing Eyebrow Gel, £18.50

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Available as of this year in three shades, the cult brow booster shows no sign of falling off the makeup radar.

Smashbox Photo Finish Foundation Primer, £26

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One of the selfie generation’s preferred primer options, according to the xperts at NPD.

Estée Lauder Double Wear Nude Cushion Radiant Stick Makeup, £28

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The newest addition to the UK’s number one selling makeup range (we’re all Double Wear devotees apparently), we predict that this lighter, Asian inspired take on Double Wear will fly as its forebearers have.

MAC Oval 6 Brush, £34.50

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If you’re not using a cushion, you’ll likely applying your foundation with a dense, rounded, gigantic toothbrush style tool, such as the Oval 6. This particular model is storming it in the makeup brush market.

Laura Mercier Tinted Moisturiser, £34

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Taking care of our radiance requirements, this now cult skin protector and perfector is a much adored all-rounder.

The Estée Edit Flash Illuminator, £22

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Combine a Jenner/ Kardashian plus strobing product and you’ve got liquid gold on your hands. This Kendall Jenner curated highlighter is selling like hot cakes at Selfridges.

NYX Liquid Suede Cream Lipstick, £6

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A budget take on the liquid lipstick trend, this waterproof lip colour has staying power at the top of the Selfridges sales charts too.

Liz Earle Cleanse & Polish™ Hot Cloth Cleanser, £14

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An oldie and a goodie, sweeping away the day with this plant based cleanser has practically become a British pastime.

Wondering how much we spend in our lifetime on makeup that we never use? The answer is a shocker...

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