In 2015, prestige beauty became a $16 billion industry in the United States, global information and market research firm The NPD Group, Inc. reports. This was a 7 percent increase from 2014. Meanwhile, other industries, including upscale fashion retailers, are faltering: Sales at stores like J. Crew and Urban Outfitters have taken a nosedive, while budget-friendly chains like Forever 21 and T.J. Maxx have seen increased success.
What accounts for this seeming shift in priorities? “I think people are tired of being frugal, but they don’t have tons of excess money,” Eleanor Dwyer, a research associate studying the beauty industry at Euromoniter, tells the The Washington Post. “So premium beauty brands offer an entry point" to owning designer products.
Just a few years ago, the general public thought “contour” was only a type of map, and “strobe” was a way to describe lights at a party. By 2015, products designed to achieve the coveted contoured and strobed makeup effects (using products to shade and highlight certain parts of your face for a slimming effect) had become some of the key drivers of the industry's growth.
The Internet is partly to thank for that: Bountiful YouTube and Pinterest tutorials and an endless stream of Kardashian selfies (which have nearly single-handedly ushered contouring—or kontouring—into the spotlight) have exposed Americans to niche products and beauty techniques once known only to professionals. South Korean staples BB and CC cream have entered the American market in the past few years and become ubiquitous. The new ideal of “bold brows” has precipitated the rise of products like brow-enhancing serum, pomade, and mousse. As Barry Beck, co-founder and CEO of beauty chain Bluemercury, told The Washington Post, 55 percent of their top-selling items didn’t exist five years ago.
Additionally, consumers are becoming more informed about the ways the products they choose affect their skin. "People are becoming more aware that what they put on their skin seeps into their skin," Dwyer said. And with that, they become more willing to pay higher prices for higher-quality products.
According to Karen Grant, a beauty analyst with The NPD Group, spending money on makeup can also be incredibly satisfying on a visceral level. “Looking at some of the top performing brands, we’re also seeing that consumers are increasingly drawn to emotional rather than functional appeal.”
In our selfie-ready culture, a splurge on makeup can create a sense of pride and confidence. For many, makeup has transcended routine and become something between hobby and art—and for that, the beauty industry would like to thank you (and the Kardashians).
[h/t The Washington Post]