Skincare brands make up with surge in online sales as more stay in

Ms Hayley Teo, founder of Rooki Beauty, which has seen a 200 per cent increase in new customers since April. PHOTO: HAYLEY TEO

With more people staying home these past months, many are forgoing make-up, opting for the au naturel look, and giving more attention to skincare, said industry players.

While most brick-and-mortar stores that stock skincare products had to close during the two month-long circuit breaker period, online tills were ringing merrily as local skincare brands saw a boost in sales.

When home-grown brand Skin Inc had to shut its four physical stores temporarily, there was cause for concern, said its global brand manager Rani Lanyifan Wang, 28.

"There were no sales in-store at all, and we were expecting a slowdown. But luckily we adjusted, and during the circuit breaker, online sales were surprisingly good," she said.

Online sales were about 400 per cent more than the usual in-store sales for its skincare serums and devices, said Ms Wang. "This is a record for our online sales," she said of the company founded 12 years ago.

Likewise, business for local skincare label Rooki Beauty increased by five times, with more new customers learning about the brand through word of mouth, said its founder Hayley Teo.

Ms Teo, 27, said the brand, which started just over a year ago, has seen a 200 per cent increase in new customers since April.

"It was like Christmas or festive periods, sales were pretty hectic. Now, they have stabilised, but they are still higher than before," she said.


With the rise in teleconferencing instead of in-person meetings and fewer opportunities to venture out of the home, more are going sans make-up, said industry players.

Ms Teo said: "During video conferences on Zoom, people seem more comfortable seeing each other without or in minimal make-up. So, naturally, people started to focus on appearing fresh, alert and awake, and started investing more in skincare."

Skin Inc's Ms Wang said that with mental health and self-care in the spotlight amid the pandemic, people wanting to take better care of their skin have pushed sales for its products.

Having to wear masks has also led to "maskne", or acne triggered by mask-wearing, with customers seeking solutions to this and other skincare problems, she added.

Skin Inc launched new products for those with sensitive skin to deal with mask wearing, as well as to help achieve a flawless, fresh look for video calls.

Rooki's Ms Teo noticed that during the circuit breaker, more customers were buying skincare products and gifting them to loved ones.

Restrictions on leisure travel also played a part, she said. "Instead of spending on travel or dining experiences, people chose to spend on beauty products and skincare, which are things that can help them feel instantly better."


Shipping and logistics delays proved to be a challenge for Skin Inc, which has multiple distribution channels across the world.

There were also delays in getting fresh supplies of popular items when stocks ran out, said Ms Wang, noting that it took about two weeks to replenish these items.

For Rooki Beauty, the Covid-19 outbreak thwarted plans for the brand to gain exposure at international exhibitions and for networking opportunities. "Other challenges included supply chain issues and increases in ingredient prices, which delayed our product launch," said Ms Teo, noting that prices for some ingredients increased by about 30 per cent.

But despite the bare-faced, no make-up trend of the work-from-home set, one local cosmetics brand has bucked the trend and seen an increase in its sales.

Ms Nerissa Low, 37, founder of Liht Organics, said it has seen "vibrant" sales online in recent months, in particular for its lip products. "We thought that most people would not be putting on lipstick since we are all wearing masks, but clearly we were wrong," she said.

It has seen a 300 per cent spike in online sales for its make-up, including lipsticks, eyeliner, mascara and foundation, said Ms Low, who started the company in March last year.

"I think people are feeling a bit deprived because they do not get dressed up as often. And many find that lipstick is the quickest way to look put together for a Zoom call."

And for some, despite having to wear a mask when out and about, a little lipstick goes a long way.

"Even if it is hidden behind a mask, they put it on for themselves, and it gives them confidence," she said.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 24, 2020, with the headline Skincare brands make up with surge in online sales as more stay in. Subscribe