Vanity in the time of Covid-19: Should we hold back on beauty treatments and makeup shopping for now?
This past weekend I braved the second annual Beauty Revolution Festival (BRF) - "Africa's boldest beauty festival" - at the Sandton Convention Center. I say 'braved' because this was essentially a mass gathering in a massive venue in the time of COVID-19, taking place just less than 24 hours before our president restricted gatherings of over 100 people.
Also, I attended this highly anticipated industry event on the same afternoon AFI had announced their decision to cancel the last day of Fashion Week in Cape Town, so yes, brave indeed.
Fortunately, BRF had taken the necessary precautions to ensure hygiene is practiced by their festival goers. Hand sanitiser was handed out upon entry, and at the various beauty stands, you could spot this month's most sought after hygiene product alongside cosmetics.
There's no doubt that this festival is a calendar highlight for our local beauty industry - from the makeup masterclasses to entrepreneurs getting exposure, to content creators getting an opportunity to network and well... create content.
However, given the current public health climate, I was slightly concerned when I noticed that makeup brands had their common testers and brushes out as usual. I'm not pointing any swatch-ready fingers because I understand that you can't purchase certain makeup products (foundation, concealer and the likes) without testing them. And I'd be dishonest if I said I have an alternative solution at this moment other than that of simply advising people to not touch any makeup testers until further notice. I was already squeamish about testing makeup at beauty counters pre-coronavirus, and I encourage all of us to err with this same caution now more than ever.
It's therefore clear that much like the fashion industry, the coronavirus outbreak has also hit the beauty and cosmetics industry.
A New York Times article I read recently detailed some of the new processes beauty brands have put in place amid this threatening viral outbreak.
"Coty created a 'global response team' that meets daily to actively monitor the situation very closely.' Sephora has its employees wiping down front door handles with Clorox wipes hourly, though early this week consultants in at least one store were still applying makeup from common testers to customers. The company has canceled an annual convention, Sephoria, and said in a statement, in part: 'At Sephora, the health and safety of our clients, employees and their families is our first priority. We are monitoring the global Covid-19 outbreak very closely, following the guidance recommended by our government, health officials and local leadership'," the article notes.
In this article, a U.S. makeup artist Gucci Westman, told New York Times that "What’s going to happen is actresses and models will probably end up bringing their own makeup to shoots, or at least their own brushes,” adding “I’m a freak about washing my brushes, but if you’re in contact with all these people, makeup artists who have done shows in Milan? You don’t really want to kiss those people who have been in Milan.”
BRF had MUAs from various brands including M.A.C and Benefit, doing makeup touch-ups over the two-day 9am to 9pm beauty extravaganza. I presume Ms. Westman, who reportedly cancelled her Paris and Milan trips where she was scheduled to see clients, would have discouraged this undertaking albeit its mood/confidence boosting results for its recipients.
From a business perspective, the spokesman for Coty said the following;
"In terms of business impact, beyond the direct impact to China, we believe the coronavirus could negatively impact the broader travel retail sector."
And on a social level, perhaps we'll be reaching for our brushes and blenders far less regularly now that social distancing and working from home allow for us to be made down in the comfort of our humble abodes, thereby halting the demand for new cosmetic supplies.
There's no harm in taking advantage of the "Lipstick Effect" with what you already have, though.
Wait, what's that?
This is a theory proposed by Leonard Lauder, the chairman of Estée Lauder Companies, and since applied by other beauty brands.
"After the terrorist attacks of 2001 deflated the economy, Mr. Lauder noticed that his company was selling more lipstick than usual. He hypothesised that lipstick purchases are a way to gauge the economy. When it’s shaky, he said, sales increase as women boost their mood with inexpensive lipstick purchases..." New York Times explains in an article dissecting the "Lipstick Effect".
But if you absolutely must embrace this theory with a new purchase, please do so with a shade range you already trust looks good on you in order to minimise the need to swatch and test.
Meanwhile, the nail salon I'm loyal to, sent regular clients like myself the text below on Monday 16 March;
It says a lot without telling me anything. Does this mean I can still make my monthly soak-off and Gelish reapplication booking for next week or should I should just let the Gelish chip away like paint an old building until it's safe again? Who's going to see my nails anyway, right? We're social distancing.
Similarly, the Laser Beautique Rosebank, where I once got my underarm hair lasered, sent an email explaining how they would be taking extra precautions in light of the coronavirus.
"We treat the health and wellness of our clients and therapists with paramount importance and take pride in providing you and staff with a safe, clean and sterilised facility," the statement issued via email reads.
The thoughtful statement further states the following;
What beauty precautions are you taking since the coronavirus outbreak hit South Africa? Tell us here.