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Diba Jedo

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The coronavirus pandemic has seen many industries continue to struggle financially, the beauty industry, in particular, seeing a significant change. Given that the majority of the world is still having to deal with the realities of social distancing, mask-wearing, and working from home, it’s not surprising that makeup has become less of a concern to those who usually wear it. NPD, a market research company, reported that in the first quarter of 2020, makeup sales were down 22% compared to the year before. Not only is it awkward to struggle with wearing makeup under a mask, but buying makeup online is a much more different, and difficult, experience.

A new reason to get all dolled up

However, it’s not only important to consider how the practicalities of wearing makeup have changed, but also the reasons that we wear it. For many, makeup is used as part of a regular morning routine to start the day ahead, but there now seems to be a shift in these aims. The president of L’Oréal USA’s consumer products division, Nathalie Gerschtein, has said how people are instead “dressing up and doing their makeup for virtual happy hours and dinner parties”, demonstrating that wearing makeup has now become a way for us to celebrate the things that bring a sense of normalcy to our lives, despite the circumstances. 

Skincare is the new makeup

While we may be seeing a decrease in makeup sales, the global beauty industry is not seeing a decrease in all of its sectors; skincare has become an increasing part of people’s lockdown routines. This shift in the beauty industry can easily be seen through much of what we see on social media. For example, if you happened to be scrolling through apps such as TikTok in the first few months of the pandemic, the surge in videos concerning people’s skincare routines and their product recommendations was hard to ignore. Products from brands such as The Ordinary and CeraVe were consistently sold out both online and instore, as consumers took a renewed focus towards their self-care routines. 

This shift towards self-care is not surprising, given that taking the time to focus on a skincare routine can be of extra comfort when experiencing stress. In a situation such as a global pandemic, many people feel that they can do little, besides staying at home, to control it. Therefore, it’s understandable that we place more attention on aspects of our lives that we do have some control over. The rise of the wellbeing industry has also been made evident, given a spike in purchases of bath and body products. The fragrance company Diptyque has reported that candle sales increased 536% in the weeks after lockdown. 

Lessons from Beauty Psychology 

So not only has skincare seen a boom in sales, but the whole self-care and wellbeing industry has seen a sharp rise in interest. Nonetheless, it’s also important to consider the behavioural and psychological responses to the shutdown of the makeup industry, as not everyone will have the same reaction towards more time spent at home. Since people with lower self-esteem are generally more likely to wear makeup, does this rising interest in skincare apply to those who wear makeup to feel more confident? Interestingly, a recent study by Pikoos and colleagues (2020) found that during the pandemic, those with low dysmorphic concerns (i.e. “a preoccupation with a perceived defect in physical appearance”) invested less time in their physical appearance, but that restrictions caused by the pandemic presented risks for individuals with high dysmorphic concern.

Therefore, despite a general decrease in makeup sales, this change does not necessarily mean that people are more comfortable with the way that they look. Although having to face less people than in a pre-pandemic society, people still find themselves concerned about the way that they look and a boom in the skincare industry does not necessarily mean an increase in self-esteem. Rather, it seems to be more the impracticality of having to wear makeup that has had a factor in this change. 

Jewellery is used as much more than just a fashion accessory. Ogden (1992) emphasises its rare power to communicate the feelings and beliefs of the people who wear it, and even suggests that as an object surviving the ancient world, it is another piece in the “jigsaw puzzle of history”. Why is it that jewellery has been around for so long, and what does it say about the person wearing it?

As one of the oldest of the decorative arts, jewellery reinforces the power that an individual has (Evans, 1989); it is much more than just a financial investment, but an emotional one too. Jewellery is used as a means to show an individual’s wealth and social status to others (Jaggi & Bahl, 2019). We live in a society where we are obsessed with the brands around us and the need to belong to a certain social status can even lead to addictive relationships with particular luxury brands (Mrad, Majdalani & El Khansa, 2020). The jewellery we wear can speak volumes about our social status, only if we let it.

As well as a statement of wealth, jewellery can also be a statement of personality and for many, a boost of self-esteem. Jewellery is made to make the wearer feel more elegant and attractive as it adds an element to the body for people to admire (Swigelaar, 2016), this is especially the case if the piece of jewellery you’re wearing is personal to you. Jewellery that holds personal value significantly boosts confidence, in comparison to jewellery that has no emotional value. People’s decision to wear this accessory is not just about portraying wealth, but also about expressing one’s self.

Women, in particular, are suggested to buy items that are concerned with appearance and emotional aspects of themselves. Dittmar, Beattle and Friese (1995) explain how products are impulsively bought to reflect self-identity – if a piece of jewellery is symbolic and self-expressive, it is more likely to be bought by the consumer. Following this logic, brands should be creating a more personal experience when it comes to buying jewellery as customers look for items that are suited to them specifically. 

Nevertheless, it’s also important to consider the role that culture plays in our decision to wear jewellery. An obvious example of this would be that within Western culture, a band on the left ring finger is a clear sign of availability. However, in comparison to this, the Zulu people (the largest ethnic group in South Africa) use a much more colourful method of revealing a woman’s marital status. Beadwork is used as a means of communication between the sexes, but it can also refer to a woman’s home and family. Although both cultures have a similar purpose, they utilise jewellery in many different ways.

In other cultures, jewellery can be worn as a means of cultural identity. Using the women of the Padaung tribe as an example, they are known for their particularly long necks, caused by wearing gold rings around their necks. Beginning at the age of five, the number of neck rings is increased as the child grows older. This is an important demonstration of the impact of culture as this would not be the norm in many of today’s societies.

There are many different reasons why we choose to buy and wear the jewellery that we do, and it does not necessarily serve the same purpose for everyone. However, the more we can understand about the psychology behind it, the better the decisions we can make in the future. 

Recommendations of some interesting jewellery brands:

  1. Wolf & Moon (@wolfandmoonshop)
  • A handcrafted jewellery label inspired by nature, architecture, art and design
  • Original statement jewellery for the curious and independent – unique, wearable jewellery, from eye-catching statement pieces to everyday essentials

    2.  Chalk Jewellery (@chalkjewellery)

  • A London based design studio run by architect Malaika – creates unusual, geometric, wearable forms
  • Collections are influenced by architectural elements, everyday objects and bold colourful cultural patterns
  • All pieces are handmade

    3.  Lines & Current (@linesandcurrent)

  • The theme of the jewellery collection dances between two poles: clean lines and unpredictable flow
  • A minimalist approach informs the designs