Editorial: Wellbeing in the time of corona

In 2008, Leonard Lauder, Chairman of Estée Lauder, claimed that lipstick was just what women needed as a small pick-me-up luxury during a recession. That year, lipstick sales were up 11%.
Yet, as we approach the end of lockdown and the most rapid downturn in history, lipstick sales have plummeted. In a recent survey by Boots No7, eight in ten UK women are wearing less makeup and half are opting for a minimal makeup look for video calls.
However, the desire to express ourselves has not gone away, notably through our eyes and nails. Alibaba’s sales of eye cosmetics increased by 150% in mid-February, while Bobbi Brown and Dior saw sales growth of 40%. Journalists are busy coining the phrases ‘Mascara and Nail Indexes’. These rituals have, in the words of Neom’s co-founder Nicola Elliott, become little moments of wellbeing.
A good night’s sleep
Childcare, work stresses and separation from loved ones have all amplified our anxieties and driven us in search of escapism and relaxation. Those brands that help people discover these moments have flourished. Since lockdown, Cult Beauty’s ‘relaxation and stress-relieving’ category has increased by 317%.
Neom too has become the destination for customers seeking ways to unwind. In our recent online survey with Neom customers, 45% said that their wellbeing is worse compared with pre-lockdown, with 18-24 and 65+ year-olds most affected. Lifestyle changes have had a big impact – one-third are doing less exercise, and most are spending more time in front of the screen.
As a result, half said that they are more anxious and four in ten, especially 45+ year-olds, are sleeping worse – ‘sleep’ and ‘destress’ are Neom’s best-selling products. Sleep is the pinnacle of wellbeing and 90% of Neom customers associate it with wellbeing.
Yet, according to a King’s College London survey, more than half the UK population has struggled with sleep during the lockdown, with problems more common in those facing financial hardship, while two in five reported having more vivid dreams than usual. But, only one-quarter of Neom customers are helping themselves by going to bed early – however exhausted we feel, for many of us our evenings are still a holy downtime.
DIY ‘me’ time
Taken-for-granted routine trips to hair salons, nail or brow bars now feel like pivotal moments of ‘me’ time. As a substitute for these treats, many are embracing DIY ‘self-care’. Sales of treatments, high-tech beauty tools and facialist tools are significantly up.
Google and Amazon searches for ‘hair care’ have doubled during lockdown. Our friends at Bleach London and Josh Wood have seen at-home hair dye kit demand surge, as have Nourish by SK and Personalised Co for their hair and nail vitamins. Netflix nail tendering has helped to double Amazon searches for ‘nail care’, ‘manicure’ and ‘pedicure’. We can gesticulate on Zoom in style.
Women are also taking more time on their skincare regimes with a third indulging in longer makeup and skincare routines and trying DIY skincare treatments such as face masks. Moisturiser, cleanser and hand cream are the top three must-have beauty items.
Self-care also stretches into mental health. Mindfulness apps such as Headspace, which has seen demand increased by 90%, are becoming a more important part of people’s lives. We have been targeted with lots of ads from Muse, which seeks to inspire restful nights and mindful mornings through technology enhanced meditation headbands. They have 300 meditations on sleep, performance and stress from renowned meditation instructors.
Immunity boosting
Alongside boosting our minds, coronavirus has inspired us to monitor how our bodies are performing. Our friends at Thriva are destigmatising at-home blood samples with their easy to use kits and then providing personalised supplements that your body is lacking.
Searches for immunity boosting products went up four-fold on Google at the end of March. According to Kantar, in the month running up to lockdown, the vitamins and supplements market saw a 20% spike in value. Vitamin C (+110% across the UK) and, following Government advice, Vitamin D (+3,000% in Holland & Barrett) have seen a huge increase in demand, perhaps from those isolating in flats with only windows and caged balconies for sunlight.
Although things have since crept back to normal levels, the demand was so great that Holland & Barrett had to introduce a temporary cap on the number of immune products sold to each customer, as well as reportedly opening a new call centre to cope with soaring demand.
Those new to vitamins and unsure what to take have bought multivitamins and popular herbal remedies such as echinacea, while those more in the know have gone for niche supplements such as elderberry and lysine. Start-ups such as Vitl and Nourished, which create personalised vitamins, have been in high demand.
The relationship between coronavirus risk and weight has also seen consumers gravitate towards weight loss products. GP Nutrition has seen a big jump in demand for its 4:3 intermittent fasting product, as have apple cider products from online brands such as Yumi Nutrition.
New habits
Although digitally native brands and retailers have done particularly well during lockdown –Sephora online and Amazon are up 30% – for a lot of the beauty industry the lockdown has been tough. 85% of all beauty purchases pre-corona took place in-store – even among Millennials and Gen Z, 60% bought in-store.
Beauty selling is naturally tactile and so will have to adapt more than most sectors. In-store and online sampling (at the expense of more plastic), alongside virtual try-ons and digital consultations will become even more important.
Meanwhile, the pre-lockdown demand for conscious brands will accelerate. There has been a surge in pre-orders for Neom’s new 100% natural fragrance Clean & Happy Hand Sanitiser. For every pack of three you buy, Neom gives a pack of three to the NHS.
As we start returning to work and meeting friends in restaurants and bars, we will want to look and smell our best (perfume houses are beginning to switch back from producing hand sanitiser). We will also start pruning our routines and returning to old habits. Our hope is that we can entrench some of the rituals that have enriched our lives, still finding the time for those little moments of wellbeing.