COVID-19 has caused us to rethink just about every daily routine, including applying makeup.

A full face of lipstick, blush and bronzer has taken a backseat to less-is-more looks as women kicked off their shoes and slipped on sweats to shelter in place. Now that stay-at-home restrictions are easing, face masks are creating new challenges — and opportunities.

“There’s a great emphasis on the eyes. A lot of it is colorful,” says Liz Quesnelle, a licensed esthetician who sells luxury and indie beauty and skincare selections on her website, “Some people are using those colors to match their homemade masks.”

Monroeville native and celebrity makeup artist Brett Freedman is known in Hollywood for his eyebrow grooming expertise and product line. He has been fielding all kinds of questions submitted through his website,, about cosmetics in the age of COVID-19.

“It’s all about lashes and brows. It’s such a focal point now,” he says.

With salons still closed in Pennsylvania and several other states, he’s noticed more people trying to shape their brows at home. He recommends using tweezers to remove stray hairs for now. “That’s not really shaping. It’s just keeping them clean.”

In addition to eyeshadows, liners and brow kits, women are buying bright lipsticks, Ms. Quenelle says. “They’re wearing them around the house. They’re doing it to perk themselves up a little bit.”

She referred to the lipstick index, a term coined during the 2001 recession. Estee Lauder’s Leonard Lauder noted then that despite the down economy, lipstick sales held steady.

“People purchase lipstick during financially difficult times because it’s a little luxury,” Ms. Quenelle says. “You’re not breaking the bank with it.”

That’s apparently not the case for other cosmetics, however. Global beauty executives and sales data suggest that the beauty industry worldwide could see revenues shrink by 20-30% in 2020, according to McKinsey & Co., a strategy and management consulting firm. The same report said that many prestige brands reported hefty drops in sales of cosmetics and fragrances compared to this time last year.

One bright spot has been DIY skincare and bath-and-body products, whose sales are rising.

The new coronavirus has raised new questions for Mr. Freedman and other experts: Can you wear foundation with a face mask? Will it get goopy? Could it cause a rash?

Stick with a moisturizer with sunscreen and a little concealer, Mr. Freedman says. Skip the rest.

If the mask creates irritation, scale back on exfoliating and dab a little raw, unfiltered honey on your face before showering. “It’s anti-inflammatory and really healing.”

Another tip: Keep gum handy or opt for a non-greasy lip balm with a hint of mint.

“There’s nothing worse than just smelling your own breath” inside a mask, says Mr. Freedman, who has his own line of satin-finish lip balms called Dr. Kiss.

The pandemic has forced beauty professionals to get creative with social media tutorials and online classes. Ms. Quesnelle has been filming tips she plans to post online and holding Zoom classes by request. Film, TV and print makeup artist Patty Bell, who has a studio in Brookline, has been answering client questions on the phone or video platforms like FaceTime.

“People don’t want to come in, but they still want a new look for spring,” she says. “I’m just trying the best I can to help people get through this.”



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