Reiko Hasegawa
Senior Analyst for Beauty and Personal Care platform primarily for Japan content.

Japan’s non-foundation look was over in flash – lasting no more than a year. But it brought about consumer changes for the beauty industry that will persevere. Mintel mines the trend for future innovation. 

In 2020, mandated to wear face masks, Japanese consumers embraced the natural makeup look. Yet according to new Mintel research, only 13% of Japanese consumers said they are wearing less makeup or coverage products.

This proves that consumers are still wearing makeup in spite of expectations that category usage would fall because of the daily restrictions on movement and face masks. 

After embracing the natural makeup look for more than a year, Japanese consumers are now looking forward to celebrating post-COVID with colour cosmetics, demonstrating just how fast beauty trends change in Japan.

This is good news for the Japanese beauty industry, which has been hit hard by COVID-19, in terms of sales and day-to-day business operations. At one point, the industry appeared quiet, as many brands decided to delay or postpone their product launches. 

As consumers return to wearing makeup, a brighter outlook for the category is expected. Mintel predicts an explosion of celebratory makeup in Japan in the next 12 months. It is going to be playful and expressive with bold pops of colour on the eyes using colour mascara and eyeliners. 

But while the market has shifted, it’s worthwhile to revisit how the no-makeup look can inform the future of Japanese beauty. 

New trend: the usage of tinted sunscreen, concealer and setting powder

Consumers turned to this during COVID-19 because their priorities shifted. The pandemic has represented an opportunity for consumers to reconsider their natural beauty by investing in good skincare and looking for alternative ways to feel confident. 

Skin coverage that reduces stress was at the crux – and this is likely to persist as a consumer demand for the longer term. Consumers feel that lighter coverage can reduce the effects of stress on the skin, as many continue to suffer unexpected skincare problems such as maskne (acne or facial irritation cause by the prolonged use of face masks) and temporary sensitive skin. 

Multi-functional beauty products offer skincare, protection and tone-up effects

In fact, this was most seen in suncare. Mintel research shows that 41% of Japanese consumers take a preventative approach to beauty/skin care (ie using SPF).  Suncare is becoming. So, we are seeing these products are gaining in popularity even as the overlying trends shift quickly.

Kanebo Allie Nuance Change UV Gel SPF 50+ PA++++ 

It contains hyaluronic acid for moisturizing skin and highly shimmering pearls to add a rosy glow worked well with these new consumer needs. 

Elixir Reflet Balancing Oshiroi Milk C

It is described as a daytime anti-ageing skincare milk that provides natural coverage without using foundation; it conceals pores, dullness or uneven skin tone. 

Japanese consumers are replacing foundation with concealers

Concealer’s medium-to-full coverage and hydrating formulas that provide radiant finishes without looking too heavy. 

To promote the usage of concealer for no-foundation days, Japanese beauty brands are updating concealers with new textures. Shiro’s Tapioca Concealer features a bouncy, moisture-rich texture and slides on without settling and protects the skin from dryness and UV rays. 

&be Founcealer

This product produced by Japanese hair and makeup artist Yusuke Kawakita, is another standout product for its cream-gel texture that feels weightless on the skin. 

Perhaps the most surprising consequence of the no makeup look is how concealers have become a common beauty product for men to buy, too. Some have discovered the joy of wearing concealer, after spending a lot of time on Zoom and teleconferences. 

In Japan, men are not wearing colour cosmetics to look feminine but to gain confidence. COVID-19 has forced men to get experimental with personal grooming, as seen in the rise of NPD activities for men’s concealer and nail colour cosmetics. NPD dedicated to men’s nail colour has increased from 0% in 2018 to 36% in 2020. 

While the no makeup look lasted barely a year, in its wake, there is more innovation to mine.