How Fluide Weathered the Rise and Fall of Lipstick During the Pandemic

When Fluide launched in 2018 as a cosmetics brand, it had a narrow product line—only three products, to be exact. But that was a core part of its strategy.  

With deep purples, bold reds, and even a metallic gold shade, Fluide’s Liquid Lipsticks were its flagship offering—one that quickly became a top seller, leading Fluide to expand the line in 2019 and 2020. 

Branded as “Makeup for Everyone,” Fluide set out to offer cosmetics that anyone, of any gender identity and expression, could wear with pride. 

Then the pandemic hit. As society began to mask up and stopped going out to events—or, in some cases, the office—lipstick sales dropped everywhere. In the four weeks leading up to April 11, 2020, McKinsey reported that Amazon sales of “lip care and color” in the United States dropped by 15%, with prices dropping 28%.

The same was true at Fluide, where its Liquid Lipsticks, and especially its lip glosses—which can stick to masks—took a hit. That meant a change in tactics when it came to marketing.

“We definitely did pull back on lip products during the pandemic. We launched some cloth face masks just for fun,” says Laura Kraber, Fluide’s co-founder.

In addition to masks, Fluide leaned into its offerings of eye cosmetics. As lipstick sales fell, consumers turned to eyeshadow, mascara, and lashes. Laura says the brand launched its Universal Liner glitter eyeliners and worked on an eyeshadow palette. 

“Those are really fun, because when you’re wearing a mask, your eye makeup really needs to pop,” she says.

The new emphasis on eye products helped the brand weather the pandemic and come through stronger on the other side.

A return to color

While the pandemic is definitely not over, lip color is back in a big way, as mask mandates drop in many places. Fluide has seen lipstick sales come booming back, and recently launched a nude lip collection.

“Those have been selling really well, and I think Liquid Lipstick is back, and lipstick in general,” Laura says. That also shows in Fluide’s marketing, which is once again showcasing lip products.

According to NPD, lip product sales revenue is up 48% in the first quarter of 2022, compared to 2021. Another report from IRI showed lipstick sales are up 80% in 2021. 

“We wanted to get back to pushing one of our strongest sellers historically,” Laura says.

The lipstick index rises again

The easing of masking has definitely had an impact, but some are also wondering if this is the return of the so-called “lipstick index,” a term created in 2001 by Leonard Lauder, the then-CEO of Estée Lauder.

He theorized that an uptick in lipstick sales is a sign of a tanking economy, and that women turn to makeup during hard economic times because it’s an affordable luxury—a relatively inexpensive way to pamper oneself when high-priced items are out of reach.

It’s a concept that’s been called into question. Quartz, for example, reported that lipstick sales actually dropped during the recession of 2009.

This could be, in part, due to changing consumer trends—lipstick is no longer the go-to salve for a little happiness. Other small comforts based on the home, which many were confined to, might have dethroned it. 

“Maybe that’s now a home good—it’s a candle or a weighted blanket or a silk pillowcase or bath salts or something for your kitchen because you’re at home cooking a lot,” Laura says. “I just think the ways in which we can treat ourselves now have grown exponentially.”

Regardless, beauty and skin care products are all rising in popularity as pandemic buying habits shift, and it’s projected that the global beauty industry will be worth a jaw-dropping $756 billion by 2026, up from $493.34 billion in 2018. Which bodes well for those in the lipstick biz—and Fluide. 

“There’s just so much going for lip color in terms of bang for your buck and the impact it will have on you,” says Laura.