19 ways the beauty industry is responding to CoronaVirus

By Deanna Utroske

- Last updated on GMT

© Getty Images / (Naeblys)
© Getty Images / (Naeblys)

Related tags COVID-19 coronavirus Leadership Fda event

It wasn’t until 2020 that Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) became a factor of import in the cosmetics and personal care industry. But by now, no matter where in the world you are, the virus has changed things. Here Cosmetics Design looks at how our industry is dealing with the pandemic.

The Coronavirus as an illness as well as the precautions and preparations that individuals, institutions, and governments worldwide are taking to deal with the threats and realities of this new virus are affecting every industry in manifold ways.

Of course, the beauty industry is affected drastically too. To put this into perspective within the US, for example, the personal care industry contributes over $235bn to the GDP and employs some 3.6m people (according to data shared online by the Personal Care Products Council​).

Here, to start understanding the response and results of the pandemic, is a look at how the cosmetics, personal care, and fragrance industries are faring under the circumstances.

Soap is a superstar

Handwashing along with the science of soap and surfactants have been front and center since the Coronavirus outbreak began. In fact, after “avoiding exposure,” ​handwashing is the CDC’s top recommendation for people to protect themselves from COVID-19​. It’s a reality that reinforces the importance and reach of the personal care industry.

And beauty makers like Avon are donating soap to help countries around the world limit the spread of COVID-19. This Forbes Romania article details the social-selling company’s donation of 1.7 tons of soap to quarantine centers​ in that country.

Sanitizer is a hero too

Hand sanitizer is the next best option to protect against illness and the spread of Coronavirus for many of the same reasons that make personal care products trendy in conventional circumstances: it’s effective, portable, and doesn’t require water to use.

EO Products made news this week​ when the company announced it’s upping production of its hand sanitizer, manufacturing 4 times more than usual and with no plans to change the price.

LVMH has begun repurposing its fragrance making facilities (which usually produce scents for Dior, Givenchy, and Guerlain) to manufacture sanitizer for “French authorities” ​and “the largest hospital system in Europe,” as Forbes reports​.

And Firmenich is set to start making disinfectant solution, some 20 tons of it, for donation to the Geneva University Hospital and other responders. “As a responsible Swiss company, we must take action and lead by example, to help our local community during these exceptionally challenging times,”​ comments Gilbert Ghostine, CEO, Firmenich, in a LinkedIn update the company posted online Monday.

Disinfectant is crucial

While Cosmetics Design doesn’t often cover home care, industrial, or professional personal care news, it’s worth mentioning that companies like P&G that make consumer goods also manufacture professional product as well. That company has suggested disinfection protocols on their pro site​ for businesses and public institutions to follow in an effort to keep employees and customers safe.

And coincidentally, P&G also just launched a new disinfectant brand. Microban 24 was developed to kill cold and flu viruses, as Barrett J. Brunsman of the Cincinnati Business Courier reports​; and while the new product line is tested and proven to kill some strains of Coronavirus, testing protocols don’t yet exist for COVID-19. So at this time, no claims are being made suggesting that it kills the COVID-19 virus.

The FDA is vigilant

And, speaking of claims, the FDA and FTC have been swift to respond to products and marketers boasting unfounded treatment or prevention COVID-19 claims.

Early last week, the FDA sent letters to 7 companies for “the sale and promotion of fraudulent COVID-19 products [which the Agency considers] to be a threat to the public health.” ​Letters were sent to Vital Silver, Quinessence Aromatherapy Ltd., Xephyr, LLC doing business as N-Ergetics, GuruNanda LLC, Vivify Holistic Clinic, Herbal Amy LLC, and The Jim Bakker Show. More information can be found here on the FDA site​.

COVID-19 vaccines are in the works

In more promising news, personal care and medical multinationals like Johnson & Johnson are already at work developing a vaccine for this particular strain of the Coronavirus. As the publication Drug Discovery Trends​ reports, J&J’s Jansen Pharmaceuticals has partnered with Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center on vaccine development.

And Ginkgo Bioworks, a biotech venture that’s made headlines here on ComseticsDesign.com for its work in fragrance ingredient innovation, is now ready to share its technology platform and facilities with experts working to develop and scale inputs needed to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. “To support the people building the treatments that will stop COVID-19 Ginkgo is now offering…[use of the company’s] platform to accelerate development of point of care diagnostics, vaccines, or therapeutics,” ​according to a statement on the company’s site​.

The 2020 cosmetics and personal care industry events calendar is a jumble

In the past few weeks, trade show postponements and cancellations have become expensive everyday occurrences. Expo West 2020, the natural products tradeshow expecting some 3,500+ exhibitors and over 86,000 attendees was canceled.

Cosmoprof Bolognia has been rescheduled​ twice, and is currently on the calendar for September 3 – 7.

in-cosmetics global, set to take place this year in Barcelona, Spain, has been pushed back to June.​ And companion events like The Future of Clean, hosted by biotech ingredient maker Aprinova, have been rescheduled to coincide with the new tradeshow dates.

The Indie Beauty Media Group was notably lagging in its response to the virus and only just canceled its IBE and Uplink Live Berlin events (originally set for March 25 and 26) late last week. At that same time, IBE Dallas, and the BeautyX Summit event that runs the same week, were postponed until June 10 and 11.

The 2020 NYSCC Suppliers Day event has been postponed​; and just today that organization was able to confirm new dates with the Javits Convention Center in New York City, and announced that the beauty ingredient tradeshow will take place on September 30 – October 1. 

LuxePack New York announced new dates this week. The packaging tradeshow that serves not only beauty but also the luxury confectionery and liquor industries will now take place July 8 and 9.

Unfiltered Experience, a show launched just last year that connects influencers and brands in real time, has adjusted its 2020 event calendar for events running in Chicago, Illinois; Nashville, Tennessee; and Los Angeles, California. Find out more here at Unfiltered Experience.com.  ​ 

Fragrance Day is this Saturday! (March 21).  But like so many industry event organizers, The Fragrance Foundation has adjusted its event program and is encouraging fragrance brands, consumers who love scent, and industry allies to be involved and engage with @fragrancefoundation online using the hashtag #FragranceDay.  

The CBD Global Summit​ (produced by WRBM, the company that publishes CosmeticsDesign.com) has also been postponed.

The beauty industry is taking events online

Virtual events are replacing live events when possible; and some industry allies like the Base Beauty Creative Agency are even actively reaching out to new and exisiting clients to help keep everyone connected​ during this time of self-quarantines, lockdowns, and social distancing.  

The CEW is keeping up with webinars but has announced postponement of all March, April, and May in-person events. Check that professional organization’s website for the latest updates.

Remote working is the new normal for many beauty business pros

Plenty of jobs these days are computer intensive and remote working is the best option in the current situation. For instance Unilever has made it clear that “All office-based employees globally should work from home,” ​as of Friday​.

Government travel bans are very real

But even before most national and local governments instituted travel bans, many companies and brands in the beauty industry set limitations and guidelines on travel in an effort to keep everyone safe. And ingredient suppliers and manufacturers such as L’Oreal​ have made news with travel restrictions.

Of course, entire countries from Italy to Spain to France and beyond have stopped or limited international travel in an effort to combat the spread and devastation of COVID-19. Here in the Americas region, the Canadian government has recommended self-isolation for anyone visiting from outside the country​.

This is not yet an option for Mexico. Reportedly, economic conditions in that country have meant that Mexico’s response is limited​ for now.

Beauty tourism and travel businesses are impacted as well. Around The World Beauty​ has made cancellations and adjustments to its 2020 schedule. And like many entrepreneurs and self-employed professionals are doing just now, ATWB  Founder Stephanie Flor is looking for creative ways to not only keep business afloat but also to keep consumers connected and engaged. Flor is at work just now on a four-part documentary series and is currently crowdfunding donations to advance the Around The  World Beauty film project​. Hers is one of many initiatives right now that is supporting entrepreneurs, self-employed, and gig workers during this trying time. 

The global supply chain has been hit

Nearly a full month ago, cosmetics and personal care manufacturers were already reporting supply chain disruptions. And, COVID-19-related supply interruptions continue to show up as illness and precautions to prevent further spread of the virus impact the global workforce.

At a conference in February, P&G CFO Joh Moeller remarked that as many as 17,600 products could be affected, as Andrew Allen of Supply Management News reported​.

New beauty event opportunities

With new challenges, come new opportunities. And new industry events are coming online quickly—events that are meant to help corporate leaders and business owners from across the cosmetics and personal care industry survive (if not thrive) during the Coronavirus disruption.

Women’s Wear Daily is running a short series of webinars, starting Wednesday, dedicated to Crisis Management and the Coronavirus. ​  

Next week, The Glow Getter Collective is running an online event called The Breakthrough Brands Summit​ for D2C brand leaders looking to help their brand stand out and thrive in the current marketplace.

And it’s worth nothing that Salon Today is putting on a webinar this Wednesday for salon professionals that’s all about Preparing Your Business to Weather the COVID-19 Crisis​.

Indie Beauty matters now as ever

Independent beauty brands are facing truly unprecedented challenges and the Indie Beauty Media Group is working as hard as the next entrepreneur-led team to keep this key segment of the industry informed and connected as best as possible.

To that end, the IBMG’s own news site Beauty Independent published an interview this week with IBMG founders Jillian Wright and Nader Naeymi-Rad​.

Some jobs can’t go online

Lab work and clinical testing is slowing down and, in some cases, stopping—temporarily—to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

A LinkedIn post from Dr Theresa Callaghan of Callaghan Consulting International​ earlier this week, asked about any protocol or industry-wide response in the clinical and consumer testing sector. And based on the response so far, it seems that individual labs are making the call on whether testing will continue.

Corporate crisis response to COVID-19

Numerous beauty makers, ingredient suppliers, and allies all along the value chain are taking measures they hoped to never have to take.

Hugh Welsh, General Counsel, Secretary, and President at DSM North America shared news of the specialty chemical company’s move to Stage Orange protocol in the US this week. The Stage Orange measures send employees that can work from home, home. And while the company is not closing operations in this country, Welsh is interested in sharing notes and refining best practices with the help of other industry executives (see the ‘It’s wise to share resources and best practices at times like this’ section below for more details).

Some ingredient makers are promising business as usual, despite logistical changes and preparedness measures being taken behind the scenes. Natural ingredient supplier Alban Muller posted such a statement on LinkedIn​ earlier this week.

And IFF posted a similarly reassuring message​ online: “IFF is modifying the ways we work and communicate to best position the organization to deliver the leading solutions that you have come to expect….As such, we have instituted a number of policies across the organization to protect the health and safety of our team, while minimizing the risk of disruption to our business,”​ wrote that company’s CEO and Chairman Andreas Fibig.

Public statements in trying times

In the age of authenticity, some brand leaders are speaking out quite openly and sharing their personal and political take on how the pandemic is being handled. In a recent social media post​, Charles Denton, CEO and Chairman of Erno Laszlo New York, called “The UK Government’s response to COVID-19…wholly wrong and criminal.”

The goods and services sector of the beauty industry is persevering

For retailers and salons and spas, the COVID-19 pandemic is a very real disruption. Even before large-scale quarantines and shutdowns, some retailers like Glossier closed their doors​.

For now, D2C brands seem to have the advantage with online storefronts and shipping directly to consumers. And some, like trèStiQue, have services built in to their business that make shopping for makeup during a pandemic even simpler. 

trèStiQue offers selfie shade matching (done by humans, not algorithms) and sanitary sampling with their 30-day free trial program​. Shoppers choose full-size products and have 30 days to use the trèStiQue makeup at home before either deciding to buy or return the products. It’s a strategy that’s not only good for shoppers; the brand tells Cosmetics Design that 70-80% of try-before-you-buy customers opt to purchase the collection—a very good conversation rate as makeup brands look for ways to keep business moving during this time.  

Stella Rising, a marketing and digital media agency, is keeping in touch with its focus group community—Glimmer—about the Coronavirus and posted this blog outlining beauty consumer concerns and behavior​ late last week.

And, salon owners and professionals may find this item, by Anne Moratto of Salon Today​ on the likely impact of the virus, helpful. 

It’s wise to share resources and best practices at times like this

In the LinkedIn post he made late last week, Hugh Welsh of DSM made it clear that specialty chemical companies and other ingredient makers are in this together.

“I am happy to share our full guidance with whomever is interested,” ​wrote Welsh, adding that “I am really interested in how other companies are addressing some of the unprecedented challenges businesses are facing with schools closing, potentially large groups of ill/ quarantined employees, extended tele working…” ​And he “would welcome the chance to collaborate with HR, Ops, legal, comms in other organizations as we are all confronting the same issues.” Find his post (open for comments) online here.

Your insights can make a difference in the future

ICMAD has created a questionnaire “to gather and consolidate examples of interruptions for the purpose of later describing the impact of [the COVID-19 pandemic] on our industry; especially small business.” Find that brief 3-question survey here.

Other Cosmetics Design coverage of the CoronaVirus

And read even more beauty industry news regarding COVID-19 by following these links:

Estée Lauder plots path to recovery from COVID-19 outbreak

How the outbreak of COVID-19 has affected the APAC personal care industry

COVID-19 presents an opportunity to reconsider supply chain strategy

Luxasia implements measures to safeguard jobs amid COVID-19 crisis

LVMH producing hydroalcoholic gel for France amid COVID-19



Deanna Utroske is a leading voice in the cosmetics and personal care industry​ as well as in the indie beauty movement. As Editor of CosmeticsDesign.com, she writes daily news about the business of beauty in the Americas region and regularly produces video interviews with cosmetics, fragrance, personal care, and packaging experts as well as with indie brand founders.

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