Everyone in the beauty industry knows that the core cosmetics consumer is female and age 21-29. But in the same way that nuance is key when developing shade ranges for concealer, looking closely at demographic data can reveal interesting trends about who’s buying what in beauty.
While compiling insights for our recent top cosmetics influencer reports, we dove deep into three common cosmetics categories (niche, mass, and prestige) and discovered how different influencers’ audiences align with each of them. That got us thinking: what could we learn by looking at all three categories at the same time?
What you’ll find below is uncurated consumer demographic data for niche, mass, and prestige cosmetics. This is similar to what you’d encounter in Social Standards’ Consumer Analytics tool, though with full access you’d get the demographic breakdown for everything within the cosmetics vertical, including specific brands or products (e.g., highlighter).
We suggest reading this data in two ways: First, look horizontally across a row to focus on within-demographic info. This view offers an overall sense of how consumers within a particular demographic (e.g., 21-24 year-olds) relate to each cosmetics category.
Second, though, it’s equally valid and important to look across demographics (vertically) to get a sense of what’s going on within a particular cosmetics category. This is the approach we took in our influencer reports, so if you’re interested in a deeper dive that includes a psychographic profile, click here!
Women are the biggest cosmetics consumers overall, but men gravitate more specifically toward prestige brands.
It’s no surprise to see that women are the biggest cosmetics consumers, regardless of category. What is instructive, however, are the variations across cosmetic categories. While prestige and mass cosmetics both attract a fair number of men, niche cosmetics trails those categories by a significant amount. That’s likely due to niche cosmetics brands’ limited product offerings, which may not be designed to attract a broader audience.
This breakdown is likely due to multiple factors: Prestige brands like Chanel have courted male consumers by creating product lines for them. On top of that, prestige and mass cosmetics are also the best-known and most established brands, making them doubly likely to gain attention from men.
Our data suggests that cosmetics consumption begins at a younger age than conventional wisdom dictates. But we also see consistent adoption at all ages.
Niche cosmetics skew toward younger consumers (17-24 y/o). That makes sense, because many niche cosmetics brands market themselves as the latest thing. Equally important is the consideration that younger consumers have yet to develop strong brand loyalty, and therefore try new products on a more consistent basis than older consumers.
In contrast, prestige cosmetics are especially popular among 25-54 year-olds. Not only are these consumers more able to afford higher-end brands, they’re also more conscious of concerns like sun damage and wrinkles and may seek out cosmetics with quality ingredients that complement their skincare regimens.
What’s remarkable about the mass cosmetics category is the relative lack of age-driven skew. The volume of conversations about mass cosmetics overall indicates this isn’t due to a lack of popularity, but instead points to mass cosmetics’ ubiquity. Simply put: mass cosmetics have mass appeal.
Cosmetics are consumed by individuals of all races/ethnicities, but African American and Hispanic consumers are the most passionate purchasers.
Our data points to African American and Hispanic consumers as the most passionate about cosmetics generally, a finding that’s perhaps more telling than the category breakouts.
The other notable finding here is that there isn’t much variation within any race/ethnicity’s lowest percentile and its highest. This is indicative of the demographic groups’ degree of involvement in the market. Their commitment to their beauty regimen holds true regardless of the level of prestige, although it may be influenced by product type, benefits and concerns, and so forth.
However, when looking at race/ethnicity, keep in mind that the brands within each category may vary wildly from the categories themselves. For example, while the prestige cosmetics category as a whole skews toward African American and Hispanic consumers, Shiseido skews Asian (94th percentile) and white/Caucasian (88th), whereas NARS skews African American (81st percentile) and Hispanic (78th).
Again, cosmetics consumers come from every income bracket. The real insight comes from looking more closely at the data.
Let’s take this one from the bottom up. While it seems obvious that higher income consumers would be more aligned with prestige cosmetics—which often come at a higher price point—that’s not necessarily the case.
Rather, prestige cosmetics don’t show a strong skew toward any income level. One possible explanation for this is that consumers may view prestige cosmetics as splurges, making them highly desirable but limited additions to their makeup bags.
In the middle income range, we see solid representation in niche and mass cosmetics, with relatively less affinity for prestige brands. Still, most of the variation here is splitting hairs, not meaningful skew.
Finally, lower income consumers lean toward mass and prestige brands. Mass makes immediate sense—these cosmetics are readily available and are often at attainable price points. But what’s the deal with low income consumers’ embrace of prestige cosmetics? Again, we might be able to chalk this up to aspirational consumption. Consumers may invest in some high-end products, supplementing them with more affordable mass cosmetics.