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Is the 'Kardashian effect' to blame for decline in mascara sales?

Mascara sales are declining in popularity — but what's behind the changing trend?
Image: Television personality Kardashian attends a panel for the documentary "Kim Kardashian West: The Justice Project" during the Winter TCA (Television Critics Association) Press Tour in Pasadena
False lashes sales are up 10.4% versus last year.MARIO ANZUONI / Reuters
/ Source: TODAY

These days, women are increasingly trading in their mascara wands for lush lash extensions and glam falsies. As the makeup industry continues to see a decline in mascara sales, many insiders are wondering: Are celebrities and social media influencers responsible for the shifting tide?

"Celebrities and social media in general drive trends, especially in beauty," celebrity lash expert Clementina Richardson, founder of Envious Lashes, explained. "It’s unbelievable the power and influence these women have over trends — and subsequently, sales."

Take the Kardashians, for instance. Whether you keep up with the famous family or not, you have to admit: Their love for glam lashes has inspired many women to try a range of mascara alternatives. As beauty lovers have begun to experiment more with false lashes and lash extensions, mascara sales have taken a hit. It's a phenomenon CNN recently referred to as the "Kardashian effect."

According to the latest Nielsen data (52 weeks, ending 12/28/19) sales of mascara within Nielsen tracked channels continue to see a decline. In 2019, U.S. dollar sales of the makeup staple totaled $851 million dollars — a 2.4% decrease from 2018. Unit sales for mascara are also on the decline with a decrease of 7.4% year over year. Market research company NPD Group also reported a 5% decrease in mascara sales in department and beauty specialty stores through November 2019.

False lashes and lash extensions offer that va va voom look many women crave.
False lashes and lash extensions offer that va va voom look many women crave.Getty Images

At the same time, mascara alternatives are rising in popularity. Nielsen data shows that false lashes sales are up 10.4% versus last year, making it a $312 million dollar industry, and lash treatments are up an impressive 189% versus last year.

"Over the past few years, social media influencers certainly have played a valuable and powerful part in generating awareness and reinvigorating consumer interest in false eyelashes," Genevieve Lee Aronson, the vice president of communications for Nielsen, said. "Additionally, innovations in the false lash space have made (historically tricky) application a bit more consumer-friendly."

In recent years, lash extensions have gained a loyal following and become more affordable for the average consumer.

"Women of all ages can really benefit from wearing lash extensions because it helps cut own your beauty routine," Richardson explained. "You can toss away your eyeliner and mascara because your lashes will look flawless and fresh without a stitch of makeup."

Lash extensions are a lot more low maintenance than daily mascara application.
Lash extensions are a lot more low maintenance than daily mascara application.Getty Images

Still, it's unlikely that good, old-fashioned mascara will disappear anytime soon. Market research company NPD Group said their data shows mascara remains the top used item among women who wear makeup.

"Consumers continue to look for value, which is in line with the fact that mascara minis are performing well, growing 15% in sales in a declining segment," said Larissa Jensen, NPD Group’s beauty industry advisor.

And besides, mascara has its own set of perks for beauty lovers looking to switch up their look.

"Mascara has versatility! You can achieve a barely there look, or you can go for full drama. There are so many formulas to choose from," celebrity makeup artist Mary Irwin explained. "Lash extensions are fun, but you have one look and that’s it."

The good news: There's an eyelash product that's perfect for just about everyone out there. Finding the right one for you is all about considering your personal preference and lifestyle.

"For someone who’s super busy, or has a special occasion, extensions are super convenient! A skilled lash tech can give you the appearance of bigger or wider shaped eyes depending on how the lashes are placed," Irwin said. "If you prefer to be able to change your look every day, or really like to play with your makeup, I’d stick with mascara."