Beauty always does well in a crisis. Lipstick sales held solid during the Blitz. Eighty years on, face oils eased the anxiety of lockdown. John Lewis, always a pretty good barometer of middle England’s shopping proclivities, saw sales of face serums and oils, especially those that promise to restore glow, climb by 133% during lockdown.
Augustinus Bader, whose £200 cream became a sensation last summer, has just introduced a £180 face Oil, containing his patented TFC8, claiming a new benchmark in efficacy. It’s flying off shelves (augustinusbader.com), as is Christophe Robin’s Regenerating Hair Mask with Prickly Pear, (£54, johnlewis.com). Alexandra Soveral’s Super Hero, which delivers a mega hit of hyaluronic acid, has been another hit. There are plenty of cheaper options but the high prices suggest consumers, deprived of salons, view these as justifiable expenses. Meanwhile, topical products containing vitamin C rocketed 248 per cent at John Lewis.
That switch from lips to skin and hair is telling. Face treatment masks (up 115 per cent at John Lewis) and home confinement has seen beauty evolve intoamore holistic pursuit. Heavy contouring, which involved applying kabuki levels of shading on the face to achieve exaggerated-for-Instagram cheekbones, injectables and lash extensions have given way to facial massage, facial exercises, gua’ sha (the ancient Chinese art of enhancing blood flow) and an ever-deeper obsession with the health of our hair.
With more time on our hands – the upside of not commuting to city offices – taking 20 or 30 minutes to depilate your legs, or boost the quality of our skin and improve muscle tone into the process, has begun to seem less like an indulgence and more like an extension of our health and exercise routines. If all this can be done watching our favourite box sets, it starts to seem like diligent multitasking.
Into this space comes a slew of new tech, some of it, such as the Lyma Laser, which launches next month, using state-of-the-art research to deliver professional (or near professional) levels of treatment to combat wrinkles and cellulite (£2,000 lyma.com). All were in development long before Covid-19, but their arrival couldn’t be better timed, just as new habits are being formed and a mass take up of platforms such as Zoom has made us more receptive to technologies that are either brand new or have been around in some cases for years (infrared).
Last week John Lewis added a specialised tech section to its beauty department, some of which would have looked pretty fringe even 18 months ago. I’m thinking of Maryam Zamani’s light mask, which offers not just infrared, but blue, yellow and white light. It has a price tag to match (£385) and makes you look like a Hollywood Oscar. Although I was impressed when I reviewed it for The Telegraph Magazine a while back, I assumed it would be more of a curiosity than a must-have. I also like The Light Salon’s bib, which is designed to stimulate collagen on the décolletage and, like its infrared face mask, reduce pigmentation, but can be used just about anywhere on your body, to soothe away aches and pains (£395, victoriahealth.com). If you wondered what had replaced handbags as a status symbol on social media, it’s these devices.
Speaking of victoriahealth.com, they’ve just launched Healing Patches from Ross J Barr, one of London’s most in-demand acupuncturists to ease muscular and joint pain and headaches. Stick them on and leave for five or six hours–long enough to watch six episodes of Harlots (my current favourite). The patches have been so popular Victoria Health has had to restock four times already.
“Over the last few months customers have had more time to learn about beauty, which has culminated in at-home rituals and DIY treatments being more experimental,” says Amelia Kendrick, beauty buyer at John Lewis. “It’s no longer about a single eyeshadow or a night cream. Customers are looking for a holistic end-to-end beauty experience that covers everything from gut health to hi-tech performance tools that provide that post-facial feel.”
Not everything has to be connectable to an app. We’re lapping up jade rollers and nail buffers – anything that tones, contours, lifts, depuffs, shapes, glossifies and educates. After closing its six London salons during lockdown, The Face Gym was astonished by the success of its online masterclasses and its Face Gym Pro, a powerful microcurrent tool that stimulates the muscles on the face and neck. It’s not a cheap buy, but the Pro claims to be best-in-class and like all new generation gadgets, was designed to slip seamlessly into daily routines. “It’s perfect for sitting in front of Netflix,” says Kendrick.
As are the light masks and Dermaflash, which Kendrick calls “a game-changing exfoliation tool that allows customers to remove surface debris and dull skin cells to reveal bright and healthy new ones, while shaving away ‘peach fuzz’, which has common associations with female hormones, in particular, women going through menopause”.
“Once you’ve mastered the techniques, they become second nature,” she says. To help, John Lewis has launched Virtual Beauty, giving access to online masterclasses and tutorials with top beauty brands.
Don’t imagine this is the preserve of 40-plus generations either. Foreo has just launched its Bear – a cute facial toning device aimed squarely at millennials, which uses microcurrent and T-Sonic pulsations to tighten and firm the 65+ muscles in the face and neck (from £179, johnlewis.com). Or there’s BeGlow’s All in One Sonic Skincare System (£199, johnlewis.com), which uses sonic waves to amp up our cleansing technique as well as contour the face and soothe fine lines.
Light-therapy golden facial treatment device five-coloured light treatment, £385, MZ Skin; App-connected microcurrent facial device, £279, Foreo; Pore refiner, £128, Sarah Chapman; Cleansing device, £279, BeGlow; Pore extractor & serum infuser, £99, Dermaflash, all available at John Lewis
Whether it’s IPL, blue light, powerful micro-currents or hair masks that improve the look and feel of hair between salon salon visits (Christophe Robin’s Regenerating Hair Mask with Prickly Pear, at £54 from johnlewis.com, gets rave reviews) the new generation of beauty gizmos promise results that go beyond the claims of a jar of cream, all from the comfort of your sofa. Sit back, switch on, zone in.
Lisa Armstrong's column appears each Saturday in The Saturday Telegraph and is published online every Saturday at 7am on Telegraph Fashion.