The branded facemask has arrived: Uniqlo, owned by Japan’s Fast Retailing, is just one of several retail and sportswear brands that have responded to consumer demand and moved into the mask market.

Uniqlo’s masks flew off the shelves in the label’s Tokyo stores when they were introduced recently, Nikkei Asian Review reports, and the brand’s online store was inundated. The “AIRism” mask is marketed as cool and quick-drying, and sells for around $9 for a set of three.

“In the era of the coronavirus pandemic, masks are no longer commodities but have become something that hold significance,” Masahito Namiki, CEO of branding consultancy Interbrand Japan, told the Review.

When US sportswear label Under Armour launched its reusable UA Sportsmasks, selling at 3,000 yen each, or about $28, its stock of 30,000 were gone in an hour. Sportswear brand Mizuno launched a soft, stretchy mask in late May made from material normally used for swimsuits, and Japanese sporting goods manufacturer Yonex sells masks impregnated with a sweetener used in chewing gum. Ryohin Keikaku, which operates Muji, the home furnishings chain, makes masks made from 100% organic cotton.

But for retailers, making healthy profits from the new demand is not really the point. The masks encourage more people to visit Uniqlo stores, for example, where they might then buy other products. Similarly, masks can act as a showcase for brands: by offering a branded mask at the level of quality expected, they can win consumer trust and so encourage them to buy other products.

Interbrand Japan’s Namiki added that facemasks can help brands send a message of social responsibility and convey the idea they are “doing something good for society”.

Meanwhile, widespread facemask wearing is affecting sales of cosmetics and skincare routines.

In India, with women’s faces mostly hidden by masks, sales of lipsticks over the past two months are down, whereas eye-related products, such as eyeshadow, are rising.

“Eye makeup will definitely grow as a category,” Umashan Naidoo, head of cosmetics at the Westside chain of stores, told the Economic Times. “It will be essential for all beauty brands to concentrate their R&D more on eye makeup business.”

The consensus in the sector, however, is that depressed sales of lipsticks will prove to be temporary.

Constant mask wearing, however, is creating new skin problems for young women, reports, as they discover “maskne” – acne caused by humidity and clogged pores due to wearing reusable masks for extended periods. The problem is especially acute in high-humidity Singapore.

Beauty-conscious Koreans have come up with new regimens to maintain porcelain-smooth skin, which include gentle face washes, wearing paper masks only and changing them regularly; another top tip is to go make-up free and use pimple patches, already hugely popular in Korea, says AsiaOne.

Sourced from Nikkei Asian Rreview, Economic Times, AsiaOne