IRVINE, Calif. — “I’m going to start off by giving you a little hand sanitizer."
It's not exactly the opening line of makeup consultations passed, but it is the present for makeup artist Joshua Barry, who along with his team at Lip Lab by Bite, is attempting to navigate the beauty industry during a global pandemic.
“I think it’s no secret that everyone is concerned about what’s going on in the atmosphere of the world right now," Barry said about the current climate.
It's a concern felt by the customers he sees every single day. Amanda Nguyen Hammond is no stranger to the beauty counters at the Spectrum Center in Irvine, but she hadn't felt comfortable coming back until recently.
“I’ve just been in my home all day, just eat, sleep, work, so it’s kind of felt like this never-ending cycle," Nguyen Hammond said. "I think a lot of people haven’t had a reason to put on a makeup.”
She's not alone in feeling that way. In quarantine many have simply stopped their morning makeup routines. In fact, sales of all beauty products are down 25 percent in the last six months as compared to last year.
Customers have been left wondering why get all made up with nowhere to go? The numbers spell a challenging time for new storefronts like Lip Lab, which not only sells finished makeup products, but is also built on creating a completely customizable, in-person experience for customers.
“To be totally honest, that was a concern of myself," Barry admitted. "We do make custom lipsticks. It's an experiential business.”
So like many other businesses during this time, they've had to adapt since opening on July 10. A partition now separates guests from employees, there's near-constant cleaning, reduced capacities inside, and the use of both gloves and masks.
The changes were made in the hopes of showing customers that "it's ok to put makeup on even if no one sees it."
"You feel good and we want you to feel good," Barry said.
It's that idea of making others feel good again, with so much going on in the world, that brought Nguyen Hammond back inside.
“This forces me, like, 'Hey, I have an excuse, I have a new lipstick,'" she said. "I can feel good around the house, so any excuse is like an instant day booster for me.”
It has been a challenging start for the new storefront, but makeup is routine, and it's something Barry believes has been missed in this time more than ever.
“I think being in our houses for so long, we lose that personal connection and touch, not that we’re touching you, don’t worry," Barry said with a laugh. "But having that connection with people was kind of lost."
Lip Lab has been able to bring that connection back — a little lipstick may not be enough to solve everything, but it can definitely be enough to brighten your days.