In recent months, face masks have been hard to find in Japanese stores, but there’s one product that is not selling well: lipstick. As face mask usage became obligatory, and as more people started working from home and stopped venturing out under Japan’s coronavirus state of emergency , cosmetics stores have been left with a glut of lipsticks. “I’ve stopped wearing lipstick completely because whenever I go out we have to wear a mask and no-one can see, so there is no point,” said Takako Tomura, a 40-year-old housewife from Yokohama. “Also, I have learned that it is difficult to get cosmetics out of the material used in face masks,” she said. However, she has noticed she is using more lip balm than she used to. Some stores in Japan have removed lipstick testers from their displays out of concern that the coronavirus might be spread between different consumers trying out the products. A study on household expenditure carried out in March by Japan’s Ministry of Internal Affairs found that spending on lipstick fell by 22.2 per cent from the same month a year earlier, but cosmetics firms suggest the drop in sales is even more dramatic. One estimate suggested that the number of lipsticks sold in Japan in 2019 came to 26 million units, but the number of units sold between January and April this year fell by approximately 30 per cent from the same four-month period last year. “Sales of all make-up items are down due to the coronavirus, but the decline in lipsticks is particularly severe mainly due to the wearing of face masks,” a representative of domestic cosmetics giant Kao Corp. said. “But as make-up is used not only to enhance a person’s appearance, but also to make one feel more positive, we expect a gradual recovery once the crisis is over,” the spokeswoman added. “That will depend, however, on how many people continue to wear masks and for how long.” Once sales do bounce back, however, cosmetics companies may find they still cannot shift their stock, although for a very different reason. Japan sinks into recession as support for Abe hits two-year low In Japan, the trend in lipsticks in the latter half of 2019 was for brighter colours and shades, according to market analysis company Euromonitor International. The same was true a decade ago, until the March 2011 earthquake off northeast Japan, which triggered a tsunami that killed nearly 20,000 people and the meltdown of the Fukushima nuclear plant. The response among most Japanese women was to return to more subdued and subtle shades of cosmetics as they avoided showiness or exuberance. Out went the bright reds and showy colours, which were replaced by skin tones, browns and muted shades. Help us understand what you are interested in so that we can improve SCMP and provide a better experience for you. We would like to invite you to take this five-minute survey on how you engage with SCMP and the news.