Prestige skincare brands are finally feeling the pinch as a new trend for cheaper products has emerged.

The posh skincare sector – which includes brands such as Lancôme and Estée Lauder – sustained a 3.9% drop in value and 6.4% in volume terms in the past year, according to new data from NPD Group [May 2011 versus May 2012].

The latest data marked a step-change in the prestige beauty category, which had until now been “relatively spared by the challenging economic times”, said June Jensen, director of the UK beauty team at NPD Group.

“Despite a good start to the year, premium skincare brands with an average selling price above £100 are currently experiencing the strongest decline,” she said.

Bucking the downward trend, prestige make-up sales were up in both value and volume terms by 9% and 4.4%. Sales were boosted “not just by well established brands such as Clinique, but also by newer brands, including Benefit and Urban Decay”, said June.