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Exporting made-in-Asia beauty trends to the rest of the world

Exporting made-in-Asia beauty trends to the rest of the world

16 Mar 2018

Gone are the days where cosmetic companies adopt a “one-size-fits-all” approach.


Realising the nuances between the Western and Asian market, beauty giants are innovating specifically for Asian consumers.


Take South Korean beauty conglomerate Amorepacific for instance.


Understanding that many Asian women place a premium on fair skin, the global beauty giant  pioneered the cushion compact in 2008. The “cushion”, a liquid foundation saturated sponge in a portable, spill-proof compact, offered coverage and non-chemical sunscreen protection.


This innovation paved the way to the now common sight of users conveniently retouching their makeup on the go.


The success of its cushion compact, which has sold over 100 million units globally as of 2016, has led to the production of more cushions in Amorepacific’s other product categories.


Amorepacific has also sparked other Asian-centric beauty trends such as two-tone lipsticks and overnight sleeping packs.


The former addresses the Asian consumer’s need for options and in achieving certain beauty looks (such as ombre lips) while the latter provides intense hydration throughout the night.


Elsewhere in Asia, a tradition for herbal and Ayurvedic remedies in India has inspired beauty brands to launch personal care products using natural ingredients. For instance, Dove uses hibiscus and Argan oil in its Elixir Nourished Shine Hair Oil and Colgate sells its Sensitive Clove toothpaste in the country.


Asian needs driving cosmetic innovation


These examples point to a fast-growing beauty market in Asia Pacific. With a rapidly growing middle class in the world’s most populous continent, cosmetic companies are setting their sights on the abundant growth opportunities in the region.

A fast-growing beauty market in Asia Pacific has led to more research and development for skincare products.
Credit: Procter & Gamble

According to Euromonitor International’s latest study of the beauty and personal care industry, the Asia-Pacific market grew by 5.2 per cent to reach S$186 billion (US$141 billion) in 2016.


Additionally, Euromonitor forecasts that growth in Asia Pacific’s premium segment will generate S$8.7 billion (US$6.6 billion) from 2016 to 2021, while the mass segment is expected to achieve double this amount.


Regardless of price point, there is burgeoning demand locally for cosmetic products that meet specific Asian needs. Emerging markets prefer drugstore cosmetics while mature markets such as Japan, South Korea and China gear towards premium cosmetics.


At Amorepacific, new beauty categories are created through the study of consumer behaviour.


“Customers in the ASEAN region tend to have specific beauty habits in relation to the humid climate, and we address these needs,” said an Amorepacific spokesperson in Singapore.


To tap on this growing market, conglomerates such as Amorepacific, Givaudan, Shiseido and Procter & Gamble (P&G) have established headquarters in Singapore, granting them access to the potential customer base in this region.


Journeying to the West


With Asia’s rise, more of its beauty trends are being exported to the West.


According to Amorepacific, western beauty ideals are traditionally rooted in appearance.


A notable shift is western consumers adopting Asian beauty, which has a focus on skincare and wellness.


Mr Magesvaran Suranjan, President, P&G APAC and IMEA (India, Middle East and Africa), points to a change in tide within the beauty segment.


“Asian women are known to have extensive beauty regimens of six to eight steps,” he said.


“That is aspirational for the West,” he added. 

Other than just makeup, Asians also focus on skincare and wellness as part of their beauty regime.

Suranjan revealed that SK-II, P&G’s premium skincare line, has seen exponential double digit sales growth in the West over the past few years.


Asian brands that are quick to leverage this shift in perspective are likely to reap the rewards abroad.


For instance, local skincare brand Skin Inc, known for its range of customisable serums, has established a presence in over 100 cities across Asia, Europe and the United States.


Despite catering to different market segments, Amorepacific’s brands such as Sulwhasoo and Innisfree are also global players.


Touting the benefits of traditional Asian ingredients such as ginseng and green tea, these brands have gained a strong following in the West for their holistic approach to beauty.


The launch of Innisfree in the United States and Sulwhasoo in France last September is a testament to robust demand for Asian-developed cosmetics and beauty trends.


Singapore as a springboard to launch products for the region and beyond


To tap on the ASEAN market, conglomerates are setting up shop in Singapore to better serve the region. 


P&G launched its S$250 million (US$189 million) Singapore Innovation Centre in 2014 to drive the development of consumer products across its brands.


World-class infrastructure, business friendly policies and accessibility to high quality talent  has made Singapore an ideal location for multinationals corporations (MNCs) looking to expand in the region.


According to Suranjan, Singapore’s biggest advantage as a regional hub lies in its proximity to end markets in Asia, thus allowing innovation for Asian consumer needs.


“We are strategically located in Singapore, with access to five million consumers of diverse ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds. This allows us to incubate ideas and take them directly to the consumer for testing,” he said.


P&G’s products that were developed in Singapore have taken off globally.


For instance, Pantene’s 3 Minute Miracle Conditioner was borne out of the consumer insight of more frequent hair washing habits and a greater need for fragrance among Asian consumers.


The conditioner mimics the deep nourishing effect of a salon treatment to counter the drying effect of frequent shampoo washes, requires just three minutes, and comes at a mass market-friendly price. The product is now a global bestseller.


SK-II’s newly launched Masterpiece Pitera Collection, which was also developed in Singapore, has also been a success in Japan.  


With a thriving research and development (R&D) ecosystem that is well supported by the government, all eyes are on Singapore and the region as we await the next big innovation.