China Elle Presents Global Beauties

In the October supplement of China ELLE, there was a pretty interesting article that seemed appropriate for discussion on this blog. It was a feature on “Global Beauties” – essentially, an investigation into beauty practices unique to each country. The countries featured included: USA, France, Italy, Japan, Korea, Russia, Mexico, India, Brazil, and of course, China.

Now, I question how truly scientific the methods behind this so-called investigation are, but found it to be an interesting piece, nevertheless.

A few things that caught my eye?

– The number of references to Botox and cosmetic surgery. ELLE tells us it’s the big trend in multiple countries.

– Apparently Japanese women see make-up purely as a way to make the eyes bigger. A bit dramatic of a statement, I’d say. While I’d agree that Japanese women certainly care a lot about emphasizing the eyes and making them grow through the magic of make-up – there are plenty of other reasons why they use make-up.

– I don’t know many American women that go for a professional skin treatment every month. Nor that many that think the fruit juice fast is the antidote to becoming “fatter and fatter.” But whatever you say, China ELLE!

– I’m pretty sure there’s more to keeping the Brazilian figure than a “miracle” pill. (In fact, it says so in the article too.) So the introductory statement at the beginning is a little misleading…

…And that’s just for starters. Check out the translated article to see for yourself!

Continue reading

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Buying an Anti-Aging Serum: The Biotherm Experience

So it’s recommended that you start using anti-aging serums in your mid-twenties. So, as I’ve just passed the mid-twenty mark, I figured it was about time I go explore and pick one up. So I headed to Biotherm because I’ve  always had really good experiences with their products.

The retail space is open with a white aesthetic that emanates a “clean!” vibe. Just walking by a Biotherm store and seeing the visuals featuring moisture and liquid-themed backdrops instantly makes my face feel hydrated. Who says the power of suggestion is not real?

So I walked in, and after finding out about what I was looking for and what products I already used they did a face test on me. The super-nice moisture-advisor held up a gadget to my face and took readings including moisture-content and elasticity. Based on the readings he recommended a regimen.

I walked away with the following products, which thus far, have given me what I expect from a Biotherm product: a clean, hydrated, feeling. And so far, it’s looking like it’s more than just the power of suggestion.

Biotherm Age Fitness Pre-Age Essence

Biotherm Age Fitness Pre-Age Essence
Age Fitness Line
Protein Trainer
Pre-Age Essence Phyto-Active Re-plumper

The products in the Age-Fitness line have been formulated to prevent signs of aging and includes a Protein Trainer Lotion, Protein Trainer Milky Lotion, Power 2 Nuit (night cream), Power 2 Eye Gel, and of course, the Protein Trainer Essence.

Biotherm Acquasource Toning Mousse

Biotherm Aquasource Toning Mousse
Hydra-Mineral Cleanser Toning Mouse
With Balancing Zinc

This cleanser is a Biotherm derma-biotic product that “with a 70-mineral complex and balancing zinc, cleanses and tones without drying skin out. Skin is instantly cleansed and balanced. From 7 days, it radiates with a healthy glow.” I avoid foaming cleansers because I have relatively dry skin, so this smooth, mousse is ideal for me. It comes out as a cream, and with minimal lather smooths on like a mousse. My skin feels refreshed and hydrated after using it. So far: I’m a fan.

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Shu Uemura Art of Hair

Shu Uemura Art of Hair Landing PageI’m at about my last drop of Shu Uemura Art of Hair shampoo and conditioner. A few months ago, after hearing a lot about the Art of Hair brand, I picked up the Shu Uemura Art of Hair Murato Volume shampoo and conditioner.

Shu Uemura Art of Hair is a professional haircare and services line developed around the same beauty philosophy as their better-known beauty skincare and cosmetics business. The philosophy, as the brand name suggests, is centered on the idea that the care of hair (or skin, or cosmetic design in general) is an art. And this is manifest in the very experience-focused approach the brand takes. For instance, they have developed in-salon rituals, and the ingredients used are selected to be not only the best performing, but natural, sensual, and thus, enjoyable to use.

For instance, the Murato Volume line features depsea water, an ingredient also found in Shu’s skincare products. “Unpolluted and free of bacteria, depsea water is drawn 200 meters beneath the seas of Japan, matured over hundreds of years, it is a rich source of essential minerals and nutrients that provide ultimate purity and hydration.”

Shu Uemura Art of Hair Murato Volume Collection

Murato Volume Conditioner and Shampoo

The haircare line can only be purchased in salons and from their website. The professional level shampoo and conditioner gave my hair a lovely silky sheen, but I’m not sure how much more volume I had as a result of using the pair. But despite that, I used the products anyways. Why? Because I am in love with the fragrance.

Yes, I am the girl that chooses her hair products based on scent. The one who walks up and down the aisles flipping up the tops of bottles and squeezing for a whiff of fruity/floral goodness. The one who, when getting her hair washed, will inquire about the shampoo being used once the scents wafts down to her eager nose.

The Murato Volume collection features a fragrance called Aquarelle which consists of fruity top notes including tangerine, watermelon, apple, blackcurrant and pair, heart notes of floral peony, wisteria, waterlilly, white orris, and base notes of sandalwood, velvet peach, apricot, vetiver, and white musk.

So alas, I’ve finished these two bottles, but one of the most exciting things about running through a beloved shampoo/conditioner is getting to try out a new one. Now that my hair is permed, it also means any issues I had with volume before are all gone…so I get to try something new altogether. Any recommendations?

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Going For Gold

Donna Karan Spring RTW 2011 Golden Girls Backstage Beauty

Donna Karan Spring RTW 2011

I’ve been on an obsessive search for the perfect gold eyeshadow for a while now since seeing it on a colleague’s effortlessly-applied shimmering lids. And this past month we’ve seen it on a few runways, including Ruffian, Rodarte, and Donna Karan.

So in my late-night refuse-to-go-to-bed-until-mission-accomplished obsessive state, I scoured furiously adding possible contenders to my wishlist. And then, just as I was about to give in my tired body and turn in, I flipped through a few pages of September’s InStyle and bam!

There it was: my perfect gold eyeshadow.

Giorgio Armani Metallic Eyeshadow

Armani Metallic Eyeshadows (October launch)

So, the burnt gold color is what first caught my eye, but the article, Beauty Breakthroughs Put to the Test found that the new densely pigmented powder-gel hybrid really did live up to its long-wear claim: no budging, fading, or creasing in 10 hours.

Some of the other lovely golds that caught my eye include:

Make Up Forever Aqua Cream Gold EyeshadowMake Up For Ever’s Aqua Cream in Shade 11: Gold

Aqua cream is an ultra-pigmented, long-lasting waterproof cream that “combines the highest-quality pigments with mother of pearl particles to give immediate rich color payoff with a luminous finish in just one application.” It’s blendable and good for eyes AND cheeks. Plus, there’s your excuse to go check out the new Make Up Forever Sephora stores.

MAC Eyeshadow in Gorgeous Gold

MAC’s Eye Shadow in Gorgeous Gold

MAC has many beautiful yellows and golds in their eyeshadow line. The highly-pigmented powder applies evenly and this muted yellow gold was a stunning contender. also features some gold collections including Smashbox’s The Gold List and Make Up For Ever’s Gold Icon Collection.

And finally, a great alternative to a wash of gold over the eyelid is a touch of gold eyeliner, see bellasugar’s article on how to create that look.

Any gold favorites I may have missed?

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Makeup: One of the Joys of Being a Girl

Me, Childhood, Photo

Me at my mother's vanity table

So as gossipy mothers do, Mum and a friend were chatting, and her friend made a comment to the effect of “My daughter says she doesn’t need to wear make-up because she’s got confidence, [and that’s all she needs]” and when Mum relayed the story back to me, my first instinctual thought was: “But…why wouldn’t you want to?”

Sure we all know and agree that beauty originates from within and resonates throughout, but there’s something magical about how a swipe of blush can fill you with a rush of confidence that just makes you look, and thus feel, all the more energized and beautiful. And thus, confident.

I, personally, get so much enjoyment out of make-up. It’s just fun. It’s one of the true pleasures of being a girl. It’s like being a kid again — everyday I have a new art “project” to pull out my “crayons” to work on. And what can I say, I just feel happiest when I emerge with magic marker (delicately) smeared all over my face.

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Targeting the Chinese Male

Photo Credit: CFP

One thing that struck me during my retail visits in China – hell, it struck me even just walking around and seeing the ads everywhere – is this: beauty brands, consumer products companies, ad agencies…are all clamoring for the attention of the male Chinese consumer.

And it’s working. According to L’Oreal the market for men’s skincare products in China rose 27% last year and they project it to reach $570 million by the end of the year. That’s a rise of 40% this year, or 5 times what they’re projecting for the growth of the women’s market. Already, research agencies and market intelligence experts are busy predicting where that growth will come from – and this guessing game is getting every player with a stake excited.

Prediction #1: Growth will be driven by the skincare market

Source: Euromonitor International

Men’s grooming in China is currently driven by skincare and haircare. (Conversely, as illustrated on any ride on the metro during rush hour, fragrance is still an immature category). Experts predict that the next source of growth is the Chinese skincare market.

A recent IFOP report found that last year the growth of the male skincare market was 3 times the skincare market as a whole. L’Oréal’s products for men, launched in China only three years ago, now account for 22-23 per cent of L’Oréal Paris’ Chinese Business. In comparison, in Western Europe, men’s share of the skincare market is just 7-10 per cent.

L'Oreal Men Expert Hydra Energetic

The category is maturing rapidly before our eyes. Compare the sophistication of the products targeting men in China vs. the US. In China, products for men have gone beyond basic cleansers to specific result-oriented moisturizers, anti-blemish serums, anti-puff creams, whitening lotions, etc. In the US, the majority of the products marketed to men are still body washes and deodorants.

Prediction #2: Online retail could cause the market to explode

In the past, men might have been more secretive about their grooming regimens, but nowadays, couples often shop together for cosmetics. The woman still makes the purchase decision in seven out of ten cases, but as the market grows, this could change. Men, still cautious about maintaining an image of masculinity, are increasingly turning to the web as a resource: a place where they can research products and purchase anonymously. And thus, the decision-making power is shifting to them. Now, how masculine is that kind of autonomy?

Targeting the Male Consumer

The male consumer is new. He’s different from the males from the past. Not too long ago, he was shiftily sneaking a swipe of cream or a dab of moisturizer, when his girlfriend/wife was out of sight…emerging from the bathroom smelling suspiciously of roses and talc. Now, flying in the face of traditional ideas of masculinity, men are now more comfortable buying their own products.

But it does not appear that anyone has really figured out exactly who he is, nor is there a consensus around what he wants. But brands are taking a stab at guessing and they’re tailoring their messages to specific types. has identified three sub-categories of products/targets: “high-end”, “metrosexual” and “basic.”

It’s a question that even a mature market like the US hasn’t figured out. According to a recent article from WWD, Nivea says they are sophisticated and nuanced. Old Spice and Axe, say no, they are still, in the simplest sense, men: macho and driven by the most primitive of human needs. And if sales are anything to go by…they might not be wrong: P&G chief financial officer Jon Moeller recently told investors, “U.S. value share for Old Spice bodywash is up over two points in the past three months to 32 percent, and Old Spice deodorant has increased value share by almost two points.”

Click to view Old Spice's "Smell Like a Man, Man" ad

In the same WWD article, Paco Underhill, founding president of the New York-based consultancy Envirosell, said that when it comes to marketing to men, there are really only two approaches from which to choose: “Sex and humor.” P&G’s recent “Smell like a man, man” campaign for Old Spice used both approaches simultaneously, and has enjoyed remarkable viral success on the net, resulting in almost 1.2 billion impressions since February, rocketing it to becoming the number-one all-time most viewed sponsor channel on YouTube.

In China, however, the advertising message across brands is simple: your appearance is critical to your professional success. This then trickles down to any other success in life, including one’s personal success. As the sex ratio imbalance becomes more pronounced, the role of appearances is becoming increasingly important.

Click to view Nivea's Whitening ad

Result? Bring in the emotional campaigns by multinationals like Unilever, P&G, and L’Oreal. Enter Head and Shoulders’ and Nivea’s recent advertising campaigns that actively focuses on professional success. The more sophisticated products featured, i.e. exfoliating, anti-aging, energy-boosting, etc., are all tools critical in achieving that success. Hell, I knew Chinese men valued appearances, but I never knew whitening, for instance, was a benefit the male consumer even cared about!

Click to view my fave Gatsby ad

Finally, here’s Gatsby’s hilarious take on how a grooming product can give you a huge personal appearance win. Unlike the US market, which is filled with funny, irreverent ads, like the Old Spice campaign, Gatsby, a Japanese brand, appears to be the only brand taking a similar approach in Asia.

Perhaps the direct, straight-to-the point, benefits-driven ads that appeal to the male desire for professional success is more effective with the Chinese consumer. Who knows? I know that I’d love to see the data comparing the number of positive impressions and recall. HSBC has suggested that, at present, China is “a local luxury-goods market that is probably the only male-driven one on the planet.” So in a market with such staggering potential for growth, the brand that taps into the key Chinese male values of strength and modesty is likely to come out first. But how, exactly, should they do that? I wonder if the answer lies in the numbers…

Men to Drive Skincare Growth in China
Online Retail in China
Men Avid Consumers of Skincare
Growth in Men’s Grooming Despite Recession
Grooming brands snare men with sex, humor

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The Beauty Benefits of Mooncake (Part II)

I wrote a post not too long ago extolling the beauty benefits of the traditionally rich, cholesterol laden, but oh-so-delicious mooncakes, in honor of Mid-Autumn Festival. See:

Now that Mid-Autumn Festival has come and gone, I wanted to share this gem of a photo I took during a trip on the Metro in Shanghai. While my article was more tongue-in-cheek, and admittedly a little ridiculous, than dead serious, this ad very sincerely features the “wholesomeness” of a mooncake — and hell, I love it!

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