PUBLISHED : Friday, 13 April, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 13 April, 2012, 12:00am


As the huge billboards, multimillion-dollar advertising budgets and A-list endorsements illustrate, the women's beauty and personal-care market is one of the most dynamic, competitive and profitable in the world. Storied names such as La Mer, Chanel and La Prairie have had an enduring appeal for older women, but in recent years have gained an almost fanatical following among younger shoppers.

Women's cosmetics are still predominantly led by trends from the catwalk. Specialist companies such as Bobbi Brown and MAC utilise the runway to push exciting new looks and their hottest products. The Spring-Summer 2012 shows teased trends for silvery toned eyeliner and pink blush or bronzer, which were eaten up by the fashion magazines and created buzz amongst bloggers.

But the focus will be on the lips this year, according to Nero Lam, beauty service manager at Lane Crawford. 'Bright orange and neon pink' lipstick were all over the recent runway shows, and luxury brands such as Yves Saint Laurent have followed suit. Lane Crawford now offers a Cosmetic Concierge service for women put off by rapidly changing fads and the hard sell of traditional department store makeup concessions.

Away from the catwalk, the super-premium skin-care brands will this year be focusing more on scientific innovation to keep their edge, as women look to endlessly tested and proven beauty care products. When it comes to glamour, high concept, high science brands struggle against the Diors and Lancomes of this world, but it seems women today are less enamoured with style over substance.

'Brand loyalty is sticky,' says Noelle Cheng, Hong Kong brand director for La Prairie. 'However, innovation and science are so important now and there is a big advantage in pursuing technological breakthroughs.'

Technological innovation has focused predominantly on anti-ageing products, which have become the most lucrative trend in recent years. The blockbuster launch and record-breaking sales of La Prairie's Cellular Power Infusion proved that although science might not be sexy, looking younger definitely is. La Prairie is considered to be the most premium of brands, and it eschews traditional celebrity endorsements for a commitment to research and development. Cheng believes the brand has been buoyed by women who are buying anti-ageing products when they are as young as 25 for their 'proven and fast efficacy despite the premium pricing'.

Fast-paced career women are also opting for multi-functional products this year, which are proving popular for their convenience and quick, noticeable results. La Mer, which is part-owned by Est?e Lauder, has long made products that are noted for their ease-of-use and application; an often overlooked aspect of beauty products. The brand found success with multi-function products like its Lifting Face Serum & Intensifier, a pair that infuses rarefied blue algae for an instant lifted appearance, as well as training the skin over time to maintain the lifted look and promote smoothness.

While science presently holds sway in skin care, there has been small but growing trend for organic beauty products a result of greater consumer awareness and sophistication.

'Organic products have big potential, as women are more concerned with what chemicals are in the products they use,' says Cheng, and the demand for natural ingredients has led to luxury brands to use additives and emulsifiers made from modified starch. Gratiae skincare has a cult following amongst women who are attracted to its 100 per cent organic make-up, combining thermal spring water with ingredients sourced around the Sea of Galillee.

In recent years, the beauty market has become less beholden to branding and pricing - the desire to look younger has seen increasingly savvy women demand products that are high on science and big on results.

It's strange to think that the term metrosexual has been with us now for almost 20 years, and thanks to the likes of David Beckham, Ryan Reynolds and Ashton Kutcher, dedicated men's grooming has gone mainstream. Facial creams, concealers, shaving oils - the sheer number of options available these days is bewildering, and is in stark contrast to the days of soap and Old Spice.

'Men are taking grooming far more seriously than ever and are craving for effective products,' says Harriet Lee, general manager of Joyce Beauty.

The company recently opened their men-only Joyce Grooming parlour in The Landmark shopping mall. Besides offering men's manicures, facial treatments and even eyebrow shaping, the parlour is a retail haven stocking luxury products from Thomas Pink, Tassels and Lanvin Men's.

Shaving oils and balms have been the entry-level grooming products for most men. 'We found a great demand from our customers on the traditional wet shaving tools such as the classic British brand Truefitt & Hill,' says Lee.

Traditional and mainly British brands such as Penhaligon's and Taylor of Old Bond Street are proving popular with more affluent customer hankering for the old world charm of a gentleman's barber and the forgotten delights of the wet shave.

Hong Kong men have been flocking to Gentlemen's Tonic, also in the Landmark basement, which is home to the Shackleton, known for 'a haircut and finish, beard trim or the ultimate wet shave for the intrepid traveller'. Sarah Chung at Gentlemen's Tonic, which has a unique range of men's products, believes the recent upsurge in grooming is as much to do with peer pressure and prompting from partners. At the salon at least, 'branding and positioning are more important than innovation' in male grooming products.

Chung notes that men coming into Gentlemen's Tonic are 'too busy to do a lot of research into what is new'. However, the store has also noticed a definite trend towards more natural products: 'A lot of men ask about the ingredients in their products and wishing to avoid things like parabens, petrochemicals and alcohol,' she says.

Men's skincare has been the fastest-growing segment in beauty products in recent years, as men realise the need to address their specific skin types and as brands are better able to communicate the benefits of their products. Skincare brands and their grooming methods have proved popular with men also interested in such recent trends as bespoke tailoring and handmade leather shoes, but there are a growing number of younger men more interested in the efficacy of a product, rather than the heritage or story related to a brand.

'Men might once have wanted only straightforward, one-for-all products, but they are certainly ready for more sophisticated products now,' says Lee, suggesting the success of high science brands such as Perricone MD and Kyoku for Men as evidence of this trend.

High science products are perhaps not as prevalent in male grooming as they are in women's cosmetics, but the products available are growing all the time. Luxury male grooming brand Hommage was established by industrial designer Wolfgang Joensson to create products that put function at the very centre of the grooming experience - for example, the multifunctional Face Care line works to address inflammation from shaving that can lead to premature ageing, as well as providing a pH-balanced natural moisturizer.

Anti-ageing products are also becoming popular among men. At the very top end of the market is Sisle

Men's grooming has come a long way in a short time. Where once cologne was the height of grooming, there is now demand for niche and high-tech products. The sophisticated modern gentleman knows that to look good takes a little bit more effort.

Photographer Filippo Del Vita
Stylist Jenesee Utley
Makeup and hair Martin Schmid
Model vika @ muse nyc