Start-ups that could make Singapore a beauty trendsetter after years of market dominance by South Korea and Japan

Word-of-mouth marketing from satisfied customers, and social media buzz, have driven the growth of these trending beauty start-ups offering artisanal scents, mimimalist skincare high-performance organic products

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 03 July, 2018, 8:30am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 03 July, 2018, 6:16pm

From crystal-clear “glass” skin to loose natural waves, many of today’s biggest beauty trends are dictated by South Korean brands. Barely a decade ago it was Japanese skincare and make-up brands that were the holy grail for beauty lovers.

Might it be Singapore’s moment to have its beauty brands in the spotlight?

Take Singapore-based Allies of Skin, which has a range of multitasking, adaptogenic skincare products that took off so quickly, they were picked up by within a couple years of launching.

New brand RE:ERTH offers a minimalist approach to beauty with its star product that aims to give “mochi” or bouncy skin. But instead of promising “instant flawless skin”, Shinji Yamasaki, CEO of RE:ERTH, says, “The conversations with our customers … take on a more ‘take care of yourself’ holistic approach, with emphasis on healthy skin.”

Six, a perfume brand, appeals with its range of niche, artisanal fragrances that are inspired by specific destinations and moods.

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Still, the founders of cult brands agree that it is challenging to be noticed in an industry dominated by multinational companies with seemingly bottomless marketing budgets. Instead, to get the word out, they rely on a blend of word of mouth and modern social media.

Lily Kew, the founder of Kew Organics, says she has expanded her brand to Hong Kong, Cambodia and Brunei by working with partners who were first and foremost satisfied customers. She says: “Today, consumers are very savvy. If something is good, there is no need for a brand to pour a huge amount of marketing dollars to shout it out. The results speak for themselves.”

Here are three Singapore beauty start-ups to keep an eye out for.

For high-performance organic products: Kew Organics

Kew Organics started as an organic facial bar in a heritage housing estate in Singapore before founder Lily Kew launched a skincare range in mid 2016 to meet local demand for organic skincare that delivered results. The water-based organic products are specially developed for Asian skin concerns, which are often exacerbated by overseas brands that tend to be oil-based and too rich to be used in warm climates. The brand also has its own R&D laboratory to test and develop new products.

Best known for: organic skincare with targeted products that offer visible skin benefits.

Try: Sugar Cane Royal Flush Exfoliant, S$69.70 (US$51). This organic exfoliator contains a cocktail of fruit acids and botanical extracts to gently remove excess dead cells to reduce the appearance of acne scars, brighten dull skin and minimise enlarged pores.

For minimalist skincare: RE:ERTH

Launched late last year, RE:ERTH – an abbreviation of Re-encountering Earth – touts a streamlined skincare regimen with products that offer multiple benefits so that users can get rid of excess clutter from their vanity tables. The six-product range features fast-absorbing products infused with natural ingredients, including Japanese white turmeric and yellow turmeric, common in Asian cooking.

Best known for: all-purpose products that eliminate the need for complicated multistep skincare regimens.

Try: multitargeted Elixir, S$108. This ultra-fast absorbing serum contains a potent blend of ingredients including Japanese white turmeric in a patented delivery system to reach deep into the skin.

For stand-out artisanal scents: Six

Former management associate of Givaudan Jason Lee was inspired to launch his own fragrance brand in late 2016, following the success of the two scents he had created for his own wedding as favours for his guests. The result: four fine perfumes centred around key ingredients to evoke memories of destinations around the world. For example, 27°F BIEI contains notes of lavender and green tea reminiscent of the Zen atmosphere of Hokkaido.

Best known for: niche fragrances that capture the essence of a place or memory in a bottle.

Try: Eclat, S$76. The fourth and most recent Six fragrance is an uplifting blend of neroli, Fuji apple, cocoa and vanilla, which Lee says is his personal interpretation of hope, grace and positivity – certainly a balm for these uncertain times.