Is it just me or is there something gratifying about discovering an indie brand before it goes big? By now, given that you’re well-acquainted with some of the few popular beauty brands in the market, we can’t deny that some of us still prefer using our holy grails instead of trying something new. Nevertheless, there are times when you’re looking for new under-the-radar brands to try when you’re feeling a little more experimental. While global brands continue to dominate a large part of the Asian beauty pie, independent labels have been making waves of their own as of late.
In the past year alone, we’ve seen big deals being inked. Coty was reported to acquire a US$600 million (S$801 million) stake in Kylie Cosmetics while Shisedo made news for its US$845 million (S$1.13 billion) takeover of Drunk Elephant – the beauty label founded by Texan stay-at-home mum Tiffany Masterson in 2012.
In Singapore, independent Asian players are also making their presence felt, especially in the lucrative Asian skincare market which has generated US$60 million (S$80.2 million) in revenue so far this year according to figures from Statista.
Brands with roots in Asia like Glow Recipe, Skin Inc, Allies of Skin and Everyday Humans have witnessed impressive success, being stocked by mega retailers such as Sephora. Last month, homegrown beauty e-tailer Beaubit became the first stockist to carry South Korean cult beauty brand Tamburins out of its home country.
The demand for indie beauty in Singapore reflects Euromonitor International’s 2019 report on beauty trends that indicated a rising preference for independent cosmetics brands among Singaporeans.
“We’ve definitely seen a rising demand for Asian skincare labels,” says Pek Lay Peng, founder of online fashion and beauty multi-label store SocietyA which focuses on Asian brands including K-beauty label Celloom and Sigi Skin from Singapore.
“Since the launch of SocietyA Beauty, many shared that they are glad to have discovered products suitable for our Asian skin types and climate,” she adds.
Savina Chai, managing director of Beaubit notes that the success of K-beauty in the last decade has led to a growing interest in other brands from Southeast Asia.
In contrast to big names, independent Asian brands also own the digital space by selling directly to users. They are more aligned with consumers too, focusing on innovative R&D, fuss-free routines and trumpeting the use of natural ingredients.
So is the hype surrounding these indie brands really worth your time?
Larry Yeo, a well-known Singapore makeup artist trained in biotechnology and cosmetic science, weighs in. “Most indie skincare brands seem to be rising because they are new, and people with FOMO always want to try something new,” he says.
But he advises about the need to being wary of certain claims such as “preservative-free”. “Preservatives aren’t out to kill us,” he quips. “They prevent the beauty product from being contaminated by mould, fungus or bacteria.”
Nevertheless, he notes that there are excellent indie brands in the market. The onus is on the consumer to discern what message a brand is emitting, bearing in mind that the effectiveness of a beauty product varies based on a person’s uptake.
With that in mind, we give you the lowdown on eight indie skincare labels from Asia that beauty junkies should know about.