From The Straits Times    |

Photo: Instagram /  @emilyweiss

Have you ever wondered about the numbers and statistics of women behind beauty brands? Well, according to LedBetter’s most recent Gender Equality Index, 71 per cent of leadership roles in the beauty industry are held by men. Shocking, isn’t it? Especially when it seems like it’s the one industry women should dominate in.

As surprising as the figure is, it is also equally motivating to see more and more women stepping up and taking charge in this sector, either by leading the product creation team or spearheading a new brand. Here are seven inspiring female entrepreneurs who are heading either international cult favourite beauty brands or homegrown ones, and the product to try from each label.


1. Rea Ann Silva – Beautyblender

The tiny but mighty cheery pink tear drop-shaped sponge, which is no stranger to makeup aficionados and regular Sephora shoppers, has spawned countless imitations. But did you know that it is the brainchild of celebrity makeup artist Rea Ann Silva, who came up with the concept while working on a TV set almost twenty years ago?

Back when Rea was the department head of American sitcom Girlfriends – it featured four African-American female lead actresses and was also one of the first shows shot in high definition – she ran into serious problems with making foundation look natural. Her experience with special effects makeup proved valuable: She knew that bouncing a sponge onto the skin with makeup will add dimension and make it look skin-like. She also knew that by adding a bit of water, it would set the makeup and give a more natural, luminous finish.

The only thing she lacked was a tool that would seamlessly blend makeup as any lines of demarcation would appear on camera. That led her to the creation of her secret weapon on set – she cut up wedge sponges into little tear drop shapes in her trailer and wet them before use. And yes, the Beautyblender sponge is designed to be used wet so remember to wet, squeeze and bounce your blender, people!

Must-try product: Beautyblender Original, $32, from Sephora


2. Wendee Lee – Biconi


A silver ining from a dark cloud, the news of her father’s cancer diagnosis kick started her family’s search for a natural health supplements to help her father cope with his illness. After witnessing the healing power of natural ingredients on one’s body, Wendee & her mom started @biconi . Inspired by the amazing biodiversity of SEA, this power-packed mother-daughter duo brings your heritage to you in the most natural of ways. #WarriorCrushWednesday #livemoreconsciously #gitnbasia #littlegreensteps . . . . . . #sustainabilitysg #consciousliving #ecofriendlyproducts #ecosg #eatbetter #plasticwaste #greenliving #ecofriendly #sustainability #sustainableliving #gitnbasia #savinggaia #gogreen #consumerism #happy #gaia #happy #mindfulness #greenliving #singapore #ethical #love #life #urban #sustainableproducts

A post shared by Green is the New Black (@greenisthenewblackcom) on

It all began when Wendee Lee’s father was diagnosed with colon cancer in 2008. To help him fight skin infections and hair loss, Wendee, along with her mother, started making soap bars infused with homemade noni enzyme from the medicinal, antioxidant fruit found in her family-owned farm.

Noni has been used in traditional Malay medicine for centuries and realising how its restorative properties can greatly benefit those with damaged hair and skin, Wendee launched Biconi that uses noni as the key ingredient as well as other native Southeast Asian ingredients such as virgin coconut oil in the products.

Must-try product: Hair Repair Clarifying Shampoo, $24 for 250ml, from Biconi


3. Emily Weiss – Glossier


Wearing a blazer over your shoulder = instant fancy

A post shared by Emily Weiss (@emilyweiss) on

Glossier was introduced to the world in 2014 via the powers of social media. And it’s hard to imagine that this millennial beauty brand first started out as a blog (known as Into The Gloss) four years prior by founder and chief executive officer Emily Weiss before skyrocketing to cult status. Everyone wanted a piece of its signature pink TSA-ready makeup pouch in bubble wrap design, which the brand uses to package its products.

The background story is that Emily launched her blog to let readers in on the enviable beauty regimes of fashion’s elite while working as a fashion assistant in Vogue. And using it as a springboard, she started selling her own products under the Glossier brand soon after.

Widely regarded as one of the key figures in democratising the beauty industry, Emily is one of the pioneers of the concept of consumer-led beauty, where heavy emphasis is placed on millennial-friendly marketing and social media to get consumers to buy the products without trying them on first. It also helps that its budget-friendly products have found fans among Hollywood’s A-listers such as Beyonce, Chrissy Teigen and Rosie Huntington-Whiteley.

Must-try product: Boy Brow, $35.90, in three variants – black, brown and clear, from Blushboss



4. Carisa Janes – Hourglass

Favoured by beauty aficionados and professional makeup artists alike for its high-quality complexion products, this Californian brand is founded in 2004 by Carisa Janes who wanted to redefine the prestige beauty category through innovation, integrity and social responsibility – she believed that luxury cosmetics can be cruelty-free.

Acclaimed for its breakthrough formulations, sensorial textures, modern colour schemes and sleek custom packaging, Hourglass does not test any of its products on animals, forgoes animal-derived cosmetic ingredients such as beeswax and carmine, and sticks to its unwavering commitment to animal welfare by pledging to become fully vegan by 2020.

Must-try product: Ambient Lighting Palette, $106, from Sephora


5. Aletheia Sim – Mmerci Encore

If you ask former beauty editor-turned-artisanal aromatherapy brand founder Aletheia Sim (or Alli as she’s affectionately called) how it all began, she’d tell a story of her eight-year-old self spending her hard-earned pocket money on do-it-yourself beauty remedy books and losing herself in the bathroom creating natural facial and hair concoctions with ingredients raided from the family fridge.

Alli was utterly intrigued by the mood-altering ways of oils and botanicals, and completely mesmerised by their textures and scents, so much so that she became a certified aromatherapist. She even studied aromatherapy massage when she made the decision to return to her roots where she’d blend essential oils to help others feel amazing about themselves.

Leaving behind the glamorous (and stressful) magazine life, she took Mmerci Encore – formerly her online journal – to the next chapter with only one goal in mind: creating feel-good beauty that helps someone not just externally but also supports emotionally.

Drawing inspiration from art, design and travel, every product Alli creates is made with love and intention; new offerings are released only when she has the right know-how and perfect ingredients to make them, and when she truly believes they can help consumers.

Must-try product: Glow Elixir, $39, from Mmerci Encore


6. Pauline Ng – Porcelain

Porcelain is arguably one of the household names among the throng of local beauty brands now, but this award-winning beauty and spa brand’s humble and rocky beginnings can be traced all the way back to the 1990s. It started as a pet project post-graduation for founder Pauline Ng who, armed with business management knowledge, helped restart her mother Jenny Teng’s facial business that was badly hit twice – first by the Asian financial fallout and then, the SARS outbreak.

Starting from scratch, she paid attention to her customers’ demand for products that would complement their facials, and that led Porcelain to dive into research and development to come up with its own non-comedogenic skincare line that is formulated sans paraben and fragrance.

A few months of lending a helping hand morphed into 10 years (and counting), yet Pauline says she wouldn’t have it any other way as she shares her aesthetician mother’s passion to help customers feel confident in their own bare skin through their non-invasive aesthetic treatments and effective skincare products.

Must-try product: Intensive HA+ Hydrating Serum, $198 for 30ml, from Porcelain


7. Tay Yuhui – 13rushes

The 2013 inception of 13rushes was largely born out of Tay Yuhui’s ambition to create a cruelty-free makeup brush after watching a People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) video demonstrating how animal hair is harvested in fur farms to make makeup brushes. Yuhui was deeply affected by the horrific recording but the journey for the then-fresh business graduate was anything but easy; she had a dream of creating a sustainable synthetic makeup tool but she had to start from scratch as she knew little about finding the right supplier that could bring her passion project to life and even lesser about how to manage product quality control.

Despite launching into the competitive beauty market with a batch of inconsistent brushes however, her customers were kind and patient with her, giving her constructive feedback to address the defects in her creations. She also counts her mother’s endless support and assistance as her source of motivation to soldier on, and credits prolific makeup artist Larry Yeo for connecting her to industry insiders.

Since then she has become a cult favourite synthetic makeup brush brand in Singapore, and has gone on to collaborate with Japanese cartoon character Gudetama on a range of makeup brushes and blending sponges.

Must-try product: Universal Do-It-All Brush, $39.90, from 13rushes