8 Asian indie makeup & skincare brands that are here to stay

PHOTO: Pexels

While global brands continue to dominate a large part of the Asian beauty pie, independent labels have been making waves of their own of late. One just needs to take a look at the headlines of the day to see how smaller/cult players are making money moves with their multi-million dollar deals.

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 Shiseido made news for its US$845 million 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 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.

“MOST INDIE SKINCARE BRANDS SEEM TO BE RISING BECAUSE THEY ARE NEW, AND PEOPLE WITH FOMO ALWAYS WANT TO TRY SOMETHING NEW,”

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.

1. Tamburins

PHOTO: Tamburins

Country of origin: South Korea

The lowdown: This brand has gained somewhat of a cult following since its 2017 debut. Founded by the same company behind eyewear brand Gentle Monster, Tamburins is popular among millennials for its eye-catching, creative aesthetic.

Check out: Their star product is arguably the ‘Nude H.and Cream’ line of hand creams (above, $29-$45), which come in numerous scents. Fans also love the Tiger Leaf 100 Serum 2.0 ($43) and Water Essence Toner ($65).

2. Celloom

PHOTO: Celloom

Country of origin: South Korea

The lowdown: A science-based skincare brand, developed by Korean dermatologist Dr. Grace Cho and her daughter Daye Kim. The duo have more than 30 years of experience in skincare expertise, and pride their brand on using plant-based extracts and cruelty- free ingredients.

Check out: Best known products include the Rise And Shine Ampoule (left, $75) and Focus On The Essence Serum (right, $59) − formulated with K-beauty essential and medicinal plant extract Centella Asiatica.

3. SeaSun Society

PHOTO: SeaSun Society

Country of origin: Thailand

The lowdown: Newly launched this year, this Thai-based brand was founded by former model Madi Ross. Following her negative experiences working in Thailand’s modelling industry, Ross sought to build a brand that doesn’t promote skin whitening or changing one’s appearance.

Check out: Formulas are created using 100 per cent pure plant oils. These include moisturising facial oil Blue Spell (above, $40), coconut-scented body oil The Daily Glow ($35), and Youth ($40) which combats fine lines and wrinkles.

4. Sunnies Face

PHOTO: Sunnies Face

Country of origin: The Philippines

The lowdown: Another brand which started out with trendy eyewear and then branched into cosmetics. Founded in the Phillipines, Sunnies Face garnered international attention when it announced a collab with model-actress Rosie Huntington-Whiteley. Since then, celebs like Olivia Wilde and Christina Aguilera have been spotted using their products.

Check out: Its iconic Fluffmatte Lipsticks ($15.99) are available in numerous matte shades. Other popular items include creamy cheek tint Airblush ($ 19.99) and lip cream formula Lip Dip (above, $15.99).

5. Delicat

PHOTO: Delicat

Country of origin: Thailand

The lowdown: Founded in Thailand by two couples who travel frequently, Delicat is all about soothing sensitive, jet-lagged skin. Products address conditions like eczema and dry skin due to environmental aggressors, with the promise of natural and effective ingredients.

Check out: Bestsellers include the Neroli Rose Water Toner (above, $63), Rosewood Body Oil ($73) and Multi-molecular Hyaluronic Serum ($79)

6. Minimalist

PHOTO: Minimalist

Country of origin: India

The lowdown: Just launched in Oct, the brand has been gaining fans for its no-nonsense marketing approach. The brand’s motto is ‘Transparent Beauty’, which it supports by acknowledging that no beauty product is chemical-free.

Check out: Ditching fancy names, products are clinically titled based on their main ingredients. For instance, Granactive Retinoid 2 per cent (695 rupees or S$12.73) is their fine line-reducing serum, and Squalane 100 per cent (above, 695 rupees) is a lightweight moisturiser that improves skin elasticity and firmness.

Minimalist currently only ships to India via their website, but the brand’s looking to announce international shipping deets soon.

7. PSA

PHOTO: PSA

Country of origin: Singapore

The lowdown: Short for Purposeful Skincare by Allies, the sister brand of Allies of Skin targets a more youthful crowd: Gen Zs beginning their skincare journey. Just by looking at their site, you’ll know that they’re big on diversity, inclusiveness and being comfortable in one’s own skin. Products are affordable and aptly named to appeal to younger consumers.

Check out: Midnight Courage (right, $38) is a retinol night oil which reduces blemishes, and Heroine (left, $29) works as a glow toner refining the appearance of pores.

8. Everpink Cosmetics

PHOTO: Everpink Cosmetics

Country of origin: Thailand

The lowdown: This Thai cosmetic brand launched its first collection last November. We love its natural-looking makeup offerings, and pretty pastel-coloured packaging.

Check out: Everpink’s star product is its Comfy Matte Lipsticks (360 baht or  S$16), which come in 12 eye-popping shades. Other best-sellers are the Blush My Feelings cream blush (329 baht), and Hydrating Jelly (above, 555 baht)which works as both a make-up primer and moisturiser.

This article was first published in Female.