Mir­ror, mir­ror on the wall

BEAUTY BOOM Af­ter years in a prod­uct desert, Kiwi con­sumers are go­ing wild for mega beauty shops and on­line ser­vices. Eleanor Black re­ports.

The Press - Your Weekend (The Press) - - Cover Story -

The vibe is up­mar­ket play­ground. Pop mu­sic is blast­ing, the lights are white-bright, there are mir­rors and mil­len­nial pink ac­cent stripes ev­ery­where, and so many peo­ple crammed into the aisles that you can’t get down one with­out hav­ing to squeeze past at least three strangers clutch­ing pot­tles of primer or pim­ple cream.

This is Mecca Max­ima on a Fri­day just be­fore lunch, and ev­ery­thing about the ex­pe­ri­ence is, in­deed, max­ima. The makeup dis­plays, the skin­care, the beauty tools, the lit­tle bas­kets you carry round and load with prod­ucts, the bouncy staff in loud lippy who ar­rive at your el­bow to help you dis­tin­guish the vi­ta­min-c bright­en­ing serum from the fa­cial oil from the firm­ing masks. It’s a lot.

The clien­tele is mainly women, mainly in their 20s, and they are not browsers. They know ex­actly what they want, how much it will cost them and what it should do for them. They are ed­u­cated by so­cial me­dia, par­tic­u­larly Youtube, which is mak­ing the dis­sem­i­na­tion of beauty in­for­ma­tion more demo­cratic than ever – but is also en­cour­ag­ing un­prece­dented con­sump­tion of makeup and skin­care prod­ucts.

The av­er­age wo­man now spends an es­ti­mated $20,600 on beauty prod­ucts in her life­time, in­clud­ing $5200 on mas­cara alone, ac­cord­ing to a re­cent sur­vey by Money mag­a­zine.

Women who fol­low beauty trends more closely will spend sig­nif­i­cantly more. The Amer­i­can beauty e-tailer Skin­store re­leased re­search ear­lier this year show­ing that their cus­tomers will spend an av­er­age of $413,000 on beauty prod­ucts in their life­time. These women (and a few men) also say they use 16 prod­ucts on their face be­fore they leave the house in the morn­ing, in­clud­ing newer “must-haves” such as high­lighter, a Youtube favourite.

“The way new prod­ucts are in­tro­duced to us [now] is more re­lat­able,” says Kirsty Leigh, who founded the Face­book page Makeup Ob­ses­sives (which boasts 42,000 mem­bers) and runs an on­line re­tailer with the same name. “As op­posed to print and TV ad­ver­tise­ments, we see real peo­ple via Youtube, In­sta­gram, and beauty blogs us­ing prod­ucts in ways that we can see our­selves repli­cat­ing.”

Mecca’s ar­rival in New Zealand was a “huge deal”, says Leigh. “For years we’ve been see­ing brands on­line that were pre­vi­ously su­per-hard for us to buy, such as Too Faced and Ur­ban De­cay, and now that they’re ac­ces­si­ble, it’s a lot less frus­trat­ing when we see our favourite Youtu­ber us­ing them in a tu­to­rial. We’re fi­nally catch­ing up.” We sure are. Af­ter mak­ing do with the of­fer­ings at de­part­ment stores and phar­ma­cies for decades, we have seen an ex­plo­sion of beauty launches in the past five years. In ad­di­tion to three Mecca Max­i­mas

cleanser; use toner; then a spe­cial treat­ment like vi­ta­min C; and then mois­turiser.”

The holy grail of shop open­ings, ac­cord­ing to beauty blog­ger Cass Thomp­son, would be an on-the-ground Sephora. The French chain, with 2300 stores in 33 coun­tries, is owned by the LMVH con­glom­er­ate (Louis Vuit­ton, Chris­tian Dior, Hen­nessy, Givenchy and many more) and is known for its prod­uct in­no­va­tion and buzzy launches. The lat­est is Ri­hanna’s Fenty Beauty, which boasts 40 dif­fer­ent foun­da­tion colours and stick high­lighters in vi­o­let and mango.

Thomp­son buys makeup on­line and in-store, but most en­joys be­ing able to try prod­ucts in per­son. “[Like] so many other beauty lovers [I was so] des­per­ate to get my hands on [pop­u­lar brands] that we would shop on­line and use par­cel for­ward­ing ser­vices from the United States or United King­dom. Shipping would be pretty steep, and of course, the wait time to get prod­ucts was much longer.

“For a while it felt like New Zealand was so iso­lated from the beauty world in terms of the brands ac­ces­si­ble to us, it was al­most tor­ture watch­ing beauty blog­gers share their lat­est hauls and not be­ing able to have the chance to get the prod­ucts our­selves.” As pop­u­lar beauty blog­gers, Leigh and Thomp­son are sent free prod­ucts to trial – in the same way that Youtube star Shaaanxo (who hails from Palmer­ston North and has 3 mil­lion fol­low­ers) and in­ter­na­tional “beauty gu­rus” like Nikie de Jager and Tati West­brook are. Big Youtu­bers’ “first im­pres­sions” videos and tu­to­ri­als get mil­lions of hits, and have dra­mat­i­cally changed the way beauty com­pa­nies ap­proach their mar­ket­ing.

Col­lab­o­ra­tions be­tween cos­met­ics brands and “beauty gu­rus” such as Ja­clyn Hill (4.5 mil­lion Youtube sub­scribers, 4.5 mil­lion fol­low­ers on In­sta­gram) and Manny MUA (3.5 mil­lion Youtube sub­scribers, 4 mil­lion In­sta­gram fol­low­ers) quickly sell out and in­spire im­i­ta­tions.

Their most ad­mired makeup looks re­quire sig­nif­i­cant abil­ity and a lot of prod­uct – five or six eye shad­ows, liner, mas­cara, false lashes, glit­ter and high­lighter for the eyes alone. De­pend­ing on your point of view, this is great fun or a mas­sive palaver.

Kang – who is de­vel­op­ing her own skin­care line, start­ing with the clas­sic Korean sheet mask – is just as scrupu­lous about her skin­care regime. At night she uses oil cleanser, foam cleanser, toner, an am­poule of whiten­ing prod­uct for pig­men­ta­tion, vi­ta­min C drops

As a teenager, beauty writer and ed­i­tor Sarah Simp­son wore four makeup items ev­ery day – foun­da­tion, lippy, mas­cara and eye­liner – and she was con­sid­ered un­usual. Four prod­ucts in her arse­nal made her a makeup junkie in the 80s. “I was re­ally the only girl in class who was in­ter­ested in makeup to the ex­tent that I was,” she says.

These days she preps her face with 12 to 15 prod­ucts, but thanks to im­proved for­mu­la­tions and her own in­creased knowl­edge, she feels that she looks more nat­u­ral now.

“The ul­ti­mate goal is for a barely there look,” she says. “As a teen I prob­a­bly would have spent 40 min­utes try­ing to cover my freck­les. Be­fore I had chil­dren I would pour my­self a glass of wine and give my­self an hour to get ready. Now I can do a full face in 15 min­utes.”

Prod­ucts go on more thinly, and many have a dual pur­pose, such as a blur primer which gives her skin colour and also con­tains skin­care in­gre­di­ents and blur­ring qual­i­ties. She also uses foun­da­tion, con­cealer for un­der the eyes, a dif­fer­ent con­cealer for other parts of the face, high­lighter, blush, eye­shadow, mas­cara, brow gel and lip­stick. “A lot of that is ac­tu­ally just get­ting the base right,” says Simp­son. “There are so many more ways to get that youth­ful look. Ob­vi­ously I’m chas­ing that be­cause I’m 38.”

Hara Kang of Hikoco (above) started her on­line busi­ness sell­ing Korean skin­care and cos­met­ics 18 months ago.

Keen cus­tomers queued for 18 hours along Auck­land’s Queen Street in Au­gust for the open­ing of New Zealand’s sixth Mecca beauty store.

Mecca Max­ima opened in the ANZ Cen­tre, Christchurch, in Novem­ber of last year.

Beauty blog­ger Cass Thomp­son.

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