The biggest beauty stories of 2019

Niki Bruce
Contributor
(PHOTO: Getty Images)

SINGAPORE – As the year, and decade, comes to an end, it is time to see what has been going on in the world of beauty. From the rise of ‘clean beauty’ brands and products, to influencer spats, going grey, exotic skincare products and Taobao beauty tools, the beauty world has had a happening year.

According to a recent Statista report, the beauty industry was worth about $1.94 billion this year and should increase by another 1.7% in 2020. While Singapore is behind countries like the United States, China, Japan, India and Brazil, considering the size of our population, it’s not too bad.

So, where has all that money been spent? And what are the other things we’ve been talking about this year? Here is our list...

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(PHOTO: Getty Images)

Clean Beauty

The number one topic in both Singapore and the rest of the world has revolved around the rise of ‘clean beauty’. What it is, whether it is more than just a marketing term, and whether or not it works, have all been hot questions in 2019. Our Singapore expert Larry Yeo is not a fan. According to Mr Yeo, “... it is fear mongering and mostly using pseudoscience to explain [stuff] that isn’t there.” The biggest issue about ‘clean’ for beauty products is that there is no central authority or official accreditation system that can define or monitor this label.

So, ‘clean beauty’ is being used as an umbrella phrase for anything that purports to have ‘natural’ ingredients or organic ingredients, products that have been made in an ‘ethical way’ (not defined) or products that already fit into existing groups like those that are not tested on animals, use no parabens or silicates, use vegan ingredients, etc. The reason why the concept of ‘clean beauty’ is increasingly popular is most likely related to an increased interest in sustainabilityethical consumerism and other issues like climate change. Likewise, the current craze for wellbeing and other lifestyle interests have also contributed to the growth of ‘clean beauty’.

Read our story about Clean Beauty.

Drunk Elephant F-Balm Electrolyte Waterfacial

Cult beauty brands arrived in Singapore

In 2019 we had quite a few cult beauty and skincare brands become available in Singapore for the first time. Drunk Elephant - the popular American skincare brand - has obsessive fans and is known for a few key products like the C-Firma Day Serum, T.L.C. Framboos Glycolic Night Serum, A-Passioni Retinol Cream, Beste No. 9 Jelly Cleanser and Virgin Marula Luxury Facial Oil. In the world of K-Beauty a number of cult brands also became available in Singapore for the first time. IOPE - the OG of cushion foundations - and Espoir - known for its makeup - both launched here in 2019. Natural skincare brand Hanyul, which is based on traditional Korean remedies, is also now available in Singapore. 

… and Sasa closes down

Popular affordable beauty and bodycare outlet Sasa has closed down all 22 Singapore stores after pulling out of Taiwan in 2017. Not only have all the stores closed, but about 170 people have lost their jobs.

SINGAPORE, SINGAPORE - NOVEMBER 16: Joseph Schooling of Singapore during a meet and greet session on day two of the FINA Swimming World Cup at OCBC Aquatic Centre on November 16, 2018 in Singapore. (Photo by Lionel Ng/Getty Images)

But, Joseph Schooling now has a skincare line

Yep. That’s not a typo. Singapore’s favourite son, Olympic champion swimmer Joseph Schooling has launched his very own skincare brand. Called JS Orphic, the brand offers four basic skincare products related to cleansing, moisturising and sun protection. After years of suffering from chlorine damaged skin, Schooling found a doctor to solve his problems, and work with to create his new product range. Fingers crossed the brand will last longer than he did against his teammate in the 50m butterfly.

Story about the popularity of dermal fillers to smooth facial wrinkles. Photo of Dr. Doug Hamilton injecting Restylane to patient, Stacy Oliver of Sherman Oaks, June 7, 2006. (Photo by Ken Hively/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

Skincare treatments top the list for big beauty spends

According to a report from American brand Yelp, skincare treatments were the most sought after, looked for, and searched in 2019. The specific things that people were looking for included facial fillers, ultherapy, dermaplaning, coolsculpting, collagen, lash lift, microneedling, facial lasers, and vaginal steaming (yes, really). All of these treatments are just as popular in Singapore - except maybe for that last one. In Singapore, one of the most popular types of skincare people were interested in is the idea of customised skincare. Singapore skincare brands like alche{me} and Yours, as well as SkinInc, are already well-known for providing skincare products that are not only customised, but also work.

Terrific Taobao tools

Also part of the whole focus on skincare, the super affordable prices of a variety of beauty tools available on Taobao became something of a viral phenomenon in Singapore in 2019. Items like Temix acrylic nails, the Mishiti eyebrow pencil, all kinds of double eyelid tapes, fake eyelashes that don’t need glue and the super affordable FMR oil control paper, are on just about every Singaporean’s beauty bench. 

MOUNTAIN VIEW, CA - NOVEMBER 04: Rachel McAdams attends the 7th Annual Breakthrough Prize Ceremony at NASA Ames Research Center on November 4, 2018 in Mountain View, California. (Photo by Taylor Hill/Getty Images)

Going grey globally

Tied into the rise of more ‘natural’ beauty, more people decided in 2019 to stop dying their hair and let their greys grow out. Rachel McAdams, Glenn Close, Jessica Biel, Helen Mirren, and even Katie Holmes, have all shown either their greying roots, or gone fully grey. Even popular Japanese stylists and fashionistas have been giving it a go.

Go glossy, or go home

In the area of makeup trends it is all about the glossy look from 90s favourite lipgloss to the whole ‘eye gloss’ trend which looks a bit like putting vaseline on your eyelids. The formerly popular ‘glowy’ look of Kpop idols and teen celebs has become even more shiny now with the focus on the lips. Strong lip colours are still a strong trend, but liquid lipstick is over; it’s all about that gloss now.

LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 20: Jeffree Star, Manny Gutierrez and James Charles celebrate The Launch Of KKW Beauty on June 20, 2017 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Stefanie Keenan/Getty Images for Full Picture)

Beauty YouTubers finally lost the plot (but do we care?)

This year was definitely an ‘annus horribilis’ for the so-called Beauty Gurus of YouTube. From the always controversial Jeffree Star - who had US$2.5 million worth of products stolen from his own warehouse in April - to the failure of Jaclyn Hill’s lipstick launch, 2019 has seen a lot of big beauty names slip up. In every case there was a furore on social media with fans and foes equally attacking and defending their favourite beauty stars with fervour. Star, who had already been involved in a number of influencer scandals, released a video about the theft (of course), and also claimed that the theft was linked to black market makeup dealers.

After Hill’s products were launched it was immediately obvious that her lipsticks were not what she had claimed; they were badly made, caused people to have allergic reactions to using them, and covered in tiny hairs - yuck! After a few misleading explanations Hill eventually recalled all the products, refunded all customers, and deleted her social media accounts. She has since returned, with a YouTube video apology and then relaunched her brand, asking people to give her a ‘second chance’. 

Yet another beauty YouTuber, James Charles, got into hot water after he had a very public spat with his former best friend, another beauty YouTuber, Tati Westbrook. Again this drama started with a product - hair vitamins (yes, really) - when Charles promoted a brand that was a direct competitor to his friend Westbrook’s own hair vitamin brand. Westbrook felt betrayed and took to the internet to express her hurt, and beginning a feud which ended up with a range of personal name-calling and accusations that would have been immature even for a bunch of teenagers. It goes without saying that most of us really don’t care whether or not they’re friends again. Right?