BEAUTY

12 beauty products people are checking out while in quarantine

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We spoke to brand managers about what consumers loved in the new normal. In photos: Benefit Brow Microfilling Eyebrow Pen and Happy Skin's Glowing Skin full set. Photos from BENEFIT COSMETICS PHILIPPINES and HAPPY SKIN

As K-Pop idols, American celebrities, and social media stars influence the desires of the Philippine market, local beauty companies and Philippine distributors of global brands have pushed beauty products that could work for our local climate, and address pent-up demand coming from salon closures. As hair roots show and manicures chip away, here are the beauty solutions that did well in sales according to brand managers — one year out from the first lockdowns.

The rise of serums

The longer people stayed at home, the more time they had to research what to add to cart. Indeed, if you start typing out ‘why are serums -,’ Google will fill the rest of the search bar with “so expensive” and clicking on that will yield a WebMD result: “Because active ingredients are more expensive than thickeners, serums are also the costliest product in many skin care lines. ... Serums are made of very small molecules, so the skin absorbs them quickly and deeply.”

Bright Plus Serum, ₱5,550 (30mL). Photo from CLARINS PHILIPPINES

French brand Clarins developed a fast-absorbing serum that serves as an oxygen shot for the skin. (It aims to help the skin breathe better and in turn, look brighter.) During its first month of release, it generated 25% of the brand’s sales in the country and quickly found its way to the brand’s current roster of top 20 products.

A gap for a cheaper alternative was identified by the Philippine headquarters of L’Oreal Paris. The opportunity to offer a product that was luxurious but attainable was right in line with the brand’s equity in “masstige” — prestige for the masses. So they started to promote their Revitalift Crystal Micro Essence, a lightweight essence — more liquid than a serum — infused with salicylic acid (a pimple fighter, in the time of maskne).

Revitalift Radiance Booster Duo, ₱2078. Photo from L’OREAL PARIS - PHILIPPINES

The product did so well, accounting for more than half of the total growth of the brand’s online skincare business in 2020, that it prompted L’Oreal to bring in the matching serum. They are now packaged together as a two-step regimen — the Revitalift Radiance Booster Duo — which clinched the number one spot for best-selling serum and essence in Lazmall. To this day, reps from the brand told CNN Philippines Life, the duo is their number one bestseller.

Ash hair color takeover

From Blackpink’s Jennie Kim to pop sensation Ariana Grande, global tastemakers sported their fresh ash-colored locks — technically blue, green, or purple pigments invisible to the untrained gaze — that makes the hair look silvery. Part-brunette, part-silver, and part-blonde, it is the hair equivalent of the smoky eye.

Excellence Cool Ash Hair Color, ₱449. Photo from L’OREAL PARIS - PHILIPPINES

Seeing that lockdowns shuttered salons, the Philippine home base of L’Oreal Paris responded by making this salon color trend more accessible to consumers by dropping their widest assortment of Excellence Cool Ash hair colors online — it is presently the number one hair color brand on Lazmall and Shopee Mall.

The brow effect

History has long perpetuated the lipstick effect: a behavioral economic phenomenon that reveals consumers look for small luxury indulgences such as premium lipstick during recessions, downturns, and hard times in general. But as prolonged mask-wearing diminished the need for wearing lipstick, customers reached for an above-the-mask beautifier, especially eyebrow makeup.

Benefit Brow Microfilling Eyebrow Pen, ₱1,660. Photo from BENEFIT COSMETICS PHILIPPINES

Early this year, Benefit Philippines released its Brow Microfilling Eyebrow Pen and witnessed their sales double coming from their most recent pre-pandemic brow product launch, says country general manager Donna Shaw. It quickly became known for its ability to create natural and feathered brows through a three-prong tip that quickly draws on precise hair-like strokes. Perfect for rushing into a Zoom call you somehow forgot about.

Hands-free and contactless options

Life in lockdown conditioned us to keep our liquid essentials in atomizers to bring with us wherever we go. Shiseido did the same by transforming their best-selling Ultimune Serum into mist form. Formulated to minimize hand-to-face contact, the Ultimune Defense Refresh Mist promises the same skin immunity-boosting properties of the serum but delivered through touch-free application.

Shiseido Ultimune Defense Mist, ₱3450 (30 mL with 30mL refill bottle). Photo from SHISEIDO PHILIPPINES

It’s good news for people battling maskne — face mask-triggered acne. Gienah Contreras, assistant training manager of Shiseido in the Philippines, explained the science: “The skin underneath the mask is actually put in an abnormal condition which makes it more susceptible to damage... Our skin’s inner defenses decline under higher temperatures.” Since its release in 2020, the Ultimune Defense Refresh Mist has helped Shiseido perform better in the skincare category across all its online storefronts in the Philippines, according to Contreras.

The search for anti-blue light protection

In work-from-home settings, continuous and daily exposure to blue light from our screens penetrates the skin, creates reactive oxygen, and ultimately causes damage to skin cells. Acknowledging the longer hours we spend in front of monitors and phones, Happy Skin released a new line of both beauty and skincare products infused with damage-repairing Anti-Blue Light Technology.

Fresh Morning Dew Collection, starting at ₱399. Photo from HAPPY SKIN

The Fresh Morning Drew | At Home Edition includes aqua cooling setting powder, serum foundation, color adapt stick, lightweight UV sunscreen mist, cooling lip and cheek tint, and a sunscreen gel primer. Beauty enthusiasts easily found a space for the collection in their new day-to-day summer routines. “It’s like having make-up but you don’t feel like you are wearing any,” Kate, a Lazada customer, raved.

Since its launch, Happy Skin has been able to consistently keep its position within the top five make-up brands in Lazada, says CEO Jacqe Gutierrez. At the moment they have the monopoly on the indoor protection kit. Co-founder Rissa Mananquil Trillo said, “That's where the real beauty and benefit of being a homegrown brand lies — we possess the ability to respond to the local market and innovate more quickly.”

The new need for hand care

In the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, the World Health Organization (WHO) commenced the #SafeHands challenge — a social media campaign promoting hand hygiene that went viral through the active participation of celebrities, athletes, and politicians across all digital platforms.

Adventurer Roll Up, ₱2,880. Photo from AESOP PHILIPPINES

While carrying antibacterial products is compulsory, its excessive use leads to drier skin. Aesop was quick to recognize this concern as they instituted on-the-go hand care. The recently released Adventurer Roll Up is a portable hand care kit designed for travelling further afield and running quick errands. Delivering a three-step hand care regimen that washes, sanitizes, and moisturizes, the Adventurer Roll Up features a rinse-free hand mist, wash, and balm packed in a compact pouch made from recycled material.

“The lockdown has been so hard on my hands and being a designer myself, I find my hands are always dry or cracking but honestly this has really changed my life,” Anette, a customer, shared her first-hand experience with the kit on the brand’s instagram post.

Clean Slate Moisturizing Hand Purifying Spray, ₱159. Photo from HAPPY SKIN

Homegrown brand Happy Skin also found a way to remedy post-sanitizer parched skin through their Clean Slate Moisturizing Hand Purifying Spray. Again, acknowledging the moisture-stripping properties of most cleansing products, the brand infused their travel-friendly lavender-scented and hypoallergenic sanitizer with a mix of hydrating ingredients such as Aloe Vera to keep hands soft, smooth, and sanitized.

Sleep-adjacent beauty

Beauty Sleep Face and Body Mask, ₱875 (125g), from Lush Philippines

Sleep quality also took a severe decline throughout the pandemic. When ECQ was re-introduced in March this year, the vegetarian beauty brand Lush, experienced a stark 134% increase in sales according to senior marketing officer Kesh Tatlonghari for its Beauty Sleep face and body mask as it targeted consumers struggling with sleeping problems and dull skin caused by inadequate sleep. Somewhere in their tagged stories, a customer review reads, “This mask actually really did put me to sleep last night. The best part? I woke up with soft and glowing skin.”

Photo from LANEIGE PHILIPPINES

Korean beauty label Laneige also revised the formula of their award-winning Water Sleeping Mask. Initial clinical trials in 2020 were conducted among women aged 20-39 who slept less than six hours a day and 91.19% of participants described the feeling of their skin as having “slept well.” Set to release in the Philippines in June, the new and improved Water Sleeping Mask now features a probiotics complex that protects the skin from harmful skin conditions externally and internally. Erin Pacheco, Laneige parent company Amore Pacific’s brand general manager in the Philippines, believes the term beauty has grown more intertwined with health, if not already synonymous.

DIY “facial”

Vita-C Triple Exfoliating Facial, ₱3,950 (80mL). Photo from MURAD PHILLIPPINES

As it’s fairly hard to visit our dermatologists and professionals, a beauty brand on the more clinical side of things, Murad noticed an increasing number of consumers willing to invest in premium skincare items that could mimic the effects of professional treatments. Consumers forgoing their periodical skin up-keep appointments to avoid close physical contact turned to alternatives like Murad’s Vita-C Triple Exfoliating Facial which promises the same afterglow from a pro-grade microdermabrasion facial. A recent Lazada customer wrote about how her first encounter with the product exfoliated her dead skin cells and by the second use, her complexion visibly lightened. Murad’s two-day takeover of Rustan’s e-commerce site focused on the Vita-C Triple Exfoliating Facial catapulted the brand into the top ranking skincare brand on the site.

Mediterranean Clay Mask, ₱180 (50g). Photo from RRAW SKINCARE

On the clean and natural side, local brand RRAW Skincare’s plant-derived clay masks regained popularity as their loyal following started their hunt for at-home treatments to shrink the pores, decongest the face, and calm those pesky spots from, we’ll say it again: maskne.