IT WAS a year of going up for the lifestyle business in Thailand _ new department stores and shopping malls marked not only a growth in the restaurant, fashion and entertainment sectors, but also more counters, stores and salons for beauty products and services.
The growth of the beauty industry stretched beyond the number of products launched, which covered the whole range of needs for every age group.
We saw gathering momentum in the men's skincare sector, while haircare and hairstyling products acquired a larger market share, thanks largely to the popularity of online influencers who have shown enthusiasts that modern-day beauty is about home DIY _ and there's no look you can't achieve with skilled hands, little tricks and the right products.
Life looks back at 2012 and the key movements and trends that have shaped the face of the beauty industry.
THE BEAUTY INFLUENCERS
Beauty bloggers have been gaining influence in the past few years _ names like ''pupesosweet'', ''cinnamongirl'' and ''Chadalaem'' have topped lists of favourite bloggers for both enthusiasts and brands looking to market their products online.
One sign of the rising influence is that some brands have hosted special sessions for online outlets and bloggers aside from their customary promotional rounds with newspapers, magazines and television stations. However, none has achieved the superstar status or deserved the title of ''beauty influencer'' like Napassorn ''Momay'' Buranasiri and Amata ''Pearypie'' Chittasenee.
Making their names with make-up tutorials that attract thousands of views at their respective sites, momay.spokedark.tv and www.pearypie.com, Momay and Pearypie have become fixtures in the beauty, social and fashion scenes. While Pearypie is synonymous with fantasy looks that are bold, edgy and fashion-forward (not recommended for the faint-hearted who can't stand all eyes turning toward them with curiosity), Momay stands for tangible, approachable looks inspired by what's close to everyday life: looks from leading female characters in TV dramas, looks for parties or nude make-up for everyday work.
Pearypie is the queen of the social scene, collaborating with a number of corporates and representing products such as Tresemme and Brand Vita in TV commercials, whereas Momay's achievement lies in her ability to make or break a product with her recommendation. (Fortunately for some brands, she swears not to say bad things about any item and includes the caveat: ''Something that doesn't work for me might work for other people.'') After all, she's credited as the reason Nars Sheer Glow foundation became a sold-out phenomenon.
MADE FOR THE GENTLEMEN
Skincare tailored for gentlemen has been around in Thailand for almost 20 years _ that's if you count from the day the exclusive brand Lab Series hit the market in 1994. Since then, market leaders have launched skincare for men and the range has gradually expanded to cover all segments, from the mass market to prestige products.
This year, men's skincare acquired bigger market share in the 10 billion baht-plus skincare market, from 10% to 15-17%. Such growth comes from the increasing interest in grooming among men. Skincare giants have been quick to respond to this market change with new product lines.
The brands which existed in this segment before the year started included L'Oreal Men Expert, Garnier Men, Olay Men for the mass consumers' market, Eucerin Men in the cosmeceutical market, Shiseido Men in the premium market and Sisleyum for Men in the prestige market.
The year 2012 brought in new players, and prominent among them was Japan's SK II, which finally released its highly anticipated SK II Men in a complete set with a cleanser, its much-loved facial treatment essence and moisturiser.
Another premium skincare line also jumping on the men's skincare bandwagon was Artsitry Men by Amway, offering a five-piece range to cater to all grooming processes, while Kiehl's added two more products to its existing men's skincare range Facial Fuel Collection. In the mass market, you have a wonderful range of products targeting special needs _ from deep cleansing to whitening.
The boom also saw South Korean brand Laneige launch Laneige Homme, which premiered four product groups formulated for men's needs: Active Water, Pore Clearing, Sun Care and Cooling.
Last but not least, there was a move among skincare brands without an exclusive men's range to position existing products as unisex or compatible with men's skin. The best example was La Mer, which introduced new brand ambassador Jetrin Wattanasin, whose hunky manliness and penchant for water sports surely made him the best male star to represent the pricey skincare line.
ON OILS AND EXOTIC INGREDIENTS
Inspiration for skincare can come from ancient remedies to advanced stem-cell technology, and it's really up to women whether they want to track down and emulate Cleopatra's beauty secret or the latest breakthrough cosmetic researchers claim to have made.
Based on a formula dating back 2,500 years, Egyptian Magic Cream is actually made by an American company which marketed it for more than 20 years before bringing it to Bangkok, at Watsons. Containing honey, bee pollen, royal jelly extract, olive oil, beeswax and propolis extract, the cream turns into oil to nourish skin, hair and even eyebrows and lashes.
Multipurpose oils launched this year include Shu Uemura Red: Juvenus Nutri-essence Oil with rose hip and camellia, and The Body Shop's scented Beautifying Oils.
It was definitely the Year of the Oils, as botanical oils containing essential lipids and antioxidants made high-performance skincare.
For example, Dior's new anti-ageing weapon includes Prestige Souveraine Absolute replenishing oil-serum with 100% natural oils enriched with rose extract. Sourcing precious oils from all over the world, Estee Lauder blended them in its Re-Nutriv Re-Creation night-time face serum, which features Indian karanja oil, evening primrose oil, and padina oil from a brown algae found in the Mediterranean Sea.
Stem-cell research continued to inspire anti-ageing treatments such as SK-II Essential Power, Shiseido Bio-Performance Advanced Super Restoring Cream and Aviance Dermaceutical EX Essential Cells Advanced Serum.
Lancome scientists worked in a specialised laboratory to cultivate rose stem cells to formulate the Absolue L'Extrait Regenerating Ultimate Elixir, which is claimed to contain two million cells per jar.
LUST FOR THE ORIENT
The year 2012 marked a turing point in beauty trends _ a reverse, even. The world of beauty is moving away from a Western-dominated sphere to one where Eastern influences are being increasingly drawn in and celebrated.
We're living in a time when Orientalism is casting its shadow over the world of beauty, and it's not just about the cherry blossom scents or the red, partial lipstick of kabuki actors and stereotypical Japenese femme fatales.
Take, for example, the godmother of beauty Estee Lauder. The brand introduced a new East-meets-West beauty line in China called Osiao _ the company's first Asian-orientated brand.
Another so-called Asia-led beauty treat (although, ironically, it's first discovered by a German) which the West quickly adopted this year is BB (blemish balm) creams. The make-up product, previously synonymous only with South Korean brands like Etude, has become a new feature for cosmetic giants like Bobbi Brown, MAC and Chanel. The latter made a slight difference by calling it CC Cream (colour control in general, complete correction for Chanel in particular).
As exotic ingredients continues to be a key marketing highlight for skincare brands, beauty giants still favour the East for new components.
Popular ingredients this year included green tea, rice, ginseng and even snail secretion filtrate, brought to fame by Korean brands.
Already regarded as the leading skincare and make-up authority in Thailand and Southeast Asia, South Korea's beauty and personal care market is expanding. This year, the first premium skincare brand from South Korea, Sulwhasoo, was introduced, covering the more sophisticated and luxury segments of the beauty market as opposed to younger, mass brands most Korean lines are typically associated with. However, mass brands continued to make their presence felt, and new players like Tony Moly and Bisous Bisous were introduced.
Christina Aguilera opted for pink, Jesse J tipped into purple and their dip-dyed hair had followers playing with chalk to get a funky look, which joined the messy yet glamorous bun in dominating the year's hair trends.
If tresses could talk they may ask you not to tamper with them by colouring and harsh hairstyling, and if you do, they would demand some of the same love and care your skin gets.
This explains why we have seen the trend for beautifying oil in both skincare and haircare. Kerastase Les Grands Crus collection features four aromatic formulas blended with botanical extracts to tackle fine, damaged, and colour-treated hair.
The French brand also introduced the Fusio-Dose system with four concentrates and four boosters to blend for what is claimed to be the first customised hair treatment for intense moisturising, colour protection, strengthening and redensification.
The salon scene also welcomed a newcomer, Italian brand Davines, which specialises in natural hair solutions based on phytoceuticals, using organic vegetable components with antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties.
For example caffeine, cinnamon, ginger and black pepper essential oils are blended for the hair energising range, symbolised by a dragon, as an allegory for strength and vitality.
Another fusion hair salon treatment was the Matrix Sensoria 369 Care, with the numeral 3 coming from stimulating three acupressure points, 6 from the six steps involved in the treatment, and 9 from its benefit in managing nine hair problems.
Ipsa made it easier to do your own hair massage with a kit containing shampoo, treatment and a head massager designed to act as a third hand.