Looking toward the East
Women all over the world have a wide variety of beauty rituals. So it’s no surprise that there’s also a broad spectrum of cosmetics that are meant to meet the needs of users in diverse countries. Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany, has developed a cosmetics sample kit called “The Beauty of Asia” that offers insights into the special characteristics of the Asian market.
Peeling your eyelids? A hundred brushstrokes for your eyelashes? Using ten different cosmetic products to care for your complexion in the morning? Cosmetics have to fulfill a wide variety of requirements throughout every continent on earth. Personal grooming, makeup, improving one’s appearance — these needs are felt all over the world. And these needs have many facets. Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany, has now for the first time developed a cosmetics sample kit that is adapted to a specific region — namely, to show the special characteristics of Asian skin and thus the Asian market.
Andrea Griessmann, an employee in the Cosmetics unit of Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany, observes and follows the development of trends in the cosmetics industry. “We’ve always considered it very important to be able to adapt our products and our colors to a variety of skin types and ethnic groups,” she says. She presents a preview of the coming season’s colors on many levels in order to show what effect they will have on different skin types. “But a sample kit that shows customers how they can create a range of products for a specific region on the basis of cosmetics ingredients and pigments from Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany — that’s something new,” she explains. The sample kit has been developed for the Asian market, but also for all the other countries that orient themselves to trends from Asia. It consists of ten products that contain skin-smoothing, brightening, and anti-aging components, including a face mask, a day cream, eyeshadow and eyeliner for beautiful and striking eyes, lipstick, and lip gloss, to name a few examples. The products contain tried and tested ingredients such as Ronastar®
, Timiron®, and Eusolex®
. They can be combined to create a striking Asian look.
The demonstration set consists of ten products that include tried and tested ingredients from Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany, such as Ronastar®, RonaFlair® and Eusolex®
© Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany
“Asia is an up-and-coming region,” says Nopparat Pornrattanapitak, who works in marketing at Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany, in Bangkok. Her team played the leading role in the development of the sample kit. “Many cosmetic products already come from Asia — and now we’re also exporting our image, our appearance,” she says to explain the background of the project. “One of the purposes of this set of cosmetics is to present some possibilities for creating a specifically Asian look. We’re showing what colors are used in Asia and what products are popular.” Of course it’s not possible to address Asia as a whole, because the continent is divided into two main regions: Southeast Asia and East Asia. When it comes to cosmetics, women in Southeast Asia tend to choose darker foundation colors and deeper lipsticks in brown or burgundy, for example. Women in East Asia, however, prefer to use more natural shades of makeup and to add accents with eye makeup such as striking eye shadow and mascara. Lipstick and rouge also provide touches of color.
On the one hand, the various products in the demonstration set are aimed at customers. On the other, they are meant to give cosmetics manufacturers an insight into Asian women’s diverse requirements when it comes to makeup products. This is important, because Asian women make up almost half of the world market for skin cosmetics, which is valued at $100 billion.
Global demand for cosmetics
Carl Triesch, who has a doctorate in ethnology and is in charge of exhibition management at the Museum of Ethnology in Hamburg
, knows a lot about the diversity of women’s — and men’s — needs in terms of personal appearance, not just in Asia. He has curated an exhibition about African ideals of beauty that will run at the museum until November 6, 2016. “In Africa there is a broad spectrum of ideas about what constitutes ideal human beauty. There’s also a clear rivalry between traditional and modern ideals,” he says. Young women in particular orient themselves strongly toward trends from Europe and the United States, Triesch explains.
“The rapid development and strong impact of these trends are growing by leaps and bounds. Trends move very quickly between Asia and the United States is extremely fast.“
Ethnologist and Exhibition Manager of the Museum of Ethnology in Hamburg
As an ethnologist, he also conducts research on the general question of what has made beauty such an important concern for human beings around the world down through the ages. Here’s how he summarizes his findings to date, “‘Beauty’ is a global need. But what we consider ‘beautiful’ depends on various social influences. In addition, ‘beauty’ is simply a matter of individual taste.” Triesch adds that all cultures show a common pattern: Each individual culture’s dominant image of the human being is the starting point of that society’s ideal of beauty. In some cases people want the opposite of this ideal, but in others the ideal is emphasized. For example, in South America women with naturally straight hair want to have curls. In Europe, tanned skin is considered desirable, whereas in Asia people want to have pale skin.
Big eyes in Korea
Triesch and his colleagues at the Museum of Ethnology in Hamburg are aware of the strong public interest in Asia. In 2017, they will be organizing an exhibition focusing on Korea. “Here too, people feel European influence very strongly. Korea has one of the highest rates of cosmetic surgery,” he says. “Korean women want to have big eyes. Through operations, their noses are also starting to resemble those of Europeans, and are becoming increasingly pointed and protruding.” Triesch also finds it very interesting that there is also an opposite trend: Nowadays, more and more Europeans and Americans are interested in the Korean look. “The rapid development and strong impact of these trends are growing by leaps and bounds,” he says. “Trends move very quickly between Asia and the United States.”
Nopparat Pornrattanapitak also confirms the dominance and pioneering role of the Korean market. “Many of the current trends are coming from South Korea,” she says. “However, when we were developing the demonstration set we made our observations all over Asia in order to get as broad an overview as possible of the cosmetics that are being used here.” Her personal favorite among the products in the demonstration set is the sheet mask, which covers the face in a single coating. This is very typical of Asian cosmetic treatments, and is also used by men, she says. “This mask penetrates deep into the pores to produce a clear and smooth complexion, and it’s simply unbelievably convenient. I’m convinced that the whole world is going to love it,” she says.