Brows are big in the beauty business

Eyebrows are in the spotlight as beauty- conscious consumers go for brow-grooming services and products to enhance their looks

From TV dramas and food to fashion and beauty, the Hallyu wave is strong in Singapore.

Now, K-pop fans here want Korean-inspired eyebrows too.

From teenage girls looking to emulate their Korean idols to 30something women asking for eyebrows like actress Song Hye Kyo's to men wanting actor Kim Woo Bin's strong brows - more people, it seems, are asking for fuller and straighter-looking brows like those of South Korean celebrities.

Founder of Allure Beauty Saloon, Ms Angela Tnee, 41, who has been in the beauty industry for more than 20 years, says she is seeing more of such customers.


Beauty parlours are seeing more clients of both genders requesting brow services, including threading, tweezing, waxing and brow embroidery.  ST PHOTO: MARCUS TAN

"Korean celebrities are prominent in the media. The men always look handsome and the women are beautiful. People want to look like them."

  • Brow tools

  • Brow products have gone beyond brow pencils. Beauty labels have come up with powders, waxes, conditioners, highlighters and gels - all targeted at keeping those arches beautiful. Make-up artist Clarence Lee, 43, helps break down the various brow cosmetics.

    PENCILS

    Probably the most traditional type of brow make-up, pencils help bring out the shape of brows and are useful for covering up sparse patches. Apply with light feathery strokes for a natural look.

    Try: Kill Brow Tattoo - Lasting Gel Pencil (above), $14.90, from Clio, available at all Watsons stores


    POWDER

    Powders give a softer look and are usually easier to control than pencils. They help give brows a lusher look.

    Try: Brow Duo, $41, from MAC, available at all MAC counters


    WAX/GEL

    These can be used to define and neaten longer and unruly brows. Application should be kept light as too much of the products could lead to the hair becoming matted.

    Try: Brow Zings, $56, taming and shaping kit from Benefit, available at all Benefit counters


    TINT

    Tints add long-lasting colour to brows, but are usually more effective for darkening light brows than for lightening.

    Try: Tint My Brows gel, $15.90, from Etude House, available at all Etude House stores


    CONDITIONER/SERUM

    These are similar to lash conditioners which nourish the brows and enhance hair growth.

    Try: Extend Lash & Brow Serum, $95.20, from Browhaus, available at all Browhaus stores

This obsession with looking like a Hallyu star is a reason the eyebrow industry in Singapore has boomed in the last few years.

Beauty companies such as American brand Benefit Cosmetics and Korean label Etude House have been consistently releasing a wider variety of brow products and seeing an increase in demand for these cosmetics.

Beauty parlours, such as Allure Beauty Saloon and home-grown brow-grooming salon Browhaus, have also seen significantly more clients going for brow services, which include threading, tweezing, waxing and brow embroidery.

Singaporeans are becoming more affluent and beauty-conscious, contributing to the growth of the brow industry here, says Ms Tnee, who has six Allure outlets here.

"Our living standards have improved. People have higher requirements for their image and having well-groomed eyebrows is a part of that. They are more educated when it comes to beauty so they expect more from beauty services too."

Eyebrows are not just a big deal in Singapore. According to a report by the Financial Times in May, the British brow market is worth £20 million (S$35.7 million), up from £6.5 million in 2011.

Western celebrities such as British model Cara Delevingne also play a part in bringing back the strong brow. Her famously bushy eyebrows and the surge in beauty tutorials on social media and YouTube have created more awareness of brow products and styling services.

According to market research firm Nielsen, retail sales of brow products in Singapore grew by 35.8 per cent in the past year. This is based on data reported by Nielsen ScanTrack over two consecutive 12-month periods ending last month. Nielsen ScanTrack covers supermarkets, hypermarkets, personal care stores, Western pharmacies, convenience stores and petrol marts.

Beauty labels that The Straits Times spoke to have seen higher sales for brow products.

Marketing manager of Innisfree Singapore, Ms Jody Ee, says the Korean label has grown more than 50 per cent in terms of sales volume in Singapore for eyebrow-related products compared with last year.

To meet the growing demand for brow products, cosmetics labels have also been releasing new beauty tools.

Benefit Cosmetics, for instance, launched nine new brow products last month, including a volumising eyebrow gel ($42) and conditioning eyebrow primer ($49).

Though it declines to disclose sales figures, a spokesman for the company says demand for brow products is increasing and customers are "buying more than one brow product for their brows".

Etude House's brand general manager, Ms Lyn Tan, says the Korean label expanded its brow range by 50 per cent in the last 18 months. Brow products contribute 8 to 10 per cent to Etude House's total revenue, which she notes is a "significant amount" that is "fast growing".

Ms Sophia Chia, certified make- up artist of Japanese label Shu Uemura, points out that besides the influence of K-pop, consumers are also becoming more experimental with their brows.

"More products relating to brows have been developed for many reasons - brows to stay on longer throughout the day, brows to match the colour of the hair, drawn brows that are semi-permanent, brows that look naturally volumised without looking drawn."

The label, which has five brow products, such as the Hard Formula eyebrow pencil ($33) and Brow:ink liquid formula ($42), will release a brow colour changer next month.

Brow services are also in greater demand.

Ms Sivarani Maria Rajangam, founder and managing director of Indian beauty chain Rupini's, saysshe has seen more customers paying for eyebrow threading in the last five years.

The number of such customers increased by 40 per cent from 2014 to last year and by about 35 per cent from last year to now, she adds. They range from students to working professionals to grandparents in their 70s.

More men are also getting their arches groomed. They make up about 20 per cent of eyebrow customers at Rupini's.

Ms Sivarani, who is in her late 40s, says: "Everyone wants to get their eyebrows done. People come two to three times a month."

Eyebrow threading costs $10 at Rupini's, which has seven outlets at locations such as Midpoint Orchard and Holland Village.

Browhaus, which is owned by Spa Esprit Group, has seen a consistent increase in the number of customers in the last three years. It had 19,000 customers in 2014 and 21,000 last year. The chain, which has 13 outlets here, projects that customer figures for this year will reach 23,000.

A Browhaus spokesman says the chain is one of the fastest-expanding brands in Spa Esprit Group, alongside its waxing salon Strip.

Fifteen to 20 per cent of its customers are men. One of them is Mr Riesal Mikael Idries, 33, a manual therapist at Urbanrehab Physiotherapy, who says he tweezes his brows once every two weeks.

"Eyebrows are part of a man's turnout. The shape and tidiness of the brows speak to a man's character and personality."

Apart from brow-shaping, more people are also going for eyebrow embroidery, a semi-permanent process that involves using a microblade to weave pigments into the outer layer of the skin to look like natural hair. The pigments fade as the skin sheds. Eyebrow embroidery typically lasts 10 to 18 months, depending on how fast the skin sheds.

Allure Beauty Saloon, which offers brow-embroidery services that start from $212 and can go up to $1,477 or more, has seen a 20 per cent increase in overall revenue this year, 40 per cent of which was contributed by brow services.

Make-up artist and brow expert Cecilia Chng, who has been in the beauty industry for more than 20 years, says her brow embroidery sessions have been fully booked for the past three years.

She ran Vive Hair And Beauty Salon at Paragon mall for 20 years before opening Cecilia Chng/Beauty in 2014 at Thong Teck Building in Scotts Road. She provides brow- shaping and embroidery as well as make-up services.

She has about six customers a day for brow embroidery and charges $980 for the service, which includes one touch-up session within the first three months.

She works from Mondays to Saturdays, though she sometimes opens on Sundays to cater to overseas clients. Her customers here include lawyers, teachers, business executives and general managers of both genders.

Ms Lechelle Lim, a director of a bank who is in her early 40s, has been going to Ms Chng for the last five years. She has her eyebrows embroidered about once a year.

"I don't think it is expensive, considering that some people pay more than $1,000 for a beautician who could be less experienced. Having embroidery done is also more convenient as it means I don't have to draw my brows every day."

She notes that eyebrows are important because they help frame the face and are one of the first things people notice when they look at a person.

Public relations consultant Gita Kumar agrees. The 27-year-old threads her brows weekly and uses an eyebrow pencil and eyebrow mascara to shape her eyebrows daily. "I'm slightly brow-obsessed. I think groomed eyebrows make your overall look cleaner and make one look better."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 28, 2016, with the headline 'Arched allies'. Print Edition | Subscribe