People like to feel pretty. Over the past 10 years Americans have spent more than US$500 billion (S$698 billion) on beauty products. By 2024 the Chinese are expected to splurge more than US$100 billion a year. In the past most of that would have gone to cosmetics conglomerates, such as L'Oreal and Estee Lauder, or to consumer-products giants like Unilever, selling every imaginable tincture to make everything from toenails to tresses more fetching.
But in recent years fresh-faced newcomers, often more specialised and more digital, have entered the fray. Now the upstarts are showing some wrinkles, as their business models are tested, investors lose patience with red ink and the incumbents up their game.