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Health, Beauty & Fashion

Lost in your manga eyes

To perfect that doe-eyed damsel look, women are resorting to lash extensions and special contact lenses
The Sunday Times - November 13, 2011
By: Rachael Boon and Huang Huifen
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Lost in your manga eyes Using make-up to achieve their desired kawaii look are (from left) undergraduate Karyn Wong, 22, secretary Jessie Tan, 26, and sales coordinator Wendy Lim, 24.

You may not have heard of the term 'ulzzang' (say uhl-jang), but you would have definitely encountered it around Singapore.

Ulzzang, which the Urban Dictionary defines as 'best face' or 'good-looking' in Korean, is used to describe women with heavily lined big, round eyes, artificially enhanced with coloured, 'circle' contact lenses that enlarge the iris and gravity- defying long false eyelashes; long flowing locks (thanks to hair extensions); and nail extensions embellished with everything from crystals to 3-D flowers.

The look, which started making an appearance in Singapore at least five to six years ago, is not only popular among teenagers and women in their 20s and 30s here, but also around Asia. For example, Hong Kong student Cammi Tse, 16, currently embroiled in the latest Edison Chen sex scandal, has been seen in numerous photographs sporting the doe-eyed, long-lashed look.

The trend became very popular here three years ago, says Mr Lionel Roudaut, programme leader of fashion design at Lasalle College of the Arts, who adds that the look 'pushes the young to express their individuality'.

The inspiration behind the ulzzang look? Chinese, Korean and Japanese celebrities who are admired for their big eyes and fair, flawless skin, such as model/actress Angelababy from Hong Kong, South Korean actress Kim Tae Hee and Japanese model/singer/actress Lena Fujii.

Short of undergoing plastic surgery, girls and women rely on make-up and all forms of extensions to achieve the look.

Undergraduate Pamela Fang, 19, wears brown-coloured circle lenses, false eyelashes and BB cream from Korean brands such as Etude House when she goes out with friends.

She has been sporting this look for the last two years. 'Everyone is crazy about Korean stuff and my friends also influence me as they are interested in make-up, too. I like the clean and defined look with very big eyes.'

Likewise, civil servant Nur Isa, 23, loves wearing her circle lenses. 'I like that the lenses make my eyes look bigger and more doll-like. Plus, it adds an extra sparkle to the eyes when I appear in photos,' she says.

To maintain the look, visits to lash-extension salons at least once a month are a must, along with visits to hair-extension salons every three to six months.

Those whom LifeStyle spoke to say they learn make-up techniques from YouTube tutorials, magazines such as Japan's Vivi and Popteen and Taiwanese television shows on beauty, such as Lady First.

They stock up on make-up every three to six months. It helps that more Korean cosmetic companies have opened.

Eight years ago, TheFaceShop and Missha were among the first Korean cosmetics brands introduced to Singapore. Today, there are at least five other brands, such as Etude House, Holika Holika and Tony Moly.

Even personal-care stores and department stores have set up dedicated sections in-store that stock only Korean, Taiwanese and Japanese beauty products.

Department store BHG introduced ALT Beauty, which carries popular names such as Korean brand BRTC and Japanese eye make-up brand K-Palette, earlier this year at its Clementi Mall and Bugis Junction outlets. The section occupies 20 to 30 per cent of the floor area in its beauty department.

Sales have grown by about 20 per cent since the launch, says Ms Gee Mei Li, senior manager of advertising and promotions of BHG (Singapore).

In 2008, John Little started with about 10 brands at StarDust, a section at its three branches which carries cosmetics, skincare and haircare products from countries such as Japan and Korea. Today, it has more than 20 brands and sales have grown by 40 per cent.

In 2008, Watsons also created Korean, Shibuya and Kawaii (Kawaii means cute in Japanese) corners in its stores, where popular brands such as Clio, Peripera, Dolly Wink and Heroine Make are sold. The corners are found in about half of its 105 stores islandwide.

Likewise, the number of shops that offer hair and lash extensions has increased. In Far East Plaza, there are at least 10 shops offering such services, compared to three years ago when there was only a handful of shops solely dedicated to these services.

Ms Milly Xu, 27, opened beauty salon Milly's in 2008 at Far East Plaza. The demand for her lash and hair extensions and nail services has grown so much that she has opened two more outlets in Bugis Village.

Her clients range from secondary school students to women in their 50s. She says: 'Lash extensions are more common and I've customers who can't live without them now. Even without make-up you look okay, which is good for doing sea sports or going for beach holidays as you don't want to put on full make-up.'

At hair salon Blue Bay in Far East Plaza, hairstylist Villian Heng, 25, says that 90 per cent of the business comes from hair extensions. He says that part of its growing popularity is due to how the technology for hair extensions has improved dramatically. Gluing metal clips to the hair (the clips tend to rust after washing) has been replaced by braiding the extensions onto one's natural hair.

The youngest client he has seen so far has been a nine-year-old girl, whose mother treated her to 400 strands of hair extensions 'as a present'.

Aside from Far East Plaza, hair-and eyelash-extension services are also offered at Bugis Village, City Plaza and in Chinatown.

Prices range from $50 to $130 for eyelash extensions, depending on thickness and length, and 50 cents to $1.50 for each strand of hair extension. One would need between 50 and 500 strands of hair extensions, depending on the look one is after.

The demand for contact lenses, from patterned ones to those that enlarge the iris, also continues to grow.

In a report published by market research company GFK Singapore in August, the number of cosmetic lenses sold increased by 12 per cent in the first half of this year, compared to the same period last year.

Out of these, lenses with iris-enhancer features made up 64 per cent of the quantity of cosmetic lenses sold, a 10 per cent increase from the previous year.

To meet the demand, contact lens brand FreshKon last month launched its first series under its new FreshKon Dezigner line. Called Solitaire, it features lenses in pink, aqua, green and orange that come with a diamond-cut design that frames the iris. A pair of these monthly lenses costs $27.

The cost and effort it takes to maintain this look is not a deterrent to those whom LifeStyle spoke to.

Sales coordinator Wendy Lim, 24, who uses false eyelashes and thick eyeshadow to make her eyes appear bigger, says: 'I will not go to town without putting on fake eyelashes and eye make-up.

'My eyes are very small and I look like a plain Jane without make-up. With make-up and lashes, my eyes look bigger and brighter, and my boyfriend and friends like it because I look more stylish and energetic. I also feel more confident as I look and feel good.'

But some, such as teacher-in-training Jesscy Ang, 20, will stop short at sporting the ulzzang look for work.

She says: 'This look is not appropriate for when I start work as a teacher because I need to look more mature. Sadly, I will have to tone down the look by not wearing the fake eyelashes, for example.'



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