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Health, Beauty & Fashion

Pretty as a picture

From their hair down to their hands, nails and feet, some women spare no expense on primping and preening every part of themselves
The Straits Times - February 3, 2012
By: Gladys Chung
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Pretty as a picture -- ST PHOTO: ASHLEIGH SIM

Gone are the days of the stereotypical sloppy Singaporean woman.

She now splurges hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars a year to achieve perfectly manicured nails, a shapely body, flawless skin and well-coiffed hair.

Treatments once considered a novelty, such as lash extensions, gel nails and eyebrow and lip embroidery, have also become routine for some.

The five beauty service providers that Urban approached - Jean Yip, Mary Chia, Spa Esprit, Skin Inc and The Sloane Clinic - have each seen a year-on-year increase of 10 to 30 per cent in the number of clients in the past three years.

They also estimate that the average working Singaporean woman in her early 20s and above spends anywhere between $200 and $1,000 a month on beauty services.

Generally, beauty bundles cost about $200 for a nail manicure package and upwards of $10,000 for a year's worth of spa sessions.

To cash in on the demand, the number of beauty service providers here has also jumped by about 30 per cent in the past three years, estimates MsGloriaTan, vice-president of Spa and Wellness Association Singapore. The group currently has about 3,000members from the nail, spa, hair and beauty salon businesses.

'There are nail bars, spas and beauty salons everywhere you turn now. Many have closed over the years due to the competition but even more have popped up,' she notes.


So what has led to the rise of the high-maintenance Singaporean woman?

Financial independence is one of the main reasons, observes Ms Wendy Ho, chief executive officer of Mary Chia. The beauty salon chain offers services such as massages, body contouring and facials in 11 studios across the country.

She says: 'They have good disposable income and therefore have the financial freedom to keep up their lifestyle preferences.'

Hence, grooming and beauty services are now seen as a necessity and no longer a luxury.

'These days, most women won't think of stepping out of their homes looking unkempt, especially in a professional setting,' she adds.

'They recognise the importance of maintaining and enhancing their appearance because it helps to open doors for their careers.'

As women here become more well-travelled, they also become more adventurous, savvy and informed about grooming trends, says MsCynthiaChua, managing director of the Spa Esprit Group. It runs beauty chains such as Strip, which offers waxing; Browhaus for brow-grooming; and Qi Mantra for massages.

One such trend would be the Brazilian, a full stripping of hair from one's nether regions, and one of the chain's most popular treatments. Strip has been offering the service since 2002 and in the past three years, it has performed 250,000 Brazilian waxes on women here.

Also, with easy access to fashion and beauty magazines, forums, blogs and YouTube beauty tutorials, women are now on the pulse of advancements in beauty treatments, adds Ms Chua.


The rising popularity of Korean and Japanese fashion and culture among Singaporeans is another factor driving the beauty service industry boom.

'Many women want to look like those Korean and Japanese celebrities,' says professional make-up artist DolleiSeah, who has 20 years of experience and received a Golden Horse nomination for hair and make-up in 2007 for her work on home-grown movie 881.

'They start to dress like them and, in order to complete the look, they want digital perms and eyelash extensions, which quickly becomes an obsession.'

The long-lasting results of some professional grooming services also appeal to women who lead a busy lifestyle, adds Ms Seah.

'A set of eyelash extensions will last you four to eight weeks, while an eyebrow embroidery session can last for at least six months. Women who battle rush-hour traffic and endure long working hours every day appreciate these benefits.'

Peer influence is also a key factor in the demand for beauty services, says MsLisa Huang, a mother of two who spends more than $30,000 a year on personal grooming (see report on pages12 &13).

'When you go into the office with beautiful nails, all your female colleagues will ask where you got them done,' says the 29-year-old vice-president of consumer banking in a bank.

'Then, before you know it, everyone in the office will be going to the same place to get hers done.'

Three unusual treatments in town

1 Lip embroidery

Like eyebrow tattooing, this service has been offered since the 1980s. It has gained popularity in recent years because it is now usually offered as an add-on service to eyebrow embroidery.

The term 'lip embroidery' is actually a misnomer because the treatment uses the tattooing technique.

Using the same method and machine that create old-school, bold and dark tattooed brows, the lips are given a shot of intense colour, such as pink or orangey-pink.

The session takes about two hours and the lips will scab over in about a week. When the dead skin falls off, a natural, pinkish tone will be revealed.

Depending on the individual, about three sessions are required for the colour to set completely into the lips. The effect lasts between two and five years.

Lip embroidery is available at My Beauty Bar, 01-26 Holiday Inn Atrium hotel, from $1,288 for up to three sessions. Its owner, MsPatricia Lim, has been offering the service here and in Indonesia since 2004.

2 Colour light therapy

The Lancome Beauty Institute, which has branches at B2-40 The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands and the Goodwood Park Hotel Service Apartments, introduced light therapy in 2007 to enhance its beauty treatments.

Most other beauty salons use handheld devices, lamps or light-emitting masks to administer light therapy, but at the Lancome Beauty Institute, LED lights illuminate the treatment room with one of six colours - blue, red, yellow, orange, violet or green - throughout a session to influence the body's rhythms.

For instance, yellow light, which stimulates the nervous, digestive and lymphatic system as well as detoxifies and enhances the skin's radiance, is turned on for 45 minutes during the 60-minute Extreme Purity Treatment ($125).

Call 6737-6778 to make an appointment.

3 Intensive treatment for split ends

You no longer have to snip away your split ends. With the latest Fibre Architecte leave-in serum ($50) from Kerastase's Resistance range, you can now repair them after using the product for at least two weeks.

Launched last month , the new product contains ceramides and keratin, which smoothen and strengthen the hair's structure and seal split ends for good.

You can buy the product to use at home but for a more intensive treatment, Salon 360 at B2-40 The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands offers the Keraseal Ritual (from $248).

The 90-minute session includes a shampoo, hair treatment, a head massage, mask, leave-in serum application and the use of curling tongs to seal the products into the hair.



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