Each week our no-holds-barred contributor Grace Gold picks apart a hot beauty topic. It’s our version of an op-ed—with hair, eyeliner and lipstick.
Beauty secrets used to stay local, as advice passed down through the generations. Yet today's digital and social media age is transforming once-isolated grooming rituals into mainstream trends, as women and now brands realize the know-how and elixirs and potions that some swear by in one country often offer just as powerful benefits to those across the world.
The phenomenon was the topic du jour at the Fashion Institute of Technology's recent symposium on diversity and globalization in the beauty industry. Major beauty brand executives joined to discuss how they are creating new offerings around products that had previously been isolated to specific cultures and countries.
"To predict tomorrow's biggest beauty trends, you should look to the ethnic market to see what product already exists that may solve issues consumers in other markets are also experiencing," said Cheryl Wilson, director of global business development for ethnic hair care at Unilever.
Wilson added that the consumer interest in cultural beauty has been jump-started by a growing understanding that the same concerns affect women regardless of where they are from and, perhaps, another culture may have already figured out a solution.
Brands like The Body Shop spearheaded the use of rich body butters derived from shea and cocoa nuts in Africa to treat dry skin in desperate need of more barrier protection. I personally couldn't imagine getting my tootsies through another winter without my after-bath ritual of The Body Shop Shea Body Butter and cotton socks. Thank you to Ghana, where The Body Shop sources its shea butter with a fair-trade cooperative, to boot!
Middle Eastern and South Asian women have taught us that counterintuitively applying oil to our scalps and strands can balance and protect our beloved manes. The use of coconut and argan oils in hair, which had been a foreign concept to much of the West, has now been introduced to the broader market. Really, who isn't launching a hair oil today? We've also seen the hair removal art of threading from this part of the world go mass in the United States, with threading kiosks popping up at shopping centers and strip malls nationwide.
From the Far East, brightening technology and BB creams have now begun populating store shelves, as women of all skin colors and ages look to brighten and retrieve the complexion radiance of yesteryear. Will other Asian traditions like carrying sun parasols to prevent spotting and wrinkling soon follow suit?
Nicholas Gavrelis, vice president of global product development for MAC Cosmetics, said that, of all things, the always-vibrant Latin American TV novelas are the point of origin for some of the biggest beauty color trends.
"Anytime an actress on a major TV novela is seen applying a specific lipstick shade, we are practically guaranteed to sell out of it in South America, followed by North America and Canada, and then it spreads to Europe and further East," Gavrelis explained, adding that the most recent lip color to experience the tv-novela-to-international-sensation phenomenon was MAC Lipstick in Ruby Woo.
With globalization, the idea of a genuine "beauty secret" may soon become a thing of the past.
What do you think will be the next cultural-to-mass trend? And are there any cultural beauty secrets that you've discovered and swear by?