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美容地理学

2008-09-24 10:20

  Take two women, one in Tokyo one in Frankfurt. Watch them cleansing, applying a serum or moisturiser and - if they are good girls - sun block. See them pout, frown and pucker in the mirror and you'll soon find that the differences between the two are more than simply geographical.

  Our lady in Tokyo will brush her eyelashes with mascara 80 to 100 times; her Frankfurt counterpart will apply the wand fewer than a dozen. In Tokyo, she will use between 16 and 20 products; in Frankfurt she'll use just five to eight.

  We can be so sure of this because cosmetics companies are increasingly going behind the mirror to observe and film women performing their skincare routines in research and development centres around the world. Their aim is to tailor their skincare offerings for local consumption, particularly in emerging markets. This is the world of geocosmetics.

  Not so long ago, global brands meant monobrands (think Big Mac). Nowglobal diversity and different grooming habits are being closely studied, withthe multinationals literally watching women put on -and take off - their faces.

  This may strike some as akin to watching paint dry, but to the researchers it's hypnotically fascinating and, more importantly, reveals local anthropology. Japanese women, for example, don't just cleanse their faces once but twice. Brazilians consume the most nail polish, making it integral to the beauty routine. And hairspraycan, it seems, be used in 12 very different ways.

  This kind of information ends up affecting formulations. "Japanese women prefer to use a compact foundation rather than a liquid," says Eric Bone, managing director of L'Oréal's Tokyo Research Centre. "Humidity [in Japan] is much higher and the emphasis is onlong-lasting coverage." As a result, development time is spent on compacts rather than liquids for the local market. And for the Japanese woman who usesso much mascara, L'Oréal makes lighter formulations than those it sells in Europe or America.

  This kind of localised knowledge and attention also helps as the beauty industry increasingly looks to China, where the market for cosmetics and skincare is ?50m and estimated to rise more than 54 per cent by 2009. "In China the number of products used in the morning and in the evening is 2.2," says Alice Laurent, L'Oréal China's manager of skincare development in Shanghai, where 6,000 Chinese women are observed and filmed annually beautifying themselves.

  As cosmetics were banned in China until 1982, there is no passing on of beauty rituals from mother to daughter, giving the cosmetics companies the chance to position themselves as educators. This seems to be working with some: "My friends and I spend around a quarter of our salaries on beauty products and treatments," says Xu Chen, a 23-year-old personal assistant in Beijing. She sees western products as being "more scientific and therefore able to work better".

  An alternative way to "go local" is to collude with an existing resident brand; in Japan, for instance, Rimmel is launching with Japanese cosmetics giant Kose to make cosmetics more suitable in terms of skin tone and colour trends.

  Yet despite all sorts of technological developments over the past few decades,it is the centuries-old traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) that is set to influence the next wave of geocosmetics in China. "The Shanghai Innovation Centre is studying the use of traditional Chinese herbs and botanicals and how they might be integrated into our products," says Harvey Gedeon, executive vice-president, global research and development for Estée Lauder companies.

  Indeed, through a spot of role reversal, we may see research from the east being used in western beauty products. "Asian countries are big markets for skincare products that whiten and brighten the skin tone, to create a more even skin tone and help diminish the appearance of brown spots," says Gedeon. Though he adds "there is less demand for these products in countries like the US and UK", beauty insiders indicate that some of this whitening technology could soon be seen on counters in Europe.

  Age spots are, after all, a global beauty problem.

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