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THERE are beauty giants and there are small brands that have reached cult status, thanks to the power of the Internet.

Here are three of them:


Drunk Elephant founder Tiffany Masterson.
Drunk Elephant founder Tiffany Masterson.

Its quirky name is enough to catch one’s attention. Drunk Elephant was founded by stay-at-home mother-of-four, Tiffany Masterson who never envisioned herself as an entrepreneur.

She now runs one of the fastest-growing skincare brands around despite having no background in the industry.

It all started with wanting to find ways to make extra money as her children was already in school.

Residing in Houston, Texas, Masterson began selling bar cleanser and soon started to get attention for the product. This ignited a passion for her to understand more about ingredients and how our skin responds to different ingredients and formulations.

Two years after selling the bar cleanser, she discovered she was given false information about the product so she went to her investor and decided to shut it down and do something on her own.

After a thorough research on ingredients, she decided that her products would be non-toxic and bioavailable.

She wanted to put her products in Sephora but, as fate would have it, Sephora reached out to her instead after she received a lot of publicity.

 The F-Balm Electrolyte Waterfacial hits counters this month.
The F-Balm Electrolyte Waterfacial hits counters this month.

In contrast to many beauty brands that push for success through paid advertisements, Drunk Elephant relies on word of mouth and do not advertise or pay influencers.

Masterson takes pride that Drunk Elephant is a consumer-centric brand so social media is the platform for her to get customer feedback.

In October last year, Drunk Elephant was acquired by Shiseido Group for USD845 million. The Japanese company’s large portfolio of beauty brands includes Laura Mercier, Bare Minerals and Nars. Thanks to this acquisition, Drunk Elephant is able to leverage on Shiseido’s platform to expand its global presence.

Drunk Elephant is available at Sephora.


Glazman and Roytberg started cult label Fresh.
Glazman and Roytberg started cult label Fresh.

Who says a beauty junkie has to be a woman? Lev Glazman was a teen living in Russia when he was introduced to the joy of beauty products by his mother.

In an interview, Glazman said the country’s state was akin to North Korea — it was closed to everything. That means many women didn’t have access to beauty products and they all pretty much smelled the same. A trip to the black market with his mother one day was something he would never forget.

There, many things were smuggled into Russia, among them fragrances. He vividly remembered his mother’s expression when smelling a fragrance and that sparked his interest in beauty products.

Years later, he married Alina Roytberg and they started Fresh as an apothecary in Boston selling oval, triple-milled vegetable soap made in France. They even handwrapped the bars themselves.

The products flew off the shelves and soon gained cult following for its scent, natural ingredients and attractive packaging.

From a single store in Boston, the company now has stores across 11 countries. In 2000, luxury goods conglomerate LVMH acquired a majority stake.


Tatcha founder Vicky Tsai.
Tatcha founder Vicky Tsai.

Many entrepreneurs had given up everything to start a business. Victoria Tsai’s story is a similar and an inspiring one. It was in 2009 when Tsai, who lives in San Fransisco, took a trip to Kyoto, Japan.

There, she discovered petal-thin papers which were used by geishas to blot oil off their porcelain skin.

Tsai sold off her car, engagement ring and some furniture to purchase 10,000 blotting papers and they were the first products offered by Tatcha.

Actress Rebel Wilson loved it so much she requested for all her film sets to be stocked with the blotting papers.

While the brand may have achieved cult status now, it didn’t actually gain instant success when it first launched. According to Tsai, the only people who understood the concept were aestheticians and make-up artists.

Tatcha’s latest release is its Silk Liquid Canvas Skin Primer.
Tatcha’s latest release is its Silk Liquid Canvas Skin Primer.

Things turned for the better in 2014 when Tsai and a make-up artist named Danial Martin collaborated to create a custom red lipstick for Chloe Sevigny to wear at the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Met Gala in New York.

The lipstick turned out to be a bestseller. Now, a little more than a decade since the brand was launched, Tatcha, which is available in Sephora, has become a part of Unilever and achieved global presence.

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