Thu, Jan 13, 2005 - Page 13 News List

The eyelashes are artificial but the happiness is real

No detail is too small for Taipei's growing beauty industry

By Diana Freundl  /  STAFF REPORTER

The eyes have it at at Borghese Beauty Spa in Taipei.

PHOTOS COURTESY OF ASHLEY PENG

Spending time and money to look good is no recent trend in Taiwan but salons and spas are multiplying in Taipei and are offering beauty-conscious women the latest fashion in cosmetic treatments.

"There are no ugly women only lazy women" (只有懶女人沒有醜女人), said Lee Li-ming (李麗敏) the general manager at Borghese Beauty Spa in Taipei, repeating a line first made popular by Helena Rubinstein.

It's a common saying (at least it is in the beauty industry) that suggests everyone has hidden beauty and only needs to spend a little time to bring it out.

Taiwan's salons go more than skin deep, because as Lee explained, "We spoil them [clients] for a few hours and make them feel good on the inside. When they feel good, they look good."

In the past, women went to hair salons to have their hair styled and nails painted, she said. Now, with more financial freedom and leisure time they're experimenting with their appearances.

A new look includes everything from a NT$400 eyelash perming at a simple beauty salon to a NT$4,500 body mask at an extravagant day spa.

Taiwan's spa sector has evolved from the hair parlors of 30 years ago into the luxury beauty centers of today, said Shenyn Wang (王序寧), the founding chairperson of International Spa Association Taiwan. She attributes the explosion in the industry to an emerging middle class and strengthening economy from 20 years ago.

"When spas first originated in Taiwan, they were based on those in Japan that offer body masks and massages, but today they are a combination of the Japanese style and the European cosmetic centers, which offer facials and cosmetic services," she said.

According to Wang, the Ministry of Economic Affairs does not have an annual earnings report for the spa industry. Part of the reason is that it falls under the beauty sector, which includes hair salons, slimming parlors and fitness centers, but more importantly because 30 percent of the industry is made up of unlicensed business.

"Taiwan's beauty spas have multiplied in numbers. You can find one on every street now. But the quality of service varies from spa to spa," she said.

Lee's spa, Bourgesu, like most mid-to-high-end beauty salons, has an extremely relaxing environment. The soft lighting, new-age music, herbal tea and aromatherapy are all devices to make spending a few hours there feel like a brief escape from the city.

Eighty percent of Lee's customers come for facials and are the 35 to 45-year-old wives of wealthy businessmen. There are anti-wrinkle, re-hydrating and revitalizing facials with prices ranging from NT$2,200 to NT$4,500, but the most popular facial treatment is whitening.

Facials are where most salons make their profit, but a few advancements in cosmetic techniques have become fashionable among the young and old. Tattooing eyeliner and eyebrows has given way to perming and fake eyelashes, the latest trends in the beauty industry, Lee said.

Kobayashi Makae, who moved to Taiwan from Japan eight months ago, had her eyelashes permed for the first time last Saturday. She normally goes to the spa twice a month for a body mask and facial, spending approximately NT$15,000 a month.

Another loyal yet less frequent customer, Wang Pei-hua (王珮華) said she goes once every two months for a two-hour facial. Last Saturday she opted for an extra one-hour body massage because she was getting married the next day. When asked what makes a 22-year-old woman decide to get a facial she said, "It makes my skin look brighter and feel softer.

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