Breena Beauty is among the earliest Malaysian independent makeup brands which has been trailblazing in the local beauty and cosmetics scene. Picture credit: Instagram Breena Beauty

Malaysian make-up brands and skincare products are now coming to the fore, writes Nadia Badarudin

Cushion foundation by So.Lek. Picture credit: Instagram So.Lek

WHEN it comes to make-up, local beauty enthusiasts tend to look for products offered by global brands such as L’Oreal, Estee Lauder, NARS, Maybelline, Urban Decay and Bobbi Brown.

Meanwhile, the younger crowd, heavily influenced by Korean music and drama series, will go for branded Korean make-up and skincare used by their favourite celebrities.

However, there is a new breed of beauty consumers. Rather than looking up to cosmetics giants from the United States, the European Union, Australia, Japan and Korea, they prefer to buy make-up products from independent local entrepreneurs.

SimplySiti, founded by singing sensation Datuk Seri Siti Nurhaliza Tarudin, is among the bigger names in the local cosmetics scene. Picture by: Halimaton Saadiah Sulaiman/NSTP


Homegrown cosmetic brands started becoming popular when Instagram, Facebook and Twitter started became a norm in our society.

They are mainly founded by fashion entrepreneurs, professional make-up artists and celebrities as well as social media influencers.

According to a 2016 research on personal care and cosmetics products in Malaysia done by the United States International Trade Administration, while some big local manufacturers produce and own their house brands, a growing number of local players turn to local cosmetic manufacturers and focus on contract or private labelling.

These homegrown brands work on a non-traditional and more personalised marketing strategy i.e. the brand founder is also the spokesperson or “The Face” on billboard advertisements, etc. They sell their products mainly via their own online portal or other established retail platforms such as FashionValet, mySMINK, Zalora and Pretty Suci.

Although operating on a small-scale, some have managed to penetrate international markets or have their brands placed in established retail stores, pharmacies or global departmental stores.

Breena Beauty was among the earliest independent brands in the scene. Founded by well-known blogger Sabrina Tajuddin in 2014, the brand took off with a stellar make-up tool called face luxe brush.

Can Can’s Beauty was created in 2015 and is known for lipsticks that are suitable for dark-skinned women. Fame Cosmetics and Stage Cosmetics (founded in 2008) are cult favourites, particularly among professional make-up artists.

Year 2016 saw the establishment of a string of new local brands such as Velvet Vanity (known for liquid lipsticks), DIDA For Women (known for matte lip creams inspired by luxurious designer lipsticks), Zhuco Cosmetics (Sabah-based brand known for rainbow-coloured highlighter), Chique Cosmetics (synonymous with fun-looking product packaging) and the Malay influenced So.Lek with its Gincu (lipstick) line and cushion foundation.

Singer and television host Hunnymadu launched Madu Cosmetics that same year, offering The Artist Collection matte lipsticks named after her favourite songs.

In December last year, celebrity make-up artist Syed Faizal Syed Noh launched Pipi by Syedskillereyes, a new addition to its Syedskillereyes make-up range that was first introduced in 2016. Pipi (cheek) is a chic cheek palette combining contour, blush and highlighter and is currently retailing on FashionValet.

The latest label to jump on the brandwagon is OhMostWanted Cosmeceuticals by actress Nora Danish. Launched early this year, it combines both cosmetics and pharmaceutical properties formulated by local aesthetics doctors.


Sugarbelle Cosmetics founder Sharifah Nabilla Al-Yahya Syed Sheh says Sugarbelle Cosmetics emphasises the halal factor. Picture by: Rohanis Shukri/NSTP


Halal and wuduk (ablution)-friendly elements are significant marketing factors in some local cosmetics brands such as SimplySiti (founded by singer Datuk Seri Siti Nurhaliza Tarudin), Ronasutra, Zawara, Nurayysa Beauty and Sugarbelle Cosmetics.

Shah Alam-based Sugarbelle Cosmetics is among the cult brands on Instagram. It was founded by social media moguls and Muslimah fashion entrepreneurs Sharifah Nabilla Al-Yahya Syed Sheh a.k.a. Belle Al-Yahya (founder of Bella Ammara) and Eyqa Sulaiman of Sugarscarf.

Starting with its first product, a creamy liquid lipstick, the brand has grown by leaps and bounds, with halal certification being among its strengths (apart from the 24-7 online marketing efforts and Belle’s endless make-up tips and tutorials).

“I love make-up. I was inspired to start the business as I couldn’t find many cosmetic products that conformed to halal standards back then. I’m sure I’m not the only one facing the dilemma,” says Belle, 30.

She says she and her team made sure that all Sugarbelle Cosmetics complied with the standards set by the Health Ministry and the Department of Islamic Development Malaysia (Jakim) from day one. This is why the brand went through a careful selection process of cosmetic manufacturers in Malaysia to cater to its mostly muslim consumers here and abroad.

“I guess it has helped us stay alive in this competitive field. It has also beefed up our profile, and eventually led us to being among the few local brands to retail at Guardian outlets starting last year,” she says.

The brand will launch new products to complete its cosmetic range soon and is ready to enter more Guardian outlets this year.


FashionValet founder Vivy Yusof and make-up artist Syed Faizal Syed Noh at the launch of the latter’s Pipi by Syedskillereyes last year. Picture credit: Syedskillereyes


FashionValet is among the established online fashion retail platforms that curate brands by local entrepreneurs. There are more than 20 beauty and cosmetic brands, including local labels, currently retailing on the platform, with colour cosmetics being the fast-selling item.

Founder Vivy Yusof says one of the challenges in curating and dealing with homegrown brands is the fact that they are small players.

“In my seven years in business, I have seen lots of brands come and go. Most are very new to the market and are run by one or two persons. They have the passion and what it takes to tackle the market but they need support in marketing, financing and branding,” she says.

As part of its ongoing streamlining effort this year, the platform is focusing on keeping only a few brands onboard. “We want to maintain a certain standard and quality. We also want to continue offering products from mid to premium brands.

“We will focus our efforts to help local players who are ambitious, willing to learn and ready to grow with us,” she says.

Lipsticks by Ruby dan Roses. Picture credit: Instagram Ruby dan Roses

Fast Facts

* Malaysia’s total trade volume for personal care and cosmetics products was about US$2.24 billion (RM8.9 billion) in 2015.

* Over 50 per cent of the demand was met by US$1.3 billion in imports mainly from China, Thailand, France, the European Union, the United States, South Korea and Japan.

* The 2015 Global Economic Summit reported that Malaysia is among the countries with highest Muslim consumers’ expenditure with US$2.6 billion, indicating a huge potential for halal products including cosmetics.

* There are 210 cosmetic manufacturers in Malaysia that conform to the Good Manufacturing Practices requirement in accordance to the Asean Guidelines for Cosmetics.

Source: Asia Personal Care and Cosmetics Market Guide 2016 and Opinion: Malaysia cosmetics brands’ huge potential by Nur Suhaili Ramli, writer/global brands researcher at University of York, UK.

Sabah-based Zhuco Cosmetics is popular for its rainbow-coloured highlighter. Picture credit: Instagram Zhuco Cosmetics

Top 15 local cosmetics

brands on Instagram

1- Zawara(@zawara) Followers: 316,000

2- Sugarbelle Cosmetic (@sugarbellecosmetic) Followers: 123,000

3- SimplySiti(@officialsimplysiti) Followers: 117,000

4- Fame Cosmetics (@fame.cosmetics) Followers: 78,500

5- Breena Beauty (@breenabeauty) Followers: 43,900

6- DIDA For Women (@didaforwomen) Followers: 34,800

7- Velvet Vanity (@shopvelvetvanity) Followers: 30,800

8- OhMostWanted Cosmeceuticals (@ohmostwantedlook) Followers: 29,500

9- Zhuco Cosmetics (@zhucocosmetics) Followers: 22,700

10- Stage Cosmetics (@stagecosmetics) Followers: 19,700

11- Nita Cosmetics (@nita.cosmetics) Followers: 18,300

12- Can Can’s Beauty (@cancansbeauty) Followers: 16,300

13- Chique Cosmetics (@chiquecosmetic) Followers: 15,200

14- So.Lek (@so.lek) Followers: 11,300

15- Ruby dan Roses (@rubydanroses) Followers: 6,195

Fame Cosmetics is well-known among make-up artists. Picture credit: Instagram Fame Cosmetics


Is your make-up safe?

BESIDES keeping abreast with what’s hot and what’s not in the make-up department, it is always wise to read labels and be aware of the ingredients in the products you use.

According to the National Pharmaceutical Regulatory Agency, consumers should avoid using cosmetic products adulterated with hydroquinone, tretinoin or mercury, among others.

For more information, visit the National Pharmaceutical Regulatory Agency (also known as National Pharmaceutical Control Bureau) website at or email or call 03-78835400.

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