Retail notes from KL: [Show Report] Beauty Expo Malaysia 2019

Here, at long last, is my trade show review of Malaysia’s biggest beauty and salon C&T trade fair, Beauty Expo 2019 – and not a minute too soon (I’ll be leaving for Cosmoprof Asia/Hong Kong in a few days).

So let’s get started! Beauty Expo Malaysia is billed as South East Asia’s longest-running cosmetics trade show; it took place for the 19th time this year. And although the fair’s key focus are the Malaysian salon, makeup, hair and spa sectors there were still more than enough retail brands to keep me happy : )

Click on the link below to find out more about my favourite brand discoveries.

This was my first visit to Beauty Expo (and my first time in Kuala Lumpur since 2009/2010) and I’d booked my hotel in the Bukit Bintang area so I would be close to the exhibition centre (and in walking distance of all of the major shopping malls and stores).

There’s actually an elevated covered walkway that leads from luxury shopping mall Pavillion KL to the KLCC exhibition centre. KLCC-Bukit Bintang Walkway is a pedestrian bridge which covers a distance of 1.8 kilometers; it’s even partially airconditioned. Also, it begins amongst a cluster of cafés on the Pavillion side, including Starbucks, Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, Segafredo and so on (I need my morning espresso, especially when I have a full trade show day ahead of me!).

So that’s how I got to the trade show every morning. Although KL has a well-functioning public  transport system there’s no direct transport link to KLCC and with the city’s horrific traffic situation, taking a taxi or a Grab (the South East Asian ridesharing version of Uber) during rush hour is pretty much pointless since you’ll just be sitting in traffic for an hour or so.


Anyway, Beauty Expo took place from 4th to 7th October 2019; like Beyond Beauty ASEAN it’s an Informa/UBM-organised trade show which forms part of the Cosmoprof portfolio of domestic South East Asian trade shows. The fair was well organised and definitely busier than Beyond Beauty. It was also almost exclusively Malaysian in terms of exhibitors (yay!) which, again, is in direct contrast to Beyond Beauty.

According to the organisers, there were more than “350 brands from 25 countries” at Beauty Expo 2019. I’m putting this statement in quotation marks because the official online exhibitor database (as well as the official trade show catalogue which includes all of the exhibitors and their respective countries) only lists 13 countries and territories. With the exception of South Africa (more on that in a bit!) the only other non-Asian countries on the list – Germany, Poland and Brazil – were represented by single brand only so this was an almost completely Asian trade fair.

[EDIT 5/12/2019: The organisers have just released the official post show report and here are the numbers: there were 322 exhibitors from 22 countries; 15,824 trade visitors from 36 countries and a total exhibition space of 7,540 sq m]

The biggest international exhibitor country was Korea with 25 brands, followed by Taiwan with around a dozen brands, Singapore with eight brands and China with seven companies. South Africa, on the other hand – and seriously, this is a country that I very VERY rarely see at international beauty trade fairs! – was represented by twelve beauty brands (count ‘em, twelve!); almost all of them organic, niche and hand-made. Basically, South Africa was the third-biggest exhibitor country at Beauty Expo, together with Taiwan.

I was told that South African cosmetics are rather popular in Malaysia – although the products rarely carry a halal certificate they are usually from the green and/or natural sector and for many Malaysian consumers, this is the next best thing to halal-certified.


Beauty Expo was divided into six sections: Beauty Salon (included salon and retail brands), Hair Salon, Makeup & Education, Nail Salon, OEM/ODM and Halal Beauty. I was particularly interested in the halal section because I wanted to find out more about halal certifications for beauty products and Malaysia (together with the tiny country of Brunei) is the only Muslim country that has a clearly-defined halal certification standard for beauty and personal care products.

QUICK EXCURSUS: Halal means that a food or cosmetic product is compliant with the principles of Islam; i.e. that it is manufactured according to the requirements of the Islamic faith so it can be safely consumed by devout muslims. In the case of cosmetics this means that a halal-certified product can’t contain alcohol (or, at least, it may only contain a very tiny amount), pork by-products (such as gelatine) or ingredients derived from dead animals, such as carmine (lipsticks) or collagen, gelatine and placenta (skin care).

In addition the entire production process (manufacturing, storage, transport, logistics) must fulfil the same strict requirements: a factory space which produces halal cosmetics cannot be used to manufacture or store non-halal products or ingredients. Another example: when the production line or equipment is cleaned this has to be done with halal-compliant cleansing products (which automatically eliminates anything with more than a very small percentage of alcohol).

In addition there is no single halal standard that applies to all muslim markets: each Islamic country has a slightly different list of requirements and just because your products are halal-certified for, say, the Indonesian or Malaysian markets it doesn’t mean that you can also sell them in, say, Saudi Arabia.


As soon as the doors were opened on the first day I made a beeline for the halal beauty section!

HDC (Malaysia)

My first stop was the Halal Industry Development Corporation, a governmental organisation created to further develop the domestic halal industry, making Malaysia into a global halal hub by attracting domestic and foreign investments.

HDC is active in a range of consumer goods sectors, including pharmaceutical and nutraceutical products, probiotics, livestock and meat products, cosmetics and personal care and halal ingredients; they work with domestic companies as well as international manufacturers that want to do business in Malaysia – in fact, the government has introduced the so-called Halal Parks: business sites (kind of like a business village/campus) for halal-oriented companies and manufacturers that are supported by a HDC-facilitated infrastructure. According to the HDC website, there are 13 Halal Parks across Malaysia at the moment.

However, HDC doesn’t just work with businesses; they also offer a range of information services and support to interested consumers – there’s a halal information app, for example, as well as workshops and seminars on all aspects of halal manufacturing and certification.

SKIN DRAMA (Malaysia)

More of less opposite from Halal Development Corporation was the booth of First Grade Resources, a halal beauty manufacturer from Kedah in North West Malaysia. The company is an OEM/ODM manufacturer but they also have their own retail range, Skin Drama.

Skin Drama is pretty new on the market; the brand was launched this summer and the line-up comprises two face masks: Lavender Pudding Mask (purple packaging) is a fresh gel mask with an awesomely wobbly pudding texture. It’s formulated with tomato fruit extract, tangerine peel extract and lavender essential oil.

Then there is the Mattifying Clay Mask (orange packaging) – like the Pudding Mask this is a wash-off product. The clay mask contains turmeric, rosehip oil, peppermint essential oil and witch hazel. Both products are primarily sold online at the moment.

MISS ELWANI (Malaysia)

And young halal brand Miss Elwani specialises in virgin coconut oil-based products.

The brand’s range offers four different coconut oils blends (flavours: passion fruit, crème brulée, strawberry and blackcurrant) which can be taken as a nutritional supplement or used as hair and body moisturisers. There are also two liquid shampoos and a face cleansing bar.


Check out this colourful packaging! My Swag Pomade is a Malaysia-manufactured halal men’s styling range which was launched earlier this year.

There are four products  which are priced at 25-30 MYR (around 5-7 Euro): three strong-hold waxes with different formulations (the yellow-packaged wax is water-based so the texture is lighter and crisper; the pink wax contains moisturising argan oil and the green wax is formulated with olive oil) and an extra-strong hold wax.

My Swag Pomade is sold online on the big Malaysian retail sites such as Shoppee and Lazada but also in selected offline retailers.


Makeup and skin care brand Haus Cosmetics is another new halal brand – and yes, the brand name does indeed refer to the German word for “house” : ) .

The company offers nine products of face care and makeup products, including a cleansing scrub, serum, moisturising cream and a moisturising gel cream; two oil serums, a tinted lipbalm stick, a liquid foundation (available in three shades) and a 10-sku range of lip creams.

The packaging is eye-catching and the products are mostly sold through social media, especially Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

The super-stylish lip creams you can see in the pic above/below are from a special cooperation of Haus Cosmetics with modest fashion brand Minaz – you can check out the range in more detail on the Minaz website.


And another new Malaysian halal brand: Cocoa Paradise was launched this summer. The company offers a 3-sku body care range formulated in Malaysia with domestically-sourced cocoa beans.

The compact line-up includes  a shower gel, a shower cream and a body scrub which are retailed around 50 MYR (10 Euro) each, making the products a more high-end item in the price-sensitive Malaysian mass market.

That’s also why Cocoa Paradise is looking to expand into the spa and salon channel rather than going into drugstore retail, they told me. At the moment, the brand’s products are only sold online.


The Malaysian chapter of international women’s network BPW (International Federation of Business & Professional Women) also had a booth at Beauty Expo 2019. I stumbled across them more or less by accident – actually, I was kneeling on the floor in front of the BPW booth typing up some Instagram posts when one of the booth ladies approached me.

I had a very interesting chat with Sarimah Sabudin, the current president of BPW Malaysia (the Malaysian chapter of BPW was founded five years ago). I don’t know if you’re familiar with what the BPW does but it’s an international non-profit association of professional women which was founded in 1930. The mission of BPW is to help women across the world to build leadership, economic and business skills, allowing them to reach economic independence and to realise their full potential by offering networking, skill building and mentoring opportunities.

The BPW also undertakes advocacy and lobbying work for gender equality and against discrimination of women in the public, political, business and social spheres; the association has consultative status with the UN’s Economic and Social Council and the Council of Europe; plus representations in many of the UN’s national and regional offices.

There are more than 100 national chapters of the BPW with an even larger number of regional and local clubs. The German chapter of the BPW has a rather very interesting history, with roots that go back to 1931: that year Berlin business woman Dr. Marie Munk founded an association of professional women. In 1932, Munk’s association joined the BPW International but they were forced to dissolve themselves in 1933, the beginning of Nazi Germany. In 1951 the association was relaunched as “Deutscher Verband Berufstätiger Frauen“ (DVBF) and then renamed BPW Germany in 1999.


I didn’t really see that many exciting new Korean beauty brands at the show but there were a couple of interesting labels from Taiwan.


Whenever I walked past the exhibition booth of Taiwanese makeup brand Kai Beauty it was surrounded by a throng of female trade show visitors intent of snatching a selfie with brand founder and makeup artist Kai Chang; so I sort of lingered until there was a brief lull. Then I swooped in.

In the picture above you can see the most recent Kai Beauty launch: the eyeshadow palette Mars features nine gorgeous autumn-themed powder shadows with finishes that range from matte over shimmering all the way to glittery. Densely pigmented and a really great combination of colours.

Kai Beauty was launched a few years ago (I can’t quite remember the exact date but I don’t think the brand is older than five years) and at the moment, their product range is only sold online; it’s available in Taiwan and in Malaysia.

In its domestic market the brand is now also moving into offline retail: Kai Beauty has just opened its first bricks ‘n mortar store in Taiwan’s capital Taipei (in Xinyi district, in case you’re interested).


Sheet mask brand Beautilove was launched on the occasion of Beauty Expo 2019 and it’s a bit of a Taiwan/Malaysia hybrid: the products are manufactured in Taiwan for a Malaysian company and the Malaysian market, so the brand’s 10-sku mask range isn’t actually sold in Taiwan.

I loved the design of the exhibition booth – such an eye-catcher! – and the ingredients of the sheet masks which were definitely on the clean/green beauty side. Beautilove’s line-up includes nine different sheet masks – three of these are formulated with 24 karat gold particles – and there’s also a wash-off gel mask.

I was told that the brand has already lined up a big retail chain as distribution partner: the Beautilove masks will be sold in Guardian drugstores across Malaysia. Plus online, of course.


And now we come to the South African part of the trade show!

As I’ve mentioned in the introduction I was seriously surprised to see the 12-strong South Africa country pavillion at Beauty Expo Malaysia – I mean, Beauty Expo is a comparatively small and regional cosmetics trade fair and I can’t recall seeing a significant presence of South African brands at, say, Cosmoprof Asia or China Beauty Expo. Ever.

Therefore I was delighted to be offered the opportunity to explore some of South Africa’s organic beauty brands (which I’ve never seen at any of the European trade shows either…) so let’s dive straight in.

SKIN CREAMERY (South Africa)

Skin Creamery is a charming organic beauty brand which was launched around five years ago. They’re based in Cape Town and offer five face care products, including a cleansing powder with malachite extract and bentonite and an intriguing oil-to-milk cleansing liquid formulated with sesame oil and a sugar-based enzyme.

There’s also a 2-phase toner with rose flower extract, kalahari melon seed oil and baobab oil, a facial oil based on almond oil, jojoba oil and baobab oil  and the Everyday Cream, a light-textured moisturising lotion formulated with coconut oil and sesame oil. You can also purchase refills for the Oil-Milk Cleanser and the Everyday Cream.

Founder Hannah Rubin told me that she uses as many indigenous ingredients as possible in the formulation of her products, like buchu powder, baobab and melon seed oils or malachite extract. This strong focus on regionally sourced ingredients is something that I noticed at some of the other South African brand booths as well.

Anyway, Skin Creamery is already sold in Malaysia and seems to be doing quite well, from what I was told – and why wouldn’t it; the brand offers high-quality (and truly organic) ingredients combined with stylish packaging and cool product textures.

Hannah said that her brand is currently going through the EU’s product registration process and I’ll keep my fingers crossed that Skin Creamery is going to be available in Europe soon.

RED DANE (South Africa)

Another very interesting natural beauty brand from South Africa. Red Dane is a men’s skin care and shaving range which was launched five years ago.

The 15-sku line-up offers a wide selection of face and beard care products including the brand’s newest launch, the Signature Beard Oil which is based on kalahari melon oil, grapeseed oil and baobab oil. Like Skin Creamery, Red Dane is based on African ingredients – especially plant oils and herbal extracts – with formulas that vary from natural to completely organic (like the new beard oil).

In the pictures below you can see some mock-ups of Red Dane’s brand new range Afrakari: hand-crafted organic luxe cosmetics entirely formulated with wild-harvested, fair trade and organic African ingredients – in fact, the brand’s founder told me that he wants to develop Africa’s first true luxury beauty brand.

Afrakari launched in early November and offers five products: the Cape Kelp Hydrating Cleanser which is made with kelp harvested from Cape Town’s coastline, a day cream formulated with zinc oxide, a peptide night cream, a face oil and a beard oil.

ROYALE (South Africa)

South African artisan beauty brand Royale Afrique du Sud has an intriguing zero waste/upcycling concept: the nine products in Royale’s range are formulated with locally-made pomegranate seed oil. Founder Izette Dreyer sources the pomegranate seeds from a local juice factory and turns them into cold-pressed oil.

The pomegranate seed oil is then used as a base for Royale’s four face serums and as a key ingredients in the brand’s other skin and body care products which include a facial scrub with coffee bean powder, hydrating gel cream, cuticle oil, food scrub and foot repair oil.


And more artisan beauty from South Africa! This is Antjies Handmade Naturals, an artisan soap, bath and body care manufacturer which was launched around ten years ago. The company’s from Stanford in the Western Cape region. Isn’t the packaging of their bar soaps beautiful? Those colours!!

All Antjies products – the company also manufactures hotel amenities and cosmetics, like the Kiazi range – are made by hand with natural and organic African ingredients. I particularly like the soap sachets with roiboos powder (see pictures below). And the kaolin rose geranium powder mask!

HEALING EARTH (South Africa)

And Healing Earth is a lush spa bath and body care brand – completely organic, based on traditional African skin care formulae and made with regional ingredients, plant oils and herbal extract.

The company’s product portfolio offers some 20-odd sku of body care – body balms, butters and polishes, nourishing body oils and shower gels – as well as around 25 face care products (cleansers, toner, serums, polishes, masks, creams and oils); plus a professional spa range and various lifestyle and accessories ranges. The textures are rich and pampering, fragrances are derived from natural essential oils and the packaging is minimalistic and very stylish.

Healing Earth is well-established in South Africa and internationally; the brand’s been around for 16 or so years and the products are retailed in most African countries. The company also runs three spas in South Africa.


And that brings us to the end of this trade show review – well, almost. Beauty Expo Malaysia 2019 was accompanied by a comprehensive programme of seminars and workshop which included sessions on hijab styling, barbering, hair tattoos, SFX makeup and eyebrow styling.

There were also several industry award ceremonies and competitions; I attended one of these events, Hair Legacy which honours Malaysia’s most sucessful and iconic hair stylists – check out some of the rather blurry pictures below!


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Filed under Asia, Industry News, Show Reports, Trade Shows, Travel, Trends

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