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Why Japanese Millennials Are Buying Used Makeup

Why Japanese Millennials Are Buying Used Makeup

TOKYO, Japan — Thanks to its notoriously bin-free streets, high-tech toilets and Marie Kondo-branded minimalism, Japan has a reputation for cleanliness.

“Everyone is obsessed with being clean… a lot of people carry around wet tissues and sweat-wipes,” says Tokyo-based media student Yoko Hashimoto. “I think females are expected to look tidy and smell nice at all times, which is a bit unrealistic, in my opinion.”

There are exceptions to Japan’s obsession for hygiene. The country is home to a thriving second-hand retail scene — its domestic market for digital resale was valued at 483.5 billion yen ($4.59 billion) in 2017, a 58 percent year-on-year spurt according to the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry — but resold clothes and accessories can withstand a thorough clean. Makeup, however, is a different story.

Japan’s domestic beauty market is one of the world’s most sophisticated, boasting a fruitful ecosystem of cult local drugstore and high-end brands such as Shiseido and SK-II accompanied by thriving demand for global luxury names. As a result of the emphasis on premium and potent ingredients and vigorous commitment to innovation and R&D, Euromonitor International estimates that the country’s shoppers spend the most on cosmetics and skincare per capita.

Shoppers in Dōtonbori, a tourist destination in Osaka, Japan | Source: Courtesy

And yet, puzzling as it may sound, buying used makeup is becoming popular among a small but growing segment of Japan’s Millennials. The phenomenon speaks volumes about the demographic’s consumer psyche, which is simultaneously brand-loving and increasingly frugal.

Mottainai, often translated as “what a waste,” goes some way in capturing this frugal aspect of Japanese culture. It is a deeply rooted value that often goes undetected by casual observers who tend to focus on the big-spending surface of Japanese shopping habits.

The sentiment informs and manifests in myriad aspects of Japanese life, from children being warned not to leave a grain of rice in their bowls to utilising fabric scraps to craft patchwork and woven textiles such as traditional-stye nanbu saki-ori. The pride and comfort that many Japanese feel towards buying, using and owning less — but spending on quality and luxury items where it counts — attests to the country’s sophisticated and thoughtful consumption culture.

Enter a Red-Hot Resale Platform

Marika Sakamoto is a 28-year-old Tokyo dweller who has purchased used RMS Beauty and Nu Skin products on Mercari, Japan’s top peer-to-peer marketplace platform. “When I buy secondhand cosmetics, I always carefully look thorough about how many times has [it] been used and expiration dates,” she says.

“Mercari helps [make] buying these products easier, because you can’t buy them in Japan and people really don’t mind if they’re used.” The fact that buying secondhand products is more environmentally friendly is a bonus.

The used beauty trend isn’t unique to Japan. On West Coast-based Glambot in the US, shoppers can find Giorgio Armani’s Chinese New Year highlighter palette with “80 percent fill” remaining for $44.50 instead of the original $89. Peer-to-peer shopping app Depop, Lithuanian Vinted and Reddit also provide platforms and forums for users to buy used cosmetics. In China, shoppers can pay $4 for 15 minutes in shareable makeup booths found in malls across the country.

You can’t buy these products in Japan and people really don’t mind if they’re used.

Even with the habitual ‘swatching’ and testing of shades and formulas in the most high-end department stores, sharing makeup is extremely unhygienic — in April, American beauty giant Sephora settled a lawsuit with a customer who claimed she contracted oral herpes after sampling a lipstick at its Hollywood outpost for an undisclosed sum. But Japan’s hand in the makeup resale trend is uniquely at odds with its spotless image.

However, as Japan’s sharing economy matures, a small number of millennials seem willing to overlook germs for luxury-priced beauty at a steep discount. A search for used makeup on Mercari returns products from Chanel’s natural finish loose powder to face brushes from local beauty brand Addiction, used beyond the point of being merely tested or “swatched.” An FAQ page states that Mercari allows used makeup to be sold, provided that the products are well-described and not expired.

“I was so surprised that most of [my listings] were sold within a few days,” says Tokyo-based Moe Miura, who has sold her opened and used Chanel, YSL Beauty and Clinique products on Mercari. As her generation experiment with new brands discovered through Instagram and Youtube, she reckons that secondhand beauty will gain speed.

“I thought it was very weird for people to use used makeup products,” says Miura, who despite selling her own makeup would not buy used cosmetics for sanitary reasons. “[But] recently, Japan has a trend of sharing and I feel like people’s consciousness towards [extreme] cleanliness has been changing.”

Used Chanel makeup sold on Mercari | Source: Mercari

Mercari has become the ideal place to access luxury cosmetics, allowing younger Japanese customers to try shades and formulas without committing to full price, or nab beauty brands that aren’t available directly in the country. Mercari did not respond to BoF’s request for comment.

“When you want to try a new Chanel lipstick, you can try it via Mercari at a lower price and then buy a new one if you actually like it,” says Yo Douglas, Gartner’s senior specialist for research and advisory in the APAC region. “It’s not unlike buying used cosmetics from your friends.”

According to Douglas, the trend has taken hold — despite Japan’s sensitivity to hygiene — due to a mutual understanding, and high level of trust and consideration between buyers and sellers. “Sellers know about the consumers sentiment,” he says, noting that users are encouraged to communicate and sellers will even voluntarily replace used powder puffs when sending foundation compacts to their new owners.

As luxury beauty products seldom go on sale, second-hand beauty plays into local younger shoppers’ desires for branded goods, with specific product categories being stronger status symbols than others. According to Bain & Company overall luxury sales rose 6% in 2018 to €22 billion ($24 billion), though inbound tourism is one significant driver.

A young woman chooses cosmetics at a store in Osaka | Source: Shutterstock

“Younger people like to carry around branded lip products [and] setting powder,” says Hashimoto. “But they like to use minimalist products at home, [such as] skincare, base, sunscreen so that they can feel like they are taking care of themselves while being frugal and saving money.” According to Hashimoto, buying used makeup is especially popular with those looking to use the product as a prop for social media posts.

Though the 22-year-old hasn’t bought used makeup for herself, she has sold used products on the platform on multiple occasions, including a cushion foundation she received that was a touch too dark. “It was purchased within a few hours after I posted it,” she tells BoF. “I [indicated that it was] ‘Shu Uemura’ in the description and I think that’s why I was able to sell it quickly.”

A Complex and Contradictory Consumer Psyche

Japan’s economy, the third largest in the world behind the US and China, surprised observers by growing at an annualised rate of 2.1 percent in the first quarter of this year, according to data released on Monday by Japan’s Cabinet Office. Since prime minister Shinzo Abe came to power, Japan has mostly experienced modest growth but the broader view is that Japan has been struggling to find its way out of the economic doldrums since the 1990s.

Though it remains one of the world’s largest luxury markets with old money and new money alike driving the sector, Japan’s ageing population has traditionally positioned older consumers as the core focus for high-end brands. “Unlike China and other emerging countries, Japanese Millennials don’t have a prospect that they will have a better life, financially, than their parents,” says Gartner’s Douglas. “Luxury brands often hire young pop idols as a brand ambassador to target young consumers in China. However, we don’t observe the [same] trend in Japan.”

We can’t afford expensive makeup products, but we still want them because we somehow think they will brighten up our routined lives.

Having come of age during the 2008 global financial crisis and Japan’s 2011 tsunami and nuclear disaster, the country’s Millennials are frugal shoppers relative to their preceding generation. Though  Abe’s economic policies are expected to boost spending for post-Millennials aged 18-22 years old, old habits die hard.

While many are motivated by a renewed — or newfound — sense of pride in learning to become frugal, others are simply watching their wallets. “So many young people in Japan are struggling financially… it’s really hard to find a stable job that pays a fair wage,” says Hashimoto. She says that it is common for shoppers her age to treat themselves with branded products but collect coupons on their mobiles and buy skincare at drugstores on days where they can collect extra points.

While the used makeup trend underscores this duplexity, Douglas notes that global brands can rethink their pricing and digital strategies accordingly. “For example, Shiseido launched a brand targeting Millennials called Recipist in 2017 that is sold only on e-commerce platforms with a lower price than Shiseido’s traditional brands.”

As an alternative to value-centric retail models, compelling brand experiences could be a compelling proposition for younger shoppers. “We can’t afford expensive makeup products, but we still want them because we somehow think they will brighten up our routine lives,” says Hashimoto.

“We clearly don’t see a bright future ahead of us, and all we can do right now is [to] have as much fun as possible while cutting off unnecessary spending and investing in experiences.”

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All the Big iOS 13 Changes Apple Announced at WWDC 19

All the Big iOS 13 Changes Apple Announced at WWDC 19

Apple is hosting its annual Worldwide Developer Conference this week and, as expected, kicked off the conference by unveiling iOS 13, the next version of its mobile operating system, during the show’s opening keynote. Apple showed off a LOT of stuff, including key improvements to overall privacy, overhauled apps, and sweeping software changes for iPads. Here’s a rundown of the changes you’ll notice, and what they mean for your iPhone.

Everything will be faster

According to Apple, iOS 13 will improve performance in a few key ways. Apps should launch twice as fast. “Smaller apps” should download in half the time, and update 60 percent more quickly. Face ID should take 30 percent less time to unlock. It’s hard to say whether you’ll notice the difference — especially with downloads, since their speed depends on your connection as well — but it sounds like a nice improvement.

Also, this wasn’t mentioned in the keynote, but Apple said you will now be able to download larger apps—over 150MB—using cellular data, instead of waiting for wifi. It’s a small improvement, and one that people with large or unlimited data plans will care about, but it’s always nice to have the option.

Sign in with iPhone

In the security department, Apple wants to give iOS users a more secure alternative to convenient social sign-in buttons, like sign in with Facebook, which links external accounts to the social network giving it more data. The Sign In with Apple button works like any other social button, but prompts you to authenticate yourself using Face ID or Touch ID instead syncing to an authenticated social media account.

Better yet, when you use the button in conjunction with a service that requires an email address, iOS 13 gives you the ability to use any of your stored email addresses, or give a randomly generated “dummy” iCloud address, which forwards messages to your account. You can then delete said account (or, presumably, stop forwarding messages to your real email) whenever you want.

Location, location, location…data

Given all the concerns with mobile apps storing and using location data lately, it’s nice to see that iOS users will be getting more options to control when and how location data is used this year. Instead of simply choosing what apps can and can’t check your location, you can now choose to simply let an app read your location data one time, forcing it to re-authenticate every time it wants to track you. You can also tell iOS to send you a notification each time an app asks for your location data, so you can see if any of your apps are acting fishy.

Apple also said it will prevent apps from acquiring your location data using Bluetooth or wi-fi, making its location data controls more effective.

Everybody gets a contact image in Messages

In Messages, users will now see a contact photo next to each person’s name, giving it a more social feel. When you message a person who may not have you saved in their phone, you can choose to send a custom name and image, introducing yourself and making people less likely to treat you like a bot. This seems especially helpful since iOS 13 also adds a feature that automatically sends all unrecognized calls to voicemail.

Memoji get a glow up and stickers

When do set that contact photo, Apple would prefer you use a picture of your Memoji. In case you forgot about them, Apple introduced Memoji, customizable emoji avatars made using the iPhone X’s front-facing camera, in iOS 12 last year. In iOS 13, they are getting a bunch of improvements, including the ability to add piercings and makeup, change bodily features like teeth, and add hats.

Once you’ve customized it, you have the option to generate a sticker pack of your Memoji (or a generic Animoji) making different expressions, which you can send using the stickers feature on the iOS keyboard.

Going dark

As expected, Apple announced that iOS 13 will introduce a Dark Mode for iOS and Apple’s apps. Now you can minimize the amount output by your phone in menu and apps by turning everything black or dark grey. Switching to dark mode will also switch your wallpaper, and iOS 13 will come with a set of Dark Mode-optimized ones to maximize the effect.

Dark Mode will be easy to toggle on and off at will—there will be a Control Center button—or you can set it to turn on automatically at specific times. Third-party developers will have access to Dark Mode through Apple’s API, so developers can (and hopefully will) add it to their apps, though there’s no guarantee when/if developers will do so.

Type without lifting a finger

At long last, iPhones will now have access to a swipe-style typing in all apps, where you drag your finger from key to key, rather than tapping. From the limited demo during the keynote, Apple’s QuickPath typing didn’t have any immediately obvious distinguishing features, but given that this is feature fans have been using for years on Android or using third-party keyboard software, it’s just nice to have parity.

Find My iPhone…even when it’s off

The “Find my Friends” and “Find my iPhone” apps will be combined into a single app in iOS13, simply called “Find My.” The new app will add a couple key new features to the service, both of which enhance Find My’s primary function, helping you when your phone is missing or stolen.

First, Find My can now track synced devices when they are asleep or in offline mode using an encrypted Bluetooth location signal. According to Apple, that signal piggybacks on other Bluetooth signals, making it harder to trace. Apple also said also it will not impact your devices’ battery life.

Bring the noise…to acceptable levels

There are two major additions to Apple’s Health app. The first is the noise level feature, which can detect the decibel level in your headphones, or your immediate surroundings, and notify you that the sound you’re hearing could damage your hearing and if, so, how long it may take for that damage to occur. It sounds potentially obnoxious, but as someone who has definitely damaged his hearing over the years with loud music, I think it’ll come in handy.

Cycle tracking

The second addition to the Health app allows women is Cycle Tracking, which allows women to chart their menstrual cycles. Users who choose to give the app information about their menstrual cycle can track and visualize statistics about their cycles, allowing them to track irregularities and receive a notification predicting when their periods will start. There are also similar fertility focused features, like “fertile window projection.”

Given the sensitivity of that data, it feels important to relay that Apple said it does not and will not record or share any data in the Health app, so this information is theoretically private and secure.

Redrawing Apple Maps

Apple said it’s overhauling the mapping data used to generate Apple Maps. The new version, the company claims, will offer much more detail than the current Maps app. In addition to more points on the map, that increased detail will include real-time mass transit and airport information.

The revamped Maps app will also have a few new features, including the ability to add locations to “collections” or a favorites list, and a Google Streetview-like feature called “Look around mode,” which allows you to see a 360-degree ground-level view of what any point on the map looks like. You’ll also be able get address information and other location data about nearby buildings and business you find nearby.

The process of adding the new data will take time, Apple said it will have the full continental U.S. updated by the end of 2019.

Making your photos more fun to look at

The photos app is getting a full-blown renovation. The new app will offer machine-learning augmented curation tools, which will hide busywork photos like receipts, screenshots, and duplicate photos, so if you’re looking to scroll through images of friends and family, that’s what you’ll get.

It will also revamp the “events” based organization system, allowing you to sort photos by day, month, or year. By day, the app will curate your photos and create unique presentations of each photo set. By month or year, it will recognize repeat events and show you photos with common themes.

Edit your videos just like your Photos

The most useful shift is for videos: All of the photo-editing tools in Photos — stuff like rotating photos and adding filters, and other color balancing options — will now be available for editing videos as well. While it’s no replacement for a true video editor, the ability to make quick adjustments on the fly is a game-changer for the everyday videographer.

Mail, Notes and Reminders all get new looks too

Many of Apple’s other core apps will also get major revisions this year. Mail will get updated features, including a new text formatting bar that makes it easier to change text size, embolden, italicize, and underline. The app now supports rich fonts, as well, giving you the ability to add a custom font if you choose. Notes offers a more photo-friendly gallery view. Reminders has a whole new look, focusing on the ability to add details, including dates, times, and tags to your to-dos.

iOS is just for phones now

Perhaps the biggest update of the day, Apple announced that the iPad will start using its own operating system, iPadOS, when the next wave operating systems rolls out this year. The new operating system seems to split the difference between iOS and MacOS, making the tablet much more useful as a laptop alternative.

It isn’t clear how big an impact the separation will have, at least in year one. Most, if not all, of the biggest changes coming to iOS 13 will be coming to iPadOS. It also appears that some of the features Apple highlighted for the iPad during the keynote, such as an updated Files app that resembles MacOS, will be available on iOS 13. I’ll be doing a rundown of what’s coming to iPadOS, and will let you know.

So when do we get to see all this stuff?

iOS 13 entered developer beta today, which means people who pay for a developer license can download it now. Apple said a public beta will be available in July, so keep your eyes peeled for it on Apple’s public beta site. Finally, the complete version will roll out to everyone this fall.

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