DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Clothing boutique Adasa, above, recently added an apothecary section where customer Anne Lewis, left, tests products shown by sales associate Ariel Nancarrow.
Beauty stores let customers experiment until they find the right products
BACK IN THE ANCIENT days of cosmetics, when there were about four brands and nine foundation colors, we were all so naive that it was OK to choose products by holding the little plastic-wrapped, drug-store containers up to our face or hands, thinking we'd made the discovery of the century when we could say, "Yup, medium beige is really me!"
Never mind that makeup foundations chosen that way left us looking slightly pink, orange, ashen or gray, far from the natural look we were seeking.
At some point, testers became available, not only in drugstores, but at department stores where eagle-eyed cosmetic reps stood watch over the counters, effectively deterring chaperone-free trials.
Sephora opened the gates to experimenters who suddenly found themselves free to sniff, touch, feel and even taste the various products available in the store, without the burden of attendants following your every move.
Now it seems as though a new brand is born every day, with several costing a bundle. One of the priciest, RèVive's Intensite Volumizing Serum, sells for $600 an ounce, approaching the cost of gold.
This makes the pre-purchase test phase more important than ever. And with saving face so crucial to image today, DFS Galleria Waikiki and Adasa have recently introduced beauty zones for those who don't mind playing guinea pig in the eternal search for makeup, fragrances and younger-looking skin.
DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Adasa customer Ann Lewis, right, catches the scent of Fresh's Brown Sugar Body Polish shown by sales associate Christy Bauer.
From the front of the Kailua clothing boutique, you can't miss the red-orange glow emanating from the back -- Adasa's Apothecary, a beacon that lures tired pedestrians to linger over bath and body products from Bliss, Fresh, Ebba, Kai, Be and L'Aromarine.
At a recent opening of the apothecary, a unique fashion show of the boutique's summer apparel also offered guests a chance to breathe in mists of Fresh fragrances and test Bliss lip balms, sunscreens, face scrubs and masks on hands and arms.
"I think it's a natural instinct for people to want to try something new -- a texture, aroma or an experience -- instead of the same old thing," said Adasa co-owner Donna Loren. "It's an intimate experience when you make these choices and find out what works with your body chemistry, because everybody's different."
While shopping for ideas, Loren, who grew up in Los Angeles, said, "I'd always admired the apothecary at Fred Segal, and we had this space that just lent itself to a separate bath-and-body department. It's a nice environment where they can sit and be surrounded by scents and textures, and if someone has a few minutes they can have a demonstration of Bliss's gloves and socks."
The gel-lined Softening Socks and Glamour Gloves are paired with Bliss High Intensity Hand Cream or Softening Sock Salve for a cozy softening, moisturizing experience.
"If your fingers are puffy or your feet are tired and swollen they reduce the swelling," Loren said. "They really work! I use them all the time."
Another of her favorite products that found its way into the apothecary is L'Aromarine's French vanilla bubble bath.
"It's so true to vanilla. I've used it for at least two, 2 1/2 decades, and it's never changed. It's still made in France by a little company, and its quality is amazing."
At no bigger than about 200 square feet, space in the apothecary is at a premium so great care was taken in selecting the products. Unlike other bath-and-body shops, where strong synthetic scents can overwhelm the senses, fragrances are light here, reflecting a company affinity for what feels natural, including trying to help Kailua residents avoid a gas-guzzling shopping expedition through the mountain to Honolulu.
"You know, things come and go, but this is what we feel is our product line," Loren said. "We like that Fresh is soy-based and Bliss has a green consciousness. We'll try to incorporate new ideas, new approaches for skin care. Our sniffers are out there looking for more eco-friendly products."
The Adasa Apothecary is in its Kailua boutique, in the Malama Building at 602 Kailua Road (next to Kailua Beachwalk). Call 263-8500.
The DFS Galleria beauty lab allows customers to fully experience products before purchasing.
Borrowing a page from sister LVMH company Sephora, DFS has opened a Beauty Lab in its second-floor cosmetics department. (Yes, locals are welcome to shop the first two floors, also devoted to gift items and selected designer apparel and accessories.)
The new cosmetics area highlights the latest in cosmeceutical, or doctor's brands; anti-aging skin-care lines; and makeup artists' brands. It opened to feature 10 brands new to the Waikiki store, including three skin-care lines -- Rodan+Fields, Jurlique and Oriki -- making their Hawaii debut.
Rodan+Fields is a medically based line containing nonprescription medicines to improve skin structure; Jurlique is an organic, homeopathic skin-care line based in South Australia, with products bearing the delicate scent of essential oils; and Oriki is a line based on botanical antioxidants founded in 1984 by California dermatologist and biochemist Tuan Nguyen, a part-time Honolulu resident.
Other brands introduced are StriVectin, Prevage, Murad, Darphin, Z. Bigatti, Laura Mercier and Paul & Joe, the latter a cosmetic line popular in Japan.
Rose Fernandez, national regional director, West, for Murad Inc. applied Murad's Clarifying Mask to a model's face during a grand opening event.
"There are many brands out there, lots of new brands, and they're not like a Clinique or Estee Lauder, with a lot of marketing behind them," said Betsy Lum, division merchandise manager for beauty. "We were looking for different products that are not as well known, that people could add to supplement their skin regime.
"If they're already using a Clinique or Lauder, our intention is not to switch them over, but to show that if they have a specific problem, like dark circles, we have some different products they could add to what they're using."
Lum said the plan was to create a strategy for DFS stores in Asia as well.
"We brainstormed about what's next for beauty," said Betsy Lum. "We were looking not only for what the Japanese are buying, but the Chinese, because that's an emerging market for us. The Chinese are really into skin care, much more so than even the Japanese.
"The Japanese are mostly interested in removing brown spots, whitening or brightening skin, but there's a whole generation here that's aging and looking at things like brown spots, wrinkles, onset adult acne, reducing the size of their pores. Cross-culturally, we're not that different. Everybody wants to look younger."
The Beauty Lab offers an opportunity to sample the products before buying, and during recent grand-opening events, women with grievances from sagging flesh to dry skin flocked to counters to try a dark-circle treatment from StriVectin, Z. Bigatti's Re-Storation All-In-One Skin Treatment -- which Beyoncé is said to slather on her body, at $155 per jar, as well as her face -- and Murad consultants who could direct them to products for an assortment of woes, such as under-eye skin sensitive to cosmetics but in need of help.
"We researched 22 brands before making our decisions," said Lum, who describes herself as "a skin-care junkie."
"We'll be continuing research and experimenting with other brands. This way, customers can also let us know what they think."
DFS Galleria Waikiki is at 330 Royal Hawaiian Ave. (parking lot entrance is on Lewers, close to Kuhio Ave.). Call 931-2655.