An ubiquitous brown glass bottle that has delivered skin nourishment across the generations, a signature scent that has graced the decolletes of stars and perfume purists for decades, a hybrid skincare formula that’s revolutionised the way we hydrate, soothe and mask overnight… From cult classics that have stood the test of time for their cosmetic allure and efficacious formulas, to modern-day icons that are going down in—and re-writing—history with their cutting-edge innovation and virality, here are some of the most iconic beauty masterpieces of our time.
Dior Rouge Velvet in 999; Dior Rouge Satin in 999, $56
Impassioned to dress both women and their smiles, monsieur Christian Dior created the maison’s first lipstick in 1953: Rouge Dior. He first envisioned the make-up creation to be a piece of art—an obelisk of gold and glass in tribute to the Place de la Concorde in Paris. Over almost 70 years later, the lipstick has been continually reinvented, having been decked in gold, beige then azure blue before taking on an elegant midnight blue case adorned with the iconic Dior cannage motif in 2005. Today, Rouge Dior comes encased in its most modern look ever, with an embellished silver trim and the ‘CD’ initials of its creator, and is refillable once again—just like the original. It boasts a library of over a thousand shades, multiple finishes—satin, velvet and matte—and a signature formula that’s been enhanced to cushion pouts with the ideal balance of rich pigment and nourishing botanical ingredients like red peony—one of Christian Dior’s most beloved flowers—that keep lips soft, supple and luminous.
Shu Uemura Eyelash Curler, $30
Japanese beauty master, Shu Uemura, might have gotten his big break on the set of 1962 Hollywood film, My Geisha, but it was his 1991 Eyelash Curler debut that catapulted him and his brand across the world—taking permanent spots in the beauty kits of make-up artists and beauty junkies alike…even the Duchess of Sussex, Meghan Markle’s. It also was the only beauty item to be named dropped in the iconic “The Devils Wear Prada” movie, and 30 years later, it’s arguably still one of the most indispensible—and thus, repurchased—products of all time. But what makes it so special? Having tried multiple eyelash curlers, it is safe to say that this is no ordinary tool—a grand feat considering eyelash curler designs haven’t really evolved since the 1930s. The devil is in the details: First is its mushroom-shaped silicone pad that not only protects your lids from erroneous pinching but provides a full curl to even short, straight lashes; a perfect curved angle and size that sits comfortably on all eye shapes; and the precise engineering of its upgraded patented hinge that applies the optimum amount of pressure on eyelashes. Plus, it’s ergonomic frame crafted from gleaming stainless steel provides great stability and control—so it’s basically fool proof.
Estée Lauder Advanced Night Repair Synchronized Multi-Recovery Complex Serum, $175 for 50ml
Estée Lauder’s Advanced Night Repair Synchronized Multi-Recovery Complex Serum is easily the most recognisable brown bottle on vanities across the generations. This cult favourite has retained its bestseller status since first launching in 1982—a bottle sold every 10 minutes globally—with the promise to boost skin’s natural regeneration processes and in turn, nurture firmer, smoother and healthier skin. Following various formula enhancements, the latest generation is powered by cutting edge Chronolux Power Signal technology, targeting multiple signs of skin ageing caused by environmental aggressors and lifestyle habits (like micro movements from late night scrolling) while delivering day—and night—long hydration, antioxidant protection, a collagen-production boost and skin barrier strengthening. Over time, Asia’s number one serum will help complexions regain and maintain plumpness, optimum hydration levels and vitality with a reduced appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.
SK-II Facial Treatment Essence, $220 for 160ml
A bottle of SK-II’s Facial Treatment Essence is sold every two seconds. Best known as the beauty world’s ‘miracle water’, this has been quenching skins’ thirsts since the 1980s after scientists discovered how constant contact with fermented rice and yeast at sake breweries kept elderly workers’ hands soft and supple. From this, the promise of Pitera was born—a rich, naturally-derived ingredient crafted from an ancient and proprietary fermentation process of a unique yeast strain exclusive to SK-II. Packed with amino acids, vitamins and minerals essential to skin health, pitera mimics skin’s Natural Moisturising Factors (NMF) to help protect complexions from damage, maintain equilibrium, optimise skin turnover, enhance firmness and clarity, and strengthen skin’s natural moisture barrier, which almost immediately rebuilds healthy, bouncy and beautiful skin.
Chanel N°5 eau de parfum, $253 for 100ml
Over 100 years ago, Chanel’s iconic N°5 turned the fragrance world on its head—and for a number of reasons. The first: in choosing to name it N°5, Mademoiselle Gabrielle ‘Coco’ Chanel did away with convention of the day. No florid or overly sentimental perfume names. Simply N°5. Next, the scent itself was a huge departure from all its contemporaries. N°5 was abstract to the senses, and those sniffing around for specific flowers to peg the fragrance to were sorely disappointed. Both of these decisions spoke of Coco Chanel’s marketing genius: Suddenly instead of fitting into a certain persona of a perfume, everything became open to interpretation. Luxury. Seduction. Confidence. You can play it your way in N°5. Another masterstroke: its minimalist flacon that fast became an objet d’art on any beauty bureau. The amber-hued juice, encased in faceted glass with a form that echoes the shape of Paris’ Place Vendôme remains sculptural and modern, even now. We know a N°5 bottle today, even in silhouette, as we spritz it on after dusk before heading out for the evening or like Marily Monroe, before heading to bed in nothing but N°5.
Other moments that have kept N°5’s enduring influence alive: pop artist Andy Warhol who dedicated nine screen prints to the perfume in the ‘80s; and the host of greats who have fronted the fragrance including Ali MacGraw, Lauren Hutton, Catherine Deneuve, Carole Bouquet, Nicole Kidman and Marion Cotillard.
Byredo Gypsy Water eau de parfum, $372 for 100ml
Light, airy and decidedly refreshing, this gender-neutral fragrance first turns heads with a burst of playful citrus including juniper, bergamot and pepper dance. In what Byredo describes as ‘an ode to Romani culture, the scent opens us into a world that’s fresh and outdoorsy: think pine needles, juniper and woody notes of sandalwood. Traces of smokey incense and woods such as sandalwood, vanilla and amber offer a rich and refined dry down on the skin. Launched in 2008, Gypsy Water has since cemented its status as modern classic.
Armani Beauty My Armani To Go Cushion Foundation, $120
Created with city-slicking women in mind, the My Armani To Go Cushion Foundation was launched in 2017 with the goal of delivering gleaming skin and flawless touch ups, even when on-the-go. A water-in-oil emulsion texture, its weightless, medium buildable coverage and soft-focus glow remains a hit for all skin types, with many opting to wear this under their masks thanks to its breathable, nourishing formula enriched with hyaluronic acid, glycerin and litchi extract—providing hours of seamless colour-correction and coverage, hydration and comfort. This is Armani Beauty’s top product amongst its wardrobe of face make-up—three are sold every minute globally—and is inspired by an Armani handbag with its sleek, ergonomic curves and the newly added “couture cases” for a stylish beauty accessory to go.
NARS Radiant Creamy Concealer, $46
Launched in 2013, NARS’ Radiant Creamy Concealer ticks all the boxes: It boasts medium, buildable coverage, its creamy texture is non-drying and lightweight, it doesn’t cake, crack or set into lines, and it delivers all that with a satiny finish. This is all made possible with mineral-tone balancing powder to correct—not mask—and light-diffusing mineral powder that blurs the appearance of fine lines and evens out skin tone. Plus, its easy-to-blend flexible formula is enriched with multi-active botanical blend (from grape seed extract to vitamin E) to hydrate, reduce redness and protect the skin barrier. The number one prestige concealer in the US, this make-up artist favourite comes in 30 shades (18 available here), making it a multi-purpose tool many reach out for to contour and highlight as well.
KVD Beauty Everlasting Liquid Lipstick in Outlaw, $29
Mention the word ‘lolita’ and some may think of the book or movie, but it is safe to say that beauty junkies will immediately think of KVD Beauty’s perfect rosy-nude lipstick shade, Lolita. And our favourite formula to wear it with? The brand’s Everlasting Liquid Lipstick (it also comes in the Studded Kiss Lipstick), which made its debut in 2016 with a rainbow of 27 shades from oxblood to seafoam green. Today, 30 hues are available at Sephora, with bestselling shades including nude fawn Ludwig, terracotta nude Lolita II and brick red Outlaw. Creamy, lightweight, richly pigmented and non-drying, yet matte and long-wearing, this vegan formula is enriched with lip conditioners like vitamin E and sunflower seed extract that helps add and retain moisture, and ensure smooth, precise application.
Dr. Dennis Gross Alpha Beta Universal Daily Peel, $135 for 30 treatments
When Dr. Dennis Gross first launched his in-clinic Alpha Beta peel in 2002, his wife, Carrie Gross was, naturally, the first client who got to experience it—and she loved it for its instant skin-rejuvenating results. With this, Dr. Gross busted the myths that you needed just one acid or a peel so strong it needed downtime—think aggressive glycolic peels—and instead, he provided chemical exfoliation and skin renewal with a gentle but efficacious blend of multiple acids at lower concentrations. But when beauty editors and enthusiasts snapped up all of the clinic’s appointments, Mrs. Gross asked him if he could just bring the peel home for her—and that’s how the Alpha Beta Daily Peel was born. An at-home version of the clinically formulated treatment, this two-step treatment starts with an acidic step with a low pH, with a blend of acids that help to polish, brighten and even out skin tone. The next step is an alkaline one that enhance the penetration of ingredients, turns up the radiance and helps boost collagen production with the help of ingredients like green tea, vitamin C, chamomile and resveratrol—basically everything to help nourish, soothe and protect the skin from free radicals. For almost 20 years now, the Alpha Beta Daily Peel and its upgrade variants have remained the cornerstone of the Dr. Dennis Gross brand, and has paved the way for other equally effective cosmeceutical formulas targeting skincare users who prioritise efficacy and precision over marketing hype.
Laneige Water Sleeping Mask EX Sleeping Micro Biome, $45 for 70ml
When Laneige launched in 1994, it did so with the promise of glowing, vibrant skin powered by the source of life: water. Hydration-packed products formulated with moisturising ingredients and cutting edge water technology formed the foundation of the brand, and in 2002, Laneige’s Water Sleeping Mask was born. This pioneering innovation fuses penetrating skincare with a leave-on facial mask, using proprietary Sleep-Tox technology, that activates skin’s own purification mechanism, and Moisture Wrap, which creates a breathable yet moisture-rich film on the skin that enables active ingredients like Hydro Ion Mineral Water, antioxidant-rich hunza apricot extract and evening primrose root extract to deeply replenish skin through the night. What makes the formula even more unique is a special moisturising biopolymer, derived from a type of Korean mushroom used for the first time in beauty, which is 20 percent more effective in retaining moisture and oil balance compared to hyaluronic acid. This extends the Sleeping Mask’s moisturising period for an additional nine hours, capitalising on skin’s natural restoration cycle while we sleep, ensuring you wake up with cushioned, hydrated and glowing skin.
Photography Studio Oooze
Beauty editor Dana Koh
Beauty director Alli Sim