Thailand’s Cosmetic and Spa Products Industry

Known for its natural beauty, Thailand also is gaining recognition for products that tone, soothe, and adorn the face and body, such as skin care, cosmetics, and spa products.  The country rapidly is becoming the hub of healthcare and beauty in Asia, Asia’s “Wellness Capital,” and a one-stop shop for purchasing healthcare and beauty products and services.

Thailand’s cosmetic industry comprises large companies such as TG Nature Care and others that manufacture products for internationally famous brands from the United States, the European Union, and Japan as part of the original equipment designer (OED) and original design manufacturer (ODM) market.

In addition, a number of Thai cosmetic firms manufacture their own brands and are gaining in popularity overseas.

Factories producing cosmetics and spa products for the international market are equipped with modern laboratories.  Their manufacturing processes and research are monitored closely by scientists and meet all international standards.

SSUP Group, one of Thailand’s leading companies in the beauty and wellness industries, manufactures and sells internationally makeup and hair and body products under the Oriental Princess and Cute Press brands.

Information on other Thai cosmetic and personal care companies is available online, as is a directory of Thai companies that export cosmetics, toiletries, and baby products.  Award-winning spa products by Thailand’s Erb, HARNN, and THANN are popular in Europe, Japan, and, increasingly in North America, where they are winning favorable reviews in the news media.

Photo from Daily Xpress

Pattree Bhakdibutr, one of Thailand’s leading fashion designers, created Erb’s soap, body and facial lotions, oils, and other products from natural herbs, flowers, and roots.  HARNN’s natural and organic oils, lotions, and other home spa treatments for the hair, body, and face have been featured in international issues of many lifestyle magazines, including Bazaar, Cosmopolitan, Anywhere, and Luxe.  THANN’s natural hair, body, and skin care products are formulated from botanicals derived by combining the art of natural therapy with modern dermatological science.

Thailand’s tropical climate and enormous biodiversity have resulted in vast natural resources used to create superior beauty and spa care products unavailable elsewhere. While the amazing healing and beautifying properties of Thailand’s plants have been appreciated for generations by local people, only recently have they been scientifically researched and systematically developed to maximize their potential.  As a result, consumers may now find superior-quality Thai spa products made from coconut oil, lemongrass, galangal, turmeric, tamarind, rice bran oil, and mangosteen, all produced in Thailand.

Among the popular Thai products used in spa treatments in other Asian countries such as Japan are heated herbal compresses that help relieve muscle and joint pain and swelling.  A special blend of therapeutic Thai herbs is wrapped into a cloth ball, steamed or micro-waved, then placed on the body, creating a soothing effect similar to a light massage or acupuncture.

Companies and individuals wishing to establish traditional Thai spas also my purchase equipment, such as futons or special massage tables, as well as natural or organic skin care products, from Thai companies.

The development of spa and beauty products is a natural outgrowth of Thailand’s tradition of good health and total well-being and complements the kingdom’s rise as a preferred healthcare destination for overseas patients.

In fact, personal wellness is one of the fastest growing aspects of Thailand’s healthcare industry, with strong support from the Royal Thai government.  The country quickly is becoming Asia’s center for health treatments and attracting patients from around the globe seeking a wide range of top-quality cosmetic and medical services in one of the world’s most beautiful locations.

Thailand’s prestigious spas offer luxury and quality, and their therapists understand Thai massage, which provides physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual balance through acupressure, passive yoga therapy, and reflexology, as well as Thai herbal saunas, steam, and heated herbal compresses.  Some of the newer Thai spas combine the best of East and West, with traditional Thai massage, developed over thousands of years, plus weight loss programs, holistic treatments, and a wide range of relaxing and rejuvenating services.  For example, Bangkok-based Leelawadee Spa attracts international visitors seeking traditional Thai therapy and the opportunity to learn Thai massage, as well as also foot massage, Swedish massage, body scrubs, and body wraps.

Given the popularity of spas in Thailand, a number of Thai companies are offering their spa services internationally to create spas that mirror the Thai approach to wellness.

Spa Origins Co., Ltd., formerly Horwath Spa Consulting Co., Ltd., designs, develops, and operates health resorts and spas, creating a unique, luxurious, and innovative spa experience.

The company has worked with clients in Australia, Italy, Dubai, Turkey, Lebanon Mongolia, UAE, Turkey, Cambodia, and Vietnam, and the firm managed the Thai Spas on SeaDream Yacht Club’s luxury cruises.  In addition, Spa Origins assisted with the operational concept, interior design, menu, operations, and staff recruiting and training for Kami Spa in Rome, an Oriental spa that opened in 2008.

“As we are based in Thailand, arguably the Spa Capital of the World, we are in an ideal location to source the very best and most creative of spa products, spa staff, spa designs and spa equipment to service clients around the globe who are seeking a cost effective approach to setting up a quality and professional spa operation,” according to Spa Origins Director Andrew Jacka.

A team from Thai Heritage Spa Co., Ltd. designed and built the renowned spa at Bangkok’s landmark Oriental Hotel and created and operates the exclusive Sivalai Spa at the Royal Bangkok Sports Club, operated by the Crown Property Bureau, which manages property for the King of Thailand and his immediate family.  Thai Heritage Spa also has provided conceptual and architectural design, menu-planning, operations, management, and/or staff recruitment and training services to name-brand spa projects throughout Thailand as well as internationally, including in the United States, Bahrain, Bermuda, Dubai, Egypt, India, Iran, Japan, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Malaysia, Qatar, Singapore, Tanzania, Turkey, and Vietnam.

The company’s Thai Heritage Spa School trains students to manage and operate Thai spas, primarily overseas, with classes in spa architecture and menu design as well as traditional Thai massage therapy and Western massage techniques.  Since the school’s establishment in 2003, more than 80 percent of its 250 graduate have taken jobs overseas, generally at world-class spas in Europe, the Middle East, and Asia.

Wat Pro Thai Traditional Medical and Massage School is recognized worldwide for its courses in traditional Thai medicine and massage, including instruction in massage, healing methods, herbal drug recipes, and diagnosis and treatment for general ailments and baby illnesses.

Operating since 1955 inside the Temple of the Reclining Buddha, Wat Pro has sent many of its graduates into the spa business around the globe, including to the United States, to such locations as Pho Siam and Leelavadee in Los Angeles.

Located just minutes from Los Angeles International Airport, Leelavadee’s Thai Wellness Center provides physical and spiritual healing with a staff that includes Wat Pro graduates who trained and practiced for 20 years before joining the spa.

Leelavadee’s spa services include massages, reflexology, chiropractic, acupuncture, facials, body treatments (including scrub, mud, and wrap), hand and foot paraffin, and other therapies for individuals and small groups.  Reflecting its origins, Leelavadee uses authentic, imported Thai furniture, artwork, and spa products.

Managing Director Nayada Dhanaphatana says Leelavadee, which opened in April 2009, is the largest and most authentically Thai spa in the United States.  Leelavadee operates its own training facility and plans to franchise Thai spa operations in the United States.  The organization also will operate a satellite office for the massage school East-West Institute of Hand Therapy.

Spas in Thailand must meet government standards for certification and best-practices criteria established by the government and the private sector.  Organizations that provide training in professional Thai spa services internationally are expected to meet those same criteria and standards as well as ISPA global best practices.

Having developed strategies to encourage the expansion of the country’s cosmetics and spa products industry, Thailand’s Department of Export Promotion (DEP) is:

  • Supporting research and development in raw materials;
  • Supporting technology to increase the efficiency and quality of cosmetic and spa product manufacturing;
  • Expanding the sector’s presence both in the primary target markets and in potential markets;
  • Increasing business opportunities and new product development by participating with Thai companies in exhibitions and seminars in Thailand and overseas, such as the annual Thailand Health and Beauty Show. A number of Thai firms participated in the 2009 show in Bangkok.  For 2010, the Health and Beauty Show has been incorporated into the Bangkok International Gift Fair and Bangkok International Houseware Fair (BIG + BIH), which will be held October 19-24 at the Bangkok International Trade & Exhibition Center; and,
  • Participating in international shows in other countries, such as Cosmoprof in Bologna, Italy, or Cosmoprof Asia in Hong Kong.

As the following chart indicates, Thailand’s primary exports in the cosmetics and spa products sector are soap, facial and skin care products, and raw materials for cosmetics.  The industry includes a wide range of companies and employs nearly a quarter of a million people in Thailand.

Main export items Percentage
Hair products 0.22
Cosmetic raw materials 22.50
Facial and skin products 26.68
Shave and aftershave, bath, and deodorant products 14.67
Soap 33.84
Dental care products 1.97
Perfumes, cologne, and fragrances 0.12
Number of Cosmetic and Spa Industry Manufacturers by Size 762
Small (fewer than 50 employees) 520
Medium (51-200 employees) 220
Large (more than 200 employees) 22

Total employment: 220,000 employees

Japan, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Vietnam are the primary target for Thailand’s cosmetic and spa products, with demand for these products growing throughout Asia.

Thai companies also are setting their sights on doing more business in the United States, as ingredient suppliers to cosmetic and beauty product manufacturers, as OEM manufacturers, and as sources of products for consumers, both online and through importers.

The United States is a logical target not only for Thai beauty products but also for Thai spas and Thai-trained spa therapists.  American spa locations have grown an average of 20 percent annually in the last eight years, there were 18,100 spas operating in the United States in 2008, and the United States has 32 million active spa goers, according to the International Spa Association (ISPA).

Top 10 Markets for Thai Cosmetics, Beauty Products, and Spa Products

Countries Value (billion $US) Value (billion $US) Value (billion $US) % Growth Rate % Growth Rate % Growth Rate % Share % Share % Share
2008 2009 2010 2008 2009 2010 2008 2009 2010
(Jan-March) (Jan-March) (Jan-March)
1. Japan 164.92 275.68 123.82 -6.83 67.16 180.94 8.27 17.44 26.06
2. Malaysia 697.71 152.57 41.06 487.12 -78.13 20.44 34.97 9.65 8.64
3. Indonesia 143.46 133.77 39.30 19.93 -6.75 15.56 7.19 8.46 8.27
4. Philippines 106.78 122.72 34.10 20.53 14.92 6.38 5.35 7.76 7.18
5. Australia 105.41 106.18 27.37 14.91 0.73 22.16 5.28 6.72 5.76
6. Vietnam 84.88 100.38 24.57 39.25 18.26 21.44 4.25 6.35 5.17
7. Cambodia 44.61 53.19 17.74 20.65 19.22 41.23 2.24 3.37 3.73
8. Myanmar 40.77 45.61 15.18 44.74 11.86 78.98 2.04 2.89 3.19
9. Singapore 58.96 54.59 14.22 11.88 -7.41 16.46 2.95 3.45 2.99
10. China 51.59 52.46 11.56 32.39 1.68 -18.91 2.59 3.32 2.43
Total 1,499.10 1,097.10 348.90 84.27 -26.81 48.87 75.13 69.41 73.44
Others 496.10 483.50 126.20 18.13 -2.55 26.67 24.87 30.59 26.56
Overall 1,995.22 1,580.60 475.11 61.75 -20.78 42.25 100 100 100

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