Native And Proud: Hong Kong Skincare Manufacturers Altering The Recreation
Hong Kong skincare brands are making waves in the beauty world. I speak to the founders of five homegrown labels on their journeys, ethos and secrets of success.
Questions like “What face wash are you using?” and “Are there any new overnight masks worth a try?” inevitably come up when beauty enthusiasts gather, especially when the skin becomes irritable from drastic weather and climate changes. And just a few years ago, popular Korean, American or European brands would be invoked as recommendations to combat all sorts of conundrums.
Almost overnight things have changed. Local Hong Kong brands are popping up left and right, and the strong ones with solid product offerings are quickly gaining loyal followings. These brands, despite being new to the market, are bringing meticulous R&D, responsible production, honest pricing, fun but candid marketing campaigns to the table – and, most importantly, effective merchandise that deliver on promises.
Another common thread to their success? Founders who weave personal struggles and experiences into their ventures to empower clients in discovering a to-each-their-own path to optimal skin health.
Dorothy Chau, a Prestige 40 under 40 class of 2022 alumnus, started her brand out of frustration. Experimentation with more products than she could count failed to result in a skincare routine that matched her needs, while her girlfriends echoed her annoyance from also struggling with a similar host of problems. Seeking advice from doctors, she discovered several common components used in traditional Chinese medicine, such as goldflower-root extract and snow mushroom, are powerful ingredients in soothing and strengthening the epidermis. After a tireless year of development, Botanic Pretti5 was born with a small range of six products.
Akarii, the brainchild of Alice Liang, was also created with a similar backstory. “My acne was terribly triggered by wearing masks during the pandemic,” she recalls. “Looking for a remedy, I discover the anti-inflammatory properties of palo santo. The beauty benefits of the plant are surprisingly underrated, as most people only uses it in spiritual practices.”
Nicholas Chow, founder of TiN5, had a head start in his journey with a family background in beauty and wellness. A lifelong struggle with eczema was alleviated with bespoke skin solutions, which hatched a personal dream to start a line solely dedicated to protecting and healing the skin using clean nourishing components. The opportunity came when he noticed a shift in the beauty landscape in Hong Kong. He recalls that “growing up, it was clear Hong Kong was dominated by imported luxury titles wielding flashy celebrity-endorsed marketing campaigns. Over time, consumers became more educated, largely through social media, and learned that the curation of ingredient-driven routines, fully customised based on their skin type, is more important than pursuing expensive upscale options.
“The change in buying behaviour provides a chance for Hong Kong brands to thrive. A product used to be deemed secondary or not as good if it’s not produced by established beauty conglomerates, or simply because it doesn’t originate from countries like Korea and France, which lead in the beauty world. But people are now open minded about supporting obscure boutique brands, even in their infancy, as long as they have compelling messaging and delivery accordingly. At TiN5, we’re extremely conscious on making sure our language is as transparent as possible; each product has its manufacturing date stamped on the packaging alongside a clear comprehensive ingredient list, to ensure the freshness of our solutions is clearly communicated.”
Another trailblazer challenging the status quo and putting Hong Kong on the beauty map is Michelle Chen, another 40 under 40 honouree whose home-grown brand, RARE SkinFuel, has quickly garnered rave reviews and customer loyalty. “Not to toot my own horn, but if you’ve used our products you’ll see how when things work, they just work.” Chen claims, confidently. “We’re the only GMP ISO-certified clean beauty brand to enter the European, US and China markets without need of animal testing. Water is never used to dilute our solutions – every drop of base liquid is either aloe vera juice or coconut water. We blend the actives at body temperature (37 degrees) to ensure no nutrients are lost to heat. Our lean skincare programme means every item we carry is manufactured after extensive research and testing, and we have very consistent quality control.”
A strong start can only grow into long-term success with a robust business expansion strategy, and Chen already has plans for the coming year. “When we started, we positioned ourselves next to premium brands like La Mer and La Prairie,” says Chen. “We offer the same quality but at slightly lower prices, and our unique selling point is our focus on natural active ingredients, which are better in helping the skin adapt and react to chemical changes. To cater to a wider audience, we’ll soon launch an affordable – but still luxury – line that’ll allow more customers to trial the power of natural skincare without breaking the wallet.”
Chau, on the other hand, focuses on introducing the core line of Botanic Pretti5 to the global market; the brand ships internationally and partners with Sephora Hong Kong for distribution. “It’s been my priority to promote Pretti5 on external channels to reach a wider audience, and Sephora, with its Clean at Sephora mission, fits everything we’re looking for,” she says, referring to the initiative launched in 2018. The new category only features products free from more than 50 harmful ingredients linked to human health issues, such as parabens, phthalates, formaldehyde, sulphates and lead. A product can only qualify for the Clean at Sephora seal after a thorough auditing process.
Protected by proprietary formulas that prevented consumers from learning exactly what they’re buying, manufacturers have historically loaded toxic components into beauty solutions that ironically promise a horde of health benefits. Class-action lawsuits against cosmetic multinationals have increased exponentially over the last decade, exposing cynical trade secrets and putting pressure on the industry to do better. “We’ve all been victims of untruthful or exaggerated marketing messaging,” Chau says. “It’s important my own brand only collaborates with partners who share our values and beliefs in educating and empowering consumers through crystal-clear information.”
Yuki Wong, who launched Weirdo Beauty in 2018, agrees with Chau. “I’m fully on board with this growing population of well-informed consumers who know to search for ingredient-driven solutions backed by scientific research,” she says. “Overcoming my own history of eczema- prone sensitive skin is proof that a healthy complexion is achievable so long as you identify what works for you. My mission is to provide holistic and comprehensive answers to my customers’ highly diverse skin concerns.”
After gaining a cult following for her vegan and cruelty-free skincare line Odriem, Wong opens the 4,000-square-foot Weirdo Beauty salon in the heart of Causeway Bay in early 2023 that combines tried and tested solutions with bespoke treatments. Visitors at the centre begin their journey with a skin analysis conducted by the state-of-the-art Visia system, which determines skin-type classification through AI testing and certified diagnostics. “Hoping to disrupt the traditional sales-focused approach, we’re very hands-on with our clients,” says Wong. “All cases are monitored and followed up closely by myself and my dedicated team in order to witness the growth and changes that shape our customers’ skin health. Nothing gives me more satisfaction than seeing a happy client radiate with confidence from learning how to become their own skin expert through our help and guidance.”
Whether it’s breaking into new markets or introducing new products, forthcoming happenings are already signifying new horizons for these five young brands. Akarii is in the process of creating more palo santo-forward formulas to further discover rare applications of the plant, while Botanic Pretti5 is launching a new brightening serum this month, just before RARE SkinFuel unveils a recipe containing raw materials that took from 14 to 16 months to obtain. TiN5 hopes to promote Hong Kong local retail scene through cross-industry collaborations with other homegrown labels, just as Weirdo Beauty works to introduce a new range that demonstrates the underrated power of traditional Chinese medicine.
Just when we thought shopping local couldn’t get more exciting, it does.
Source: Prestige Online