"Everything I do, I do it for myself,” says Shareezma Hanif, the founder of Boost Balm. Her journey in the skincare business began as she was looking to cure her endless skin problems such as acne, eczema and melasma, caused by hormonal imbalance. She has been a makeup and skincare junkie since young and did not have issues with acne until she was 20 years old.
Different products on the market, including laser and chemical peel treatments, did not work to improve her condition. When none of her efforts came to fruition, Shareezma sought professional advice and found that an underlying health problem had led to the sudden breakouts.
“I was diagnosed with PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome), a condition that affects hormones and reproductive organs. Side effects include breakouts, extreme hirsuteness and weight gain and I experienced all that. But when you’re 20, you don’t really care about this.”
She realised PCOS was affecting her badly when she had difficulties conceiving. “I had a miscarriage twice. My acne issue also hadn’t gone away and the doctor wanted to put me on accutane, but I couldn’t do that because I wanted babies.”
The now 31-year-old mother of four knew she had to do something for herself. She decided to change her lifestyle and tried an anti-inflammatory diet. Eventually, she was determined to create a product that could counter her hormonal acne issue. “Whether it’s food, makeup or toiletries, everything can possibly affect your health. I noticed a gap in the market [and thought] why don’t I come up with a skincare product, free of endocrine-disrupting chemicals?”
A huge amount of investment is required to start a skincare line, especially to run the research and development. Shareezma tried her luck and applied for government grants in 2015. Together with cosmetic chemists from the UK and a local manufacturer, she developed a skin-barrier technology and formulation that protects the skin from chemicals in makeup products. She won the Halal Hi-Tech Challenge, organised by SME Corporation Malaysia and was rewarded with RM500,000.
After three long years of experimenting with about 40 samples, Skin Barrier Cream was introduced in 2018. The product functions as a shield to guard skin against dirt and impurities from the surroundings. “If you use sunblock to protect your skin from UV rays, why are you not applying something to protect your skin from free radicals in the air and chemicals in makeup products? These unpleasant substances will age your skin and that is scientifically proven.”
Shareezma likes multipurpose products, so she makes sure her creations are packed with nourishing substances to tackle different issues. Designed to be used as a primer in the morning and treatment cream at night, the Skin Barrier Cream contains 15 concentrated botanical extracts such as willow bark, sacha inchi, manuka oil, baobab and magnolia bark.
“It took so long because I had very specific requirements about the ingredients we used. People who apply the cream before putting on other makeup products notice their skin stops breaking out. So, it was definitely worth the wait.”
Boost Balm’s second product, Rhassoul600, was inspired by the concept of tayammum (dry ablution) in Islam. “I was reading about how it is an alternative to wudhu in which we use purified sand or mud. Essentially, it is an act of cleansing.”
Using this idea, Shareezma looked for the best clay to help with detoxifying and cleansing the skin. She chanced upon rhassoul clay, also called ghassoul or red Moroccan clay. Originally from Morocco, it has long been used to make cleaning agents such as shampoo and soap.
“It has a high negative electromagnetic charge, which makes it great for detoxifying. When you apply the mask, after some time, you can see whiteheads coming out. It is disgusting, but it does the job. The charcoal element also has antiseptic properties. Fun fact: most clay masks on the market have between 40% and 50% of clay in their formulation. Ours have up to 80%, so you can enjoy the full benefits of natural clay.”
Over time, Shareezma noticed a lot of her customers were those who experienced hormonal problems such as acne and irregular periods like herself. Therefore, she collaborated with Dr Soobitha Subenthiran to create a whole food supplement called Regen Nectar, targeted at reducing body inflammation, balancing hormones and rejuvenating body cells.
“I personally tried the supplement for a while and it worked like magic to regulate my menstrual cycle. It is a breakthrough product. That’s why I decided to introduce it on my platform, knowing my customers would benefit from it.”
While the founder enjoyed formulating ingredients for skincare, she was not big on marketing, especially in the early days. However, she picked up the skills along the way and mastered the dos and don’ts to improve Boost Balm’s branding.
“I learnt the hard way. I set up billboards for two years across the Klang Valley in 2017 and 2018. I spent so much money but it did not give me the result I wanted. I realised it’s important for marketing to grow organically and cater for the kinds of contents people consume these days. Now, I do a lot of Facebook ads and am active on TikTok. You have to believe in your products and advocate for them.”
A new product formulated to treat pigmentation is in the pipeline and scheduled to be launched next month. Boost Balm was created to “boost skincare routine” and Shareezma wants to keep producing purposeful goods that will bring positive outcomes to her customers. Sounds like she is well on her way already.
This article first appeared on Aug 22, 2022 in The Edge Malaysia.