During the third year of her degree studies in international business, Alissa Emalyn tried to figure out what products worked best for her sensitive and eczema-prone skin. She could not find any that felt lightweight in our humid weather. In addition, most of the brands on the market target specific issues rather than help maintain healthy, especially sensitive, skin.
“It’s pretty hard to find products for eczema unless you’re okay with thick creams,” she says. Despite research on products, Alissa could not find anything that met her standards. Her mother then suggested she start her own skincare brand. It was a natural step as her family had experience establishing businesses, from running a travel agency to a luxury spa.
The first step was to find a manufacturer. Once that was done, Alissa did in-depth research and worked with chemists on a formula.
“I know a lot of brands will just say things like, ‘for all skin types’, but it is often not suitable for sensitive skin; they always leave out sensitive skin. I wanted to create something that was 100% plant-based that actually works for our skin. Because we live in a hot and humid climate, we need something made for Malaysian skin,” she explains.
It took six months to develop her debut product, the Lock and Stay Rice Serum. Inspired by the traditional rice-based skin routines used by many Malaysian grandmothers, the serum is rich in antioxidants and vitamins. “Not a lot of people know how good rice extract is and how it can actually heal. It heals acne scars and is very gentle on your skin.”
Skinned was launched in early 2019. “The main purpose of the brand is to have people know more about and be more conscious about their skin. It is really important for everyone to know their own skin. And [that’s how the name came about] —‘skin’ with an ‘ed’ for education.”
With the help of a friend who works in IT, Alissa launched the brand’s website. “I know a lot of people would rather start with social media, like Facebook and Instagram, or go for platforms like Shopee or Lazada, but I felt it would be much easier for me to develop my brand with a website. Customers can get to know it better,” she says.
Alissa has hired a small team to help run Skinned. Her partner takes care of the creative side of the business while staff members handle graphic design and social media content.
Because concocting an effective formula is a very tedious process, it was almost a year before Skinned released its second product: the Gleam Dream Moisturiser. Like the serum, this lightweight moisturiser claims to be perfect for our hot weather while still being moisturising for our skin.
Skinned’s products are not meant to be used as treatments; rather, they are for daily use to maintain healthy skin. “The main goal of both my products is to be gentle on any skin, including eczema and acne-prone skin. My products are not specifically treatment products; they are to help you feel good about your skin,” Alissa explains.
Not surprisingly, the launch was challenging as the pandemic and ensuing lockdowns made production and sales difficult. “We had our serum in a pop-up store in Publika, Kuala Lumpur but because of the pandemic, that got closed down.”
Alissa’s best-laid plans were thwarted by Covid-19. She had wanted to launch Skinned at stores first so she could see customers’ reactions but had to switch to an online platform instead. Launching online meant she could not see their reaction and as such, she found it very hard to strategise.
By pivoting her efforts towards educating people online about the nourishing and moisturising ingredients in the moisturiser, Skinned was able to attract a steady stream of customers. The hard work eventually paid off, as feedback was good.
“People actually say that they love our products. We used to have a 15ml bottle for our serum, but repeat customers kept asking for a bigger bottle so we increased it to 30ml. People love that both of our products have no scent or smell, so when they apply them, they just feel hydrated. Even when they leave it on at night, their skin still feels hydrated the next morning,” Alissa shares.
She says there are many misconceptions about skincare, including that men and women need very different products. Her goal, while formulating the serum and moisturiser, was to ensure that not only were they gentle and healing on sensitive skin, but also suited both genders.
Skinned has a #GreenForSkinned recycling programme, which allows customers to return empty bottles. As an incentive, they will receive 5% off for each bottle returned.
The brand is now working on a cleanser to add to its range. Alissa wants to grow Skinned into a Southeast Asian and, eventually, an international brand. The dream is to have her products on Sephora’s shelves one day.
This article first appeared on Oct 4, 2021 in The Edge Malaysia.