Follower numbers and likes don’t always tell the whole story. These power players are the real reason we are swayed to try certain beauty trends – we’re roused by their stories of grit and success, or inspired by their POVs when it comes to treatments. Read more about each of them, below:
THE PUBLICITY MAESTRO: Diana Ong, Founder of The PR People
Read an interesting or informative beauty story lately? Found a product that’s exactly what you need? Or happened upon a buzzing launch party? There’s a good chance that public relations firm The PR People was behind it. The brainchild of former beauty editor Diana Ong, 42, the company has carved out a reputation over the past 10 years as the go-to people for beauty brands looking to establish themselves in a crowded market. The firm handles public relations for more than 50 labels, such as international chain Sephora, and cult hits Drunk Elephant and Sunday Riley. Past patrons include Parfums Christian Dior, Robinsons, Skin Inc and Spa Esprit.
Ong says: “I saw there was a gap in how PR agencies and brands pitched their stories and what journalists required. I thought I could use my skills to close this gap and assist the media in crafting great stories that would benefit readers and brands.” With the changing ways of media consumption, Ong says she and her team have had to adapt. This means learning how to work with content creators via social media and coming up with PR solutions that work across print, digital and social media.
“PR is much more than just sending out a cute media kit. It’s about constant pitching, telling good stories and looking for opportunities that can help drive sales for a brand,” she says. “Ultimately, every brand needs to sell its products. But if we can also help consumers discover great products through our efforts, then we have accomplished good work.”
THE TABOO BREAKER: Cynthia Chua, Founder of Spa Esprit Group
Top: Sportmax, Bangle: APM Monaco
She turned Brazilian waxing from a taboo, hush-hush procedure into a routine part of grooming. Through cheeky, clever campaigns, she changed the way women in Singapore view hair removal, making it a fun, nonintimidating experience. Chua, 48, says: “Before the Strip salons were launched in 2002, Brazilian waxing was mostly a Western concept. In Singapore, it was often associated with dodgy studios that dished out unhygienic and painful waxes. I wanted to give women better options.” A free spirit who retains a child’s curiosity and why-not mindset, she attributes her wide-ranging business ideas to personal experiences, the gaps she sees in the market, and the people she meets.
These have given rise to services and products both inventive and unusual. Her Spa Esprit massage-and-spa chain, for instance, is known for its quirky vibes and novel treatments, such as the Super Vibrator which uses the sounds of Tibetan singing bowls and tingsha cymbals. The spas also introduced cult and indie brands like SCO and Malin + Goetz to the Singapore market. Then there is the Browhaus chain which drew attention to eyebrow and eyelash grooming like never before. Her overarching goal was always the same: to help women be completely body-confident. And this is why she came up with her latest beauty venture – the evocatively named Two Lips range of vulva-care products. That’s right, skincare for your nethers. “I want women to reclaim their vulvas and vaginas as assets that need to be cared for with the same love and attention we give to the rest of our body. I know I’m taking on a taboo subject – but I make it fun and accessible,” she says.
“Many customers and friends have spoken to me about vulva concerns such as dry and itchy skin. I saw the need for products that are fun, multipurpose and effective. It’s really heartening to see that the Two Lips Blackout mask sold out worldwide just 2½ months after its launch, and we recently hit the $1 million mark just shy of our first anniversary. This is the best validation we could wish for,” says Chua.
THE AESTHETICS INNOVATOR: Dr S.K. Tan, Medical Director of IDS Clinic
These days, there’s no shortage of doctors offering aesthetic treatments. But when Dr Tan set up DRx Clinic in 1998 to focus on aesthetic services such as lasers, chemical peels, fillers and botulinum toxin treatments, his peers thought it was crazy. “Most of my friends felt that it was a high-risk venture,” says the 72-year-old who’s often described as ‘the grandfather of aesthetics’ in Singapore. “However, I had already built up a pool of patients who were interested solely in such offerings, and I was convinced there was a market for it.” He was right, and a few years after that bold step, the industry began to boom. To complement his practice, he launched his own skincare line, Derma-Rx – another move that was way ahead of the curve.
The business did so well that in 2010, he was able to sell it for an undisclosed eight-figure sum. Then in 2014, spurred by the desire to build an internationally recognised and respected brand, he established a new clinic called IDS (Innovative Dermatological Solutions), which also has a skincare range with the same name. Dr Tan says IDS is an improved offering compared with DRx Clinic. “We’re probably the only clinic here with its own skincare R&D facilities and GMP-certified manufacturing facilities,” he says. “In addition, we’re a major stakeholder in an R&D facility in Palo Alto in the US, where our research partners, formerly from Stanford University, have come up with a novel skin delivery system that’s incorporated in a number of our current products. These put us ahead of the game in all aspects.”
THE SKINCARE TECHNOPRENEUR: Sabrina Tan, Founder of Skin Inc
Clothes: H&M Studio Collection, Boots: Roger Vivier
Her line of customised serums tailored to individual skin needs is putting Singapore on the global beauty map. Skin Inc is now a game-changing brand found in 78 cities around the world at retail giants like Sephora and Nordstrom. Customers from as far away as Brazil and Russia are placing orders online, thanks to glowing support from leading influencers like Chiara Ferragni and Aimee Song. “When I started Skin Inc in 2008, I was juggling frequent travel for work with two young kids and an eczema problem. I wondered why I didn’t have skincare that evolved with my lifestyle and changing needs,” says Tan.
So she quit a well-paying job in IT marketing to start the company. Applying a well-honed “tech mindset” – reading big trends, projecting into the future – she came up with skincare that customers could personalise any time, anywhere, through a fussfree online skin analysis. The result: bespoke products with advanced formulations that have the exact active ingredients your skin needs. The 45-year-old says: “When you look at all the major trends – people buying premium skincare, everything going digital, the desire for self-expression and the personalisation of products – you’ll see this is the only way to do skincare now.”
Using solid data on lifestyles and habits gathered via customers’ online Skin Identity Checks, she says the brand will continue to come up with timely (and timesaving) products in line with the demands of modern life, whether it’s a portable device that lets you have a light therapy facial at home or an eye cream that addresses issues resulting from rising screen time.
THE MEDIA INSIDER: Ng Yi Lian, Editor of Her World
After 16 years of working for women’s magazines, it’s fair to say that Ng has her finger on the pulse of trends and a well-rounded view of what women like and want. As the editor of Her World , she has a hand in shaping the topics of the day and determines what products, trends and services get spotlighted. “As a Her World woman myself, with a busy professional life and lots of personal commitments, I understand women’s needs and what they’re looking for in their beauty products,” she says. “My team and I are mindful that we have a direct impact on Singapore women. That’s why we make it a point to examine the usefulness and innovation of the products and trends we feature in Her World .”
A self-professed beauty junkie, the 36-year-old Ng puts her own skin on the line in order to speak with authority and credibility. She seldom reviews a skincare product until she finishes the bottle, unless it’s so good that results are visible sooner. Her aim is to reach out to women in Singapore, not only as an editor but also as a close friend. “The best reviews are through word of mouth. There’s a sense of intimacy when the beauty team and I put up our unboxing videos and reviews on Her World ’s Instagram – we want to share our knowledge like a trusted girlfriend and as a voice of authority with a wider audience. “That’s why I also use my personal social media accounts to reach out to readers, so that they know these topics are what I’m passionate about.”
Photography Frenchescar Lim & Vee Chin
Styling Karin Lim
Makeup Benedict Choo
Hair Maurice Chee/ Prep Luxe
This story first appeared in the September issue of Her World magazine.