Founders of Alcheme, Tuyen Lamy (left) and Constance Mandefield
Photography Darren Chang Art Direction Sherli Chong Hair Benedict Choo Makeup Sha Shamsi, using Nars, Buberry & M.A.C
We’ve done conscious living, conscious eating, of course, and conscious uncoupling. So why shouldn’t we be equally deliberate and proactive with the stuff we put on our skin?
For Constance Mandefield, 37, and Tuyen Lamy, 40, founders of beauty start-up Alcheme (say al-kuh-mi), such an approach isn’t just logical – it’s necessary. “We have become increasingly aware of elements which pose a risk to our well-being – air pollution (more award-winning anti-pollution skincare here), pesticides in fruits and vegetables, hormones in meat,” says Mandefield. “With products coming from all over the world, we have little knowledge or control over how they’re made or transported and how they may affect us.”
So the duo decided to take action with what they know best: skincare. Both had worked for several years at the Asia-Pacific office of French cosmetics brand Clarins: Lamy headed the retail and training team; Mandefield was overseeing strategy. And both believe the future of skincare lies in personalised, high-performance products made from top-quality, traceable ingredients. The culmination of their experience and conviction: Alcheme (https://alcheme.one), custom-order skincare, launched in November last year.
Lamy calls it “intentional skincare”. “Being conscious of what you put on your skin and how the ingredients are derived leads to smarter and more sustainable decisions,” she says.
Collaborating with Lionel de Benetti, a retired chemist who was Clarins Group’s head of R&D, they came up with a list of 24 ingredients that had science-backed track records for Alcheme’s customised skincare. These include zinc sulphate for oil control, vitamin B3 to normalise melanin, and ginseng root extract to stimulate collagen production. “We also source the ingredients from ‘blue chip’ suppliers who can ensure quality and traceability,” says Lamy.
Alcheme makes just two products – a serum ($95) and an emulsion($105). If you want both, it will adjust the amount of active ingredients in them so that they deliver the best results when used together. This June, the brand will introduce the first customisable eye serum.
That’s the first part of what makes Alcheme different. The second: how it uses an algorithm developed by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to determine your skin condition and concerns. How? It compares your makeup- and filter-free selfie (selfie tips from celebs like Fan Bing Bing here), which you can take on the site or upload, with a database of some 20,000 faces of different ages from different places. It also factors in your answers to five questions (from how important skin radiance is to you, to how reactive your skin is to products), and where you live for your city’s UV, air-quality and pollution indexes.
All that takes a minute. Then you’ll get a preliminary analysis on the skin concerns you should address, and the ingredients that will do the job.
“We go through each and every selfie to double-check the analysis and take in any feedback the customer has. For example, if she indicates that she has dry skin, but we can see shiny areas typical of people with oily skin, we e-mail her our feedback and start a conversation from there,” says Mandefield.
After both customer and website agree on the skin analysis, Alcheme’s Singapore lab starts work on your personalised, paraben- and silicone-free skincare, which will either be a serum or an emulsion, or both, not a 10-step routine. “Alcheme’s innovative processes are designed to create fresh, on-demand products using extracts that address specific skin needs, nothing more, nothing less,” says Lamy. “So we only make the quantities required, cutting down on wastage.” Your serum and emulsion come in airless, recyclable packaging, and will be mailed to you within a week.
Post-purchase, Alcheme provides a monthly newsletter which customers can subscribe to for personalised tips on specific skin types and concerns. This supports its aim of raising awareness among consumers to help them make better, more conscious decisions.
This story was originally published in the April 2018 issue of Her World magazine.