With a saturated, complicated skincare market comes confusion. People are unsure of what works for their skin and where to find it. A year ago, Hayley Teo, 27, founder of local clean skincare brand Rooki Beauty, was one of them.

Her sensitive skin would bloom into red splotches whenever she used unsuitable skincare. In a bid to soothe it, Teo used even more products, which only worsened the problem. She couldn’t figure out why. Neither did she know where to turn to for a solution.

Frustrated, she decided the solution was to create her own skincare. What she wanted: straightforward products that were easy to understand, and even easier to use. “The products are what they say they are, there’s no need for guesswork,” says Hayley. “Everything’s clean, natural, and won’t irritate sensitive skin. I saw it as something that skincare rookies would love – hence the name, Rooki Beauty.”

The born-in-SG beauty brand is now six months old, and business has been brisk. “I’m currently working from home, but I’ll soon have to move out to an office space. It’ll help us really concentrate on the operational side of things,” she says.

We sat down for a chat with Hayley on what it’s like starting a skincare brand from scratch, what Rooki Beauty means to her customers, and her plans for the brand. 

For a skincare rookie, you seem to know a lot about, well, skincare.  

“I’m really a rookie, believe it or not. I graduated with a business management degree from the Singapore Management University, and worked at a digital advertising company as a content creator for three months. But I’ve always thought of creating my own brand, and not be a scribe for others. I didn’t know anything about skincare – it took a whole year for me to get up to speed with the lingo. That’s why I call myself a rookie, and that’s the inspiration for the brand.”

But in just one year, you’re all caught up – that’s fast!

“You really have to put yourself out there, and talk to people within the industry. I’m quite lucky that I have a cousin who’s a cosmetics formulator, and she’s able to give me some insights to formulation and market trends. I’d also go to trade fairs around the world, and speak to formulators from various factories, too. The three main countries that I potentially wanted to have my products made in were Korea, Taiwan and Japan. I picked Japan in the end.”

Why Japan? 

“When the lab samples came back from the three countries, the quality of the Japanese products was the best. All along, I’d wanted superfood ingredients as the skincare active in my products, but the Koreans saw these ‘add-ons’ as an afterthought. The Japanese labs made the superfood ingredients the heart of the formula. You can see it on my ingredient list – it comes right after the main ingredients like water and glycerine. I’m very proud of that.”

Why the focus on superfoods? 

“I wanted to have in my skincare something I already know works for my body – superfoods. I have all these powders – kale, acai, matcha, and so on – that I use to make a superfood smoothie in the mornings. I’ve been doing this for the past five years, and it always makes me feel more energised and ready to start the day. Superfoods are good for you both inside and out. Kale, for example, has vitamins A and K, and these are great for the skin.”

How does the product formulation magic happen? 

“I discuss concepts with a Japanese formulator. He then sources the ingredients I’m looking for, and works with the Japanese lab we’ve partnered with. Our matcha, for example, comes from organic green tea sourced from a small family-owned farm in Kyoto, Japan. We have typical superfoods (like kale and honey) in our products right now, but I want to focus more on Asian superfoods in our new launches later on.  

Asian superfoods…?

“These include ingredients that can only be sourced from Japan, like seaweed and starfruit. There’s so much that Asia has to offer, and I feel an Asian brand should be spearheading the trend. Ingredients in my current offerings are sourced from around the world, such as chia seeds from the Amazon rainforest, and lingonberries from Finland. Moving forward, I’m trying to focus on getting more Japanese ingredients. The origins are easier for me to trace, and I can tell a better story. This way, I also feel safer about what goes into my products.”

How are consumers responding to superfood-based skincare?

“A lot of people read ingredient lists – they want to see the amount of active ingredients in it. Even if they don’t have a science background, they still want to see if they recognise the English words. We’re very transparent. The active ingredient, what it does, where it comes from – everything is written clearly on the box, so there’s no need for any guesswork.”

That sounds like a lot of work for one person. What’s your biggest obstacle to date?

“The testing. You have to be very aware of people’s preferences versus real concerns. Take product texture, for instance. In Singapore, consumers always want light, gel-like textures. But that’s not always the most beneficial, as most of us are in an air-conditioned environment all the time, and that dries out skin. So, we need to walk a fine line between the texture being lightweight, but still heavy enough to supply enough hydration. You just have to trust your gut feelings.”

Below, Rooki Beauty’s bestsellers:

For more information, visit www.rookibeauty.co.