Feeling “heaty” and breaking out in zits? Drink lots of cooling herbal teas like chrysanthemum. Fatigued and in need of a boost? Time for some ginseng chicken soup. For many Chinese, these little pearls of time-honoured wisdom have long been part and parcel of their culture and upbringing. And now, it seems, these traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) concepts are increasingly being tapped for beauty purposes.
This isn’t exactly a new development – after all, skin nourishers like bird’s nest, essence of chicken and pearl powder have long been staples in medicine halls and have been touted by celebrities as the answer to good skin. However, it has been given a significant boost in recent times by the booming wellness trend.
Jolene Wong, co-founder of local brand Grandma Lotus, which offers ready-to-drink TCM herbal brews, says: “Lifestyles have changed over the years. There is a growing emphasis on natural ingredients.”
“Consumers are realising that outer beauty starts from inner wellness,” adds Melissa Aw-Bamadhaj, the brand’s co-founder. And now, with the anxiety caused by the pandemic and a greater emphasis on mental health, consumers are turning to TCM to deal with stress and achieve a more balanced body.
Balance, synergy and holistic care are very much what TCM and, by extension, TCM beauty is about. According to Serene Ang, a trained pharmacist who created her TCM skincare label 5erenity2 after Western medicine failed to treat her vitiligo, both are built on the same principles. “In TCM beauty products, all the ingredients must work synergistically with one another to bring about balance and healing to the skin,” she says.
Although there are many brands that champion similar concepts of wellness and balance or, like Korean giant Sulwhasoo, feature the same herbal and botanical ingredients, that does not necessarily mean they fall under the TCM beauty umbrella. Lam Man Sze, also a co-founder of Grandma Lotus and a licensed TCM physician, explains further: “In
TCM, beauty forms when you achieve overall wellness. This requires a combination of factors like our choice of food, a lifestyle that suits our body constitution, even mindfulness in managing our thoughts and emotions.”
The appeal of TCM beauty remedies have extended well beyond the auntie-and-grandma generations. At her practice, Lam says she now encounters more inquiries from patients regarding issues related to TCM beauty, especially from young adults. “It’s possibly due to the fast-paced and stressful lifestyle in Singapore. Statistically, there is an observed increase in the number of younger people being afflicted by medical conditions that used to manifest mainly in older folks. This has motivated the younger generation to be more conscientious in their lifestyle,” she says.