Image: The Straits Times
A typical work day for Ms Aisha Alhadad has her whipping up ingredients such as shea butter with essential oil and course-grit shell, her two children playing with toys at her feet. She watches over her sons - aged three years, and five months - as she makes facial mists and body scrubs for her beauty label WhiffLove.
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The 28-year-old started the label in April last year after leaving her nursing job, selling natural bodycare and skincare products such as facial scrubs ($39) and hair tonic ($25) made with ingredients including aloe vera, rosemary, lavender and coconut oil. She handmakes the items - with tools such as an electric mixer, glass beakers and pipettes - and packages them in the comfort of home, a landed house in the east.
For Ms Aisha, the idea for WhiffLove came from her experience with using natural beauty products. She turned to such items when her skin dulled and she started losing hair in 2014 - the result of the stress she felt doing shift work at the hospital. "My late mother was enthusiastic about natural remedies and always encouraged me to use natural solutions. So when I started losing hair and getting bad skin, I tried using things from the kitchen to help."
She also tried off-the-counter skincare and went to a hair treatment clinic, but to no avail. "When I tried making my own natural remedies, like using apple cider vinegar to rinse my hair or an egg white-and-honey mask for my skin, I found that they worked for me," she says. She makes about $3,000 a month from selling her products online (madewhifflove.com). "My hair did not fall as much and my skin improved. So I just got really into it."
At least five home-run brands - WhiffLove, Bottle Of Wellness, Ress, Shawn's Soaps and BalmBeBee - have launched in the last two years, selling items such as massage balms with essential oils for children, bar soaps without additives or artificial colouring for those with sensitive skin and scrubs made with pandan leaves. The made-in-Singapore stamp, she says, is also more highly regarded now with the success of local brands such as skincare label Skin Inc and eyebrow-grooming chain Browhaus.
"These new small local labels might not have survived 10 years ago, but as more Singapore brands make their mark and become successful globally, it helps consumers become more accepting of homegrown brands," says Dr Ang. Founders of skincare labels say it also helps that consumers are now more inclined towards natural and organic products.
Image: The Straits Times
Ms Sara Soong, 40, founder of home-run skincare label Ress, says: "I have customers who are more discerning and socially conscious. They are deliberately looking for all-natural ingredients in their skincare products." The former education officer at a school started Ress in April last year.
The label's key ingredient is pandan and products include a pandan leaf scrub ($35), a body lotion with pandan and avocado ($35) and massage balms with pandan, rosemary and basil ($24). Besides the personal touch, these made-at-home products tend to also be more affordable. Equivalent all- natural products from global brands typically cost 50 percent more.
Being able to run their businesses from home also gives these entrepreneurs flexibility. Founder of organic skincare label BalmBeBee Nur Hidayah Shahrudin, 30, says running the business from home means she can look after her twin four-year-old sons. "I started BalmBeBee because I needed the flexibility to work from home so that I can care for my twins through their growing years.
I can start and finish work whenever I am done with mummy duties," she says. BalmBeBee was founded in August last year and carries products such as body scrubs ($15), all-in-one hair and body wash ($15) and lip balm ($5).
Mother of two Nur Wahidah Abdul Wahap started making chest rubs and body oil blends for her firstborn son when she realised that natural remedies helped with his coughing and mild eczema. In particular, coconut oil with spearmint helped her son breathe more easily when he had the flu. It also helped him sleep better. "When you have kids, you become more particular about the products you use," says the 29-year-old. "You don't want to use too many chemicals on them when they are young. So I started to search for organic and natural solutions."
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Now, her two sons, aged 21/2 years and nine months old, regularly use her balms and massage oils. And what was once a mother's remedy has become a full-fledged business. She launched Bottle Of Wellness in February last year, with $3,000 drawn from her savings to buy ingredients and packaging such as bottles and printed labels. She broke even in a few months. The label offers skincare products for babies and adults such as a chest rub ($19) with spearmint and lemon that it says can help ease respiratory congestion; a balm ($19) with clove and rosemary to relieve minor skin irritations; and a tummy rub ($19) with ginger and fennel to relieve indigestion, stomach wind and colic.
The products are available online (bottleofwellness.com) and she sells about 500 items a month. "My sons love them. Sometimes, my older child will take the oils and use them on his brother. Whenever he has a rash or feels any discomfort, he also knows how to ask me for the balms and rubs."
Caring for two active boys and running the business is a balancing act, says Ms Wahidah, who left her receptionist job last year to care for her children full-time. Her husband is a police officer and her mother chips in to help out from time to time. Her days are spent cooking, cleaning and caring for her children. It is only after midnight, when the boys have gone to sleep, that her other job begins. She spends about four hours making her balms at a time. This includes washing and sterilising the bottles, melting the beeswax to use as a base, mixing in coconut oil and essential oils, as well as bottling and labelling the mixture. On a good night, when neither of her sons wakes up, she can make about 100 bottles from midnight to 4am.
The businesswoman plans to expand her range from 11 to 25 products next month. She is also taking an online course in aromatherapy and wants to apply her new knowledge to the brand. "I will be releasing new formulations with vitamin E and some with rose oil because I found out that these ingredients are very healthy for the skin," she says. "I'm already testing the new recipes on my sons. My children have to bear with my experiments."
This story was originally published in The Straits Times on 21 September 2017.