In this edition of Beauty Black Book, we speak to Allies of Skin founder Nicolas Travis on the secrets behind his radiant skin and his "less is more" skincare philosophy
The first thing I noticed when meeting Nicolas Travis was his skin. His complexion was flawless to a fault, and gleamed with an enviable radiance no amount of makeup could fake; you’d never be able to tell that the Allies of Skin founder once battled bad acne. Today, the charismatic entrepreneur isn’t just an ally of great skin; he’s an advocate. The Biomedical and Pharmaceutical Sciences graduate is well-versed in skincare, and talks enthusiastically about formulations, ingredients and the inner workings of the beauty industry.
Though fairly new to the game, Allies of Skin has been making major waves. The brand is loved by influencers, beauty editors and industry insiders here and abroad. Nicolas also revealed perhaps the biggest local beauty coup of the year: the brand recently became the first Singaporean name to be available on international luxury sites Net-A-Porter and Mr Porter – a truly admirable feat for a brand with only three stellar products in its current lineup.
For our next Beauty Black Book feature, we spent an afternoon with Nicolas at multi-label beauty boutique, escentials, as he debunked beauty myths, spilt his biggest skincare secrets, and inside info on upcoming releases.
Allies of Skin started…
from my fascination with the link between skincare and confidence. In my undergrad years, I came to understand the aspects of formulations and how the skin works. But the cogs started turning when I did my Masters. I decided then that if I had to spend six months of my life writing about something, it’d better be something I’m passionate about. So I came up with a business plan for a startup skincare company as part of my thesis. I spent six months doing the research, so I could break down the costs.
So when did that “aha!” moment come along?
After graduating, I worked in PR and social media at Ogilvy & Mather for a while, but I realised that agency life just wasn’t for me. A little voice inside me told me to go back to the plan I’d created; the very same one that needed a million in funding. It dawned on me that I’d never earn a million by working for someone else. So I thought, how do I begin? I decided to create a product that no one else had. It took time, but I launched The 1A all day mask – it’s the first daily leave-on mask made to be worn like a moisturiser.
It’s a brave move, launching with only one product.
I figured I had nothing to lose and just went for it. To date, we only have three products so far. The beauty industry is filled with noise, and I didn’t want to add to that. Instead, I want to create multi-tasking, effective products that save people a lot of time and money. The 1A all day mask isn’t an ordinary mask – it also works as a primer, under-eye cream, and even a moisturiser for lips and cuticles.
With multi-tasking products like yours, do you think there’s a need for extensive beauty routines?
If you have the time and discipline to do it, more power to you. The problem with these 10-step and above regimens is that the user starts off with too much optimism, but they get lazy or, you know, life takes over. And then it becomes something they haphazardly do. Then, they’ll wonder why their skin hasn’t gotten better, despite all the effort and money involved. All this excessive media attention on 10- to 12-step beauty routines makes people feel as though they’re not doing enough for having a lesser regime. But we’re here to show that there’s no need to do so much.
Do you think its necessary for good skin?
The skin naturally works as a barrier to keep out a lot of things, including chemicals, bacteria, and toxins, from your external environment. By excessively piling products on, you’re really just preventing them from properly penetrating.
Allies of Skin is described as “adaptogenic skincare”. That means…
They’re made to adapt to skin to whatever it needs. Our formulas are nutrient reservoirs; they give skin everything it needs to repair and regenerate. Just like how you’d pop a multivitamin into your body, these products were created to be multi-nutrient supplements for skin. Example: If you’re on a plane, the hyaluronic acid and manuka honey will kick in to rehydrate skin. Stressed and live in city? Antioxidants to fight pollution will combat smog, smoke or other particles from penetrating skin.
That’s great, ’cause people tend to buy different products for different purposes.
A lot of times, people have so many concerns but they’re actually all linked. You’re complicating skin by using too many products. Encouraging less is more when it comes to your regimen.
How involved are you in the process of product creation?
Very much so! It’s one of my fave things to do. I start with an idea of what I feel is missing in the market, or what I feel can improve skin in general. Then other questions follow, like is this a day or night product? What sort of ingredients would it have? What would it function as? Then, I come up with a wish list of ingredients and talk to my chemist; we go back and forth about the base and formulation. He then creates a prototype – this usually takes a month. Next, we test it on all types of skin, including sensitive skin, acne-riddled skin and on friends who wear a lot of makeup. Then, we go back to the drawing board and repeat the steps. Overall, there’s a lot of trial and error involved.
Who are the allies of Allies of Skin?
I’d say that buyers are 65% females, 35% males. But, fundamentally, there is no male or female skin. Skin is skin. Needs and lifestyles may differ, but the core is the same. Society is accustomed to giving a gender to everything – there are so many male or female products available across the beauty industry. I want to equalise everything with products that both genders will use.
Any unusual skincare tips?
Instead of swiping toner across your skin, press it in as this pushes your products into your pores. Same thing with moisturiser or masks; warm it up with your hands then press into skin – heat transfers products better. If you use a clay mask, massage it onto your skin. This pushes it deeper into pores, boosting its effectiveness.
My skincare heroes are…
I really love what the founders of Fresh have done – the concept is brilliant with its packaging and store experience. Also, people like Emily Weiss of Glossier and Ben Gorham of Byredo – they’re people who aren’t afraid to go after what they want. Skincare can be cold with salespeople throwing products at you all the time, but these brands have managed to create something that make people say, “Oh my God, I need, I want!”. They create an emotional response and resonate with people.
Coming up soon…
We’re going to be on Mr Porter (from 7 February) and Net-A-Porter (from 6 February). We’ve also got an antioxidant serum launching in May. Others include the world’s first hydrating chemical peel, cleansers, something for the eyes, and something special to be revealed.