“Sustainable beauty is more than just using recyclable packaging. It also goes back to how you’re sourcing your ingredients, and how often you’re launching new products. Do we really need five different kinds of cleansers?”
I vividly remember the launch of Sigi Skin about three years ago. The multi-tasking local skincare brand spotlights superfruit ingredients like avocado, kale and matcha in a fun, fresh and vibrant packaging. But beyond the outer packaging, what caught my attention was Sigi Skin’s promise to be transparent with its ingredients and practices.
As a beauty writer, I come across many brands that use the “vegan”, “sustainable” and “clean beauty” tag but some never fully commit. Not with Sigi Skin. Time and time again, it’s lived up to its promise. In fact, it even discontinued my fave eye cream to become a fully vegan beauty brand.
The brand also received global recognition when it first launched. The Morning Glow sunscreen got picked up by Hollywood makeup artist Daniel Martin – who does makeup for the likes of Meghan Markle and Jessica Alba. “He mentioned it in a couple of articles such as The Cut and it caught us by surprise as we had an influx of orders from the US. It still feels very surreal to us!” says Sigi Skin founder Xenia Wong. That’s high praise for a humble Singaporean label.
Xenia started the brand at just 23. The NUS Business School graduate was a skincare and beauty junkie, leading her to pursue makeup courses from Seoul’s renowned Jung Saem Mool Art Academy and Makeup Forever. She also believes in giving back to society and adopting sustainable practices in Sigi Skin.
All items are packed in zero-waste packaging, using soy ink for printing and recycled paper. The Idyllic Fields moisturiser and Dew Potion essence mist have a waterless formula to reduce the use of precious natural resources. Refillable packaging was recently introduced to selected products and the brand is looking to expand the idea to its full collection, too. We also hear Sigi Skin is currently in the process of partnering with 1% for the Planet, an international organisation whose members contribute at least one percent of their annual sales to environmental causes.
“We create products from a customer’s point of view,” Xenia says. “There’s a gap in the market and we want to provide effective and quality vegan [and sustainable] skincare products that won’t break the bank.”
Also, five percent of the proceeds from every Idyllic Fields bottle sold is donated to a pet shelter. It commemorates the passing of Xenia’s golden retriever Dino (you’ll notice his cute illustration on top of every bottle).
So how did a local skincare brand that aimed to provide its customer with healthy skin turn into an advocate for sustainability and meaningful causes? We chat with Xenia about her challenges and misconceptions about sustainable beauty. She even dishes her favourite ingredients, beauty advice and how the pandemic has changed her mindset about the business.
Xenia Wong on championing sustainability in the beauty scene
Tell us about your first experience with skincare and makeup.
I’m a huge beauty junkie! It led me to pursue a beauty course with Jung Saem Mool in Seoul. I realised that the beautiful, glowing skin I’m used to seeing on the screen is not achievable from makeup alone. I [initially] set out to achieve the Korean glass skin look with makeup but soon realised beautiful skin starts with skincare.
Today, almost every other skincare brand is labelled as sustainable, vegan or clean. What sets Sigi Skin apart?
Sigi Skin is all about making beauty fun and approachable. We make products that are effortless, easy and a joy to use in your everyday life. We create products from a customer’s point of view. We don’t shun away from ingredients that are too expensive or hard to source. Quality is something we’ll never ever compromise on.
What’s one product you had the most fun creating?
That’ll be our bestseller, Dream Capsule, an overnight sleeping mask. It was launched in March 2020. We went to great lengths to source the very unique and highly potent ingredients, especially bakuchiol and purslane.
Bakuchiol is a 100% plant derivative of retinol; it’s suitable for pregnant ladies and people who have sensitive skin. It has all the benefits of retinol without the harsh effects.
Purslane is usually found in luxury, premium brands. It’s high in omega-3 fatty acids and beta carotene that help to boost collagen production and calm skin inflammation. These ingredients are hard to come by. But we’re glad to be able to combine them in an overnight sleeping mask with a silky texture that sinks in and gets absorbed into the skin instantly.
The hard work that goes into testing out the countless lab samples and ensuring the packaging is both pretty and hygienic is totally worth it.
[Our] customers love it as they’re able to see the difference when applying it before they sleep. They wake up with plumped and hydrated skin, smaller pores and lightened scars, as well as an improvement in hyperpigmentation over time.
How about the most challenging one?
Hands down, our multiple award-winning Morning Glow sunscreen. We went through about 30 lab samples over a period of two years to finally perfect the formula and texture of the product. Sunscreen is very difficult to formulate, especially a 100% physical sunscreen that’s not greasy and doesn’t leave a white cast on the skin – which is a very common issue with sunscreen. Most labs kept telling me it’s impossible as it takes too much R&D. Finally, I managed to find a lab that was able to work with me to create the perfect sunscreen – a physical sunscreen at SPF 50, PA++++, no white cast and non-greasy!
We’re extremely pleased with the final product as customers tell us they used to hate wearing sunscreen until Morning Glow. I think that’s the biggest compliment we can ever receive!
What are your favourite ingredients in skincare?
It’d be bakuchiol as it’s such a transformative ingredient, yet very gentle. It’s found in Dream Capsule. Another favourite of mine is polyglutamic acid: it packs a punch in terms of hydration (ten times more than hyaluronic acid). This is found in our daytime moisturiser, Idyllic Fields!
You’ve discontinued your best-selling eye cream to make Sigi Skin 100% vegan. What ignited your passion for clean, vegan and sustainable beauty?
I have friends who turned vegan and it’s difficult for them to find quality vegan skincare products. It’s a gap in the market and we want to provide effective and quality vegan skincare products that won’t break the bank.
What are some challenges you face in championing sustainability with Sigi Skin?
The biggest challenge would be packaging limitations. Most packaging don’t have refills as an option and when they do, it’s extremely limited, like jar packaging, which is not hygienic. Most labs don’t recommend us to make refills as they’re afraid of contamination when doing a product transfer. We’re constantly thinking out of the box to find a more sustainable packaging solution as the bulk of our customers are returning customers.
But we’re happy to share that Garden Party, a deep cleansing clay mask, is our first product with refillable packaging! All the packaging of our products can be recycled and all our boxes are made of recycled paper, printed using soy ink.
Tell us some misconceptions people have about sustainable beauty.
One of the misconceptions would be that sustainable beauty ends at refillable or recyclable packaging. It’s more than that – it also goes back to how you’re sourcing your ingredients, and how often you’re launching new products. Do we really need five different kinds of cleansers? Typically, beauty brands have multiple launches a year to keep things fresh and maintain hype and momentum for the brand. But it might not necessarily be what our skin needs. It’s akin to fast fashion or fast beauty and a lot of waste is created to meet such goals.
We really want to release a product that truly is a game-changer and different from what’s in the market. On average, we take about two years to launch a single product – which is also why we just have a total of eight products. We’d rather get things right rather than get things done.
The pandemic has changed all of us in some way. What lessons have you learnt about yourself and Sigi Skin during these last two years?
The biggest challenges are in R&D, production and ingredients sourcing. Due to the pandemic, supply chains have been hit quite hard. There’s a shortage of key ingredients that slow down the whole development process. Even packaging has also been slower to produce. As suppliers are rushing to produce hand sanitisers, it has created a shortage of pumps, bottles and other containers needed for other packaging.
I strongly believe in not pushing out a product just for the sake of it. Even if it takes longer, it’s better to get it right rather than to get it done. We want a product to be everlasting, not just because it’s a fad.
What’s the best beauty tip you’ve received?
Don’t skip sunscreen! That’s why I wanted to launch a brand with a sunscreen even though it’s one of the toughest things to formulate.
Any advice to someone who wants to start their own beauty line?
The brand name should be fun and prominently placed on the packaging. Social media has really been helpful for our business. We find that when someone snaps a picture and posts it on social media, our brand name is easily noticed. This helps with marketing as it creates a sense of curiosity amongst buyers.
Finally, what are your goals for Sigi Skin in 2022?
To stay true to our slogan – Your Skin’s Happy Place. We want to be that friend you turn to for skincare advice. When we started Sigi Skin, we wanted to put the customer first. So we always planned to be direct to the consumer instead of the traditional way of landing a huge stockist. It allows us to cultivate an intimate relationship with our consumers and to build a community, creating a two-way conversation instead of a top-down approach. We also hear feedback directly as it allows us to act on it quickly. Sometimes it might even lead to a new product launch!
Is she hinting at a new product? We’ll have to stay tuned to find out! We’re certain it’ll live up to Sigi Skin’s ethos.