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Real change, not band-aid solutions, are what’s needed in sustainability and skincare, says founder of Bskin Chia Su-Mae

Chia Su-Mae, the owner of homegrown skincare brand Bskin, is determined to create lasting change within and without – all with lessons learnt from the humble bee.

As National Day looms, there’s a tendency to reflect on how far we’ve come – and an equally-strong inclination to ponder what’s yet to be. Which doesn’t make much too much sense, since real change belongs in the now – or better yet, yesterday. That’s the philosophy behind founder of homegrown beauty brand Bskin, Chia Su-Mae. 

She’s the second-generation scion of HDI, a family-run wellness business that’s long understood the power and knowledge once can gleam from the humble bee. The corporate lawyer (once beleaguered with acne during her formative years) finessed that knowledge into her own skincare line in 2015, which features a suite of beauty products formulated from bee-related goodness.

Bees are the answer

“My family has been in the bee wellness industry for more than 30 years now and I’ve personally experienced the beneficial effects that bee actives can have,” she says. “Many of our loyal customers have been asking us for years to produce our own line of bee-ingredient based skincare – I jumped on this opportunity to spearhead the development.”

Apart from tapping on the utility of bee actives like pollen and royal jelly, Su-Mae is dedicated to keeping the artificial additives and non-natural components in her products to a minimum. “To be honest, it stems from my belief that nature has a lot to offer when it comes to health and wellness. Most natural ingredients like bee actives have been tried and tested for thousands of years,” she says.

“In fact, many of the world’s synth0etic medicines were created by studying and harnessing the unique properties of plants and herbs for their therapeutic effect.”

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Taking eco-friendly up a notch

Naturally, this means that Bskin – and Su-Mae herself – is just as committed to protecting the environment from which her products are derived. They eschew animal testing in any form, while purchasing ethically-farmed honey (where only excess honey that hives don’t require is sold off).

On the environmental front, they’re also shifting marketing collaterals online while phasing out wastage where possible. That includes the use of biodegradable cornstarch fillers rather than Styrofoam peanuts, and kraft honeycomb paper void filler rather than bubble wrap in all their e-commerce packaging.

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The self-professed nature lover’s doing her part in her personal life as well. She and her husband are running a burgeoning urban farm, growing “lady’s fingers, passionfruit, corn, wing beans, leafy greens, brinjal, lemon, grapes and so on”. They’re even rearing chickens – a mix of nine silkies and brahmas. “Our latest addition is a newly hatched Pekin duckling who just joined the family. We never realized how affectionate ducks are,” she says. “Our duck loves cuddles and follows us everywhere we go. When I’m busy working, it sits beside my laptop and joins in my Zoom meetings.“

Unfortunately though, rearing bees in sunny – and rainy, with very few in-betweens – Singapore isn’t too feasible for Su-Mae, despite her husband’s enthusiasm. “The first is my niggling suspicion that I inherited my dad’s severe allergy to bee stings. It’s ironic because he started our family business in the bee wellness industry, yet once ended up in hospital and nearly died from a bee sting,” she says. 

“The second reason is because I know how challenging it is to rear bees, especially in an urban environment like Singapore. Bees are fragile, and a beehive is a delicately balanced ecosystem that can be affected by a multitude of factors – like the presence of electromagnetic fields from wireless routers.”

(Related: Everything to know about honey)

Harmony with others, and within

To the entrepreneur, making real change isn’t just about piecemeal solutions or half-measures – whether it comes to building a health and wellness product that’s in harmony with nature, or customers’ relationship with beauty itself.

“As someone who suffered from acne and thought the best solution was to conceal blemishes with concealer and makeup, I’ve come a long way,” she says. “Skincare is important for women because healthy, balanced skin is the best canvas. When your skin’s well taken care of, you exude a natural confidence and radiance that’s hard to beat.”

The current mid-pandemic paradigm of endless Zoom meetings (usually without ducklings) and occasional bouts of dreaded maskne (that’s acne derived from prolonged mask usage) has led to a shift in skincare habits, she says. “We’ve seen a spike in anti-acne products since the pandemic began as people grapple with maskne; and our recent loose powder launch was well-received as many customers were looking for ways to prevent their makeup from transferring to their mask. Without being able to go for facials, more people are investing in regimes to maintain their skin health.”

But it’s also meant that women face reprieve from always needing to look good, all the time. “As the owner of a skincare brand, people expect me to look my best all the time – obviously, this is wholly unrealistic. I’ve gone from cooking my son’s lunch or changing his diaper straight into an important Zoom call and everyone was none the wiser,” she says. “There’s definitely less pressure to look flawless since most meetings are virtual.”

It’s all part of a growing movement in both consumers and business to celebrate authenticity – and with it, meaningful change from the inside and out. “Customers are a lot savvier nowadays and most of them have filters on their phone, so they’re not going to be taken in by highly airbrushed images of flawless models. Many of them appreciate brands that keep it real,” she says.

“They’re more discerning and try to select brands based not just on their products, but their entire philosophy. They’d only become fans of brands they’d be proud to be associated with.”

Click to visit Bskin’s website to learn more about the homegrown skincare brand.