Whether it is a result of evolution or revolution within the beauty industry, it seems like everyone is eager to get their fingers into the appealing pie of clean skincare. That’s the impression that lead Hayley Teo, founder of the local ethical skincare brand Rooki Beauty, to leave her corporate life for a shot at her childhood dreams.
Speaking to Hayley, one gets the distinct impression that the self-made beauty entrepreneur is as refreshing as her brand—after all, Rooki Beauty was built out of a desire to collapse the barriers that separate users through their products and/or routines. A commitment to transparency underscores her products, formulated with the manifold benefits of superfoods while being completely suitable for those with sensitive skin.
We chat with Hayley about her path towards clean skincare, the philosophies that guide her, and her plans for Rooki Beauty.
It all started when…
You know how lots of people have really embarrassing fantasies? Growing up with sensitive skin, my secret fantasy was being the founder of my own skincare line. After graduation, I worked in advertising and though it was fun, I struggled deeply with finding meaning in my work. So I quit and took time off to develop my dream skincare line instead. I didn’t want to live with regrets and be one of those people who went I shoulda, woulda, or coulda done this or that.
I started by selling handmade lip balms at popups. It got so popular that I found myself making lip balms everyday. After six months of making lip balms, my dad said to me: ‘Do you really want to be making lip balms for the rest of your life?’ My dad has always been a proponent of doing big things and I knew he was right. If I was really serious about skincare, I needed to find a proper lab – one that really believed in my vision of superfood skincare. I spent another year exploring my options and reaching out to various labs.
What was one of the first skincare products that made you think that you wanted to start your own company?
There wasn’t any particular product, but rather my curiosity about the ingredients used in skincare that made me want to start my own company. I would study the ingredients used in luxury serums and go, ‘Oh, so this is the preservative. Oh, so this is the active ingredient. Wait, why is there more of the preservative than the active ingredient?’ And it got me feeling upset that people were spending so much on these expensive serums which were basically just glorified water.
Was it difficult to enter into the current skincare industry?
Entering the skincare industry is not easy – the barrier to entry can be very high and the industry moves at the speed of light. You could have hit product one day and a dud the next. There’s also a problem of it being a race to the bottom – let’s say you launch a really good product with amazing ingredient X. Copycats with ingredient X will start appearing, but at a lower price. To afford this lower price, they might resort to practices like angel dusting. This destroys consumer trust in ingredient X and in the long run benefits no one.
Rooki Beauty has a small and refined debut range. What goes into the process of formulating and perfecting a product?
Lots of sleepless nights! Formulating is a science, but perfecting a product is an art. A good example of this would be our plant-powered wash-off mask, Green Pulp Paste Masque. Before coming up with Green Pulp, it was hard to find a mask that could show results instantly and didn’t rely on exfoliation. Most masks depend heavily on either physical exfoliation, like scrubs – which can damage your skin, or chemical exfoliators – which can take time to show results. Green Pulp is neither – it’s a warming mask that pulls water directly into your skin, leaving it soft and glowy. That’s the science part.
The art part involves you answering questions like ‘how warm should a warming mask feel?’ It was like playing goldilocks with our faces whenever we tested lab samples – not too hot, not too cold. Luckily, we managed to hit a home run with Green Pulp and it’s now our bestseller!
Most of your products are not only power-packed, but also multi-functional. What ingredients or benefits did you focus on to provide the most effective formula?
The most effective formulas comes from a good balance of clinical and natural ingredients. For example, products with acids should always be combined with soothing ingredients like honey and matcha, so that your skin can achieve a healthy looking glow with as little irritation as possible. This fine balance can be seen in our brightening cleanser, Honey Matcha Cleansing Drops – which combines lactic acid, vitamin and peptide with honey and matcha.
Which superfood do you come into contact with the most and how?
Probably matcha. I love it so much that it’s actually in my entire debut product lineup. It also has great anti-inflammatory properties, which is why it features so heavily in my cleanser. We get our matcha from a family-owned farm in Uji, Kyoto.
One of Rooki’s most unique products is perhaps the Green Pulp Paste Masque. Can you take us through the user process?
Green Pulp should be applied on dry skin. It comes out as a green gel but turns into a milky white paste when massaged onto dry skin. Continue massaging for 1-2 minutes. You may start to feel a mild warming sensation. After 15 minutes, rinse off with water. Your skin should look and feel brighter and healthier.
Where do you see yourself in the next five years?
Managing the Rooki Beauty team. Hopefully, Rooki Beauty will be a global brand by then.