There was once a time when being on the pulse of clean beauty simply meant choosing products that boasted of an aversion to the industry’s largely synthetic face.
Now the appealing category comes burdened with a variety of meanings: back to basics, minimalistic, fuss-free. Marked by their slick designs on nature, these claims become routinely touted without substance or scientific backing, giving rise to “brand speak”; a pervasive phenomenon where information gets selectively and ceaselessly regurgitated. It is against this landscape that we survey the evolution of clean beauty within the region. It is not without its peaks and challenges, especially given its parley with growing environmental threats and discerning consumers that are increasingly alert and jaded with polished lip service.
For us, this means it is high-time to confront the dirty business of clean beauty and local newcomer Rooki Beauty might just be the disruptive brand needed to shake this finical category.
Despite being only a few months old, the performance-driven superfood skincare brand is already making waves in the digital beauty sphere. Two factors account for its ubiquitous appeal. The first is Rooki Beauty’s dedication to power-packed, efficacious, and absolutely delish formulations. With only three products housed under its introductory collection (a cleanser, mask, and cream), each serves a distinct function while harnessing the complete benefits of a singular superfood.
Rooki Beauty founder Hayley Teo reveals that she spent countless nights teetering between the fine lines of innovation and convention during the initial process: “Formulating is a science, but perfecting a product is an art.” Her final decision to formulate and produce the products in Japan also stems from a similar vein, that is, the desire to utilise the best laboratories and techniques to bring out the full potency latent in each ingredient.
“In the end it still rings true that in Asia, the best skincare products are usually made in Japan. There’s something about Japanese quality and attention to detail that just can’t be beat. I also fell in love with the way that they approached ingredients used in skincare.” She singles out her bestselling superfood cleanser to illustrate this point: “The Japanese respect time-honoured traditions just as much as they respect modern research – which means that they are able to produce skin-loving formulas filled with traditional foods like matcha and soybeans, that are grounded in science and with minimum use of preservatives.”
The process of finding the right lab to bring her dream to fruition took almost as long as the formulation stage, but it was during this that Hayley discovered the conscientious ethos that would drive her venture and explain its burgeoning popularity with millennials. The process was not easy because she was considered an outsider with no experience. “We were so new, we were practically rookies. I knocked on lots of doors and got turned down more times than I could count.” That is when she came up with the name “Rooki Beauty”.
Rooki signals a break from the expectation that one had to be an expert to create, or even use, skincare. It typifies a decision that privileges accessibility, simplicity, and more intuitively, honesty. “In skincare, everyone wants to be known as an expert but I thought it would be much better to just be honest. I also like the idea of adopting a ‘rookie mindset’ – when you’re new, you see the world with much fresher eyes. You think life is full of opportunities and because of that, you have courage.”
There are three products in the debut range, but the Honey Matcha Cleansing Drops is the most beloved. Its coveted cult status boils down to its multi-functional formulation. It is sudsy, gentle, and not only deep-cleanses but restores radiance and replenishes the skin’s natural moisture. It is perfect for those with uncontrollable, acid-prone skin as honey is both antibacterial and anti-inflammatory, while matcha powder evens out skin irritation and blemishes.
Perhaps the most intriguing, the Green Pulp Paste Masque, enriched with the indigestible goodness from carrots, tomatoes, matcha, and kale, is a unique alternative to instant masking. The clear green gel turns into a milky white paste as it is massaged onto dry skin, even producing a warming sensation—we were also informed that how warm it feels is actually an indication of how dehydrated your skin is!
We fell in love with the Superfood Saviour Crème because of how gorgeous it made us. While it is on the oily side of the spectrum, it makes for a fantastic overnight mask to hydrate and strengthen the skin’s natural barriers. It is also significant that it contains no mineral oil or silicones, instead blended with Squalane, a hydrocarbon that bonds with the skin, all derived from sugarcane. It also combines the power of kale, lingonberries, and chia seeds, which all helps to boost natural collagen, creating a visible lifting effect even from the first week of use.
For all the talk of clean skincare, the dirty aspect of the industry seem to be overwhelming for a budding entrepreneur. Perhaps it is this refreshing entry that pits her against one of the largest elephants in the room of clean beauty: angel-dusting. The innocuous, whimsical name none-withstanding, it describes a laissez faire attitude towards the accountability of ingredients in products. Generally, superfood products use the minimum amount of active ingredients in order to lend serious weight (and still compile with) advertising regulations.
Hayley shares, “Some people think that superfood skincare is just marketing hype, but that’s not true. Superfoods work just as well on the skin as they do in your body. The problem is that the beauty industry is extremely cost-driven, which means that some brands add only the tiniest amount of superfood ingredients in their products, just so they can claim that they’re a superfood-driven brand.”
She believes that the way forward is continual investment in consumer awareness due to the prevalence of this dirty secret within the industry. It is all about education, she says, “You don’t need a chemistry degree to learn how to read the ingredient labels. The principles are simple: ingredients are listed from highest to lowest concentration, so if the superfood ingredient is the last ingredient on the list, you know you have a problem. Learn how to identify preservatives. If your superfood ingredient is in lower amounts than the preservatives, you know you have a problem.”
Specific to Rooki Beauty then, she says, “We don’t believe in ‘angel dusting’. We formulate products that really work and it shows on our ingredients list. The superfoods and actives we use are usually near the top or middle of our ingredients list, never the bottom, which means that there is enough of it to actually make a visible difference to your skin.” For her, the equivocal information resulting from angel-dusting destroys the consumers’ faith in certain ingredients, which then benefits no one in the long run.
As for the next order of business, Rooki Beauty will be focusing on developing and releasing their next range of products in 2020. The next star of the show? Three game-changing serums. Hayley explains that this is a move dedicated to long-term innovation, rather than creating trend-based, or “Instagrammable”, products that often have subpar qualities and dubious properties. Innovation does not equate to quality, she explains, “and this is the kind of noise that Rooki Beauty hopes to avoid, as it can be frustrating for consumers with sensitive skin and those who are looking for skincare that really works”.
Rather than focusing on new products to entice customers, she hopes to work towards a sense of transparency within the clean beauty bracket, where ingredients are not here to hide and, within skincare, blooms a radical candour.
Rooki Beauty can be purchased via their online store here.