It was no Michelle Phan story.
When May Yip founded her own skincare brand, The Skin Firm, it was no naive, passion project. Yip was formerly a fashion and beauty journalist for a decade before she started Bolt Communications, a public relations and content marketing company, which she continues to helm today.
“Having interviewed so many beauty brand founders in my career, and working with skincare business owners as clients, I knew how competitive the industry is,” says Yip. “I was never that girl who felt, “Oh, I use so many [beauty] products and would love to have a beauty company of my own!”
And yet, as fate had it, the idea of starting her own beauty brand came knocking on her door two years ago. Her family friends, who own a skincare facility in Bangkok, came up to her with a business idea. “Having designed products for other folks for so long, they wanted to create their own beauty brand,” Yip recalls their conversation.
Her friends basically had access to everything in the skincare manufacturing chain — but needed a brain and concept to develop the business. So Yip stepped in.
She had in mind a skincare brand capable of checking off consumers’ biggest concerns — clean and natural ingredients, sustainable practices, recyclable packaging, efficacy, and above all, affordability. “I felt it was time for a more modern take on natural beauty, with a minimalist brand identity and packaging,” Yip continues.
And she did. The Skin Firm launched this month with a five-piece collection designed for individuals aged 16 to early 30s with combination to oily skin types.
Every product was developed by an all-female team of 10 researchers and in-house chemists at her family friends’ Bangkok facility. The products were subsequently produced there, and are now retailing online in Singapore. You won’t find anything on their website priced beyond S$35.
Here, every product from the range, tried and tested:
1. Micellar Water
As with all of The Skin Firm’s products, the micellar water came in a lightweight (recyclable) plastic bottle. At S$22.90 for 200ml worth of micellar water, it’s priced parallel to that of the holy grail and original micellar water from the French company, Bioderma (S$28.90 for 250ml). Thankfully, it turned out to be as good.
The Skin Firm’s micellar water was capable of removing a full face of makeup (from primer, concealer, liquid foundation, to waterproof eyeliner) in three cotton pads. When used on the neck, it removed a bunch of grey dirt — all that sweat, dust, and pollutants accumulated over the day. Sounds gross, but very satisfying.
While the majority of micellar waters leave your skin feeling sticky and grimy, The Skin Firm’s iteration doesn’t. Very much like the OG Bioderma micellar water, it instead leaves your skin feeling fresh and light post-cleanse.
Verdict: Whether you belong to the dry, combination, or oily camps, we found this micellar water to be equally effective and comfortable for all skin types.
2. Gel Cleanser
When it comes to The Skin Firm’s gel cleanser, you could liken it to a concentrated syrup — a little goes a long way. Through repeated trial and errors, we’ve found that a quarter pump is enough to foam up your entire face and neck.
Before you balk at the word “foam” and assume that this product contains the villain of all skincare ingredients, sodium laureth sulfate (or notoriously known as SLS), an ingredient which is naturally derived from coconuts and has been widely associated with skin irritation (since it strips all the good oils of your skin), stop. This gel cleanser does not contain SLS.
However, it’s made up of a long list of 23 ingredients — to which we ran a check on. Be assured that none of the ingredients came up as high-risk, toxic compounds. Of the 23, majority were compounds derived from coconuts, and another three were herbal (roots, tree, fruits). Seven minor ingredients, specifically preservatives and some foaming agents, posed low to moderate risk to users — some may cause mild skin irritations in individuals who are allergic to them.
Verdict: Like Yip explained earlier, The Skin Firm‘s products were designed for the commonplace combination to oily skin types in Singapore. We found this gel cleanser to be too drying for those with dry skin types (you’ll feel the tightness) but oil-wicking and mattifying for individuals with combination to oily skin.
3. Concentrated Essence
You do want to chase your cleansing with an essence, lotion, toner — whatever it takes to replenish moisture and balance the skin. For The Skin Firm’s concentrated essence, the key ingredient is galactomyces ferment filtrate, a byproduct of sake fermentation.
The galactomyces ferment filtrate is a popular ingredient in the Japanese and South Korean beauty universe. And it’s very likely that you have heard the story of this ingredient, told through SK-II‘s campaigns before — a group of SK-II scientists came across some sake brewers and realised they have beautiful, youthful skin on their hands, despite their age. They, soon, made the realisation that it was due to the sake fermentation byproducts. SK-II then developed their own galactomyces ferment filtrate and trademarked it — you know it as Pitera.
While The Skin Firm’s iteration of the galactomyces ferment filtrate is not the exact formula as SK-II’s, it rides on the same key ingredient. You’ll find that the ingredient boasts a buffet of skin benefits — from strengthening the skin barrier, to moisturising, and brightening.
When using The Skin Firm’s concentrated essence, again, a little goes a long way. The brand recommends “a few drops” of the essence each day — and they mean it. Roll the nape of the bottle around your palm to just wet your hands with the product, then gently pat it around your face. You’ll be surprised that there will be enough to go around your entire face and neck.
Verdict: The lightweight essence is quickly absorbed into the skin. This is good news for individuals with combination and oily skin types — you will be able to layer on your favourite serums and moisturisers comfortably after this.
4. Anti-Ageing Serum
The anti-ageing serum is the only product in The Skin Firm’s range that comes with fragrance. One key ingredient is the red rice extract, which supposedly boasts anti-oxidative benefits for the skin. That aside, the product is meant to moisturise your skin, smoothen out fine lines, and lighten the complexion.
When using this serum, you’ll need one full pump. It comes in a watery consistency which makes it easy to spread. The serum is gently laced with a fresh, baby powder-like scent, and it’s quickly absorbed into your skin. For those who prefer lightweight and matte skincare, you can opt to stop here. For those of us who are used to a richer routine, we went for another layer of this serum and our moisturiser of choice.
Verdict: This is a lightweight serum with a pleasant gentle baby powder-like fragrance. It’s ideal for individuals who prefer lightweight skincare products that are not icky to touch. Suitable for combination to oily skin types.
5. Physical Sunscreen
The Skin Firm’s daily SPF40 physical sunscreen‘s active ingredients, zinc oxide and titanium dioxide (you’ll find the same ingredients in most sunscreens, from Soleil Toujours to Supergoop!) literally settles on your skin to form a protective layer, deflecting UVA (rays that reach deep into your skin) and UVB (rays that burn the top layers of your skin) rays. When a product protects the skin from both UVA and UVB rays, they are called “broad-spectrum” sunscreens.
Physical (or sometimes called mineral) sunscreens have recently come back in vogue since they remain on the surface of your skin and are not absorbed into the bloodstream and accumulated in the body. By contrast, the other category of sunscreens, called chemical sunscreens, contain ingredients that are absorbed into the skin. When UV rays hit the skin, they trigger a chemical reaction with these ingredients, converting the UV rays into heat which is then released from the skin. The catch, however, is that physical sunscreens typically leave a white cast on your skin while chemical sunscreens don’t.
So, when using The Skin Firm’s physical sunscreen, we recommend that you don’t squeeze a big blob and spread it all over your face. You’ll end up looking like a geisha. Instead, squeeze really small amounts, spread them thin over your fingers before applying to your face in segments. This way, you’ll reduce the white cast. Finally, you’ll want to make this the final step of your skincare regime — the physical sunscreen will form a protective layer over all your precious (and sometimes reactive) skincare ingredients.
Verdict: This daily sunscreen, it’s a lightweight white fluid which seems comfortable for both dry, combination, and oily skin types.
While there are only five products to The Skin Firm right now, Yip has three more products in the making — one of which is a multi-use moisturiser.
The Skin Firm is now available here.