The Singaporean mum who started a skincare brand that’s safe for babies
Her baby son’s bout with eczema prompted A Tapir’s Tale’s Charlene Ng to focus on an overlooked market – children with sensitive skin.
Beauty is a full-blown obsession for Charlene Ng, who admits to having spent a substantial part of her youth in Watsons stores poring over the labels of skincare and haircare products as a hobby.
It comes as no surprise, then, that the communications graduate headed straight for the beauty industry upon completing her studies – working in various beauty-related professions, including as an aesthetician, beauty consultant and skincare trainer – and later went on to acquire a diploma in beauty therapy.
The idea of starting a skincare brand had quietly sat in the back of her mind since those years.
It’s the ultimate dream for any beauty junkie – an aspiration that Ng realised as she became a mother of two, and discovered how she could finally apply her passion and knowledge to solving a personal issue.
When her baby son had bad skin reactions to the products she was using on him, she realised how young children’s skin had very specific needs that were still not being fully addressed by existing products in the current market.
“My son had an eczema flare-up due to two different brands of organic skincare. They are very well-loved brands, but unfortunately, just not suitable for him. There could be many reasons for it – for example, the combination of essential oils. Not all natural, organic ingredients are always suitable for everyone – they can cause skin irritation in some,” said Ng.
My son had an eczema flare-up due to two different brands of organic skincare.
The only thing that worked for her son were dermatologist-prescribed products, which were costly, especially with high-frequency usage. Ng felt that there’s a market for more-sophisticated formulations gentle enough for newborns’ skin – which are easier on the wallet at that. This spurred her to start her own skincare brand, A Tapir’s Tale.
MAKING SKINCARE BETTER FOR BABIES
Just recently launched online, her line of gentle skincare formulations currently consists of four products designed to cover an infant’s essential skincare needs.
But A Tapir’s Tale is far from being basic – Ng raised the game by also utilising premium ingredients that will benefit babies’ delicate skin, but are uncommonly found in other children’s skincare brands in the market.
We are applying the innovation that you are seeing in premium women’s skincare to baby and family skincare, which is a rarity.
“We are applying the innovation that you are seeing in premium women’s skincare to baby and family skincare, which is a rarity. I went in this direction because baby skincare is hardly innovated upon, and I wanted to bring something new to the table," explained Ng.
"A lot of brands do not use these ingredients as they can be expensive to procure and use in baby skincare, which is a market that tends to be sidelined in favour of the bigger adult skincare market."
A Tapir’s Tale uses ingredients such as hydrolysed hyaluronic acid, soybean peptides, ceramides and squalane, which are more commonly found in adult skincare as they are lab-tested and have proven efficacies and benefits for the skin.
“In addition, we use skin-comforting, nature-derived ingredients traditionally used in Japan and elsewhere to treat sensitive skin. For example, we have Prunus Yedonesis (cherry blossom leaf), Scutellaria Baicalensis, and Centella Asiatica, which are antioxidants that provide anti-inflammatory and skin-soothing properties," she said.
"I worked with a Japanese pharmaceutical manufacturer to formulate them into a gentle skincare line suitable for the sensitive skin of newborns, even those with atopic conditions."
A BALANCE BETWEEN PRICE AND QUALITY
Skin issues, such as eczema, are getting very common in Singapore. Children, particularly, seem to be increasingly afflicted by them, while parents are also more aware of such conditions these days and actively search for products or treatments that help alleviate and prevent them.
“As I did my market research, I was surprised to see that there isn’t as much innovation in baby skincare as there is in adult’s, especially when baby skin is more delicate than adult skin," revealed Ng.
"Additionally, I found out some adults do want to use baby products as a gentler alternative, but feel that they will not be able to provide any additional benefits for the skin except for basic moisture. I wanted to try and create something new yet gentle and effective."
Many women (and even men) are using the latest and best skincare products. When they become mothers, they do not want to compromise that expectation of quality and efficacy for their children.
She pointed out the existence of a huge range of price points in the market, including mass-market and luxury brands.
“These various brands do meet different needs and preferences. For A Tapir’s Tale, I wanted to bring in innovation at what I call a premium but still affordable price point, which is below US$30 (about S$40),” she shared.
“A lot of consumers care about brand quality and innovation. You see brands such as The Ordinary and Drunk Elephant getting a lot of fanfare. A Tapir’s Tale does not compete on price necessarily, but our value is in the quality and innovation in our products," she said.
"Many women (and even men) are using the latest and best skincare products. When they become mothers, they do not want to compromise that expectation of quality and efficacy for their children."
HANDLE WITH CARE, PLEASE
We all know that babies’ skin is delicate but did you know that it is physiologically different from that of older children and adults? “Babies’ skin is not yet fully developed and has a thinner skin structure, making it easier to get skin irritation. There are many causes and allergens, such as soaps, pollen, pet dander, foods, pollution and even the weather. Hence, sometimes parents might find their babies with an unexplained rash or skin irritation,” Ng said.
Babies’ skin is not yet fully developed and has a thinner skin structure, making it easier to get skin irritation.
Because of its delicate nature, an infant’s skin will thus require regular but gentle cleansing and adequate care. “The oil glands in babies’ skin are less developed than an adult’s and function poorly. Hence, their skin can get dry quite easily. Long baths, hot water and strong cleansers that degrease the skin are unnecessary and irritating to babies and younger children,” she explained.
Ng also stressed the importance of putting sunscreen on babies and children.
“Their skin has less melanin than adults. Melanin is the pigment that gives colour to the skin and protects against cellular damage from sunlight exposure. In addition, kids may spend large amounts of time outdoors playing, which means many of them may receive more than triple the UVB exposure, compared to the average adult.”
This explains why A Tapir’s Tale's initial launch has all the fundamentals babies and children need – a hair and body cleanser, moisturisers in two different textures and a sunblock.
“We do not want to extend our product range too fast, preferring to just focus on releasing one or two products a year. I do have some ideas in mind, but more research is needed,” shared Ng. She’s also had many requests to ship her products internationally, which she plans to do so in the near future.
A Tapir’s Tale is among the first Singapore brands to offer baby skincare, but Ng believes it is the first that is formulated and manufactured in Japan. Starting up is not entirely a bed of roses but she takes comfort in the fact that she can finally accomplish what she has always wanted to do.
“The tough part about starting your own brand is that you are a small fish in a big pond, and, because of that, it is not easy negotiating. Sometimes, you’d also worry if your idea will be well received. However, every time I look at my kids, I am reminded of the fact that I am doing this because I wanted to create a skincare line that I would be happy to use on them,” said Ng.
Available at http://www.tapirstale.com/.