This Singaporean’s beauty brand has celebrity fans – including Meghan Markle’s makeup artist
As we mark International Women’s Day, CNA Lifestyle talks to trailblazing Singaporean female entrepreneurs. First up: Xenia Wong, the 25-year-old who never takes the shortcut when formulating products for her label.
For a brand that’s barely three years old, Sigi Skin has quite a lot to show for the time that it has spent so far in the local beauty scene.
As the number of players in the Singapore beauty landscape increases – and it has been steadily doing so in recent years – it’s not easy to set oneself apart from the competition, much less be remembered, especially with just three products in its initial offerings.
With the level of media coverage the skincare brand has been getting since its launch, we can safely say that any card-carrying beauty junkie would have already heard of its name, even if they may not have tried any of its products yet.
“We had amazing press coverage from our initial launch and people were curious about the brand and its usage of clean superfoods and pretty packaging. It was a good place to start for us,” said founder Xenia Wong, 25, who knows that getting the right attention for her brand is half the battle won.
QUALITY ABOVE EVERYTHING
But of course, a brand cannot fly on just good PR without great products at its core. And while packaging aesthetics are admittedly important, what’s ultimately most crucial is whether what’s inside is truly effective.
We create products from a customer’s point of view instead of a shareholder’s point of view. Quality is something we will never ever compromise on.
Besides focusing on clean beauty formulations that are made with superfood ingredients, Wong is insistent that the brand upholds quality standards that she herself, as a skincare user with sensitive skin, would be looking for, especially at the price points of her line of products.
At S$38 for a cleanser to S$82 for a sleeping mask, the prices at Sigi Skin are not cheap – in fact, they are comparable to those at big-name international brands.
“We create products from a customer’s point of view instead of a shareholder’s point of view, and do not shun away from ingredients that are too expensive or hard to source. Quality is something we will never ever compromise on,” said Wong, when asked about what sets her brand apart from other names in the clean-beauty playing field.
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According to her, Sigi Skin uses key ingredients that are often not commonly found in most skincare products by other brands, due to their high cost.
She points out the Dream Capsule sleeping mask as an example, which contains skin-soothing and collagen-boosting purslane, which is typically only found in products by luxury, premium brands.
HOW IT ALL BEGAN
As a self-confessed beauty junkie herself, Wong was inspired to start her own skincare brand while attending a beauty course in Seoul by Korean celebrity makeup artist Jung Saem-mool.
“I realised then that the beautiful, glowy skin that I see on celebrities is not achievable with makeup alone. I set out to achieve the Korean 'glass-skin' look with makeup but soon discovered beautiful skin really starts with skincare,” Wong shared.
From then on, it took the business graduate about two years to ready Sigi Skin for its launch. The path of entrepreneurship isn’t all rosy, of course. “There were challenges, such as getting business partners and suppliers to take me seriously, because I am much younger than most skincare business owners,” she said.
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She wanted all her products to be manufactured in Korea, where skincare research and technology is at the forefront of the beauty industry, but had difficulty finding a skincare lab that is willing to listen to her and create the type of products that she wanted for her brand.
“I spoke to over 20 labs, and most of them tried to pass me ready-made formulas that they were producing for bigger, established brands. But we wanted to be better and different! Thankfully, we managed to find a few labs that were able to align with the brand’s vision. A lot of R&D was involved, which is why we started with only three products,” she divulged.
YOU CAN’T RUSH A GOOD THING
While mass-market beauty brands are launching products left, right and centre every year, slow and steady is clearly the way to go for the brand.
“One thing I strongly believe in is to not push out a product just for the sake of it. Even if it takes longer, it is better to get it right rather than to get it done," she explained.
"We want a product to be everlasting, not just because it is a fad. Hence, we take about two years on average to launch a single product, which is why we have a total of six products as of now." The seventh is currently on its way and is slated for launch in this month.
One thing I strongly believe in is to not push out a product just for the sake of it. Even if it takes longer, it is better to get it right rather than to get it done.
“We take pride in our formulations and we will only launch a product once we think it’s perfect. Take, for example, our multiple-award-winning Morning Glow sunscreen. We went through about 30 lab samples over two years to finally perfect the formula and texture of the product," she shared.
"Sunscreen is very difficult to formulate, especially a 100 per cent physical sunscreen that is not greasy and doesn’t leave a white cast on the skin, which is a very common issue with sunscreen. Most labs kept telling me that it is impossible as it takes too much R&D. But I managed to find a lab that was able to work with me to create the perfect sunscreen."
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REAPING THE RESULTS
Wong’s persistence in getting the formulations to provide the best performance possible is paying off in multiple ways now. Besides winning multiple local beauty awards, Sigi Skin has also captured the attention of the beauty community overseas.
“We were really fortunate, when we first launched, to be picked up by Hollywood makeup artist Daniel Martin, who does the makeup for the likes of Meghan Markle and Jessica Alba. He really, really loves Sigi Skin’s Morning Glow!" she enthused.
"He mentioned it in a couple of articles in (lifestyle website) The Cut and it caught us by surprise as we had an influx of orders from the US. This led us to be the first Singaporean brand to be showcased at the prestigious Beautycon exhibition in LA in August 2019,” she shared.
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Yet, despite these achievements, Wong wouldn’t call her business a success now. “But we have come very far since our launch and it is important to celebrate and appreciate the growth we’ve achieved over two years. We also experience constant growth from month to month,” she acknowledged.
SURPRISING EFFECTS OF THE PANDEMIC
While 2020 had been a tough year for the economy and retail, Sigi Skin actually saw an amazing surge in sales during the period – a 350 per cent increase in revenue as compared to its performance in 2019.
She attributes this growth to the launch of Dream Capsule, a sleeping mask that was launched last year, which quickly become the brand’s bestseller.
“Also, during the circuit breaker period, people were forced to shop online as stores were shut. Being a digital-first company, we were fortunately ready when many brands were making the transit from brick-and-mortar to online,” she further explained.
I want to build a brand that can forge a direct and genuine bond with consumers.
Sigi Skin retails mainly online, but also works with other retail partners with a physical presence in Singapore. “I want to build a brand that can forge a direct and genuine bond with consumers instead of relying on a major retail partner, so that we can get to know the customers directly and are able to know what they like and dislike,” said Wong.
There were, of course, challenges that the pandemic brought. “Supply chains were hit quite hard. There is a shortage of key ingredients, which slows down the whole development process. Even the production packaging has slowed considerably. As suppliers are rushing to produce hand sanitisers, it has resulted in a lack of pumps, bottles and other containers needed for other packaging,” she revealed.
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ON THE FUTURE
With clean beauty being a current rising trend, and one that is expected to continue, Sigi Skin is naturally in a good position to grow. “People are more interested and educated, and want to know what they are applying on their skin. The interest in clean beauty has only grown since the pandemic as people are more careful. Brands will be held accountable to meet such standards as well, which will be good for the industry and consumer,” said Wong.
She welcomes competition in the field, and thinks it will benefit everyone as a whole. “Most people do not use the same brand for their entire beauty routine. Consumers love to have options. I feel that with more local beauty brands, the conversation for beauty will only increase. This will bring about more attention for local beauty brands overall,” she added.
Her focus for the next few years will be about establishing the brand overseas, while keeping it a direct-to-consumer brand and continuing to create products that the current market lacks.
I feel that with more local beauty brands, the conversation for beauty will only increase. This will bring about more attention for local beauty brands overall.
Wong relishes everything about her job and entrepreneurship – including coming up with new products, communicating with her customers and tackling the challenges that pop up from time to time. But the thing that gives her the most satisfaction is seeing how her products are benefiting other people.
“It brings me such joy to know that our products really made a difference in their skin. My team showed me a review on Reddit, in which the user posted before-and-after pictures to show how much her skin has cleared up after using Sigi Skin. It was the only brand that didn’t break her skin out after she has tried so many others. Hearing this makes our work all worth it,” she said, describing one of the best moments of her entrepreneurial journey.
Sigi Skin is available at https://sigiskin.com/.