During her adolescence, Lily Kew was plagued with severe acne issues that badly affected her daily life and self-confidence. In the search for a solution, she consulted with several beauticians and dermatologists and was prescribed harsh treatments and chemical-laden products, which did not solve her issues at all. Instead, it left her skin thin, weak, sensitive and dehydrated, with recurring breakouts that continued well into her 20s.
Taking matters into her own hands, she left her career in the entertainment industry to pursue a diploma in beauty therapy and cosmetology in Singapore and subsequently in Canada. Through the course of her new vocation as a beauty therapist, she successfully treated her own skin problems, and, in 2014, opened her first beauty salon called Kew Organics Facial Bar at Everton Park. It was the first local beauty brand to offer bespoke organic facials combined with the safe use of high-tech machines to boost efficacy.
To complement her treatments, in 2016, Kew launched her own organic skincare label, Kew Organics, formulated with the expertise of leading labs in Singapore, Canada and Korea. They were designed to cater to common skincare woes such as clogged pores, acne breakouts, pigmentation and dehydration. Some of the bestsellers — sold over the shelf and online, and used in facials — include the Deluxe Hydra Nutrient Mist, Mandarin Acai Cleansing Lotion, and Sugar Cane Royal Flush Exfoliant.
“While providing facial services for my customers, I realised that the existing organic skincare brands were either too mild so they only worked for skin without problems, or were too rich for Singapore’s tropical climate. Kew Organics is lightweight, offering over 30 high-performance products that are water-based, vegan and certified-organic,” she explains. “We have many successful cases of our users ditching their makeup for good as they have nothing to cover up after embarking on their green beauty journey with us.”
The latest product line launched this year is the Needle-less Rejuv Anti-Aging collection, featuring the first-of-its-kind combination of medical-grade and certified-organic ingredients targeted at specific ageing concerns such as loose skin, lax and weak facial and neck muscles, fine lines and wrinkles. Created to mimic the effects of Botox, minus the downtime, the collection consists of four items: Tri-Phase Antioxidant Redefining Concentrate, Triple Strengthening Neck & Décolleté Serum, Dual Facelift Ageless Booster, and Bio-Peptides Wrinkle Filler Serum. After trying the Needle-less products in a facial, coupled with machines for deep penetration plus a 20-minute sleep-inducing lymphatic massage, my pores shrank, pigments lightened and skin looked lifted.
Today, Kew Organics Facial Bar has branched out, with two more outlets at Cluny Court and Clarke Quay Central, while retaining its flagship at Everton Park, which offers its signature facials such as Clear Skin Hydra Deluxe Facial, Ultrareviv Booster Shots, Red Carpet Organic Facial or Lumi Lift Detox Organic Facial.
For those who only have time for a lunchtime facial, Kew Organics also offers express facials under 30 minutes at all its outlets, including Sugar K Organic Peel Bar at Tangs Beauty Hall. A signature facial is the 20-minute Sugar K Organic Peel Treatment formulated to help time-strapped urbanites to lighten acne scars, unclog and minimise enlarged pores, control oil, and improve hydration.
A recipient of the Women Entrepreneur Award 2018 and Spirit of Enterprise 2019 awardee, Kew is humble about her success, which also includes being a proudly Made with Passion brand supported by Enterprise Singapore.
“We are glad to have been recognised as a Made with Passion brand — an affirmation from the government for the good work we have done. We are thankful that our government provides assistance to local businesses with grants and offers support in taking our businesses abroad. We are very blessed to be given equal opportunity in Singapore, to excel and go after our dreams,” says Kew.
She continues: “Being Singaporean has allowed me to turn my dreams into reality. I was able to pursue my studies in skincare and cosmetology in Canada, and have been able to spread the message of the goodness of organic skincare. Over the past eight years, with Kew Organics, I have transformed the lives of countless individuals who have faced various skin issues and given them hope and self-confidence to be in their own skin. It has been so encouraging to receive thank you messages from my customers who share that they can now do away with makeup.”
From manpower issues to lack of natural resources and rising costs in shipping and foreign supplies, sustaining a local beauty business has been an uphill struggle. Kew shares: “It is expensive to run a business in Singapore, as rent and labour costs are very high and there is a lack of resources in Singapore, further exacerbated by inflation. To survive and thrive here we have to be innovative, possess a ‘never say die’ attitude and most of all have the grit and resilience to stay positive and self-motivated. It is important to embrace the spirit of continuous learning, and always be humble to learn from the ground-up.”
One way to circumvent the rising costs of shipping and overseas manufacturing is to localise R&D with the introduction of a Singapore-based laboratory, scheduled to open in 1Q2023. “Our goal is to make our products more affordable and accessible to all. The new facility will enable greater control over costs, formulations, and the freedom to explore using certified organic, fair trade, premium, and uncommon ingredients in our product line; ultimately resulting in savings that will benefit our consumers,” Kew says.
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With her own facility, Kew hopes to create skincare products to treat modern-day skin issues caused by stress, blue light and ultraviolet from too much screen time. She is also exploring the possibility of creating organic body products down the line.
The future is organic
Thanks to a pandemic and the big topic of climate change, Kew shares that business has been on the upswing in recent years, with more customers concerned about the sustainable origins of their products. There has also been an increase in the male market share as well as a younger demographic.
“In Asia, there is still widespread scepticism with regards to organic living. We still require time to educate and convert conventional skincare users to Kew Organics by constantly sharing the message on the benefits of organic skincare. However, over the years, the efforts by the Health Promotion Board in promoting healthy living has resulted in an increased market share with a higher demand for organic products,” she reveals.
Thanks to government-driven awareness campaigns on topics such as healthy living, organic beauty and clean food, people are increasingly more concerned with how they live and what they consume. Kew says: “Organic living is here to stay and I hope that people will refocus their priorities on improving their overall wellbeing starting by living a slower pace of life, eating healthier and using organic skincare.”