The future of beauty seems to be in product customisation as more consumers are now leaving behind the age-old idea of one size fits all in the beauty industry. As Ee Ting Ng, founder and formulator in chief of bespoke skincare brand hop & cotton agrees, "It’s fantastic that people are recognising that their skin needs are unique and that they no longer have to settle for ‘one-size-fit-all’ products". Thanks to the internet, consumers are smarter than ever. They have access to information about almost every product available on the market – all that is required is a Google search. In the ever so saturated beauty industry; consumers, more than ever, are demanding more from beauty companies. With increased competition, there is more demand for innovation - something different, a product that sets itself apart from all the others. What better way to set a product apart from the rest when it is tailor-made? A product that is unique as the of individual it was created for and targets specific concerns and needs for that person. Thanks to advancements in technology, bespoke and customisation are no longer just reserved for suits and gowns – its skin deep in our beauty products too. I had the wonderful opportunity to speak with Ee Ting to find out a little bit more about tailor-made beauty and the process of creating a bespoke custom skincare product.
***Please note - Whilst I have been gifted items from hop & cotton, it in no way effects the way this post was written. I genuinely found the topic to be an interesting one and Ee Ting was the perfect candidate to ask all the questions I had about the subject. Thank you Ee Ting (and Clarence) for the time you spent answering my millions of questions on bespoke skincare and the industry!
There is no without a doubt that the ever competitive beauty industry has seen a shift in the past decade. With new breakthroughs in technology rising at a rapid pace, the way we use and consume beauty is so different to what it was 10-15 years ago. According to an article posted on Allure, Sephora's senior vice president of merchandising, Atremis Patrick claims that the beauty consumer of today is more educated and engaged than ever before. He goes on to say that "She is selective and more important, she is informed and intrigued by beauty offerings. She has a strong knowledge of ingredient and formula benefits, so she is seeking personalised products that meet her distinct needs." Consumers are not only educated and more clued in than ever when it comes to beauty products, they also wish to be part of the creative process.
Ee Ting also agrees with these sentiments, saying “consumers are gradually realizing the importance of looking after themselves (including their skin) and becoming more conscious of reality versus marketing hype”. She believes that in a market where there are more choices than ever before, customers have the luxury of being particular with their beauty and skincare products. She has noticed that those unwilling to compromise are turning to customisation to get exactly what they want, being one of these consumers herself. Having spent years trialling different skincare products, Ee Ting just couldn’t find anything that suited her extremely sensitive skin and its needs. Using her background in science and understanding of ingredients, Ee Ting started to create her own formulations. It was only then that she was able to finally find a product that suited her fussy skin type. This ultimately lead to the creation of hop & cotton, bringing customised skincare to the everyday consumer “I didn’t have the intention to start hop & cotton when I first got into formulation” she explains. For Ee Ting, creating her own product was a last resort for her problem skin after struggling for 10 years. “Customisation allows me to combine ingredients into formulations that are right for every individual customer. It was the only way I got results for myself and for many others”.
The process of creating bespoke beauty products always starts with the solid understanding of a client's needs and wants. Many tailored beauty brands often give customers a skin quiz whereby questions on their skin type, product preferences and what they like to use are asked. “Their skin type, conditions, concerns and product preferences will guide us in our selection of ingredients to use” Ee Ting explains. For hop & cotton, it is from there that the magic starts to happen, where the team of cosmetic chemists will start looking at the individual skin needs of the consumer and create a product that not only targets their concerns but also suits their preference in terms of texture or even product type. The beauty of bespoke tailor-made beauty products, especially those of the skincare variety is that anything is possible – all that is required is an idea and skincare concern to target.
However, creating tailor-made products for consumers is not at all as simple as it may sound. At times, a lack of understanding or education from the customer can create some small hiccups in the formulation process. “Sometimes what the customer wants is not what is good for them. For example, they could be blemish-prone but want a really thick heavy moisturiser; or suffer from dermatitis but request for fragrance in their products” Ee Ting reveals. To overcome this, she likes to go through with her clients in detail in what they are getting. In this consultation, Ee Ting tries to find out exactly what it is that this clients requires. She also will explain to the customer, her reasons of why she wouldn’t recommend certain ingredients or textures before she begins the manufacturing process. Being a bespoke beauty company, personalisation in both product and service is important and making sure the customer is educated is a real passion for Ee Ting herself (check out her amazing posts on skin here). “It is also important for the people customising your products to not blindly fulfil every request but know what’s best for you when you don’t!” she states.
Technology has been a huge factor in making bespoke beauty products accessible to the wider consumer market at affordable prices. However, creating a sound business model based on this customisation, is still what makes this technology so very new to the general consumer. As Ee Ting explains, “the biggest hurdle for customisation has been (and still is) the high cost that comes from both product development”. In creating a bespoke beauty product such as a foundation or moisturiser, there is no mass production. It is one formulation dedicated to the single individual it was designed for. Product design is just as unique as the person itself and if done correctly, no two people will have the same product – it is a premium in which the consumer pays for. Whilst the rapid innovations in technology has allowed the programs and devices that aid in the manufacturing process to run more efficiently, many small bespoke start ups spend much of their resources on the part that cannot be automated – the formulation side of things. Ee Ting explains that the integral part of creating a bespoke formulation ‘relies on the knowledge, experience and creativity of the cosmetic chemists’.
When asked about ingredients that she herself, enjoys working with, Ee Ting gushes over humectants,“I love humectants as they are the only type of ingredients that are capable of directly increasing our skin’s water content”. She believes that they are largely underrated as they don’t have much of a ‘story’ but in saying that, Ee Ting believes that hydration can make the biggest difference to the skin. “I (also) am obsessed with functional materials such as thickeners, gelling agents and emulsifiers”, she claims. For her, they can make or break a product by directly contributing to its feel, consistency and texture – a sentiment that I myself, completely agree with. For Ee Ting, “formulating high-performance products with excellent application experience is very important to me”.
There is no doubt that customised skincare products are not cheap, as the final product is not mass produced and relies heavily on the expertise of its formulators and cosmetics chemists. For a custom made hop & cotton moisturiser, a 40ml bottle start at AUD$168 and whilst it is a serum and moisturiser in one, it is understandable that not everyone can go rushing to purchase a custom made beauty routine a sentiment that Ee Ting herself agrees, “usually, the larger the extent of customisation, the higher the cost. Although completely customised products can be pricey, you don’t actually need many products in your routine as each customised product can replace multiple steps in your routine if it fulfils those same functions”. For those who are just starting out on bespoke skincare or have a budget to stick to, Ee Ting expresses the importance of function and not the type of product. She believes that sometimes the type of product will reflect its function, like a cleanser or an exfoliator. However, there are products that she believes can have ‘overlapping’ functions, these include things such as serums, essences, masks and moisturisers. Believing in a less is more philosophy, Ee Ting says “You don’t actually need all of these products. In fact the less number of products you use, the less you subject yourself to irritation and congestion”. Her biggest tips? Streamline what you wish to have customised into products that can do the following 3 functions well: gentle but thorough cleansing, non-abrasive exfoliation and finally hydration. Whilst these may seem quite basic, she believes that you will be surprised how much difference products tailored exactly to your skin can make.
When looking into customised products, Ee Ting also advises that “not all customised products are made equal as ‘customisation’ is not a defined term in the industry. Different companies customise to different extents, so it’s good to be aware of what level of customisation you are getting”. Customising could mean a variety of things, it could be quite simply adding ingredients of choice such as a fragrance, extracts, active ingredients (ie. Vitamin C) to a selection of ready-made bases of creams, serums or oils. It could be picking from a large range of products to form a ‘customised routine’ or it could be a complete customisation that starts from product formulation through to manufacture.
Interested in creating your own bespoke beauty product or routine? Definitely have a look at hop & cotton as Ee Ting and her team of experts will be able to assist and guide you along your own bespoke skincare journey. Its a genuinely fun process and prices range for AUD$58 for the Foam Party Cleanser to AUD$208 for a more complex moisturiser. Alternatively, the get the whole routine (3 steps!) for AUD$283!