Beauty may be only skin deep. But the cutthroat beauty business involves intricate layers of strategising and marketing know-how, especially in the face of skincare goliaths with bottomless pockets.
To make it in a market saturated with global brands takes a lot more than just thick skin. And Skin Inc founder Sabrina Tan has just that, plus lots of ambition and gumption.
"As a beauty lover, I was constantly frustrated to find that products did not work for my specific skin condition, or worked for a while but then I could not change them to suit my changing skin," says the 39-year-old.
"Also, I had no time for trial and error as I was - and still am - extremely busy juggling my career, family and personal interests. This is the same conundrum many modern women face."
Now, Ms Tan has parlayed her business of fuss-free, customised skincare into a burgeoning global empire, and recently announced a partnership with LVMH-owned beauty retailer Sephora.
The brand's Get Awesome Skin kits are now available in 15 Sephora stores in South-east Asia, with plans to be included in Australian and Korean stores by the end of this year. Currently, Skin Inc is also sold in 16 cities in countries including Spain, Vietnam and Brunei.
"Sephora's market know-how, reach and ability to constantly exceed the desires of their customers make it a great platform for niche beauty brands," says the petite-framed Ms Tan, who started her company in 2007.
"Our partnership with Sephora will give us brand visibility in new markets. For example, they have turned brands such as Bare Escentuals, Clarisonic and Urban Decay into global brand names."
And going global is certainly part of the game plan for the entrepreneur, who went from being a sales and marketing manager in an IT company to starting a skincare brand from scratch, inspired by the efficacy of and technology behind Japanese skincare brands.
"I went to Japan to conduct market research, visiting countless drugstores and department stores to check out all the different products," recalls the mother of two. "I even remember squatting on the floor of the drugstores as I compared various products!"