Fresh off the shelves

Fresh off the shelves


Starting a skincare line is not the first thing one would usually think of doing when faced with problem skin.

But former interior designers Keith Codling, 44, and Dawn Koh, 43, did.

The husband-and-wife duo started Alexiares & Ani last May after noticing more fine lines and blemishes on their skin. "For me, one of the big things was tolerance. When I was younger, my skin didn't react as much - I could even go without cleaning it for a few days," says Mr Codling, who is British.

The couple point out that their labour of love is not about "quick fixes", but rather long-term skin health.

They read widely to learn how to slow down processes that lead to skin ageing and blemishes, such as oxidation, inflammation and cellular dysfunction.

In formulating the products, they worked with chemists from the United States over a one-year period. They declined to reveal how much they pumped into the business.

The brand currently has 13 products, including a cleanser, toner, moisturiser and serums, packaged in black-and-white minimalist designs.

All products are made in the United States, except for the sunscreen, which is made in Australia. Prices range from $39 for the sunscreen to $179 for the advanced retinol serum. They are available at lifestyle stores Mondays Off (76 Haji Lane) and Bloesem (59 Eng Hoon Road), or online at

"We realised that many of the skincare brands are formulated for short-term improvement. Somehow, when it comes to skin, people tend to think about what it looks like rather than whether it's healthy," says Mr Codling. Part of the brand's focus is education and its website contains easy-to-understand articles on skin health.

Ms Koh, a Singaporean, was quick to point out that the brand was more her "science geek" husband's idea.

"People always think it's the woman, but he's more into grooming than I am," says Ms Koh, who turned up for the interview with minimal make-up. Apart from some minor imperfections, the couple, who do not have children, sport glowing skin.

"When I was younger, I never really took care of my skin. I always skipped sunscreen, but I'm not letting my pigmentation get worse," she adds.

The brand's SPF 30 sunscreen is one of its best-selling products, which has been kept affordable at $39 to encourage the use of sun protection. It is oil-free and has a smooth finish.

According to Mr Codling, studies have shown that up to 90 per cent of skin ageing symptoms are due to sun exposure.

The choice of name, Alexiares & Ani, signals the brand's commitment to fight ageing.

Alexiares and Anicetus were the twin sons of Hebe (the Greek goddess of eternal youth) and Heracles (or Hercules). They were blessed with eternal youth and were in charge of the protection of Mount Olympus.

"We liked this image of these two protectors that never grew old," says Mr Codling.

(Photo credit: Alexiares & Ani)


The Siren gets rid of oil, dirt and make-up without leaving a tight sensation in the skin. It's filled with provitamin B5 to help skin maintain moisture.

(Photo credit: Alexiares & Ani)


I tend to skip moisturisers because I don't like the oily sensation they usually leave behind. This product and the brand's sunscreen left a smooth finish within seconds of application.

(Photo credit: Alexiares & Ani)


The Luminary lived up to its name. My skin looked brighter a day after I used the mask, which contains three types of clay to absorb excess facial oil and witch hazel extract to clear pores.


By day, she is a freelance graphic designer. By night, Ms Teresa Foo whips up skincare products at home.

As an adopter of natural skincare products, she would often tinker in the kitchen to make lip balms for her chapped lips and body balms to soothe her son's eczema.

But what started as a hobby turned into a full-fledged business last July.

Named Balm Kitchen, the brand takes pride in using plant-based vegan ingredients from the United States, Europe and Australia.

"I was very apprehensive about selling my products and wondered if people would buy them, but my friends, who managed to get some of my extras, convinced me to do it," says the 38-year-old mother of two.

Her basic skincare knowledge was derived from books, websites and scientific journals, but she is currently broadening her knowledge through an online Organic Skincare Formulation diploma course offered by Formula Botanica, an organic cosmetic science school.

From lip and body balm, she has expanded her brand to include bath oils and scrubs.

Prices range from $5.90 for a lip balm to $28 for a body scrub.

These are available at multi-label store Grammah (66 Haji Lane), or online at multi-label store Naiise ( and

"I want to make it easier for people to switch to natural skincare products, which is why I've kept prices low. Natural skincare brands can be very expensive," says Ms Foo, who also makes her own natural household products.

As her business expands, Ms Foo says that she is on the lookout for a proper space where she can craft her products.

For now, she abides by the Good Manufacturing Practices standard while crafting her products in the kitchen. In addition, no cooking is done during production.

To ensure freshness, products are made in small batches so that they do not end up sitting on the shelves.

"Just as how you know your mum would whip up great nutritious food for the family in the kitchen, I am making good effective products for my customers," she says.

(Photo credit: Balm Kitchen)


Made with a blend of essential oils, including lavender, sweet orange, chamomile and ylang ylang, this body scrub (bottom) is a relaxing shower treat.

It also contains apricot kernel oil that moisturises the skin.

(Photo credit: Balm Kitchen)


This moisturising body balm comes in a nifty case, so you do not have to apply it with your hands and get them oily.

(Photo credit: Balm Kitchen)


The lip balm is among Balm Kitchen's top-sellers. This Earl Grey lip balm, which is made with black tea leaves that have been infused with sweet almond oil, left my lips moistened for several hours. The Earl Grey scent is light and not overpowering.


The name Katfood may sound off-putting for a beauty brand, but it is anything but that.

With products such as Espresso Yourself Body Scrub, John Lemon Lip Balm and Real Deal Coconut Oil, Katfood is almost good enough to eat.

Former lawyer Kendra Liew started the brand last November with the aim of promoting natural skincare and to be her own boss.

The 26-year-old's fixation with natural skincare was sparked during her junior college days when she started paying more attention to her skin.

While reading up on skincare, through online articles and books, she chanced upon homemade skincare remedies and decided to experiment with them.

Using natural ingredients from the United States, the 10 Katfood products, which include a deodorant, dry shampoo and make-up remover, are a result of years of trial and error.

"Once, I tried to make a banana honey mask for my hair, but I probably got the instructions wrong and had banana bits stuck in my hair that took forever to remove," says Ms Liew, who is single.

Adding: "That's what Katfood is about - to save people the trouble from finding out what doesn't work."

Prices range from $9.90 for a lip balm to $25.90 for a make-up remover. The brand is available at Dulcetfig boutique (41 Haji Lane), online at Naiise ( and

Explaining the name, Ms Liew says she decided on it for its quirky appeal.

"My friend told me to pick something that reflected me, so I thought of Katfood because I love cats," says Ms Liew, who has two cats.

Katfood has a youthful vibe and mirrors her cheery disposition.

Aside from the humorous product names, such as the #nofilter Makeup Remover and Cuckoo For Cocoa Dry Shampoo, the fuss-free packaging with scribbles resembles something personalised by a friend.

Her current bestseller is the John Lemon Lipbalm; she sells 50 pieces every month. All her products are made in small batches to ensure freshness.

Although the brand is in its infancy stages, Ms Liew has big dreams.

She hopes to move production from her HDB flat kitchen to a proper facility and open her own retail store.

"There's a lot of advertising fluff in the beauty industry that people have to wade through, but I want my products to be simple and honest," says Ms Liew.

(Photo credit: Katfood)


Made from a blend of coconut oil, castor oil, avocado oil and lavender essential oil, this removes make-up with just a few swipes.

(Photo credit: Katfood)


This moisturising balm is absorbed by the skin pretty quickly. It is small enough (15ml) to carry around, so your hands will never have to go without TLC.

(Photo credit: Katfood)


Dust this gently onto your scalp with a brush or sprinkle it on to get rid of excess oil on your hair and scalp. Its relaxing lavender scent is a huge draw.


It is possible to coat your nails in beautiful hues that are also less harmful.

Coat's co-founder Caryn Lim, who also owns nail salon Hands+Feet Studio, says she started the brand to provide her customers with more options.

Launched last September, it markets itself as a five-free brand, which means it does not contain these five toxic chemicals - formaldehyde, resin, camphor, toluene and dibutyl phthalate. These ingredients have been associated with harmful side effects.

For instance, toluene, which gives nail polish its smooth texture, is said to be harmful to the nervous system. As for dibutyl phthalate, it helps prevent the nail polish from chipping, but has also been linked to cancer and birth defects.

Other brands, such as Zoya, RGB Cosmetics and Deborah Lippmann, are also five-free. The popular brand OPI is three-free. It does not contain dibutyl phthalate, toluene and formaldehyde.

Prior to offering Coat, Ms Lim offered the five-free nail polish brand Ginger + Liz Colour Collection at her salon.

"I was surprised at how many people were willing to swop to a niche brand because it was healthier," says the 27-year-old entrepreneur, who is single.

Seeing the demand for less toxic nail lacquer, she pumped a five-figure sum into launching Coat as there were not enough shades within the Ginger + Liz brand.

Made in the United States, Coat currently offers 23 colours, ranging from sweet pastels to intense hues, as well as a base and top coat.

Ms Lim plans to launch about 16 colours every year and a soya-based nail polish remover.

Each bottle costs $25, while the base coat and top coat are $28 each. They are available at Hands+Feet Studio (44 Siglap Drive); Trixilini (01-04 Scotts Square); and Hui Aesthetics (57 Eng Hoon Street).

Ms Lim says: "I have been really lucky. Who would have thought that this neighbourhood nail spa would have had so much support that allowed me to start Coat?"

(Photo credit: Coat)


Coat is worth a swipe. I did not notice any differences between it and other brands - it is just as glossy and vibrant. It lasted on my nails for about three days before chipping.

This article was first published on Mar 13, 2015.
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