Here’s a fact that most people aren’t fully aware of: skin disorders are ranked fourth on the most common human disease according to research published in the British Journal of Dermatology. In fact, about one-third of the human population is affected by this disease yet the risk that it imposed is still underestimated by society. Even with the myriad of skincare products available, those who suffer from skin disorders often have a hard time finding the right product due to the formulation which often includes irritating and sensitising ingredients.  For both Joanne and Abel, their personal experience dealing with skin issues have kickstarted a journey to build a socially conscious skincare brand, Kansoskin. Inspired by Zen philosophy, Kansoskin aims to shed light on simplicity as a means to initiate positive skin transformation and inspire self-love regardless of appearance. Beauty Insider gets up close and personal with the founders of Kansoskin, Joanne and Abel as they share their mission to promote skin positivity and thrive through the pandemic as a homegrown brand. 

1. What inspired you to launch Kansoskin? 

My brother, Abel, is the person who inspired me to launch Kansoskin. Abel suffers from a debilitating side effect known as Topical Steroid Withdrawal (TSW) from the overuse of potent steroid creams since young to manage his chronic eczema symptoms. For many years, he was teased, bullied, and ostracized because of the appearance of his skin. This experience not only affected his physical health, but it also took a huge toll on his mental health as well.

This was the main reason why we started Kansoskin. Our goal is to provide gentle and effective skincare solutions that will help people reduce their dependency on topical steroids to prevent side effects like TSW from happening to them in the first place. 

Beyond that, we want to inspire self-love and self-acceptance. We strongly believe that through education and regularly representing a variety of individuals with chronic skin conditions, we can normalise and reduce the stigma surrounding them. This way, those living with skin conditions will feel seen, heard, and know that they are not alone in their battles.

2. Kansoskin has been vocal about reducing the stigma surrounding chronic skin conditions and championing skinclusivity. Why is such a mission important to the brand? 

The mission is very important to us because we ourselves have imperfect skin and deal with our own issues. We know exactly how it feels like to be on the receiving end of bullying and discrimination from having a visible skin condition. 

Abel was teased, shunned by people, and missed out on numerous job opportunities, not because of his character, personality, or skillsets, but simply because of the appearance of his skin.

We realised that there are many others like Abel, who were either unable to get a job or lost their jobs because of their skin condition. Many of them even have their social and love lives negatively impacted. And that was when we realised that more need to be done.

It is natural for people to fear what they don’t understand. So the more we discuss and talk about chronic skin conditions like acne, psoriasis, eczema, etc, the sooner we can normalise these conditions. We want people to know that most of these skin conditions are not contagious and there is no need to fear them. 

At Kansoskin, we always emphasize on what’s important, which is skin health and how the skin feels instead of focusing on how the skin looks and promoting unrealistic beauty standards we see in mainstream and social media.

3. As mentioned on the website, both of you have personal experience dealing with skin issues. How do such experiences help you to found Kansoskin? 

Our family are not blessed with good ‘skin genes’ and this is what propelled Joanne to study about the skin physiology and cosmetic science. Our father suffers from psoriasis, Abel has chronic eczema and Topical Steroid Withdrawal, and Joanne dealt with severe cystic acne during her teenage years.

Having any skin condition can be a very painful process. We go through first-hand the stress, anxiety, and frustration when dealing with our own skin issues, which is why we can empathise with our customers and the skin challenges they go through.

After trying out so many different solutions and learning about the skin, we know what is best for people with sensitive and reactive skin. 

To us, starting Kansoskin is not about having another beauty product in the market. Our personal experiences allow us to be crystal clear on the purpose of the brand, which is to help people with chronic skin conditions find relief and to feel comfortable in their own skin. 

4. The brand’s name is inspired by Japanese zen philosophy, Kanso which means simplicity. Can you explain more about the meaning behind it? 

At Kansoskin, our main priority will always be focused on skin health. Therefore, we stay away all the unnecessary frills and non-essentials like fragrances, dyes, and colourants, even though they may provide a sensorial pleasure, whether it’s a nice scent or beautiful colour.

Simplicity to us doesn’t mean basic. Rather, it means choosing to only use ingredients that either help enhance the skin’s health or help to maintain the integrity of the formulation. 

Our goal is never to carry the greatest number of products but to only create meaningful products that will be beneficial to the skin.

5. Joanne, we know that you’re a certified skincare formulator. Do you contribute your expertise and how do you come up with the formulation for Simply Better Barrier?

Yes, I am a certified skincare formulator with knowledge on skin physiology and cosmetic science. Besides graduating with an advanced diploma in cosmetic science, I also analyse research papers and stay abreast of what is happening within the beauty industry to improve my own knowledge. 

Part of my daily work involves reading and understanding about cosmetic ingredients, their uses, benefits and more importantly, their likelihood of causing an adverse reaction to the skin.

With my formulating skills coupled with my understanding of the skin and cosmetic ingredients, it enables me to design my own skincare formulation and be able to discuss and suggest recommendations with my chemist to enhance the formulation outcomes.

6. Abel, as a founder who personally suffers from chronic eczema, is there any advice you want to share with our readers who might be feeling distressed with similar issues?

For anyone who has chronic eczema, proper skin moisturisation should be an integral part of their lifestyle. Most people tend to apply moisturiser to dry skin. But the best way is to apply moisturiser to slightly damp skin, either immediately or within three minutes after shower. 

At night, I also recommend applying 100% petroleum jelly on top of the moisturiser to keep everything sealed in.

At the end of the day, the best advice I can give is to trust the healing process. Everyone is unique and our skin heal differently. It takes a lot of patience. 

Don’t be afraid to talk to your family and friends or join a support group where there are other people who are going through similar challenges as you.

7. Has the pandemic affected the business operation in any way? 

The pandemic has a profound effect on all businesses. International shipping rates are extremely high, which eats into our margins. To date, we have maintained our international shipping rates as much as possible and absorbing the costs increment.

Besides that, we also face supply issues in obtaining raw materials for our formulations, causing manufacturing delays. 

8. We heard that Kansoskin planned to launch a new cleanser, but it was delayed due to the pandemic. Do you mind sharing with us the details of this upcoming product? 

We originally had plans to launch our cleanser in Q4 of 2021 but unfortunately, it was delayed due to a few reasons. We had to nail the formulation to ensure that it meets our desired expectations and next is dealing with supply issues of raw materials required for the cleanser. 

Our upcoming cleanser is designed to work together with our Simply Better Barrier™ moisturiser. It will be specially formulated to minimise disruption to the skin barrier, making it suitable for even the most sensitive skin.

9. What’s in store for Kansoskin this year? 

We are planning to launch our cleanser (and possibly a face mist) by this year. On top of that, we would like to work with more family physicians and dermatologists to bring our products to more people with sensitive skin issues. 

At the moment, we are also working on raising awareness of our star product (Simply Better Barrier™ moisturiser) across Southeast Asia. While doing so, we will remain nimble to successfully navigate through this current pandemic situation. 

Kansoskin is amongst the local brands that are highlighted as part of StarHub’s Small Business Day. This initiative aims to help small businesses in Singapore that have been affected by the pandemic. Click here for more information on StarHub’s Small Business Day.