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Hildra Gwee

 
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When it comes to clean beauty, Hildra Gwee, Founder of oasis:skin, works hard to check off all the right boxes. “The beauty industry is infamous for excessive packaging — we see tiny bottled beauty products housed in fancy boxes within fancier boxes, all for branding’s sake. When I started oasis:skin, I wanted to focus on what matters most to my customers: quality and benefits. That’s why my products are packaged in simple, recyclable containers. In fact, some don’t even have packaging.” 

oasis:skin is a clean beauty wonderland that prides itself on its sustainable efforts. Step into the flagship store and you’ll be greeted by jars and bottles of colourful solid shampoos, bar soaps, clay masks, and facial oils — all tried-and-tested products of Hildra.

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It’s no secret that Hildra is enthusiastic about clean beauty. You can see it in the glint in her eyes when she jabbers excitedly about a product or as she encourages you to have a free demo. In anticipation of her first time joining us at Boutiques, we popped by her store to chat about oasis:skin.


Hildra, can you share with us how you got into clean beauty?

It started out as a quest to heal my own skin. I suffered from eczema as a child but everything went really wrong when I was in my teenage years. I had constant breakouts and eczema flare-ups because of the hormones in my body. I would hunt down any solution I could find — antibiotics, expensive (and painful) facials, even harsh steroid creams — but all of that only provided temporary relief even after a lot of money wasted. This continued right into my 30s, which was when I wrongly thought it would have all gone away. So I started researching natural solutions and experimenting with making skincare. I mean, why not right? I had tried everything else.

Was it hard to make the switch from commercial beauty products to natural vegan skincare?

I was a little too ambitious when I first started experimenting. I added way too many ingredients in my first facial oil concoction because I thought the more the merrier — it ended up being too much for my skin and I had red skin for hours! Thinking back, the  term “less is more” really holds so much truth to it. I decided to start over with my next attempt — a blend of organic argan, chaulmoogra, and soothing essential oils. My skin absorbed all the natural goodness and I felt the difference almost immediately. Now, it acts as the foundation of my personal skin care routine and is, in fact, our InstaGlow Brightening Beauty Oil.

The learning journey is never easy but it’s very fulfilling. I’m so happy I made the switch because it has eliminated so many skin issues I used to face. In fact, I only use my own solid beauty products now.

But transitioning from liquid beauty products to solid bars can be challenging, right?

I think the greatest challenge lies in the education of using zero waste products. A common complaint about using natural soap bars or solid shampoos is that they turn soggy and melt really fast. For example, there is a great tendency to overexpose solid beauty products to water — be it using it directly under running water (a bad habit we all have!) or not getting the right soap dishes to dry them in between uses. But actually, if you’re using the right techniques, you’ll find that they last as long — if not longer — than your regular bottled shampoos or shower gels.

Getting an efficient draining soap dish and keeping your solid beauty products away from humidity and water can help prolong their lifespan. Some of my customers even dry them under the sun!

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I think the greatest challenge lies in the education of using zero waste products.

 
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What are some other common misconceptions on clean beauty?

A lot of people assume that because clean beauty is all natural, it is allergy-free but that’s not necessarily true. Natural ingredients can also cause skin sensitivity — it’s similar to how food allergies work. As a consumer, it is important to be aware of what works and what doesn’t for your skin. For example, if you have sensitive skin, it’s better to choose products with a simple ingredient list and avoid those that are unfamiliar to you. 

Sometimes beauty products are marketed as clean or natural even though they are filled with chemicals and a few natural extracts, so it’s best to check the ingredient list and find something that suits your skin. I believe our skin is highly intelligent and will inform us if something we [apply] is right or wrong almost instantly.

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Tell us more about oasis:skin’s ingredient list — what are your sourcing and production processes like?

Sourcing has been tough because everything has to be imported — I long for the day when I can source ingredients from a farm right next to my store! Almost all of my ingredients are sourced from France. I make annual trips during summer in search of artisanal producers, farms with sustainable practices and organic certification. I always try to source directly from farms. For example, the lavender oil used in some of our products are sourced directly from an organic farm in Provence where I’ve witnessed the entire process from farming to distillation.

Our products are then handcrafted in small batches at the Beauty Kitchen here in Singapore. It is hard work but it allows us to be nimble in adapting our recipes based on customer feedback.

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Is it hard maintaining a level of consistency with small batch production?

We’re very disciplined in following recipes but sometimes differences can come from natural ingredients. Depending on the conditions of the soil and weather, natural elements differ from batch to batch, but they will still contain high levels of nutrients and nourishment.


Meet Hildra and try out her freshly made products at The Gifting Edition 2019. Nov 15-17, levels 2 & 3 of the F1 Pit Building.

Designer Conversations is an interview series done in collaboration with Public Culture, an editorial experience studio that believes in connection over communication. This feature was photographed by Christopher Wong for Boutique Fairs Singapore and Public Culture.