For Beloved One, a Taiwan-based skincare label that is one of Asia’s leading cosmeceutical brands, was the first to introduce the bio-cellulose — a material made from FDA-approved edible bacteria and now used by many other brands — mask to the market in 2003. For Beloved One’s founder Margaret Wu, a veteran beauty editor of close to 20 years, came across the brand’s iconic material during a visit to a biomedical lab for ‘second skin’ research. This material was used on burnt skin and for cardiovascular repair. Wu’s depth of knowledge on the beauty industry and deep understanding of Asian consumers’ needs led her to spearhead her now internationally recognised beauty brand and its hero product, the face mask.
Wu believes that beauty is not only about pleasing the aesthetic senses, but rather about improving the skin’s foundation. “Skin is the biggest organ, which protects us as a whole and resists interference from the outside including pollution, drastic temperature changes and humidity. Therefore, it is our responsibility to maintain good skin. It’s more than aesthetic, it’s important for our whole well-being.” The brand’s motto, “For Beloved One cherishes every woman in the world”, says it all. Wu stands by the quality of her products and believes that that is the key reason her brand is so well-received in both the Asia and global markets. Her constant efforts to improve on quality bear witness to the numerous international beauty awards her brand has garnered. Here, we delve deeper into the ethos of the founder and her brand.
JENINE OH: What prompted you to start your own skincare brand?
MARGARET WU: Throughout my years as a beauty editor I have always been very curious and interested in the ingredients used in skincare and beauty products whereas most of the other beauty editors focused on makeup and cosmetics. I’ve always liked to find out more about the components used in products and how one complements the other – I really love these aspects.
[Over the years], I developed a passion to create my own brand. In 2003, when I was 35, I decided that it was the right time to do so. I left behind my career as a beauty editor [after 15 years].
JO: What was the biggest challenge you faced while developing your brand from scratch?
MW: When I was establishing my brand, I discovered that there were two glaring things that I was not familiar with. One was finances — a completely different professional realm — and the other was logistics. I spent a lot of time studying them.
Margaret Wu, founder of For Beloved One.
JO: How did you decide on the facial mask as your first key product launch?
MW: More than 15 years ago, before I even started my brand, skincare and beauty products in Asia [were] mainly from Europe and America. The Asian market, was more interested in whitening products and masking. However, these products were not prevalent in the western market. In my opinion, the mask is an integral part of an Asian woman’s beauty routine.
JO: How did you discover the core ingredient of the mask — the bio-cellulose material?
MW: I really enjoy examining components in a product. Whenever I stumble upon ingredients that I am not familiar with, I would visit production facilities or even manufacturing plants to inquire about [them]. Once, I went to a factory that does ‘second skin’. They were researching on how skin regenerates from burn injuries.
I tested the products on the back of my hand and I realised that the area [where] I had applied the cream was whiter than the other areas. That’s when I had an epiphany. I could use this ingredient for skincare and beauty. “Second skin” was applied in small strips, what was stopping them from making it into the shape of a mask? I started communicating with the factory, to see if they were able to facilitate manufacturing it in a larger piece, like a mask. After extensive research and development, we finally had our product.
JO: How long did it take for the product to reach retail stores?
MW: It took about a year, because we also had to come up with the essence. So it was a whole process of experimenting and trying it out.
JO: What makes the Melasleep Whitening Bio-Cellulose Mask different from the masks offered by your competitors?
MW: The mask is made up of organic biological fibres, which are very densely compacted compared to other non-woven sheet masks in the market. The weight and thickness of the mask allow better adhesion to the skin and thus enhances deep tissue hydration. There is better absorption of essences into the deeper skin layers. We have very strict quality control in our factories — sub-standard masks, which do not meet optimal thickness will be discarded at once.
JO: People are more exposed to masking nowadays and homegrown skincare brands are sprouting up very quickly, especially in Taiwan. How do you stay competitive?
MW: The price point of our product is on the higher side but we manage to stay competitive (especially when we are not focusing as much on advertising) in this saturated market, due to the high quality of our products, which I strongly believe in. I think [our] customers can attest to this. For other brands, their masks are recommended for use every day, whereas for For Beloved One, you only need to use the mask once every seven to 10 days because our products are highly effective. Also, a lot of female celebrities enjoy our products and fans that follow these celebrities find out about us that way.
JO: As a consumer, how can we differentiate between a good and bad facial mask?
MW: It is not hard to differentiate between a good and a bad mask. A good mask [offers] immediate improvement to your skin and it should be long-lasting (for days at least). The essence [in our mask] penetrates into your skin to offer long-term hydration, which explains the higher price points. Any other masks that show short-term effects and require daily application are as good as just using lotions or toners, so I wouldn’t recommend that consumers go for those. Users will be able to discover the quality of mask [from] overnight [use].
The Melasleep Whitening bio-cellulose mask
JO: What is the masking culture in Taiwan versus in Korea or Japan? Is their perception of masks different?
MW: The origin of facial masks can be traced back to Egypt, to Queen Cleopatra. She mashed fruits together with flour and honey, then used this as a facial lotion. Due to the weight of the lotion pressing onto the skin, the nutrients and minerals were well absorbed into the skin, which was recorded to have an intense hydrating effect.
In recent years, sheet masks came about for the convenience of consumers. They were originally made with lightweight cloth materials and fibres were usually coarser, therefore the essence is applied to the skin, but the absorption was not optimal due to the lightweight [material]. That was the reason why I created For Beloved One, and adopted a [certain] standard of thickness and weight.
Thereafter, the trend penetrated Korea, and many facial masks were developed there. Their products are innovative and refreshing, which became very popular amongst young ladies. However, from the perspective of a former beauty editor, I think facial masks should still place emphasis on their effects on the skin.
JO: Do you think that masking is the most important part of a woman's beauty regimen?
MW: I strongly believe that masking is a significantly important step in your skincare regimen. Other than deep hydration, a good facial mask has deep cleansing properties too. It can help draw out impurities hidden beneath the top layers of the epidermis and also preps your skin for better absorption of other daily beauty products — like a toner, lotion or essence serum. It's fundamental, and the most effective step in your skincare regimen and you only need to mask once a week with a good product.
JO: Do you think your products resonate well with Singaporeans?
MW: I feel that Singaporean females tend to gravitate towards a Western style – not only in beauty, but also in their fashion and their mindset. They prefer simplicity, practicality, and effectiveness. I realised that they also prefer brightening products. Simplicity is great; you just need to be well informed in picking suitable products for local conditions.
Due to the humid weather, Singaporeans perspire easily. When the skin is not cleansed, the pores will become clogged. They also have a thicker epidermis, thus exfoliation would take precedence. I have also noticed that Singaporeans tend to have more blackheads, and it is common for them to form around the nose. Brightening products cannot help with this.
I would recommend the Mandelic Acid series to combat this issue. You can start at the sides of the nose, chin, and forehead. You will get brighter skin when you exfoliate and moisturise with [these products].
JO: Besides the bio-cellulose facial mask, which other products would you recommend to those in Singapore?
MW: [Aside from] the Mandelic Acid series, [I'd recommend] Advanced Hyaluronic Acid GHK-Cu. The latter is a moisturising series. It consists of rare minerals, which gives the skin accelerated repair, replenishes and effectively locks moisture in the skin, leaving it soft and dewy.
JO: You have continuously pushed out products that are fresh and new to the market. Do you feel that there is still a lack of skincare products in the market?
MW: I feel that the problem with the market now is that there are too many products — the good and the bad ones — and this confuses the consumers. It requires a great amount of effort to study the components used, research online reviews (which might not be accurate at times) and for some consumers to keep trying on new products blindly to find an effective one for their skin. Therefore, I do not think that there is a lack of skincare products... just that there are too many unsuitable or ineffective ones.
JO: Where do you draw inspiration from to create new products?
MW: I’ve been constantly analysing new materials and formulas for the past 30 years. It has always been my passion. Furthermore, I have close relationships with many of the R&D and manufacturing facilities from around the world and have access to first-hand news of newly developed materials or formulas in the industry. I am more rational in the creative process and will actively participate in the testing of new materials and researching on new formulas.
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