We speak to Joanne Ang, co-founder of eczema-friendly brand Kansoskin, who talks about her inspiration for starting the brand, wellness, sustainability and normalising skin conditions to inspire self-love.
Hi Joanne! What is Kansoskin about?
Kansoskin is a socially conscious skincare brand specialising in Asian pre and probiotic skincare for dry, sensitive and eczema-prone skin. We aim to raise awareness about various skin conditions so that we can destigmatize them and inspire self-love and self-acceptance. We also want to create meaningful job opportunities for people with compromised skin.
In January, we launched a skin inclusivity campaign (#skinclusivity) on Instagram in collaboration with the Body Within movement, featuring different ladies with different skin conditions, the challenges they face with their skin and their journey towards self-acceptance. It was nice to get to meet so many inspiring and brave women who were willing to share their stories. We are very thankful to have been featured by Singapore Kindness Movement and Zula.
What inspired you to start the brand?
My brother, Abel, who is also the co-founder, is the biggest inspiration and the catalyst to the creation of Kansoskin. Even though I’ve always been interested in skincare, it wasn’t enough to make me want me to start my own skincare brand.
Abel suffers from a condition called topical steroid withdrawal (TSW), which is a side effect from the long-term use of topical corticosteroids. When I say long-term, I am referring to about a decade of daily use of low to high potency steroids creams. Abel couldn’t get his ideal job, was once chased out of a pool by a lifeguard, and was even called names like "skin disease boy" even though his skin condition is not contagious.
The way Abel is being treated in society convinced to start the brand to change the narrative of beauty, and inspire self-love and self-acceptance by normalising the various skin conditions. I wanted to create a line of products specially for people suffering from skin conditions such as eczema and sensitive skin, so that they can feel good and be more confident, and reduce or avoid the use of topical steroids.
I think it’s really important to show empathy towards people who are suffering from skin conditions. Having a skin condition - whether it is eczema, psoriasis, rosacea or even acne - is more than just the outlook. These conditions can sometimes be very painful and really take a toll on one’s mental health.
What was your background before this?
Prior to Kansoskin, I was working as a cabin crew with Singapore Airlines for around 7 years. It was during this time that I took up a diploma in skincare formulation and advanced diploma in organic cosmetic science from the UK to learn about the skin physiology and the science behind skincare.
How is Kansoskin different from other brands in the market? Could you highlight any key ingredients / formulations?
We focus on the use of time-tested botanicals from Asia with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, and modern pre + probiotic complex to keep the skin’s microbiome balanced and happy. Our products are designed with the following principles in mind:
Skincare should be enjoyable – it has to feel good on the skin
In the case of our first product, Simply Better Barrier, we understand the adverse side effects that comes with the long-term and excessive use of topical steroids. We designed Simply Better Barrier to reduce the need to use topical steroid creams in order to prevent these side effects in the first place.
For people with eczema, dry skin can trigger flare-ups. It is important to make it a habit to moisturise regularly, and in the process, soothe their skin and help them feel better. In order for them to do that, they have to enjoy using our moisturiser.
We believe if people do not enjoy how a product feels on their skin, they will not use it even if it is the best product in the world. This is why Simply Better Barrier provides long-lasting hydrating and at the same time, is non-sticky and non-greasy. We want people to feel comfortable applying and reapplying our moisturiser throughout the day.
Skincare should be free of common irritants and allergens – formulations that respects the skin
We do our best to omit common irritants and allergens and this include fragrance and essential oils, which can be irritating for some people, particularly for those with compromised skin. As much as possible, we avoid the use of unnecessary ingredients that may not be beneficial to the skin. Even though fragrance and essential oils can enhance the sensorial experience and there are allergen-free fragrance that is not any of the 26 known allergens under EU regulations, we still chose not to use them in our products to minimise the risks.
Simply Better Barrier contains 17 types of botanical extracts from Asia that are loved by many and still widely used today. These plant extracts contain antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties to reduce signs of irritations and sensitivity. On top of that, it contains ingredients like ceramides, squalane and pre + probiotics to provide long-lasting hydration to the skin and support skin barrier health.
Many people think Kansoskin is only suitable for people with eczema. However, our products are designed to be gentle enough for normal, dry and sensitive skin, including eczema-prone skin. It is also suitable for babies and those who are sensitive to fragrance and essential oils.
What was your biggest takeaway from your journey with the brand?
My biggest takeaway from my journey with Kansoskin is building mental resilience. When the going gets tough, I always do the following:
Remind myself of my purpose for starting the brand. When I see the bigger picture, it’s then easier to find meaning in what I do and help me cope with challenges better.
Learn to control my emotions and not let emotions take control of me. When I’m overwhelmed by emotions, my mental sharpness drastically declines and I sometimes make decisions that are less than ideal.
Practise gratitude. I try to have a grateful heart for even the little things. When I practise gratitude, I learn to slowly replace negative thoughts with more positive ones and build on my confidence.
What are some of your favourite self-care and wellness rituals?
I always look forward to Sunday hiking sessions together with my husband and our friends. My husband and I also sometimes take quiet strolls around the neighborhood without our phones, which helps us to recharge ourselves and have better mental clarity. I also enjoy a good cup of hot green tea in the afternoon and ending my day with a thorough cleanse.
How do you think the beauty industry can adapt and improve in regards to sustainability?
Personally, I feel that sustainability is not black and white. It is more than just swapping out plastic with glass / paper packaging. There are many grey areas and to be truly sustainable, we have to understand the nuances. For example, in terms of environmental sustainability for packaging, besides recyclability, we have to consider the amount of water and energy it takes to produce and ship them. And apart from environmental sustainability, we also have to consider the social and economic aspects of sustainability.
At Kansoskin, we see our sustainability journey as a long-term commitment and we are currently doing the following for the environment:
Focusing on producing meaningful products at a responsible rate in order to reduce our carbon footprint and avoid overproduction. We believe reducing our waste is the most crucial step.
Our packaging is made as simply as possible to achieve recyclability. For example, we avoid the use of mixed plastics for the tubes of Simply Better Barrier. Our outer boxes are also not laminated with a layer of thin plastic coating so that they can be recycled readily. We use a paper-based honeycomb wrap to protect and cushion our items during shipping, and FSC-certified recycled paper mailing bags.
Encouraging our customers to practise mindful shopping and buying what they need, when they need. This way, we can reduce excessive buying and stockpiling of products.
On top of the above environmental sustainability efforts, we also embark on the following social sustainability efforts:
Non-discrimination - we provide job opportunities to people of all gender, race, faith, sexual orientation, etc
We aim to be a company that provides full time employment to people of compromised skin in future.
De-stigmatise the public perception of people with compromised skin conditions
I believe it takes a collective effort from everyone to move towards a sustainable future and no effort should be considered too small. If we can all do our part to contribute in areas that are within our means, it can create a positive domino effect.
What’s in store for Kansoskin?
We are currently in the midst of formulating our second product, which will be a gentle cleanser. That is actually one of the top requests from our customers so it’s a natural transition for us to move on to creating a cleanser that is suitable for sensitive and eczema prone skin. Do stay tuned for that!