After working as a fashion designer for ten years, Cissy Chen transitioned into skincare and founded indie beauty label Frank Skincare after she struggled to find an over the counter solution to her sensitive complexion issues.
Based on 100% organic ingredients, the line includes luxe cleansers, hydrating mists and nourishing face oils (forget the myths, you can use them whatever your skin type!) But why go organic, and what benefits can it have for us urbanites and our skin and health? We sat down with her to chat all about it.
Her troubled skin made her take action
“Before I launched my company, I had tried almost every brand online or over the counter. Over time, my skin had been getting progressively more sensitive, and I was still suffering from breakouts in my late twenties. Despite the claims on product labels, nothing I tried seemed to help! I felt disappointed. I really craved for a brand that I could trust, that would help to solve my skin issues and that could fit into my busy lifestyle in Singapore’s tropical weather.
Eventually, after some research, I decided to take matters into my own hands and started experimenting and developing a 100% organic solution to try and improve my skin condition. Over time, my complexion really transformed, and the same happened to friends and family around me who tried the formulations. After a lot more research development, trial and testing, I decided to officially launch the brand. I chose the name ‘Frank’ because I wanted to express to others that our products are transparent and unfussy – something I wanted from a label right from the start.”
Each ingredient is carefully sourced and then formulated in Singapore
“We source each of our ingredients from different parts of the world, and I prioritise finding those that are native to their source so they have the best nutritional value, and are farmed organically under suitable weather and soil conditions.”
Each ingredient is then certified under a unifying organisation, which in our case is the ACO (Australian Certified Organic) and some ingredients are double certified under the USDA. These are then shipped to Singapore and we produce each product in house by hand in small batches to create the freshest product possible.”
“We produce each product in house by hand in small batches to create the freshest product possible”
On why you won’t find an official certification on her final products
“Certification for each end product is honestly a huge expense for a small brand like ours. With some of our serums having multiple ingredients, it becomes even more pricey. In that respect, I made the decision to focus on certifying the purity of each individual ingredient and not pass on extra costs to our customers. It’s a route more small beauty brands are choosing today too for the same reason.” Editor’s note: Cissy is happy to show the individual certs for each ingredient upon request!
“Consumers always have the right to ask a brand to prove its claims. I also advise always reading the label to check out any ingredients that don’t sound like a botanical plant or naturally occurring mineral.”
Face oils are her holy grail!
“I might be biased, but I really don’t go a day without using the Juicier Luxury Face Oil. I use it every day, night and take it with me when I travel. It’s my serum and moisturiser in one! It also contains a huge dose of daily vitamins, nourishing fatty acids and antioxidants to keep my complexion protected.
I know a lot of women are afraid of oil because they think it will make them breakout. Actually, given research and my own personal experience, synthetic ingredients, which are commonly found in conventional skincare (even some brands that claim to be natural) can irritate your skin.
Drugstore products also tend to be full of preservatives, parabens and sometimes GMO’s, which can clog up your pores. In contrast, pure and organic formulations are a lot more concentrated and your skin absorbs the ingredients like a dream. This means you can actually use less product too. I always recommend that women use just a few drops of our oil. Because we don’t use preservatives, all of our products have best before dates.”
“Drugstore products tend to be full of preservatives, parabens and sometimes GMO’s, which often clog up your pores. In contrast, pure and organic formulations are a lot more concentrated and your skin absorbs the ingredients like a dream. This means you can actually use less product too. I always recommend that women use just a few drops of our oil.”
Why she chose to open concept store, Ode to Organics
“I found that women here are becoming savvier when it comes to organic beauty. Interest in indie labels is on the rise. There’s also more of a focus on health and what we’re putting on our skin and inside our bodies. I founded Ode to Organics to enable people to discover other truly organic brands that take a holistic approach towards beauty, from hair care and cosmetics to sun and body care. Ultimately, we want to give honest recommendations for living an organic lifestyle, one we strive to follow too.”
Her biggest entrepreneurial lesson
“One thing I learnt early on is that it’s difficult to compete with the big guys in the market. They have millions of dollars to spend on advertising, endorsements and engaging social media influencers. Fighting through the noise has been the most challenging thing for us.
On the bright side, though, when a customer discovers and likes our products, they have stayed with us for the long haul and have helped us spread the love. Now, we focus on what we’re passionate about and what we know best – organic ingredients.
It’s also difficult to scale as a 100% organic brand. For one thing, I refuse to use plastic and our packaging is glass, which doesn’t work for overseas logistics. Our shorter shelf life is also an issue for retailers abroad.
Right now, I’m happy with our boutique size and doing things my way. It means I still have the time to interact with women who are passionate about the cause. This way I can continue to educate others on how synthetics can affect our body and the environment. We do it through our messaging and workshops. If I ever expand the business further, I refuse to compromise on my core values.”
How she shops meaningfully and lives a greener lifestyle
“I try and create less plastic waste, choose recyclable materials and in general, embrace living more simply. To start being more eco-friendly, don’t feel you have to throw away everything you have now. Or worry about spending a fortune on new products. I think what counts is every new decision you make from this moment on, and how you make a positive change.”
Susannah believes better design can help create a brighter future. A former magazine editor, she now runs ZERRIN and works at the intersection of consumers, brands and sustainability advocacy.