Behind the Brand: Alche{me} Clean Beauty & Skincare

“We actually met at work,” laughs Tuyen with her co-founder, Constance, who stands beside her grinning. “We both had jobs at Clarins before deciding to launch this company together, which came about through a shared vision of what we felt the beauty industry was missing.”

Both of French origin with global careers under their belts, the two former colleagues, friends and (now) business partners are the founders of alche{me}. The new niche beauty brand creates ready-made and personalised skincare for women that is vegan, cruelty-free and made from nourishing plant-derived ingredients.

Clean beauty skincare by alche{me}

Though it’s not always easy, Tuyen and Constance have found their way to balance work and friendship seamlessly

This is the first time I’m visiting their local HQ. One of the unique things about their premises is it doesn’t just house an office for their team but also a state-of-the-art lab where all their formulations are hand made by certified chemists.

That’s right, all of their products are made locally here in Singapore. It’s a fascinating experience, being up close and personal to the action and seeing your skincare being made from scratch. It’s a science and something not many get to experience, so I feel lucky to visit!

Where science meets skincare

But what inspired alche{me} and their personal passion for greener, custom formulations? “75% of women are actually using the wrong products for their skin type,” Constance explains. “Most of our conversations with everyday women revealed that they were not completely confident in identifying their skin concerns. Also, people seem to have lost trust in the advice from retail beauty advisors and more and more are heading online to come to their own conclusions.”

For that reason, the pair decided to harness developments in technology to create a platform that not only educated women on what their skin actually needed, but also offered personalised and high-performance solutions to help them meet their complexion goals. We sat down to chat more about their journey as a clean beauty startup.

Clean beauty skincare by alche{me}
alche{me}’s skincare is mindfully made with a green approach, right here in Singapore

Let’s start with your why. What’s your guiding philosophy behind alche{me}?

We believe in making smarter, more sustainable decisions when it comes to what you’re putting on your skin. That means being conscious of the ingredients and where they’re derived from. So, when creating our own brand, we knew that meant bringing customers only the best of what they actually needed. That means only including extracts that address specific skin concerns without drawing on unnecessary resources.

We’re also passionate about offering consultations, routine advice and application tips so women can really understand what their skin needs.

I love your pared-back approach to skincare. And what’s the story behind the name?

It’s actually derived from the science of Alchemy and the quest of transforming matter into gold – in our case, transforming your skin for the better! The ‘me’ at the end of alche{me} calls out the idea of personalisation, the fact that each formulation can be uniquely designed for each individual customer.

Green beauty is a growing talking point in the industry. What’s your approach to clean ingredients?

Sustainability and ethics are at the core of what we do and has guided all our decision making. We vet each and every supplier to ensure their active ingredients are safe, traceable (we know what country it’s come from/has been grown in) and sustainable.

We also strive to reduce our carbon footprint. Making cleaner formulations with fewer ingredients mean we avoid unnecessary wastage, and by producing locally we save on warehousing and transportation. Our bottles are also airless, which helps reduce the amount of preservatives in our products. They’re recyclable too, so our customers can just place them in the recycling bin after use.

“Sustainability and ethics is at the very core of what we do and has guided all our decision making. We vet each and every supplier to ensure their active ingredients are safe, traceable (we know what country it’s come from/has been grown in) and sustainable.”

Clean beauty skincare by alche{me}
Each product is handmade in their state of the art laboratory

So how would you define ‘unclean’ formulations?

The following five active ingredients, which we nickname the “nasties,” are widely used in the skincare industry to extend products shelf life or to improve texture. What they don’t do is offer any direct benefits to your skin. All brands have different stances on this, but these are ingredients we believe you should avoid in your skincare:

#1 PEG’s (polyethylene glycol)

PEG’s are a petroleum-based ingredient widely used to improve texture and product stability. On an ingredient list, it will be called polyethylene glycol or PEG. PEG’s can cause skin irritation and rashes and its long term use can dry up your skin. It can also become contaminated with ethylene oxide and 1-4-dioxane which are carcinogenic. We found a natural alternative for this in camellia seed oil, a light and fast penetrating oil which offers a smooth texture. Its high oleic acid levels also nourish and protect your skin.

#2 Parabens

Parabens are a controversial topic, as they’re technically found in many of the personal care products you’ll use on a daily basis. They’re widely used as a preservative which prevents bacteria and moulds forming in your skincare. On your ingredients list, parabens will be called butylparaben, methylparaben or propylparaben.

The trouble with parabens is they penetrate deep into your skin and stay there, and a high concentration can unbalance your hormone system. That being said, there are legal limits of parabens for the beauty industry and each individual product has a low concentration which is safe when individually used. The problem arises more if you’re using multiple products containing parabens.

Instead, we use natural antioxidants like vitamin E and A as natural preservatives. These are combined with a new generation of synthetic ingredients with high preservative properties such as hexanediol which also moisturises your skin in the process.

#3 Sulfate-based Surfactants

Sulfates are petroleum-based ingredients, widely added to beauty products to create lather.  The name to look out for in the ingredients list: sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) and sodium laureth sulfate (SLES). They have a drying effect on the skin and can also irritate eyes, skin, and lungs, especially with long-term use. We avoid these in our products altogether!

#4 Silicones

Silicones are a synthetic polymer commonly used in cosmetics to smoothen the skin and add a velvety feel. On your ingredients list, they’ll be called Dimethicone, Cyclomethicone, Phenyl trimethicone, Dimethicone copolyol, cyclopentasiloxane.

The trouble with silicones is that they may clog your pores, cause acne and congestion, but they are widely used in cosmetics so it’s important to deeply cleanse to remove all makeup residue.

As a substitute for silicones, we use a biodegradable light moisturising ingredient derived from sugarcane. It creates an ultra-light texture with a silky finish. To smooth the skin, hyaluronic acid hydrates for an immediate plumping effect, while millet seed extract tightens and tones.

#5 Phenoxyethanol

Phenoxyethanol is an alternative preservative to parabens in beauty products, highly effective in preventing the growth of fungi and bacteria. On your ingredient list it will be called phenoxyethanol or 2-phenoxyethanol. Using it in small amounts isn’t harmful, but because it’s widely used in so many products, multiple layering from different products can provoke severe skin irritations.

Clean beauty skincare by alche{me}

Whatever your skin concern, alche{me} has a solution for you

Thanks for the low-down! I’d love to hear more about your two ranges too — the curated and personalised.

Our Curated Formulation Series addresses typical skin troubles that people experience living in a busy cosmopolitan city like Singapore.  City life can take a toll on your skin. The exposure to UV light, blue light, as well as daily pollution, can irritate your complexion. On the other hand, fatigue, stress and exposure to pollution will hinder your skin’s ability to rejuvenate and cause early signs of ageing and breakouts. The range is available with or without fragrance, depending on your preference.

Our personalised skincare range covers your various skincare needs in one go. We select active ingredients and the dosage required for your specific concerns.

Finally, what’s been your biggest challenge as a green beauty startup in Asia?

Getting the right texture for our products! Most brands fast track and use silicones to achieve it. We had to tweak a lot our formulations to achieve the texture we wanted: non-tacky, light and fast-absorbing for the climate here in South-East Asia.

Another key challenge was to find the right production set-up until we decided to get the full R&D and production in-house to be able to guarantee the level of quality of the products and be able to address customers’ skin concerns very quickly. For us, that’s made all the difference!

Discover skincare by Alche{me} here.

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