updated 9 Nov 2013, 22:18
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Sun, Nov 03, 2013
Urban, The Straits Times
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Homegrown skincare brands make their mark - Purer Skin
by Gladys Chung

A chance meeting with a scientist three years ago led birds' nest farm co-owners, Mr Chua Teck Hiong and Mr Patrick Tan, both 34, to start a skincare brand.

The shareholders of Swift Harvest were at a public forum espousing the benefits of the saliva of swiftlets when they were approached by Dr Henry Leung, a lecturer at the Nanyang Polytechnic School of Chemical and Life Science.

Dr Leung was working on a nano-fibre mesh membrane mask that would be used for wound-healing. He was keen on turning it into a beauty mask by infusing it with skincare ingredients such as birds' nest.

The trio worked on the mask but it proved to be too expensive to be commercially viable.

However, Dr Leung had, by then, a patent-pending technology to liquefy gelatinous birds' nest, so all three decided to use that for a skincare line instead.

After three years of research and an investment of a "high six-figure sum", Purer Skin was launched in August at 11Watsons stores, and Metro and Sasa pop-up booths.

The line comprises a cleanser ($25.90), night cream ($40.90), toner ($35.90) and serum ($66.90). An eye cream and oral supplements are in the pipeline.

According to Mr Tan, the formulas are made with pure birds' nest.

To prove the efficacy of the products, Mr Tan and Mr Chua commissioned clinical trials at the Laboratoire Dermscan lab in France. The trial report showed that Purer Skin products have an anti-wrinkle effect after test subjects used the products twice-daily for 28 days.

The gelatinous substance contains epidermal growth factor that stimulates cell growth, sialic acid which can reduce pore size, and have anti-inflammatory properties.

"As businessmen, we had to first convince ourselves that the formulas work. And we believe that the proven clinical trial results set us apart from the other local brands," says Mr Tan, a father of one, who is also a corporate trainer and has a law degree from the National University of Singapore (NUS).

Mr Chua, who is married with no children, has a computer engineering degree from NUS. He was a former business development manager in the IT industry.

Mr Chua and Mr Tan are the directors of Purer Skin, while Dr Leung is the company's chief scientific officer.

Mr Chua and Mr Tan started investing in the birds' nest farming industry about seven years ago for extra income. Swift Harvest owns farms in both Malaysia and Vietnam. Aside from harvesting birds' nest for their skincare line, the precious produce is sold to medicinal halls in the region.

Mr Tan says the challenge when they started Purer Skin was getting consumers to try the product. "But they are usually convinced after using our samples, and our prices are rather affordable."

Since a soft launch in January, the brand has already raked in more than $100,000 in sales. In August, it also received a $589,000 boost from the Government-backed incubator Red Dot Ventures and the National Research Foundation.

By the end of the year, Purer Skin will be available in department stores in HongKong and Macau.

According to Mr Tan, while there are benefits to drinking birds' nest, it works better when applied topically.

"A lot of the good stuff, like the epidermal growth factor, gets broken down by stomach acids. But when you spread it on the skin, the benefits are not lost."

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