Cosmetics Design Asia

Challenging times: Formulating modern beauty solutions from traditional beliefs far from easy

By Amanda Lim 
 - Last updated on  GMT

 Challenging times: Formulating modern beauty solutions from traditional beliefs far from easy

Behind the rising trend of Traditional Chinese Medicine and Ayurveda beauty, there are challenges that formulators face when creating modern skin care products from millennia-old wellness concepts. 

With roots in ancient China and India, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and Ayruveda are the world’s oldest holistic healing systems, and they are now trickling into the beauty space with the rise of the wellness trend. 

Formulating for modern beauty

Translating the ancient practice into beauty is not as easy as it sounds, especially when it comes to developing the formulas.

“The biggest challenge in formulation is the preservation,” ​said Wei Brian, founder of TCM beauty brand Wei Beauty. “We use big amount of herbs as active ingredients that are not easy to preserve for 18 to 24 months of product shelf life.”

Kavita Khosa, founder of Ayruvedic beauty brand PUREARTH, agreed: “As an organic Ayurvedic skincare formulator it is indeed a huge challenge to work with pure, unrefined, non-deodorised, unbleached fresh ingredients that have a short shelf life and can oxidise so quickly.”

To combat this, PUREARTH preserves its formulation using plant-based ingredients and using Miron Violetglass bottles, which “protects and preserves the bio active energy​” of the ingredients and the formulation.

As TCM focuses on the concept of balance, WEI has to incorporate this idea into its products through its formulation.

“Classic herbal medicine dictates that successful treatment relies not just on one ‘herbal note’ but also on a formulation of up to four types of herbal complexes that create a system,” ​explained Wei.

Wei elaborated that the four types of herbal complexes are: the Monarch herb that targets the main symptoms, the Minister herb that assists and enhances the Monarch herb, the Assistant that relieves and eliminate side effects, and the Envoy herb that guides and harmonises all of them.

“Each balancing herbal complex forms an herbal remedy, which along with its own ancient heritage, has been tested and proven effective over time. We strive to give the user experience a feeling of ‘inner peace and harmony’ delivering a sensory experience of beauty from inside out,” ​she added.

Wei is optimistic about the future of traditional concepts like TCM in beauty and believes there is plenty of room for innovation.

“Since I started 17 years ago in the US market, there have been so many more brands tapping into TCM beauty with different ingredients and concepts,”​ she said. “I think in the next five years, TCM beauty will become more innovative.”

Time and tested

Despite the time and effort put into formulating, Khosa laments that there is a perception that Ayruvedic products are not performance-driven.

“There is certainly a growing interest but much has to be done by people like us to grow awareness and acceptance of the results of Ayurvedic beauty,” ​she said.

She elaborated: “There is a lack of knowledge, understanding and acceptance. Ayurvedic formulations are wrongly perceived to be not results driven or high performance when compared to conventional ones.”

In fact, said Khosa, Ayurvedic ingredients such as turmeric, neem and moringa are validated by modern scientific research.

Similarly, Wei Beauty researches the thousands of TCM remedies and ingredient in modern laboratories. The brand takes an exhaustive approach to understanding the active ingredients and create the most effective delivery systems.

More than just green

Both Wei and Khosa are quick to point out that TCM and Ayruveda beauty are very different from natural, organic or clean beauty category, which mainly place a strong emphasis on ingredients.

Instead, TCM and Ayruveda follow the basic principle that health and wellness are dependent on the delicate balance between the mind and body.

“More than just simply natural or organic, TCM beauty bears the principle of Traditional Chinese Medicine, which focuses on ‘balance’,”​ commented Wei.

Khosa added: “Ayurveda takes a holistic approach to beauty and health based on individual constitutions, seasonal and geographical shifts, unlike natural or organic skincare which is ingredient-focused.”

Going back to go forward

Both founders believe TCM and Ayruveda beauty is here to stay as millennials consumers continue to embrace holistic wellness trends.

Khosa said the industry is witnessing a paradigm shift in consumer consciousness for clean, wellness-driven products that benefit humanity and the planet.

“We are only just coming to terms with the devastating effects of chemically laden agri-produce, toxic chemicals in our skincare and the effects of polluted soil and plastic waste. As global citizens, never have we seen a more relevant time and need to embrace the principles of Ayurveda and TCM in our beauty and wellness rituals,” ​expressed Khosa.

She elaborated: “Conscious consumers today want products that are good for both people and the planet and want to explore and discover more about ancient modalities.”

Similarly, Wei believes the heightened interest in TCM and Ayurveda stem from the consumer’s desire to seek out methods and rituals they can trust.

“As technology advances at the fastest speed ever, more people – as part of human nature – are more than ever in search of time-tested solutions in beauty, as well as in their lives, just to seek comfort and safety.”​ 

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