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Kate Chen of Akar Skin

The indie skincare brand founder on only using pristine botanical ingredients and crafting the perfect lip balm.

After suffering from extreme stomach pains while on a business trip and undergoing emergency surgery, Kate Chen decided that her hectic life as an investment banker was putting too much stress and strain on her body. In poor health, Kate knew she had to make some major changes to her lifestyle, from her career choice, to her diet, and right up to the beauty products she used everyday.

Like beauty brand founders before her, Kate knew that if she wanted to have clean, non-toxic products that were effective for her usage, she’d have to create them herself. And after a life-changing trip to Tibet, where she witnessed wild botanicals growing in pollution-free environments, Kate set her mind to formulating her products around these ingredients.

Named after “white crystal” in Tibetan, Akar Skin is purity in its finest. Every product is strictly biocompatible, meaning it complements the skin’s natural makeup. They are also made in-house in order for Kate and her team to “own the research, formulation and manufacturing process from start to finish.”

With only six creations to date — all of which are highly praised in the green beauty community — Akar Skin is slowly but surely challenging the “common perception that natural means less effective.” It’s what Kate believes in. And it’s what we believe the beauty industry should be.


Akar Skin has only six products to date and they are consciously made,
with each ingredient selected for a specific purpose

How and why were you drawn to Tibetan-inspired beauty?

Growing up with a mom who went the extra mile to take care of her skin, I have always understood the importance of a disciplined skincare routine. However, it wasn’t until after a sudden health incident that I began looking into natural alternatives. While on a trip to the Tibetan Plateau, I fell in love with the area. The clean air and abundant wildlife was truly breath-taking and I was set on formulating a skincare collection around native Tibetan ingredients.

Tell us about the Tibetan Plateau where your ingredients are from.

The Tibetan Plateau is unlike any place I have been. It is truly beautiful and one of a kind. At the moment, we source our ingredients from a certified organic farm in the area. As we expand and add to our product offerings, we plan to partner with more local farmers in the area.

Akar Skin has attained the EWG ‘green seal of approval’. What are the requirements in ingredients and transparency does a beauty brand need to have in order to meet them?

EWG has stringent requirements on what ingredients ought not to be included in personal care products. In addition to the ingredients banned by the US, EU, Canada, Japan, Personal Care Products Council and International Fragrance Association, EWG has also banned an extensive list of other toxic and environmentally harmful ingredients. These include, but are not limited to, parabens, microbeads, silver, talc phthalates and formaldehyde in personal care products. A complete list of ingredients can be found on the EWG website.

Being EWG Verified also means complete transparency with the public. We are required to disclose all ingredients on our packaging, including those under fragrance, which is not required otherwise.

How do these requirements make a difference to the end product in terms of quality and efficacy?  

Toxins are the last things your skin needs. Products that are void of the ingredients banned by the EWG Verified program are off to a better start. However, it is also important to look at the ingredients that are actually inside that will benefit your skin to determine the product’s quality and efficacy.

The EWG ‘green seal of approval’

“Being EWG Verified means complete transparency. We are required to disclose all ingredients on our packaging, including those under fragrance, which is not required otherwise.”

When an ingredient is said to be ‘biocompatible’, what does that mean and how does it affect the body? 

Biocompatible ingredients are those that work with the skin’s biology. Too often, skincare products contain harsh ingredients that only provide temporary relief and break down the skin’s acid mantle. With biocompatible skincare, your skin is receiving the nutrients it needs while the acid mantle stays intact.

“Biocompatible ingredients are those that work with the skin’s biology.”

Let’s talk about your signature products. Tell us about the ingredients in your Neat Remedy Face Oil.

Our Neat Remedy Face Oil is specifically formulated for oily, combination and sensitive skin. We carefully selected oils that are high in linoleic acid to balance the skin’s sebum level, which are helpful for those with clogged pores.

The beautiful green colour comes from the high concentration of chamazulene in both the blue tansy and German chamomile, which are wonderful at calming inflammations and providing allergy reliefs. We also made this oil perfect for mature skin by including in it anti-ageing benefits from myrrh, frankincense, sea buckthorn and goji berry.

The Lush Balance Toning Mist contains vegan stem cells derived from saffron. How does the concept of stem cells in skincare formulations work for the skin?  

Our skin is constantly renewed and repaired throughout our lives. It is able to do so with the help of our skin stem cells. However, as we age, our supply of stem cells lower as a result of environmental pollutants, sun damage and just overall decrease in their ability to regenerate. Although plant stem cells cannot regenerate our own stem cells, they are able to stimulate this regenerative activity in them and encourage cell repair.

Akar Skin’s Lip Butters are emollient and smooth to apply. What ingredients contribute to this, and what is special about them?

Our lip butters are really in a league of their own. We formulate them with the perfect oil to wax ratio to create a creamy and super long-lasting lip treatment. However, what sets them apart is their ability to transform your lips. With just a few uses, you’ll no longer have the urge to constantly reapply as you do with other lip balms on the market.

“Our lip butters are in a league of their own. We formulate them with the perfect oil to wax ratio to create a creamy and super long-lasting lip treatment.”

The Ruby Tint version is incredibly pigmented for an entirely natural formulation. What gives it its rich red colour?

The red colour is derived from infusing alkanet root in a base of almond oil. No mineral pigments are involved.

The Ruby Tint Lip Butter is said to give a “your lips but better” look

When using a new natural skincare product, how long should one test it out for before determining if it works?

We recommend giving the new product at least a month for a complete skin cell turnover to complete, as it takes four weeks for the epidermis, the outer and top layer to renew itself.

Lastly, what does the idea of conscious living mean to you?

Conscious living to me is living in the moment, being present in everything you do and enjoying life to the fullest.

Images courtesy of Akar Skin

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