Before modern science and technology — before there were inventions such as serums, sheet masks and molecular cosmetics — people cared for their skin using what they could find in nature. That is, flowers, herbs, fruits and the like. And the results spoke of the recipes and potions themselves.
Harking back to that age when botanicals were prized and beauty knowledge was obtained by trial and error, Supadra Geronimo, the founder of Siam Seas seeks to honour and preserve those traditions and philosophies in her skin and hair care offerings.
As a native of Thailand, Supadra grew up with unlimited access to precious plants and herbs, and learnt all she could about crafting her own skincare formulations from her mother and grandmother. But this is not another brand with just another beautiful background weaved together to enchant and entice curious consumers.
We were first introduced to Siam Seas while on our search for an anti-dandruff shampoo. We discovered The Dandruff Defeater Kaffir Lime Shampoo and it, quite literally, was the answer to our prayers. Having tried countless treatments and products over many years and never finding anything that really worked, we almost couldn’t believe it ourselves when our dry scalp finally stopped flaking.
From there, we became voracious in finding out all we could about the ingredients that Siam Seas sources and the recipes that the brand follows. We were pleasantly surprised to discover that they only source raw, unrefined oils and butters, for instance. And that all herbal extractions are done in-house to preserve the potency and integrity of fresh plants. Each product is also personally tested by Supadra for quality and efficacy before being released.
Supadra now calls New Jersey home but her heart is never far from Asia, and Thailand in particular. After all, going back to the beginning — to her roots — is second nature for Supadra and, so it would be, for Siam Seas too.
“The synergy of ingredients is the foundation of a high performance formula.”
Siam Seas only uses ingredients either harvested from its own pesticide-free garden, or are locally sourced or wildcrafted
Siam Seas is a brand based on the ancient traditions of Southeast Asian beauty rituals. What ingredients are typical of these rituals, and why are they especially effective?
We have such an abundance of nature. I don’t know if there is such a thing as a typical herb or flower we use. The ancient recipes and traditions use parts of different plants, depending on their properties and the healing needs. We do have superstars like turmeric, ginger, tamarind, thanaka and mangosteen, which really work well with other herbs and are such potent actives. You would find them in a lot of formulas because of their potency and ability to work with other herbs synergistically. The synergy of ingredients is the foundation of a high performance formula. When you use plants as healing factors, understanding their properties and synergy allows you to create an incredible recipe for healing your skin and mind.
We also use organic and wildly grown plants when making these handmade formulas, and the formulas are poured fresh just days before it gets to your hands. If you think about it, that’s exactly how our ancestors did things traditionally — and why it’s so effective.
What propelled you to launch Siam Seas?
As a Southeast Asian woman, I’ve had first-hand experience with the potency and efficacy of our exotic plants. When I started to formulate my own skincare, I couldn’t find any of those plants here, which was surprising to me given the advanced technology we have and how much we can do with these botanicals. So I wanted to make the introduction to the West and bridge the gap of tradition and modern science.
Siam Seas is actually my personal healing journey. With my skin problems, I started hiding in a very unhappy place. My self-confidence suffered, my outlook of the world changed, and I became bitter and unhappy. When I started healing my skin and it started to improve, I realised I wasn’t better inside. That’s when it hit me that healing both inside and out needs to go hand in hand. Back then I was sharing Siam Seas with my family and friends, but I found that I can use the brand as a portal to daily self-healing. Subsequently, I wanted to share my journey with other women.
I think society has planted a seed in our heads as to what beauty should be and what is accepted as beautiful. We try so hard to catch that status that we lose the core of who we are. We’re so busy chasing after the exterior perfection as seen in magazine images and we lose track of what makes us unique. We view our imperfections as something ugly as opposed to unique and beautiful. We try to change, rather than embrace ourselves. These imperfections make you you and there is only one of you on this planet. Your individuality, your values, knowing who you are, knowing your uniqueness — that is beautiful.
I want Siam Seas to be a portal to self-celebration. In today’s modern fast-paced world, it can be hard to calm yourself and reflect on your own beauty. I want Siam Seas to be a ritual that you enter into to give yourself time to slow down and acknowledge the good and beauty in the day and in you.
Tell us about the ingredients and bioactive plant extracts you use, and the impact these have on the skin.
For Southeast Asian ingredients, we work with small ethical farms and/or tribes in different countries and continents like Malaysia, Burma, Laos and predominantly Thailand. Every harvest, our people send us new batches of fresh and newly dried crops depending on the type of plant and how well they travel overseas. Then we start the extraction process in-house.
For our other ingredients, we work with a few trusted suppliers who help us ethically source our raw, unrefined, organic or wildcrafted materials. This can sometimes be the most complicated process. Sometimes the weather does not allow for an abundant harvest that year and you’re trying to source from the other side of the world. Once a plant reaches our studio, it is assessed for quality. An organic certification is required for all organic ingredients.
When an ingredient arrives in such a rich and natural state like ours do, we’re able to preserve amazing bioactive properties such as anthocyanins, flavonols, tannins, andrographolide, chlorophyll, curcuminoids, beta-Sitosterol and lupeol. These are bioactives which help prevent skin damage from free radicals, repair cell damage, reduce inflammation, inhibit melanin synthesis (for skin brightening) and more.
One thing that these bioactives have in common is that once they are harvested, they require preservation. They need to be protected from heat, light and air. The moment a plant is picked out of its root, it starts to lose its bioactives. The better preserved the plant is, the more actives you can obtain from it. This is why it is of utmost importance to me to source plants in small, fresh and vibrant batches. I can then ensure that the plants are preserved when they reach our studio.
“The moment a plant is picked out of its root, it starts to lose its bioactives. The better preserved the plant is, the more actives you can obtain from it.”
Tell us more about thanaka and its benefits.
It’s one of my favourite ingredients! My grandmother likes to use it in her mask but we don’t wear it all the time like they traditionally do in Myanmar.
Myanmar women are known for their smooth, even and toned skin even though the climate is very similar to Thailand. They rarely have any sun spots and their secret ingredient is thanaka bark. Women and children will take thanaka bark and rub it on a stone with water to make a paste, then apply the paste all over their skin as makeup before they go out in the sun. Thanaka contains a significant amount of antioxidation, and is anti-inflammatory and antibacterial. It also inhibits tyrosinase, which is an enzyme that controls melanin production. When tyrosinase is inhibited, it helps prevent skin from darkening due to UV exposure or inflammation. So imagine wearing the herb as a makeup all day. It’s like wearing a skin shield all day! That’s why their skin looks so amazing!
Is there any traditional Asian beauty ritual you love?
My personal favourite is when I’m in my sarong, barefoot, by the river and with masks on my face, body and hair. I’d wash myself with rice water then mask my skin with turmeric, tamarind, thanaka and calcium carbonate; followed by coconut oil for my hair. I’d also be drinking cold water from a bucket infused with jasmine extract while fresh flowers floating in the water provide aromatherapy. It’s so beautiful and tranquil. When I was done, I’d jump into the river and play.
“It is of utmost importance to me to source plants in small, fresh and vibrant batches,” says Supadra
Which of your secret beauty potions are passed down from your mother and grandmother?
In all my creations, each features one or more of the ingredients from our traditional recipes. The Twilight BeCalm Serum, for instance, features herbs like andrographis paniculata, urcuma, sappan and clinacanthus nutan. Both my grandmother and mother have their go-to recipes, depending on the purpose. The staple is always brightening which consists of tamarind, thanaka, calcium carbonate and ginger. Sometimes my grandmother would mix that with papaya puree but always curcuma.
My grandmother was a big fan of the curcuma species. It’s fascinating too! Here in the West, we are familiar with turmeric, but that’s just one species of the curcuma family. There are 100 others and they all have different properties.
Thank you! It was a very interesting journey. One of the herbs we use in the toner is from the peninsula side of Malaysia and it was such an incredible journey obtaining that herb.
The idea of Yen was born when I was looking for a toner that could be an all-in-one (heal, hydrate and protect) product for daily use. I couldn’t find something that I felt was sufficient so I created Yen to be a hybrid between a hydrating mist and serum. Yen has a thicker texture than a regular mist but it hydrates skin immediately when you mist. Once it goes on, it stimulates skin and increases blood flow to up the absorption rate. Then the formula sinks into the skin, leaving a tiny bit of film to protect skin from losing moisture within. This allows time for actives to be delivered and to work to heal your cells. The almost invisible sealant is so light and it gives a natural glow. It’s like an extra layer between your skin and the air. That’s the one product I can’t do without.
Please share with us a few of your favourite products.
I love all my children. It’s so hard! But right now my obsession is with the new creation I am working on, the Sai Clearing Serum. I wanted to create a concentrated formula that focuses on fading acne scars and marks, and treating dull skin and a weak skin barrier; as well as expediting the acne process to speed healing and stop lesions for acne that has not yet surfaced.
Of course, I also love the Yen Heal and Hydrate Toner. It is my go-to product anytime of the day for most of my skin problems. It makes everything absorb better and seals all those good actives in.
I am addicted to Morning Delight. I take it wherever I go. The scent is just invigorating and reminds me of Thailand. It is also a multitasker, which I love. It’s a morning cleanser and a makeup remover in the evening.
The Twilight BeCalm Skin Serum and SEAS Elements Beauty Balm are like my older kids who are now the caretakers of the new kids, so it goes without saying that they are my staples.
Oh, and my new mask that is coming out this holiday. It makes my skin porcelain smooth! It also brightens my skin and tames inflammation. It helps with my hormonal acne on my chin tremendously.
Every product is made by hand and batches are produced in small quantities to keep them true to tradition
What are some ingredients you particularly love for dry, combination, troubled, and hyperpigmented skin?
Before I list them out, I want to say that each of my products is a result of a blend of ingredients in which their properties work together to support the results I want them to deliver. So it is hard for me to love just a few herbs for a particular challenge.
For dry skin — Exfoliate manually and with an enzyme like papaya or white willow bark, and honey. Treat with moisturiser or toner that contains tamarind seed and hyaluronic acid. They work in synergy to help skin retain moisture. Watch out for cleansers that can weaken your skin barrier and cause moisture loss. Mask with Aloe gel and royal jelly, the queen of hydration boosts.
For combination skin — I like fast absorbing oils which are nourishing, like sunflower seed oil and black cumin seed. I also like using extracts like green tea. Lotus and saffron can further help regulate sebum production.
For troubled skin — It depends on the issue. Skin is a reflection of your health and hormones. Depending on your diet, environment and hormones, your skin acts differently everyday. Only you can tell what it needs to balance it out. For dermatitis and inflamed skin, I love a combination of turmeric, babchi and boswella. For acne — Siamese neem, andrographis paniculata and basil. Aloe, cucumber and chamomile are also very calming for dry and irritated skin.
For hyperpigmented skin — lakoocha is so amazing for skin lightening. The combination of liquorice, nutmeg and turmeric are excellent for skin brightening too.
You hold the treasured beauty recipes from your childhood dearly in your heart and bottle them to share with everyone. What can we look forward to in the future for Siam Seas?
For centuries, Burmese women have used a thanaka bark paste on their skin before going out into the sun for skin protection. Their skin is flawless. Genetics play a role, of course. But I’ve realised that protective skincare during the day is so important. That’s what I will be focusing on in 2018: protective daytime skincare.
It’s going to be a very exciting year for Siam Seas. I released our repair night-time collection (Twilight BeCalm Skin Serum and SEAS Elements Beauty Balm) last year. I just released a toner and am planning to release a cleanser and makeup remover this year. I am also working on the Sai Clearing Serum for acne and irritated skin, and a protective day cream for skin protection.
Finally, what does the idea of conscious living mean to you?
Conscious living to me is living mindfully. It’s understanding the value of time and choices we make for ourselves, as well as the impact of our choices on our surroundings — alive of not. Living and being connected in the present is living consciously. No one really knows where we go once we leave this life so making mindful choices for the time we have in this life is, to me, conscious living.
Images courtesy of Siam Seas