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Plaguing 20% of children and 5% of adults worldwide, eczema, also known as atopic dermatitis, is an inflammatory condition of the skin characterised by a red itchy rash. The itch is usually contained with steroid creams and various over-the-counter moisturisers, and in more severe cases, oral pills prescribed by doctors.
To understand more about dealing with itchy and sensitive skin, Yahoo Lifestyle SEA spoked with the founders of Suu Balm on the science behind moisturising, which sets their brand apart from other itch-relief brands the market, and how the brand has continued to grow during the pandemic.
“I know it is weird that we are saying it’s a local Singaporean product, but you are facing two ang-mos (Caucasians) here.”
Formulated at the National Skin Centre Singapore, Suu Balm is the brainchild of Dr Tey Hong Liang, Chief Dermatologist at the Itch Clinic. With Dr John O’Shea, an Irish medical doctor, and John Humphries, a marketing expert specialising in pharmaceutical products, the brand was developed to relieve itch fast, moisturise, and repair the users’ skin.
Launching their improved Rapid Itch Relief Moisturiser, the founders shared that the new formulation has five times ceramides than its predecessor. “Many products on the market that touts moisturising capabilities do not even have ceramide in their ingredient list. However, Suu Balm has five types of skin-identical ceramides, helping to replenish the skin barrier,” Humphries shared.
Ceramides, a family of waxy lipid molecules, create a water-impermeable protective barrier on the skin that prevents entry of microorganisms and stops excessive water loss via evaporation. Skin conditions such as eczema happen when ceramide reserves run low and are not naturally produced.
“Dr Tey is ingredient-obsessed,” Dr O’Shea laughed. “Just like how science advanced and became better over the years, the science and ingredients available for the moisturiser had also improved since five years ago.”
While eczema can go away with age, some reappear or develop this condition years later in adulthood. It is estimated that five in every 100 adults suffer from this uncomfortable condition throughout their life. Many of Dr Tey’s patients also had feedback that they can stop the itch as quickly as possible as the itch-scratch cycle is never-ending and worsen their skin condition.
The answer comes in the menthol added into the brand’s moisturiser. “Menthol tricks your brain into thinking the skin is cold, drowning the itchy sensation and stopping the itch within minutes.”
Being in the medical science industry with fellow doctors in Suu Balm’s clientele, the brand also ensured that research and development is a constant ongoing activity. “We cannot say that our formula hasn’t changed since it launched because that would be giving our customers an outdated product.”
“When you ask someone how many times do they think they should moisturise, many will say one or two times a day. For those with sensitive or dry skin, the answer is actually, at least five times a day.”
According to research, Dr O’Shea also shared that if a person with sensitive skin moisturises regularly and not only when their skin starts to itch, they can potentially lower flare-ups up to 3.7 times. What else could someone with dry, sensitive, or itchy skin do other than moisturising regularly?
“Watch what you put on your skin. Fragrances and preservatives in your creams and body wash will irritate your skin. Lavender may smell nice, but it can bring more harm than good when you have it in body washes. Normal body washes, even some that are marketed for sensitive skin, have harsh ingredients that not only strip the dirt from your skin but also strip the beneficial oil away,” Humphries said.
With consumers moving online, especially during the pandemic, Humphries also let on that Suu Balm moved their business from physical shops such as Watsons and Guardian to shopping platforms such as Lazada and Shopee.
“While our business did not necessarily get better in 2020, we continue to grow. Just because there’s COVID-19 does not mean that people with skin issues stop itching. Working from home and juggling children's needs and working creates additional stress that might cause more often flare-ups. Many had also observed that their hands are drier since the pandemic due to increase handwashing using harsher soap.”
The brand had recently sold their one-millionth unit of Suu Balm moisturiser and has since expanded its business into ten countries.
Dr O’Shea also wants to remind Yahoo Lifestyle SEA's readers that it is “less of what type of handwash you are using but more of how long you are washing your hands. Mild washes such as Suu Balm’s body wash is good enough to strip the bacteria and virus off your hands but keep it moisturised without stripping the essential oils from your skin.”
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