The choice to not feel like you have to hide or conceal anything is powerful. The ability to feel like you can leave the house as you are is powerful.
Nicolas Travis: (It happened) when I was a late teen. I had very bad acne as a teenager, and it took years for my skin to clear. I found the process of finding the right products very arduous and intimidating. Finding quicker ways to clear my breakouts started off as a personal challenge which grew into a passion.
I read forums and experimented with a lot of products. Through the stories on the forums, I knew how I wasn’t alone when I say that clear skin plays a huge role in self-confidence and self-esteem.
The current status quo of having to use 14 products in order to attain great skin is something I want to challenge because honestly, who has the time for that? I believe beauty comes in all shades, sizes and forms. We, unfortunately, still live in a time where women are paid less than men but men get to roll out of bed and show up to work.
Women, on the other hand, have more pressure to feel that they have to put on layers of make-up. The skin is the largest organ we have — it is brilliant and one of the few we have that is capable of regenerating itself. So everything starts with the skin. If you have good skin, you don’t feel like you need so much make-up. The choice to not feel like you have to hide or conceal anything is powerful. The ability to feel like you can leave the house as you are is powerful. That’s what I aspire to do — empower
with every product.
So once you’ve decided this is what you wanted to do, how did you go about making it happen?
NT: For my Master’s thesis, I wrote a business plan for a start-up skincare company. I spent months doing research on labs, packaging and requirements. It was a dream I carried around for a long time, and I figured if I had to spend months writing something, it should be on something I actually liked.
After graduation, I got a job at an ad agency and started managing social media accounts for brands like Nestle and Guinness. I soon realised that agency life wasn’t for me so I left. I had a feeling that won’t go away. I had this huge urge to revisit the business plan I wrote. That plan was based upon $1 million (I was obviously not going to make that working for someone anytime soon), but what I realised was I could scale back and start with one hero product, which is what I did.
The first step was figuring out a name. Allies of Skin came to me when I was brushing my teeth — I’ve always gravitated to the word “allies”. One cannot thrive in life without allies. Next, it was research & development, meeting with lawyers for trademarks, learning about the various grants available for start-ups, working with the design team to come up with the packaging and design direction and then focus groups to test the sample prototypes.
I BELIEVE I COULD MAKE A DIFFERENCE.
What was the general reaction from friends and family?
NT: Extremely supportive. I couldn’t be more grateful for the amount of support I had. My oldest sister and my brother gave me a loan, which was how I was able to have three products instead of one. My second sister and her husband have a design company, Kilo Studio, and they were the creatives in charge of the direction of all things design related.
Who did you create Allies of Skin for?
NT: The modern multi-hyphenate. People with things to do and places to be. The person who has a career, and is a partner, a sibling and a parent. Anyone who wants an effortless way of taking care of their skin while they take on life.
You launched with three products. Are they really enough for both men and women, and the various skin types between them?
NT: I founded Allies of Skin because I believe I could make a difference. That means, I’m not interested in adding more noise to the market place, so I’ll never create products for the sake of doing so. The three products I have are hero products in their own right*.
We create time-saving nutrient reservoirs without any adoption risk. Even if you have a $1,000 La Mer or SK-II regimen, the three products we have right now can be easily adopted into your daily regimen.
You don’t have to be good at everything… What I’ve learned is that I should spend my energy on things that I’m good at and surround myself with allies who are good at the things I’m not.
Can you walk us through your own beauty routine, morning and night?
NT: In the morning, after cleansing with Andalou Naturals Apricot Probiotics cleansing milk, I spritz on the Molecular Saviour Toner Mist followed by an antioxidant serum (I have one that I’ve finished developing and it’s now in the clinical testing phase, so for now I love iS Clinical’s Super Serum +). Then it’s the 1A All-Day Mask over the face, eyes and neck. Then another spritz of the Molecular Saviour Toner Mist, and then sunblock (La Roche Posay Anthelios SPF 50). I’m still in search of the perfect sunblock (if you want to know, yes we are going to develop our own).
In the evening, after cleansing, I spritz on the Molecular Saviour Toner Mist then the IS Clinical Super Serum + before applying the 1A Overnight Mask over the face, eyes and neck. Then another spritz of the mist. If I’m flying or travelling to a colder climate, I mix Pai Rosehip Oil with the 1A Overnight Mask for a boost of reparative moisture.
Can you tell us one ultimate beauty secret?
NT: A Manuka honey mask. I do this as often as I can. Get the highest grade of Manuka honey (I am a big fan of the ones from Wedderspoon), then sprinkle some turmeric and chlorella powder and mix it all together. Mist your face (always apply products/masks on a damp skin unless otherwise instructed. Skin cells are a little like fish, they need water to thrive), then apply the mixture all over the face. You can leave this on for as long as you want. This mask brightens, hydrates, refines pores and reduces breakouts.
What’s the scariest thing about starting your own business?
NT: Having everything on the line is always scary. So is the livelihood of employees that you are responsible for.
What’s the best thing about starting your own business?
NT: Being able to do what I love every single day.
You’ve been featured in WWD (!); you’ve launched way outside of Singapore. What else is on the horizon for Allies of Skin?
NT: International distribution is what I’m working on currently. We have US, UK and Canada now. Over the next two months, we’ll be at 10 stores at Space NK as well as their online store, and Farfetch.com. We launch in Shen Beauty, a New York cult apothecary in Brooklyn, and will be stocked at Sephora online in Singapore and Australia next month with physical stores in Australia by early 2017. And by the end of the year, we’ll be in 17 of the best beauty concept stores in Russia (depending on how quickly the Russian FDA processes and approves the product registration).
Currently, we’re in discussions with retailers in Paris and Poland, too!
Also, more products. We’re launching two new products this December as well as our foundation
IT DOESN’T MATTER WHERE YOU CAME FROM, IT’S WHERE YOU’RE GOING THAT COUNTS.
that will provide scholarships to disadvantaged children in Singapore.
Allies of Skin was founded on the belief that everyone should be able to be the best versions of themselves. It doesn’t matter where you came from, it’s where you’re going that counts, and education is the way out.
What are the pros and cons of being a man in the beauty business?
NT: I actually don’t know if I feel that there are cons. Perhaps it’s because I grew up with three older sisters whom I look up to so I’ve always been a feminist and able to connect and relate to women. If anything, because I’m a male in a female-dominated industry, people’s curiosities are piqued, and they take the time to listen to what I have to say.
What’s your advice for aspiring entrepreneurs?
NT: Never give up. If there is something you want and believe in, just go for it. We often have grand ideas of how things should be. That everything has to align a certain way. Free yourself from those notions and be flexible. Have an open heart and an open mind. The key is to just start. I started with one product and now I have three with another two in December. If I can do it, anyone can. You don’t have to be good at everything. I used to have a lot of guilt about not being good at everything because I thought I had to. What I’ve learned is that I should spend my energy on things that I’m good at and surround myself with allies who are good at the things I’m not. It’s a sum-of-all-parts game. We win because of everyone.
What’s in your bag?
A BKR bottle, Molecular Saviour Toner Mist, mints, umbrella, sachets of 1A All-Day Mask.
Which app helps to organise your work/life?
Google Drive. I can work anywhere in the world with it.
What’s your mantra?
Follow your bliss. Work hard and be kind.
The ability to feel powerful in your own skin.
Who’s your WoW Woman?
Christy Turlington for her career and her charity.
When you’re stress, you…
Go for a good facial.
Favourite city in the world?
Madrid. I love the culinary scene there.
First thing you do when you open your eyes in the morning?
Say a prayer for the new day, and set my intensions.
Last thing you do before you go to bed?
Give thanks for the day now over.
You find confidence in…
A perfectly fitted leather jacket and glowing skin.
Freedom to do what you want whenever you want.
What’s your ultimate guilty pleasure these days?
I don’t believe in guilty pleasures. Just pleasures. Life’s too short to feel bad about doing something you like. I like tuning out and watching trashy reality shows with a bottle of wine.
Follow your bliss. Work hard and be kind.
What’s your biggest pet peeve?
Entitlement. I’m attracted to people who work hard and are not afraid to get their hands dirty.
Book or Netflix?
Email or a handwritten card?
Night in or night out?
What’s the best way to beat the heat?
Frozen margaritas and a generous spritz of the Molecular Saviour after it’s been in the fridge.
You’re most inspired when/by…
People go all out for what they want and kick ass despite their circumstances.
*1A All-Day Mask: The first leave-on treatment mask designed to be worn under make-up and sunblock daily. It is a fatigue eraser that helps you attain the effects of a good night’s sleep. It protects the skin from pollution and repairs with multiple antioxidants and nutrients. It can be used on the face, eyes, lips and cuticles. Through a blind clinical study, it was shown to reduce acne by 36 per cent in 28 days.
Molecular Saviour Toner Mist: An alcohol-free liquid booster that is supercharged with an anti-evaporation formula so it clings to skin cells instead of vanishing. Two forms of rose oil, cucumber oil, juniper berry, probiotics, acai berry and multiple antioxidants reduce the effects of jet-lag, stress, redness and breakouts. Housed in a self-preserving glass bottle that prevents UV rays from breaking down the antioxidants. Through a blind clinical study, it was shown to reduce acne by 42.7 per cent in 28 days.
1A Overnight Mask: Silicone-free formula that combines two treatments in one product. A special form of time-released retinol treats acne, wrinkles and pigmentation without any of the traditional irritation associated with retinol. Proven brighteners, organic argan oil, cloudberry and cranberry oil protects against dehydrating conditions and reverses the effects of too much alcohol, stress, partying and too little sleep. Through a blind clinical study, it was shown to reduce acne by 67.2 per cent in 28 days.
Art direction & photography: Karman Tse // Assistance: Charnice Lim
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