Skincare tips from a hawker-turned-beauty brand founder

At first glance, you’d never guess that the immaculately groomed Claire Au spent her twenties as a hawker. As a young girl, Claire, who is now in her mid-thirties, dreamed of starting her own beauty company, especially since she'd grown up watching her father, a successful entrepreneur, grow his own business over the past 30 years. But she knew she had yet to hone her skills as a businesswomen – which is why, as a 25-year-old, she began selling fish soup, using a family recipe that had been handed down six generations.

“It was a good blend: there was a story there, plus Singaporeans want to eat healthily,” Claire said. “It’s easier to start with something small you can try your hands on, rather than one-shot start a café, which is a six figure investment.”

As it turns out, working long hours preparing and selling fish soup gave Claire the extra drive to create simple, time-saving products.

“I grew up knowing skincare as something that needed three steps. Over time, serum and more things were added, but doing the fish soup – I often went to the fishery market at 2 am, and by the time I came back, it’d be very early in the morning and I’d be so tired. If I could even cleanse my face, I considered that good already. Half the time, I would concuss, and there would be no time for multi-step routines.”

Fast-forward to May 2016, when Claire launched Auolive, a local brand that focuses on hassle-free skincare, reducing double-digit routines down to just one. Its star product, the Rise, Shine, Moisturise Day Glower, uses a brightening, anti-aging, antioxidant-laden formula, powered by natural active ingredients and free of parabens and colours (of course, it also provides sun protection – a must-have here in Singapore). Korean airless bottle technology also guarantees that the contents, which are formulated in Switzerland and made in Singapore, expire at a much slower rate.  

We sat down with Claire at her home a few weeks ago, where we asked her what she’d learned about skincare between selling fish soup and selling her own beauty products. If you’ve ever wanted to know how to maintain a good complexion even after working the graveyard shift at work, read on.

Beauty tip: Don’t get suckered into fastidious, multi-step routines 

Ain’t nobody got time for an eight-step routine – especially if you’re juggling kids, a full-time career, and house-keeping. “After the fish soup, I went back to the corporate world to work, with long hours, and I was planning the next stage of life,” Claire said. “I was going to get married and have children, and since I knew I would only be busier, I felt that I must think of something that will help me take care of my skin after I have a kid. I have girlfriends who used to follow a 10-step regimen, but after their babies came out, it became 0 steps!”

Armed with conviction that skincare can be simple, Claire consulted dermatologists and cosmetic scientists to see if it was possible to create a multifunctional product that works as well as a bunch of separate products. When market research revealed that other women wanted to reduce the steps of their skincare routines, Claire presented a wishlist of “must-have” features to scientists, partners, and labs, who were then able to create a clinically tested product that was as effective as she desired. The whole journey took about two to three years of planning, research, and development.

Committing to a multi-step routine isn’t as easy as slapping eight products on your face. Each one takes three to five minutes to absorb, meaning that if done properly, you could be spending upwards of an hour on your morning and night routines every day. Perhaps it’s time to do away with the perception that products with a singular function are more effective than products with multiple functions (plus, you’ll free up so much room on your vanity table!).

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Beauty tip: “Local” doesn’t mean lower-quality

Amidst all the furor over Japanese and Korean skincare trends, it’s easy to overlook what local brands have to offer. Which is ironic, Claire says, considering the support that our neighbours give to home-grown products.

 “As we were launching Auolive, the support local movement got stronger and stronger. You’re seeing a golden age for the local beauty scene in Singapore – makeup brands, perfume brands, all these local brands are launching, which is very encouraging. When people from China or Indonesians see something that says ‘made in Singapore’, they feel that they can trust the product. And that’s where we have to remind Singaporeans that we have very high standards of manufacturing here. We can manufacture pharmaceuticals, we chose a factory that is Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) certified, we maintain good manufacturing practice, just to make sure we build the trust with the customers. For our products, all of them are dermatologically tested. Customers can feel proud that we have such a high quality for a local brand.”

Beauty tip: If there were only one thing you could make time to do…

“I think the first and foremost would really be if you really don’t put anything on your face at all, at least put sunblock, because the sun is the biggest factor behind aging. The skin on areas covered by clothes are the same as the skin on our face, but it’s the sun that causes us to age faster. So put on sunblock and moisturise at least.

Auolive products retail between $58 - $300 (for sets).

Check out Auolive on, Tangs VivoCity counter, Naiise Cathay, Shaw Centre, Naiise at Katong i12

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