by Pauline Chan
It’s not hard to find homemade artisanal skincare products made with natural ingredients from one’s backyard these days. Some people say they are tired of the big-corporation commercial products that contain a cocktail of toxic chemicals that give them unpleasant reactions. The entrepreneurial ones have turned to mother nature to whip up simple, no-fuss skincare in their kitchen with the help of nothing more than some pots and pans, a computer and the World Wide Web.
Fishing on the internet, we found Native Body & Skin soaps, made in Sabah, Malaysia, by a young lady who learnt how to make them through lessons learnt entirely from online resources. Natalie Lo, developed a passion for skincare when she was still in college studying marketing and management. She was curious about what is good and bad for her skin, and the various ways of making soap. 101 questions later, she decided make soaps as a hobby.
Natalie went through many blogs, Facebook pages and ‘how-to’ articles online, and after countless trials and failures, made some things that she could use. She continued to learn and experiment until she was satisfied with the end products.
About 18 months ago, she met a local soap maker. After a few chats and some pondering, she arrived at an a-ha moment – she could make skincare products as a business. We asked her to tell us about her collection of handmade soaps.
BiG: When did you start your soap business and what were the initial challenges?
I started this business last November. The main challenge was to find ways to sell in the local market and increase public awareness of the differences between natural and commercial soap. Natural soaps tend to be more expensive, I have to educate my customers on the benefits of natural soaps so I started a blog for this purpose.
BiG: Where do you get your ingredients from?
The key ingredients such as herb extracts and plant oil/butter are all sourced in Malaysia. We can’t get essential oils locally so we source them from a trusted company in Australia.
BiG: How long do you cure your soaps before they are ready for sale?
We use the cold-process method to make our soaps. We let them stand for three weeks to let the extra moisture evaporate. After this curing process, the soap will get harder and feel milder on the skin.
BiG: What is special about your soaps?
All our natural soaps are formulated in-house through extensive experimentation to achieve a balance of cleansing and moisturising properties. We make use of local ingredients such as ginger, illipe butter, coffee and jungle honey. Our handmade soaps retain glycerin, a by-product of the soap making process, and it attracts moisture, making the soap moisturising. Upon curing, the amount of glycerin in a soap bar is between 7-10%. Glycerin makes soap gentler but softer compared to commercial soaps. To prolong the life span of the soap, we recommend our customers keep them dry between each use. We are proud to say that all our soaps are made using the most natural ingredients without compromising on the lathering property that our customers want.
BiG: Do you ship your products to Brunei?
We ship our products worldwide including Brunei! Simply choose the option “shipping within Southeast Asian Region” at the checkout on our website. If you are in KK, you can find us at “the roofless art market” at Lido Plaza (an art market hosted by The B Side café) on the last Sunday of every month. We are there from 10am to 5pm selling our soaps, lip balms and virgin coconut oil.
This article first appeared in the January-March 2017 issue of Borneo Insider’s Guide magazine.