Did you know that ever since the pandemic started in 2020, there has been an increase in skin-related problems such as dryness and sensitivity due to new routines such as mask-wearing and usage of hand sanitisers? Those who already have sensitive skin or eczema are now facing flare-ups, peeling skin and inflammation and it is natural to want to scour for products to remedy the itch.
But, there are so many products out there and some common over-the-counter products are expensive while containing a long list of ingredients that aren’t even essential to combat these symptoms. So what should one be looking for when choosing the right product?
We speak to Mitch Loo, Managing Director of Capsule Pharma (BELVEA) to find out what consumers should look out for when selecting a product for their skin flare-ups, what is the “low-irritation-index” and how BELVEA has managed to create an affordable skincare range that is 30-40% lower in price compared to similar brands.
Q: What really is “low-irritation-index”, and how does it play a part in affecting or triggering the sensitivity of the skin?
Mitch: The raw material used in the formulation of cosmetics are ranked for skin irritation potential, on the basis of a ‘primary irritation index’. The higher the irritation potential of a chemical, the higher it will rank on the “primary irritation index”.
In the formulation of BELVEA’s skincare range, we pay attention to the ingredient’s irritation index score and select a combination of ingredients that are known to be “lower” in the “primary irritation index”, for our formulations. With the use of lower sensitivity ingredients, therefore, the final product’s incidence of skin sensitivity would be greatly reduced. Do note that, we do not claim our products are irritation-free because even the mildest ingredients, there will still be users who can develop sensitivity towards them.
Q: What are the challenges involved when it comes to formulating simple clinical products using simple ingredients with low-irritation-index?
There are a whole host of factors to consider when developing any product. Factors such as formulation stability, aesthetics and commercial viability are just a few examples. The challenge would be amplified, when developing products for sensitive skin. Example, one of the bigger challenges was on the masking of the smell of the ingredients. Because we are against the use of fragrance or perfumes in our products, therefore we have to find ingredients that are “mild” in scent, both before and after combining with other ingredients. In cosmetics, the easier way would be, of course, being able to use whatever ingredient combination and mask the final formulation’s smell with a perfume. But because perfumes are known irritants, therefore we avoid using them, which leaves us with a challenge of only a limited range of ingredients to choose from.
We attempt to keep our formulations simple with limited number of ingredients because the more ingredients a formulation contains, the higher would be the risk of a user developing skin sensitivity towards the final product. In so doing, we are left with limited alternative options for ingredients, hence we do face the difficulty of containing the final product costing because some of the “lower” sensitivity ingredients tend to be more costly.
Q: How does BELVEA keep its prices at an affordable range compared to other bigger competitors in the market?
In pharmaceuticals and healthcare products manufacturing, the raw materials, which are commonly known as active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs), are primarily produced in only a handful of countries. Most global manufacturers are procuring the same APIs from possibly the same few suppliers, globally. On the aspect of manufacturing site validations, the manufacturers are governed by the same set of manufacturing guidelines for example Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP), ensuring compliance and consistency in production. So, in a simple analogy, if you procure from the same API manufacturers and produce them under the same GMP conditions, theoretically, the product difference of an identical formulation, will be minimal, regardless of the location of the manufacturing site. It is just like baking a cake. If every ingredient and method of baking is followed precisely, you will have the same identical cake, whether you bake it in Singapore or you bake it in the USA.
This is the logic behind how we address the cost factor in our production. We do our Research & Development in New Zealand and produce the final product closer to our market. The dermatology range is manufactured in Malaysia under GMP conditions.
We attempt to address two fundamental concerns by shifting the manufacturing site to Malaysia:
- Lower manufacturing cost with good GMP conditions.
- Reduction in the carbon footprint of our products, by producing them closer to the consumers.
Consumers are increasingly becoming aware of the carbon footprint of the products that they use and of course, in recent times; economic challenges brought about by Covid-19, have made cost consideration an important part of the purchase criteria, when making a purchase decision. Of course, the product itself must also be up to the mark, encouraging repeat purchases. We are pleased to see a high rate of repeat purchase for all our products. The BELVEA range came into the market later, therefore it allowed us to understand the shortcomings of some of our competitor’s products and building those shortcomings considerations, into our product features. In fact, some of our product features exceeds that of our bigger competitor’s products.
Best way to test the pudding, is of course, in the tasting. Give the BELVEA skincare range a try and witness the product in action, for yourself.
Trying BELVEA out
And try it out we did! First up is the versatile full-body wash that can be used as a facial wash, body wash and shampoo. BELVEA’s Gentle Skin Wash Formula (S$20) does not contain the common soap agent Sodium Laurel Sulphate (SLS) which irritates sensitive skin and unlike other soap-free cleansers, this product lathers well and effectively moisturises the skin after a wash. We liked that it did not leave any cloying or oily feeling either, unlike some other moisturising body washes.
Unlike many other creams, BELVEA’s Moisturising Skin Cream Formula (S$20) contains only 6 active ingredients that form a humectant effect to prevent moisture loss and hydrate skin. It is best applied after a shower whilst skin is still moist and is suitable for infants, children, adults and seniors. If you’re using steroid cream therapies, this formulation can be applied in between your steroid cream applications. It comes in a large 300g tub as well, which is big enough for a family to share. The cream is very thick and comes with a spatula to help you scoop some up and apply onto your skin. Despite its viscosity (probably why it comes in a tub instead of a squeeze tube), we loved how quickly the skin absorbed it and it did not leave any sticky feeling. Best part? The part of my arm that had eczema was quickly soothed as well.
By keeping the prices affordable and formulations simple, BELVEA is a great option for those with dry and sensitive skin, especially for the elderly and children who do not have the spending power to spare for pricey products. BELVEA’s clinical dermatology range is sold at selected clinics island-wide and online at Shopee and Qoo10. For more information, you can also visit their website http://belvea.com/.