The booming beauty scene has seen a rise in women-led brands that are challenging conventions.
Guided by a nuanced understanding of the local market, these women are growing their brands at an impressive pace, and many are setting their sights on going global. Here we meet the entrepreneurs who are disrupting the status quo.
Anna Magkawas of Luxe Beauty and Wellness Group
With three homegrown brands under the Luxe Beauty and Wellness Group, founder and CEO Anna Magkawas is thriving. The content creator had previously been known for vlogging about designer bags before venturing into the skincare business. “We were able to build a community. I called them ‘Luxers’,” she says of her friends and followers, who encouraged her to try her hand at beauty.
During the lockdowns, people had become more focused on skincare, inspiring Magkawas to establish her first brand, Luxe Skin. Carrying everything from soaps to serums and creams, it caters to a variety of skin concerns while prioritizing quality and efficacy. Since then, she has expanded the brand to other ranges, including Luxe Cosmetics.
With their notable portfolio of products, and strong online following, many have assumed that the Luxe Group has been around for much longer. Magkawas believes their success is attributed to a mix of good products, hard work, and dedication to the brands, as well as her growth mindset. “I am challenging myself that if we were able to be known this year, we should be able to surpass our achievements, even more, this year,” she says.
Magkawas also makes the most of her beginnings as an influencer to continue establishing the Luxe Group, posting content almost every day. She likewise taps celebrities like Sarah Lahabati, Alexa Ilacad, Cassy Legaspi, Elisse Joson, and others to promote her brand.
“But before I get them as endorsers, I make sure to send them products to try first,” she says, noting that it’s important the endorsers she works with genuinely use and love their products.
With her company expanding, things are getting busy for the mom of three. She is grateful that her husband is willing to focus on their children, as well as help her with running the company. This partnership and sharing of responsibilities, she believes, has helped keep her family solid despite everyone’s busy schedules.
Magkawas is also keen on sharing her success with others, pleased that their company’s resale partners are also given a chance to succeed. With more than 200 distributors, located in the Philippines, as well as internationally in the USA, Canada, Australia, Qatar, Dubai, New Zealand, and more, the company has had to keep on expanding to keep up with demand.
Nonetheless, she’s still at it, sharing that they are set to venture into pharmaceuticals. And while Magkawas can’t reveal much yet, she is nervous but excited. “We are trying and truly hoping for the best. But I am feeling quite positive about everything. It’s a big move. It’s something you can really look forward to,” she says.
Chin Simpson of Skin Poem
When Chin Simpson’s brother had a severe episode of psoriasis while in Canada during the lockdowns, she was inspired to find ways to support him, ultimately embarking on the beginnings of her label. The wife and mother of two had always wanted to start a business but had constantly set it aside, despite there always being a “voice in her heart” that nudged her on. Steadfast in her belief in the power of positive intentions, in life and in beauty, she founded Skin Poem in 2021.
Motivated to help, Simpson went on a deep dive researching ingredients and eventually started working with labs to concoct nourishing creams for her brother Paul. This eventually led to the development of her line that catered towards dry skin, as well as those with eczema and atopic dermatitis. The rich and concentrated FP Series Cream (FP or “For Paul”), for example, has cherimoya fruit extract from Germany, which is rich in vitamin C and essential for collagen production, and helps reduce inflammation and sensitivity.
She also recalls how their daily affirmations had been such a comfort to her brother. “I felt na, that time when my brother was really going through something, I think what helped him was our positive words of encouragement,” she says. In the same vein, she views Skin Poem as a way for her to touch lives, and make a difference in her own way, through the gentleness of their products, what she calls their label’s “added verse of good intentions.”
An ardent lover of poetry, the entrepreneur hopes that her brand not only nourishes the skin but also reminds people to slow down and connect authentically to one’s deepest core. “It’s just like being a better version of yourself, by understanding who you really are inside,” she shares. “You become more personal to others…you connect more with people, and you kind of attract that vibe [of] good energy.”
To quote an excerpt from one of Simpson’s poems: “Good skin isn’t the perfect kind. It’s the one that’s been healed from the hurt. The one that’s been loved, accepted, and fought for.” She shares that given the warm reception they’ve had, she is set to expand her product range soon, and hopes that Skin Poem can be known globally and be a truly well-loved Filipino brand.
Jonah Sison of SkinPotions, Dear Face, and Beauty Drunk
Jonah Sison has tried on many hats, from being a nurse to working on a cruise ship, before she embarked on her most prolific journey yet—that of an entrepreneur. The mastermind behind brands SkinPotions, Dear Face, and Beauty Drunk recalls how her own skin woes had led her to sell and eventually develop her own beauty products, which have shown admirable growth over the years.
The first brand that was created was SkinPotions, whose whimsical packaging and kawaii aesthetic give it an approachability perfect for the teenaged market. From selling at bazaars and online to having a considerable number of distributors, and eventually franchisors of their own standalone booths in malls, the brand was truly getting a lot of buzz. Thankfully, her sister Aileen and her husband are also active in helping build their company.
And just as SkinPotions had been growing locally, along came an advantageous partnership with Disney that put them on the international stage. “It was in 2015 or 2016 when Disney Philippines tapped us,” she shares of their limited-edition cosmetics collaboration.
She cites the importance of really understanding the local market and adapting quickly as crucial to their brands’ successes. “You need to be there on the ground. It’s really listening, and really evaluating. The product and customer should always be the center of the brand,” Sison says. “For Dear Face and SkinPotions, we always have our own path. We always listen to the customers, [and do] research as to what is trending, but we develop our own.”
Sison herself maintains a very active presence on social media and a close connection to their followers, especially on TikTok, creating a minimum of two videos per day. “I make sure that I am the face of the brand…I make sure that I’m always visible,” says Sison. “Whenever they have questions, I upload a video answering those questions….I also do Lives, [where] I’m explaining [about] all the products.”
To address the market’s desire for wellness, especially after the pandemic, they launched Beauty Drunk, a range of multivitamin supplements.
With SkinPotions already in the international market, Sison plans on getting her brands into even more countries. With her mind set on expansion, she is excited for what’s to come. “I realized that there is no ‘right time’ to be ripe,” she shares. “You need to say yes to every opportunity.”
Nikki Tang of DMark Beauty and DermAsia Corporation
Perennially well-dressed and polished, Nikki Tang is a familiar face in Manila’s social circuit, admired for both her poise and for being CEO of DMark Beauty and DermAsia Corporation. The award-winning executive comes from a family of strong businesswomen and cites both her mother and grandmother as role models in her entrepreneurial journey.
When she first established DMark Beauty in 1998, the dermoscometic industry in the Philippines was still in its nascent stages. “I am very happy and proud to say as a ‘beautypreneur,’ we defined and developed dermocosmetics in the Philippines,” she shares, noting how they had recognized a need in the market for these expertly formulated skincare solutions.
Twenty-five years later and DMark Beauty now has an ever-growing portfolio of brands that include Bioderma, Glowbiotics, Heliocare, Neostrata, Puressentiel, and Photozyme, each one sourced from different countries and with their own area of expertise.
Given the more potent nature of dermocosmetics, most of DMark Beauty’s products are only available through dermatologists. “The intervention of the doctor is very important,” notes Tang, emphasizing how apart from good quality products, the right diagnosis is key. “Eventually, the results speak for themselves,” she continues, sharing how their company maintains a close relationship with the medical community.
With the success of DMark Beauty came DermAsia Corporation in 2004, which is focused on medical aesthetic devices such as lasers, ultrasound and radiofrequency machines, and the like. “We realized the market is so big, and that it’s not all about skincare, you need to complement it with procedures,” says Tang, whose company caters to hospitals and top dermatologist clinics.
Tang loves how dynamic the beauty industry is. “It’s very exciting. Every day there’s always something new. As a CEO, I always am on the lookout,” she says, eager to continually serve the market by introducing premium skincare and state-of-the-art technology. She also recognizes the importance of visionary leadership in nurturing and growing a company. “I believe the call to lead an organization is a blessing, that carries a big responsibility as well. I am responsible for people’s lives, and I am called to affect a sense of purpose in them,” she shares.
For Tang, beauty and self-care are emboldening, in all the best ways. “I believe that true beauty is the strength that empowers others to act and make a difference,” she says. “Beyond aesthetics, this transformation positively influences relationships and career success, unlocking our full potential to seize opportunities, conquer challenges, and achieve goals.”
Tyff Short of One Earth Organics
The concept of clean beauty is truly one of the more meaningful movements to have come up of late, and is something One Earth Organics founder Tyff Short has long advocated. The homegrown brand’s cold-pressed soaps, creams, serums, and more are almost as organic as they can get, made up of around 95% natural ingredients. Their products are likewise paraben-free and don’t contain sulfates, phthalates, and synthetic fragrances or colors.
Short’s plant-based skincare journey actually began when her skin had been reacting to the products she had been using in the past. “I have a skin disorder, which is psoriasis. So every time I use chemical-based products, it would aggravate my psoriasis,” she recalls.
This inspired her to look for alternatives, and eventually led her towards organic and natural skincare. “I thought, if I could address my own beauty problems, I could also be the avenue to help other women,” she says.
The brand first started selling online and in bazaars, where Short would take the time to really educate people on the importance of sustainability and using natural products, be it for wellness, food, or skincare. Her brand was eventually picked up by the multi-brand shop Beauty Bar in 2017, bringing her to the mainstream.
“We were the third local brand to be distributed. It’s such a milestone for us,” she notes. “In a month, we were sold out. So people were just demanding for the brand. And I remember our second month, Beauty Bar was like, ‘You need to be placed in all stores now.” A year later, drugstore Watson’s also carried their line, bringing the total to more than 80 retail locations nationwide.
To better serve her customers and provide business opportunities to women, One Earth Organics also has a business partnership program, where brand partners are in charge of a store. “I wanted these people to be as passionate and as [emotionally] invested as I am,” she says.
A member of PETA, One Earth Organic’s products are cruelty-free and use locally-sourced Fair Trade elements as much as possible. “Moringa, coconut, coconut oil, [papaya extract], everything comes from here,” citing that their product line uses two-thirds of Philippine ingredients.
Short is extremely grateful for her success as her brand celebrates its 10th year, as well as for being able to survive the challenges of the pandemic. But she shares that her path was not as easy as it seems, especially having been a teen single mom without a college degree. “I felt like I started my life with a disadvantage… But whatever happens, I don’t want not having a degree to be a hindrance [in being able] to provide a brighter future for my son. That’s really my inspiration,” she says.
Having previously held numerous jobs and starting her own label from scratch, Short knows how hard it is in the beginning. “The messaging about the brand was always never about just selling beauty products, or selling skincare products,” says Short. “Of course, it comes with the whole promotion of sustainability. But at the end of the day, it’s about inspiring and empowering women through our brand story.”
Vina Yapjuangco of Kemans
For Vina Yapjuangco, a registered pharmacist married to plastic surgeon Dr. Eric Yapjuangco, it was perhaps only a matter of time before the self-professed, skin-savvy enthusiast came up with a skincare line. Initially, it was to better cater to her husband’s patients that they opened a dermatological clinic that carried its own range of serums. Feedback from their patients about these products was so good, that the couple decided to expand on the idea, eventually launching Kemans in 2021.
“We want to give the Filipino market world-class beauty products and skincare products, comparable to the international market,” she says, creating formulations that address a myriad of skin concerns at more affordable price points. From serums to sunscreens and a host of body care products, the brand’s products are all dermatologically-tested, paraben-free, and even halal-certified.
Given her pharmaceutical background, Yapjuangco’s focus on creating efficacious formulations using high-quality materials is paramount to the brand’s DNA. Kemans utilizes only medical-grade ingredients in expert formulations, with an ample percentage of actives, to give their clients the best results. “We don’t skimp on that. If the maximum tolerable is 2%, we really put 2%,” she says, sharing that any less would affect the quality.
Proper product development and testing are also key, ensuring that all of Kemans’ products have a high level of safety and efficacy. “We are backed by research… Like when we get these raw [materials], I always [look at] the clinical studies, and then [also] if it’s compatible with the other [ingredients] that I want,” she notes, making sure their products are backed by science.
Despite being a relative newcomer, Kemans, which is available online and at Watson’s stores, is also gaining a lot of traction in provincial locations, notably the Visayas and Mindanao regions. This is mainly through the brand’s many direct selling partners who are helping spread the word nationwide. “Everyone’s growing together, and we value the relationships that we make,” says Yapjuangco.
The Mom of three also reveals that Kemans is actually derived from the first letter of their children’s names and shares that the brand is like her fourth baby. She revels in the sense of fulfillment she gets for having been able to turn their dream into a reality: “To see good results from people, and to be able to help people and uplift them. To give them credible products that work, it’s so satisfying.”
Styling by Steven Coralde and Chelsy Estrada of Qurator. Makeup by Xeng Zulueta and Cats Del Rosario. Hair by Patty Inojales and Emman Bautista. Photographer’s assistant Lance Luna. Produced by Adam Pereyra. Sittings editor: Trina Epilepsia Boutain. Shot on location at Ascott Makati.