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Homegrown Beauty

Homegrown Beauty
By Melissa Gail Sing
July 10, 2015

The ravishing mother-and-daughter pair behind award-winning homegrown brand Porcelain tell Melissa Gail Sing about their perceptions about beauty, their relationship, competing against skincare giants and their vision for their business.

In deciding who to take beauty advice from, a good start—if only superficial—is to look at the giver’s skin. If someone with enviable glowing skin free of imperfections tells you that they put on a banana-honey mask every morning, you might be more inclined to attempt the messy endeavour than if it came from someone with dull, pimply skin. And if the giver’s mum sports equally beautiful skin (and you can bet that it was she who handed down that banana-honey mask secret to her daughter, probably along with some other skincare secrets), then you have, right before you, living proof of a tried, tested and proven formula. 

Now, what if you could receive beauty advice from a radiant mum and daughter whose homegrown skincare brand has been lauded right here in Singapore, where quality is king? 

Enter the ladies behind homegrown brand Porcelain, mother-and-daughter pair Jenny Teng and Pauline Ng. Getting her start in the skincare industry at the tender age of 16, Jenny went on to launch her own beauty and slimming house, Jphiline Beauty & Slimming House, which had a strong following among not just women but men, too. The economic downturn of 2004 forced her to close the business. But five years later, encouraged by her daughter Pauline, she decided to channel her decades of skincare experience into a new facial salon. That led to the birth of Porcelain, The Face Spa at Cantonment Road, where Jenny, 52, is Director Aesthetician and Pauline, 28, is Managing Director. Under their leadership, the business broke even in less than a year, and by 2010, it achieved another milestone when it launched its own skincare line. In 2013, it was named Best Beauty Spa in Asia Continent at the World Luxury Spa Awards, a feat that was repeated the following year. Last year, it launched a second outlet, Porcelain Aesthetics, at swanky mall Orchard Gateway offering maintenance and preventive facials.

Pauline and Jenny tell Melissa Gail Sing about their perceptions about beauty, their relationship, competing against skincare giants and their vision for their business.

Growing up, what were some of the perks of having a mum in the beauty business?
Pauline: At that time, the perks definitely didn't seem obvious. I was never exceptionally vain or conscious about my skin. On hindsight, I'm glad my mum influenced me to never rely on covering up my blemishes, but instead, preventing them by addressing the root of the problem.

What are the earliest memories of the skincare items you used from your mum?
Pauline: It would have to be her cleanser and sunscreen.

When did your skincare routine become more sophisticated? 
Pauline: After we started Porcelain. Before that, I had no clue about the complexity of skincare. It was only after we started Porcelain that I started studying it and was intrigued by it. I gradually added products to my skincare regimen over the years.

Describe your attitude towards skincare and make-up, and your beauty routine. 
Pauline: When it comes to skincare, I believe there's no shortcut to good skin; you need to put in the effort, time, and use the right products and follow a strict regime. As for make-up, less is more for the day-to-day but once in a while, who doesn't love a little smokey eyes and red rouge?

How did you become interested in beauty as a career? 
Pauline: It's an industry that I had stumbled upon. When I was growing up, my mother always asked me if I would be interested in this line, and my answer was always a firm ‘No’. Over the past six years, I have fallen in love with the industry, the science behind skincare and how we can deliver beauty services. Being B to C allows us to see the results of our hard work, in the form of the better, healthier skin our clients can achieve, and it is truly satisfying.

Jenny: I had skin issues when I was younger – mainly pigmentation – so I sought help from several beauticians. If one could not help me, I would look for another. I tried a lot of products in the market but they did little to help. Eventually I gave up hope when none of them could solve my complexion problems. It was only later on when my skin got worse and I tried to conceal it instead with creams that I renewed my search. I found that they did not help me either, but instead made my skin congested and even worse. When I could not find a beautician who could help me, I decided that I wanted to craft my own technique not just to help myself but to help others as well. I knew that such things can be solved so I educated myself, attended classes and took courses to get professionally accredited. Because of what I have been through, I understand what others are feeling and I wanted to be able to help them. I did not want anyone else to be disheartened by his or her skin conditions like I was, so I wanted to carve a career in the beauty industry.

How did the idea for Porcelain come about?
Pauline: Porcelain's beginnings were humble; my mother had her skills and her belief that great skin can belong to anyone as long as they are in the right hands. But she had only one pair of hands and it was her dream to pass on her skills and knowledge to benefit more people. Which is why one of the earliest things we did was to focus on training, and that continues to be our core. We wanted to provide honest services and products and hopefully one day, spread our philosophy and offerings for more to enjoy!

How does your brand compete against bigger, more established players?
Pauline: My personal philosophy is to build a strong foundation, and our foundation lies in our knowledge of skincare, and in great products! The rest is on building trust. We do not pretend to be what we are not, we build trust with our clients, we listen to what people what, and we try our best to give our clients what they want. Being smaller, nimbler and more accessible, we can achieve that more easily than bigger brands can.

What’s your bestseller at Porcelain? 
Jenny: The Quintessential Facial, which focuses on the technique that I have researched for more than half my life. This skill has been passed down to many of my therapists, who are handpicked for their passion towards skincare and their desire to help others. Another bestseller is Porcelain's first-ever product, the Balance, Sebum Control Essence. This serum is developed to moisturise skin, detoxify internal congestion and balance pH and sebum production levels to clarify the skin. 

What are your big dreams for the brand?
Pauline and Jenny:
For Porcelain to become an internationally recognised brand while maintaining the highest quality and for it to become an authority in skincare. We don’t want Porcelain to be a company that is fixated on the bottom line. Education is very important; in order to really solve skin issues, we must understand the root of the problem and tackle it. With that in mind, we want to be able to train more aestheticians and therapists who are professional and knowledgeable. Our common goal is for all of our aestheticians and therapists to have both skills and knowledge so that they can help our clients as best as possible. We emphasise that our staff do not use hard-sell techniques or make unrealistic promises to our clients. Talk is cheap; and we believe that our skills will prove that we can live up to our promises and that our clients can trust us when it comes to handling their skin.

How has working in the beauty business together brought you closer?
Jenny: When we first started working together, there were conflicts as we did not know how to communicate with each other properly. It took a lot of effort for us both to change our attitude towards our working relationship. I had to respect Pauline and be open to her business decisions. We had to be able to separate our personal and professional interests; at Porcelain, I am her Director Aesthetician and not her mother. There must be mutual understanding and respect when it comes to opinions. More importantly, we share the goal for the company which is to help our clients with their skin, and to educate them. Through this, we built Porcelain from a two-woman team to what it is today.

What’s the biggest beauty gift you’ve passed to your daughter? 
Jenny: Pauline’s passion for skincare. She had no background in the beauty industry and had little knowledge about skincare. I taught her what I knew and she learnt the rest herself. She now knows more than me and her attitude towards constant learning impresses me. Because of this passion, Pauline has taken the company to greater heights by bringing in the latest technology, and we now even have our own skincare products to complement our treatments and to cater to the specific needs of our clients. I am very proud of my daughter for having achieved such great accomplishments.

What’s your biggest beauty inheritance from your mum? 
Pauline: I had answered this question before I saw my mum's answer to the previous question. It would be the passion towards skincare, and Porcelain. It is much more than a business, and it is what bonds us.

What are some beauty secrets or routines you share that keep you close? 
Pauline: Actually, the routines that we adhere to are no secret. Regular exfoliation using a hydrating and gentle enzyme exfoliant, daily sunscreen application, going foundation-free and ensuring that all the products that we use balance the skin. We also try to go for facial treatments regularly at Porcelain, but it is hard because our appointments are always cancelled when clients ask for the slot. 

What beauty-related items do you share – from favourite shampoo brands to favourite hairdressers and perfume, etc?
Pauline: We do not live together, and both of us are not exceptionally vain women who swap beauty related "product tips". I think she really loves the Elie Saab perfume I got her, and that's one of my favourite fragrances as well.

Who were the beauty icons of your time and how did they inspire you? 
Pauline: It would have to be Natalie Portman and Nicole Kidman. They are elegant, talented and outrageously beautiful. I remember adoring both of them as a teenager. They never wear too much make-up, they are smart and sexy, and they are definitely the epitome of class in my opinion. Jenny: I did not have any beauty icons back then because as a teenager and even up to my 20s I knew nothing about skincare. I did not really notice their appearance, but rather, I appreciated the wholesome image and poise that celebrities like Lin Qing Xia (Brigitte Lin) projected. What are the beauty rules for you generation? Pauline: Wear sunscreen always, smell nice always, smile always! 

Jenny:
I really don't remember that there were any when I was younger, perhaps growing up during my time, we didn't have the access to the influences and knowledge young women have right now.

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