I left a stable career to join the already cluttered skincare industry. Am I crazy?
Left: Abel in 2015 with red, burning, stinging skin
Right: Abel’s hand in 2014, visibly swollen, cracked and oozing
Hello there, beautiful people. I’m Joanne, and you may know me as the co-founder of Kansoskin. But before this, I was actually a cabin crew with Singapore Airlines for around 7 years. It’s a relatively comfortable career and so, many people were shocked when I left in mid 2019. So, why did I leave the jet-setting lifestyle where I can get paid to travel the world (before the COVID-19 situation)?
You see, when I was a teenager, I had severe acne. This brought me plenty of unsolicited advice and uncomfortable stares that caused me to have low self-esteem and I became very self-conscious about my skin. To make matters worse, my lack of skincare knowledge resulted in me doing all the wrong things to my skin (apricot scrubs, anyone?). This not only caused more inflammation to my skin, it also left me with post acne scarring. That was when I first became interested in skincare, with an obsession in understanding the ingredients labels behind all skincare products I use. But of course, that wasn’t enough to push me to start a skincare brand.
Abel, who is my elder brother and also a co-founder of Kansoskin, is the biggest catalyst and spark for the creation of the company. He is the main reason why Kansoskin even exists.
Since young, Abel suffers from chronic eczema. To control the symptoms, doctors prescribed high potency topical steroids, which he used for more than a decade. Because of the prolonged and improper use of topical steroids, he suffers from a debilitating side effect known as topical steroid withdrawal (TSW) or red skin syndrome (RSS), affecting him from head to toe.
This condition not only caused him insomnia, but also took a huge toll on his mood, mental and physical health. Whenever we go out together, I noticed people would stare at his skin, which hugely affected his confidence. Once, he was even chased out of a swimming pool by a lifeguard, even though he doesn’t have a contagious skin condition – and it’s all because of his skin’s appearance. To avoid weird glances and mean remarks from strangers, he would rather stay at home most of the time. Needless to say, this affected his social life.
Back in 2016, when I heard that Abel couldn’t find a job due to his skin condition, that truly broke me. In a search for ways to help Abel, I joined various eczema and TSW community, and I found out that he wasn’t alone. There are many others who are being denied job opportunities, lost their jobs, and even bullied simply because of their skin condition. These people are being judged not based on their abilities or personalities, but on how their skin looked. I used to be very upset, but I’ve since accepted that it’s natural for humans to fear what we don’t understand.
Through the community, I also realised that there are a significant number of people worldwide with different skin conditions who face similar challenges in society like us. That was when it struck me that there’s a pressing need to normalise skin conditions, not just for eczema, but psoriasis, acne, rosacea and more.
So, I proposed to Abel the idea of starting a skincare brand specially designed for people with compromised skin and help make their lives better.
We decided we want to be more than just another skincare company. We want to create purposeful skincare products that not only feels good, but also respect the skin’s health. But more than that, we want to raise awareness and reduce the stigma surrounding the various skin conditions. We don’t believe in promoting unrealistic beauty ideals, we want to normalise real skin.
I began deep-diving into a lot of research papers and took up an advanced diploma in organic cosmetic science to learn more about the skin, the different skin conditions and also the science behind formulating skincare products.
Starting a skincare brand from scratch is no easy feat. It’s a journey full of blood, sweat and tears. In fact, there are many people who questioned my decision in leaving a comfortable job.
From sourcing for the right manufacturer who is in line with our brand’s philosophy, to researching on suitable recyclable packaging materials, this journey has thrown us so many curveballs. I still remember the many nights that I broke down because it’s just. so. hard. But, we will continue to be driven by our mission and will work hard to get there.
So yes I did choose to leave a comfortable job, but no, I don’t think I’m crazy. Even though we can’t really change the world, at least we can be a good part of something big.
Kansoskin is all about self-love and self-acceptance for anyone with compromised skin. I believe that together, we can make changes that simply matter.