In person with Datin Dr. Clara L Chee
The Cosmeceutical Industry
I’ve been in this industry for more than 30 years. And I can see that the industry is expanding and growing ever since. Back in the early days,women were more concern about beauty and long term care.
However, today young girls and boys have started to take care of their skin once they reach puberty. Today’s active lifestyle – rich in protein and carbohydrate diet, the environment and the hormonal changes – has all contributed to the changes and problems of the skin. Thus, early skin care and treatment is very important.
Now, beauty and fashion is no longer associated or exclusive for women only. There are also rising awareness among men. Everyone has started to take extra effort in ensuring a healthy and good skin. For instance, during a job interview it is crucial for you to look presentable. Smart looking, tidy and confident is essential in almost every profession. In order to have self-confidence, you have to care of how you look, and also your health. All these factors definitely contribute to the growth of this industry.
Definition of Beauty
To me beauty means healthy skin with natural look that makes people feels comfortable and pleasant. It should come from within. The radiance and aura reflected the beauty from your heart through your appearance. Looking beautiful from the inside (kind hearted) and outside.
Healthy lifestyle is also important, and this starts from home. It is the duty of the parents to teach their young ones good manners, being respectful and thankful. Good human characteristic is also required so that we can lead a happy and harmonious life within the society. We need to be balanced physically, mentally and spiritually.
Secrets to youthful looking skin
Skin protection and taking good care of our skin is important, especially if we wish to maintain the youthful look even at the later age. We need to ensure that we have a good skin care product range that is suitable to our climate and weather. Lifestyle and culture can also give certain impact to our skin. The westerners, with temperate weather, love to get under the sun and get tanned. They have less melanocyte; therefore, they need not have to worry about getting pigmentation. Malaysia is blessed with hot sun throughout the year. Therefore, the need for skin care and protection products that are suitable for tropical humidity and heat are crucial as overexposure to the sun damages your skin.
“Now, beauty and fashion is no longer associated or exclusive for women only. There are also rising awareness among the men.”
Back to nature products
During my childhood, I was exposed to the formulae using natural and herbal ingredient in my daily life. My father used his own formula to produce his own hair pomade by mixing petroleum gel with jasmine flower. Even my mother used ‘jamu’, herbs and vegetable as her beauty care ingredients. Both my parents inspire me to further my study in formula science. While others are using orthodox drugs such as paracetamol, antibiotics and so on, we use herbs and vegetable from our own garden that are free from pesticide to cure sickness and prevent illness. You see, going back to basic comes naturally to me; it is so much in me.
A niche market
I graduated with a degree in Science (Chemistry) and, later on, the Honorary Doctorate (PhD) in Medicinal and Cosmetic Products Technology. I believe that the exposure I gained while studying abroad has given me a very good reasoning power. I learnt that the basic materials of beauty products are mainly petroleum based or mineral-oil based. There was, and still is, a huge tank of this substance ready for toiletries production that would be exported under different brands to many countries like Australia, US, Singapore, and Hong Kong. So I thought, what has been formulated there might not be suitable to be marketed to tropical climate countries. From there on I started to formulate my own products that are herbal based. I then shared my idea and experience with Malaysian Herbal Corporation (MHC) back in 1997, and also to other local players to encourage commercialisation of local herbs and cosmeceutics.
Please don’t be confused on the difference between cosmeceutics and toiletries. Toiletries functions as a cleanser, to clean skin but not enriching or enhancing it. Meanwhile cosmeceutics contains active ingredients such as herbal extracts to help nourish and care for the skin. It acts to improve your skin to be healthier. A skin treatment product that is safe, clean and ‘halal’.
Healthy lifestyle the natural way
We are also spreading our wings to the next dimension in ensuring and maintaining healthy look and lifestyle. We are currently working closely with Forest Research Institute Malaysia (FRIM) to identify the active ingredients for herbal formulation for halal herbal capsule. We also did R&D together with Institute Medical Research (IMR) to formulate the alternative to Hormonal Replacement Therapy (HRT).
The right time to train individuals for their careers
There are cases reported on the after effect of the HRT such as breast and womb cancer. Having this in mind, we opt to use herbs as the alternative to prevent and also cure illness.
Trends in skin care products’ development
A lot has been happening in the local herbal industry since the late 90’s, both positively and negatively. The worrying and disturbing trends would be the introduction of hormonal ingredients for beauty treatment. Hormonal ingredients in skin care products might be harmful and damaging to your internal organs such as liver and kidney. Long term usage may cause adverse effects. For example, excessive use of placenta cream or lanolin cream can cause extra hair growth on skin. Sadly, the innocent consumers are always confused by misleading information and advertisement in the market. However, there is also positive inclination in this industry towards a more healthy, natural and clean products. I strongly emphasize in using herbal based products in skin care. In my case, I felt very blessed and thankful by the environment I am in.
“It acts to improve your skin to be healthier.”
We have strong government support and initiatives like what is being offered by the East Coast Economic Region (ECER), and good climate to plant our own raw material. I can claim that herbs from tropical climate are the most powerful. However, lack of promotions on their special properties has resulted in low appreciation on our local herbs.
I am a very keen advocate in halal practices and halal herbal products. Halal or “Chin Chan” is clean, true and safe. It is not only for the Muslim. I have preached this understanding to my counterpart in China back in 1993. I believe, with these three elements, there will be no harm and no side effects. A simple example is in food preparation, if it is halal it will not cause food poisoning or diarrhoea. Therefore, we worked for halal formulation and all of our products are certified Halal.
Nip-Tuck on the rise
I have a feeling, as an adult, we have to educate our young generations to value what has been gifted to us by God. The features that we have now are from God, and we are the most perfect creation to represent our ancestor. We should feel proud and respect it.
Originally, plastic or cosmetic surgery is to help reconstruct damages due to misfortunes such as burnt and deformation. It is to give the patients their original look, not modifying it. But, nowadays we can see many people are undergoing plastic surgeries for beauty purposes. We have read numerous cases of botched cosmetic surgeries reported over the years, which even led to death cases. One will always have to weigh all the risk and benefits of cosmetic procedure before making any commitment. And we should realize that this kind of human made beauty is not inherited. The child of a person who did plastic surgery will inherit their parents’ original look. I am afraid that this trend can be a cause of broken marriage, especially if it is solely based on looks. And, to me, honesty definitely plays a role.
Developing Resources in Aesthetics
I have started a college on the second year of Clara’s establishment. It is first known as Clara Beauty Treatment Centre & Therapy Academy. The trainers are all my comrades during the study years. The students have to undergo aesthetic examination where they are being evaluated and graded based on international standards by international examiners. Our certificates are globally recognised. We are the first college recognised by the Malaysian Qualifications Agency (MQA) for aesthetic education.
Currently we have schools in all major states throughout the country. Since its establishment, we have trained over 10,000 graduates and there are high demands for them locally and overseas, especially from Singapore and China. We also have students from different countries like Japan, France, Africa, India and the neighbouring countries. We even have male students in our academy and, surprisingly, they are more saleable!
High Technology in Herbal
I was motivated with the advancement of high technology because only through technology I’ll be able to come out with more formulation. And I can also apply this in the manufacturing line. Our factory is certified with the halal and good manufacturing practise (GMP) certification and we are also a BioNexus company.
Ultimately, high technology is critical in promoting Herbal industry. It is a promising market and has high potential. I urge for continuous supports from the government, especially in terms of grants, so that we can do more clinical study. We should also emphasis on herbal cultivation to ensure continuous supply for the local industry. We have all the advantages here in Malaysia…I mean, why not take the opportunities and explore more? Plant more! Formulate and produce local quality product. I believe that one day the world will look for our products. But first, we have to believe in our herbs to bring it to the next stage.