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Using M’sian flora, this local skincare brand puts your own facial bacteria to good work

Julius Lim, CEO and co-founder of Malaysian skincare company B&B Labs is all too familiar with skincare as it’s been his family business, helmed by his mum. As a youngster, he mostly spent his school holidays at their warehouse picking, counting, and packing products. 

His mother would also bring him along on business trips whenever she had to train her clients, further adding to his skincare knowledge bank.  

Fast forward to several years later, Julius hopped onboard the skincare ship professionally and joined his mother in the business upon graduating from university in 1998.  

Armed with 20+ years of experience in the skincare industry and now pursuing his graduate studies in Cosmetic Science, Julius saw an opportunity to then start a skincare brand of his own.

But he knew he needed a strategy to stand out in the saturated skincare market. So, he turned his gaze to Malaysia’s natural resources.

Did you know: Malaysia is one of 17 most biodiverse nations in the world, and home to centuries-old rainforests that are rich with Asian ingredients known for one’s health, beauty, and wellness benefit.  

Thus, showcasing the best of what Malaysia’s flora had to offer became one of B&B Labs’ pillars, alongside concepts that are backed by science.

Image Credit: B&B Labs

Customising microbiome-friendly masks

These days, most sheet masks in the market are of a one-size-fits-all approach and are made with synthetic fibres which can be a major cause of skin irritation.  

On the other hand, Julius believes that B&B Labs’ CustoMask is the first customised microbiome-friendly, treatment-grade sheet mask range in the world.  

The star ingredient present in the mask is E-COLOGY PLUS+, a proprietary botanical complex that includes durian flavonoids, mangosteen xanthones, hyaluronic acid, aloe vera, and certified natural prebiotics, probiotics, and postbiotics.  

CustoMasks’ packaging comes with five sheets of masks in total, each addressing a different skin concern on a different diffusion mask which are made with 100% pure natural fibres, hence, making them biodegradable and compostable too.

The entire R&D cycle can take anywhere from 9-12 months. Interestingly, the team tests the prototypes on themselves and their panel of skin experts. This is a rigorous process where the team obtains feedback and tweaks the formulation accordingly. 

And if they want to make a claim on a product and its properties, they would send it out for independent testing. 

For example, Julius pointed out that the CustoMask with its star ingredient, E-COLOGY PLUS+ is scientifically proven to support the skin, and is microbiome-tested and verified by Qima Life Sciences, an in-vitro testing laboratory in Gençay, France.  

As for why the testing has to be done so far away, Julius explained that the microbiome phenomenon is relatively new in the global market, let alone the Asian market, and so, very few labs offer testing solutions and certifications.

Putting the bacteria on your face to work

Image Credit: B&B Labs

No doubt, the surface of your skin has trillions of microorganisms. This vibrant community known as the microbiome is essential for healthy skin.  

However, bad bacteria can emerge and disrupt the microbiome balance.  

Harsh cleansers and exfoliators, aging, and change in the environment also have the potential to reduce the number of beneficial bacteria on the skin surface, leaving the skin “stripped” and unprotected.

This then allows harmful pathogens to multiply and bring about skin disorders such as acne, dark spots, hypersensitivity, dullness, dehydration, and wrinkly skin conditions.  

Prebiotics are “food supplements” for the good bacteria to thrive on whereas probiotics are the living good bacteria and miracle workers that work on your skin.  

On the other hand, postbiotics are the beneficial extracts that the good bacteria churn out when they are “well-fed”. Together, these all work hand-in-hand in B&B Labs’ products to ensure your skin barrier and the cells underneath remain uncompromised and healthy.  

Infusing Malaysia’s King and Queen of tropical fruits into skincare 

As mentioned earlier, two of the star ingredients in the CustoMasks are the King and Queen of tropical fruits, commonly known as durian and mangosteen. 

This idea came from Julius’ passion for product research and development, and his keen interest in ingredients.  

He believes that at the end of the day, just as wellness begins from the cells upwards, quality skincare is formed from the very fundamentals of its contents.  

Therefore, the scientists that they work with are constantly studying different ingredients to investigate the benefits each one can provide for the skin. 

“When we find one that fits the purpose, we’ll see how we can work that in,” explained Julius. 

One of the claims of the CustoMasks is that they provide the benefits of a professional treatment facial at home, using a formulation of 30ml serum and active ingredients.

Image Credit: B&B Labs

However, Julius acknowledged that having a facial done professionally still has its own set of added benefits such as pampering the skin to improve blood circulation.  

In order to maximise the CustoMask experience anyway, B&B Lab introduced the CustoMask Amplifier during the initial COVID-19 pandemic days to supercharge the at-home masking experience. This wearable beauty-tech device uses galvanic ion technology to push active ingredients deeper into the skin. 

Finding its niche  

Brand awareness in this over-saturated market is a challenge in today’s world. Though B&B Labs started off as a professional brand that distributes to salons and skin clinics, they’ve pivoted to selling directly to consumers.  

But challenges still persist, such as the perception that locally-made products are not “as good”, and people’s distrust of local brands. 

Julius believes that Malaysia has amazing brands and products, and that it is only fair that local brands earn their place in the world of skincare. Hence, he hopes that B&B Labs as subject matter experts would be able to help in this journey towards this coveted achievement.  

“What we are trying to do at B&B Labs is to do our part—which is to simply produce a skincare regiment that is equipped with essential products that maintain skin wellness,” shared Julius.  

B&B Labs’ future plans include creating a brand new collection, the Treatment Essence Collection which comprises durian, mangosteen, galactomyces, bird’s nest squalane, and ceramides to tackle skin sensitivity, dehydration, anti-aging, brightening, and large pores.  

Other than their online store, B&B Labs also has its products on Ascen Plus Pharmacies shelves across the Klang Valley and at selected skincare salons and clinics in Malaysia.  

Additionally, they’re looking to launch their own physical store, but in the meantime, keep a lookout for the brand as they go the pop-up route first at local curated markets.  

Internationally, the brand has just secured a distributor in Singapore, and Julius is already planning to launch the brand in the UK and US too.

  • Learn more about B&B Labs here.
  • Read more skincare startup content here.

Featured Image Credit: B&B Labs

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