The subject of skincare has always been a personal one to Coreenna Ong, who used to experience severe outbreaks in her teenage years. In an effort to find a product that worked for her, she ended up experimenting with blends of herbs, which led to her fascination with nature.
Established in September 2021, aspurely — formerly known as Recherché — is an innovation-focused clean skincare brand inspired by nature and science, with a focus on the usage of pure, efficacious ingredients and formulas.
It aims to express the vision that beauty care can be clean, pure, holistic and high performance at the same time.
“[W]e would love for people to experience how our clean and pure formulas could deliver great results for their skin regardless of the skin concerns they may be facing,” shares Coreenna, co-founder and director of research and development (R&D) of aspurely.
Gaining knowledge and insights about skincare
Coreenna’s journey to founding aspurely was a long and treacherous, but fulfilling process.
She shares that she first met her business partner, who was in chemical manufacturing, in 1997 when she forayed into the skincare industry. In those early years, she visited farms in Europe, China, Korea and Taiwan to learn about harvesting and processing techniques.
With the help of her business partner, she managed to form extensive connections with a global network of scientists and laboratories, allowing her to gain more knowledge and insights into the scientific and technical aspects of formulation and quality control processes.
She then made the effort to apply her knowledge and educate others on skincare through her work, where she was a beauty columnist for Lianhe Zaobao, Singapore’s largest Chinese-language newspaper.
“As its weekly expert contributor, I shared the latest research and technologies from the beauty industry and addressed many readers’ skincare issues and concerns, offering beauty tips, quick fixes, and insider knowledge”.
She also authored two best-selling beauty and wellness books with Marshall Cavendish: Nature’s Spa: DIY Beauty Treatments and Nature’s Treats: Recipes for Wellness.
Through this journey, she noticed that some had the misconception that clean skincare is not as effective as conventional skincare because it is “too natural”.
This gap in understanding was what ultimately drove her to explore this business venture, in efforts to dispel the misconception by proving that clean skincare can be just as efficient.
Aspurely’s skincare philosophy: harmony and symphony
Aspurely believes that people are all born with pure, pristine skin.
However, people’s lifestyles eventually cause possible alterations in DNA, causing the skin to be in need of a remedy. The food that we consume, the amount of sleep earned, the amount of stress surrounding oneself, are some factors that can affect one’s skin health.
“While significant lifestyle habits are hard to change, taking small steps to care for our skin daily could go a long way in improving skin wellness,” says Coreenna.
She adds that by practising daily mindfulness and consciousness of what we give to our bodies such as skincare, the effects of environmental stressors can be mitigated in order to improve wellbeing.
In particular, aspurely’s skincare products contain active ingredients that can help control and regulate factors that affect epigenetics and skin quality, such as skin detox, renewal and repair cycles. They are also hypoallergenic, which helps avoid the trigger of skin allergies.
Their products rejuvenate the skin at the DNA level by reactivating key gene expression, fibroblasts stimulation and cellular defences that are needed to maintain the skin’s DNA at a healthy, optimal state.
aspurely seeks to provide one coherent, harmonious symphony of benefits to one’s skin through its clean products. According to Coreenna, they “tap on the art and science of synergy, where the sum of parts produce combined effects greater than the sum of their separate effects.”
Similar to how each type of herb used in Traditional Chinese Medicine have their own individual functions but play complementary roles to each other when combined, this synergy that aspurely incorporates into its skincare products seeks to attain an occurrence where formulas interact harmoniously to bring out the best in one another.
The final, fully combined formula would then be effective and beneficial to the user, restoring harmony and balance to the user’s body and mind.
“This is what synergy is all about — and this is the heartbeat of our formulation methodology and everything else we do at aspurely,” says Coreenna, adding that while there are key ingredients in each formula, there is no one “star” ingredient.
“To us, each ingredient we have carefully selected to be part of a formula is a star in its own right. Each ingredient has an important reason to be there — to work together with the other ingredients to ensure the final formula delivers the best results for you.”
With a unique philosophy on skincare, aspurely sets itself apart from other skincare brands, while also ensuring that only all-natural preservatives made from eco-certified botanicals and plants are used in formulas to eliminate microbial contamination and product safety.
The end product? Environmentally-friendly, cruelty-free, skin-friendly products that deliver visible results people are looking for.
Behind the scenes
Coreenna is passionately involved with R&D, and has 25 years of experience under her belt in skincare product development. She emphasises that products are thoroughly tested before entering markets.
Besides in-vitro tests and lab screening tests to ascertain the safety and efficacy of the ingredients, to make sure our products will deliver what they are created to deliver, they are tested on human volunteers for a period of three to six months where we gather quantitative and qualitative data and feedback.
Typically, the R&D process takes about [six] to [nine] months for each product, depending on the product type and the intended purpose of the product.
– Coreenna Ong, co-founder and director of R&D of aspurely
One of its best-selling product is the Natural Amino Acid Cleansing Foam, which does not have any low-cost sulfates and ingredients in its formulation.
Even though their products may be considered pricey (prices start from S$49 for a cleansing foam), product quality is assured. Their products make use of raw materials and actives from natural sources that follow stringent quality control and safety protocols.
“Many of the ingredients that we use are COSMOS and ECOCERT certified. As far as possible, we also choose materials that are organically produced. Such ingredients and materials do not come cheap, compared to mass-produced petroleum-based materials,” explains Coreenna.
Additionally, these sources are sustainability cultivated and processed using methods to ensure minimal carbon footprint. Product packaging is also made biodegradable to reduce environmental impact on the environment.
Challenges of being “made-in-Singapore”
Gaining consumer base and support proved to be challenging for aspurely. As a “made-in-Singapore” skincare brand, they had to compete against many bigger and international competitors.
She recalls that it was difficult to overcome consumer hesitancy as homegrown skincare brands were not popular among consumers.
People tend to trust established European, US or Japanese brands. It was an uphill task trying to get people to understand that made-in-Singapore skincare is no less superior.
I was even advised by many close associates to just label our products as ‘Made in France/USA/Japan’, for the sake of gaining easier consumer acceptance, especially [when we are] a new, unheard-of-brand. However, be it national pride or personal conviction, I refused to do that. Hence, it was a big challenge to overcome people’s mindsets.
– Coreenna Ong, co-founder and director of R&D of aspurely
Coreenna, who first ventured into the skincare industry in 1998, also notes that the prevalence of social media was not as strong as present times. Efforts to advertise were futile, for advertising campaigns of larger companies quickly overpowered theirs.
“[W]e had to start promoting within our own immediate family members, close friends and relatives and asked them to help spread the word,” she says. This method proved to be effective for them, as word-of-mouth advertising helped to build the idea that they were selling truly effective skincare products.
Eventually, people came to accept their skincare products as aspurely lived up to its name of delivering visible results.
“Today, more than 20 years later, it is heartening to see many other made-in-Singapore skincare brands making their mark on the global stage,” says Coreenna, adding that she was glad that she stuck to labelling aspurely as a homegrown brand.
Venturing into health and well-being
When COVID-19 hit, Coreenna mentioned that despite facing issues like the escalating cost of business operations and raw materials — with the latter increasing by as much as 20 per cent in the past two years — it enabled them to become more flexible through the decentralisation of their business operations and focusing on strengthening their website sales.
Despite the COVID challenges, Aspurely has been steadily growing. Some of the partners they have established partnerships with include KrisShop, Thomson Medical Centre, Mount Alvernia Hospital, Precious Medical Group, Zest Clinic and Balanced Living.
Sharing future business plans, Coreenna says that besides their topical and edible skincare, they are seeking to continue developing health and well-being products that are clean and free of additives and fillers.
Aspurely also plans to work with aesthetic clinics and holistic well-being centres, as they deem them as suitable channels in which they can share and spread their message of clean beauty and well-being in a systematic, interesting and educational way.
“We believe that beauty is more than skin deep. True beauty is something that radiates from within our innermost being. That means the health and well-being of our body and mind plays a big part too,” sums up Coreenna.
Featured Image Credit: aspurely