Conversations: Nicolas Travis of The Phenomenal Allies of Skin
From entering the industry with a single product in tow to a spot on Forbes #30Under30. We poke the brains of the man putting Singapore's beauty scene on the map.| November 21, 2017
They say that there are no ugly girls, just lazy ones. For the majority of us, great skin doesn’t just happen. It is the result of endless searching for the right products, finding a combination that works and committing to the cause. Sometimes, the process leads you to a whole slew of skincare products that you wind up taking almost half an hour to apply in full. Great skin, yes, but not the best use of your time.
Enter Allies of Skin. Founded by Singapore-based Nicolas Travis, the rising skincare label is all about “adaptogenic” skincare, that is, giving your skin the great stuff and letting it take in what it needs. Simply put, the label is all about creating no-bull skincare that not only work towards giving you great skin, but also trimming down your routine by rolling multiple products into one. Maximum effect, minimal effort. The sleek AF, minimal packaging is icing on the cake, really.
In the short and impressive span of two years, Travis went from entering the skincare industry with just one product in tow to being stocked at Net-a-Porter, SpaceNK and Lane Crawford, just to name a few, and a spot on Forbes “30 Under 30”. He has gone where no Singaporean skincare label has gone and he is just getting started. Oh, and of course – he has amazing skin. We’re talking no pore in sight.
Here, we poke the brains of the entrepreneur, where he lets us in on the fundamentals of Allies of Skin, the ingredients he swears by for great skin, why his products are such game-changers and yes, his entire skincare routine. TAKE NOTES. TAKE COPIOUS NOTES.
Hello Nicolas! How’s your day been so far? What have you been up to?
Hola, I’m doing great. Things have been a little hectic as we just launched three new products a few weeks ago, so have been busy rolling them out to all our global retailers.
It’s amazing where your brand is headed in such a short time. Why “Allies of Skin”? How did it all begin?
I had really bad acne as a teenager, so my passion for skincare started then. Having my own skincare line has always been my dream. I’m someone who believes that life’s too short to not do what you love, so I decided I had nothing to lose and went all out for it. The name “Allies of Skin” came to me while I was brushing my teeth. I’ve always loved the word “Allies” – it has so much meaning and is so powerful. One cannot thrive in life without allies. We all need allies. My goal for my skincare line was to cut through the noise and create formulas that actually work – like an ally would.
You started out with the 1A All-Day Mask, which has been met with incredible reviews. How did you know that it was the first thing you wanted to create?
The idea behind it stemmed from a real need I had. I was traveling a ton and was flying every other week. It was taking a toll on my skin but I did not have anything that I could use on day flights. I had to layer products and that became time consuming and cumbersome, so I knew instinctively that I had to create a leave-on treatment that would reverse the effects of jet-lag, lack of sleep and too much stress and alcohol.
Was it daunting to enter the massive beauty market with a single product in tow? After all, Singapore isn’t known for being a beauty epicentre like Japan or South Korea.
No, because honestly, this is the only thing I want to do with my life. I found my purpose in life and that’s to help people feel great in their own skin. I know firsthand how damaging having severe acne and problematic skin can have on one’s self-esteem, so I knew I could make a difference with super concentrated, no-bull formulas.
Many indie beauty brands begin because the founders find that there is something lacking on the market. What does Allies of Skin bring to the table?
We create next-generation adaptogenic formulas that adapt to the changing needs of your skin. Our products provide all the nutrients that your skin needs to heal and repair itself. We follow a strict formulation ethos and formulate without silicones, mineral oil, petrochemicals, parabens, polyethylene glycol, PEGs, sulfates, GMOs, triclosan, DEA/TEA, Phthalates, drying alcohol, synthetic dyes and fragrances. So, zero fillers which ensures that every formula is packed to the brim with actives. Essentially, we create products for people who work too hard, sleep too little and drink too much – so if you fall into any of the three categories, our products will work for you.
What was that moment when you felt that you could heave a sigh of relief? When did Allies of Skin start to take off?
Actually, I’m still holding my breath! We’re still very much in start-up mode with challenges that every young startup faces – cash flow, production issues, manpower issues etc. That said, I’m extremely grateful for the amazing response we’ve had with editors, buyers and customers. To be the first Singaporean beauty brand to be stocked at Net-A-Porter, Mr Porter, Barneys, JOYCE, Lane Crawford, SpaceNK is a huge honour and something I’m thankful for every day.
Allies of Skin recently launched the “Fresh Slate” masques. How are they different from the other collections like “Bright Future” and “Promise Keeper”?
Our Fresh Slate Cleansers + Masques are next-generation cleansers that double as flash treatment rinse-off masques. They are as concentrated as masques and are meant to be left on the skin for added benefits. The Bright Future Overnight Facial and Promise Keeper Blemish Facial are both nighttime treatments that work while you sleep and help you literally wake up with better-looking skin.
What is your day-to-day like as the founder of a skincare label? What are the best bits?
It’s never the same. There are so many moving parts, but I’m mostly focused on projects for 2018 and 2019. We have so much lined up in 2018 and it’ll be our biggest year yet. The favourite part of my job is creating new formulas and interacting with customers and retailers.
You’ve described your products as “nutrient reservoirs” for the skin to soak up what it needs. What are your top five skin nutrients that everyone should have in a beauty routine?
I swear by Vitamin C, Hyaluronic Acid, encapsulated Retinol, Niacinamide and Antioxidants.
I’ve heard that Allies of Skin has been working on a hydrating chemical peel which is unheard of, at least as far as I know. As someone who loves exfoliating, the peel sounds exciting. Tell us more about it.
That’s our Bright Future Overnight Facial which was designed to be a sleeping peel and give you the effects of a professional facial overnight. All you have to do is sleep. It is our fastest acting product and one of our best sellers. I wanted to create something that would give everyone healthy, glowing skin – because that’s what we’re about at Allies of Skin.
A little bird told me you have serums coming up as well?
Yes, they are game + life + skin changing formulas. I can’t wait to release them in 2018.
I can’t let you go without talking about your incredible skin. There’s not a pore in sight! What is your daily and skincare regimen like? What are some of your less-than-common skincare rituals, if any?
Thank you so much. In the morning, I use our Fresh Slate Brightening Cleanser + Masque and leave it on while I have my breakfast and brush my teeth. The longer you leave it on, the better. Our Molecular Saviour Mist comes next. I follow up with an essence and I like Benton’x Fermentation Essence and Snail Bee High Content Essence. A Vitamin C serum is essential and The Ordinary’x Vitamin C Suspension 23% + HA Spheres 2% is a super wallet-friendly option. Then, it’s our 1A All-Day Mask and OMOROVICZA’s UV Mineral Shield SPF30.
At night, I use our Fresh Slate Purifying Cleanser to get rid of grime and sunblock. I like to leave it for a minute or so to let the clay and Salicylic Acid in the cleanser work. Then I rinse and follow up with our Fresh Slate Brightening Cleanser. I use the same mist and essence. Then I follow up with IS Clinical’s White Lightening Complex and our 1A Overnight Mask. If I’m flying or had too much to drink, I mix the 1A Overnight Mask with Pai’s Rosehip Oil for extra moisture. Three times a week, I use our Bright Future Overnight Facial.
I don’t believe that you need to spend a lot on professional treatments to have good skin. The important thing is diligent self-care and you can easily do that by masking at home and giving yourself a home facial. Some of my favourite masks include NIOD’s Flavanone Mud, Ilcsi’s Sour Cherry & Blackthorn Gel Mask and Beta-Carotene Extra Treatment, Dermalogica’s Power Recovery Masque and Drunk Elephant’s Sukari BabyFacial. If you want to give yourself a home facial, remember this rule: use a peel first to loosen dead skin cells (like the Drunk Elephant Sukari BabyFacial) then a clay mask to soak up all the trapped dirt and gunk (NIOD Flavanone Mud) and then hydrate (like with the Dermalogica Power Recovery Masque or Ilcsi Beta-Carotene Extra Treatment). I like sheet masks from Korean brand Leaders’ Insolution.
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