Fascinating Women: Mia Bulatao and Mells Limcaoco Start A Local Movement In Skinimalism
These two corporate big bosses took their struggles about beauty products and started a movement on pared down skincare that is uncomplicated and practical
It all began with a Zoom call in the middle of the pandemic. Friends were catching up over Zoom, and after talking about anything and everything, from family and work, it turned to a favorite topic of everyone: Skincare during lockdown. This was when Mia Bulatao, started sharing her extreme allergic reaction over a popular skincare brand. It gave her hives and rashes that took months to be removed. Mells Limcaoco, who was also on that call, likewise chimed in that she has tried so many imported products from the US, and still couldn't find the right one for her skin. She felt that many of the imported products are too heavy for the Philippines. In jest, one of their friends in that call suggested: “I think we should just create one for us here."
This got the brains of the two most brilliant minds in business whirring. Mells was the CEO of Amplifi Technologies Corp and founder of the most successful startups, while Mia was currently the President and COO of QuadX Inc, the fastest growing local e-commerce logistics startup. They realized that there was truly a gap in the market for this kind of skincare brand.
“So why not?”
Then the real work of power players began. They started discussing the market, their networks, the experts they could reach out to. Mells recalled knowing two people at work before who were deeply into skincare research and proceeded to connect people in the group.
And so the two started on a journey creating a skincare brand that would address their needs as well. This meant that every decision and every ingredient they put in the product had to be something they were comfortable in using themselves.
“We always splurge on the product, we don’t scrimp on the ingredients. We really created a product for us. Most ingredients are from Korea and Europe. And we put them all together. And though the cost was high, we didn’t want to scrimp because it was meant to be a product for us,” explains Mells.
The movement of Skinimalism
Because The Unbranded Skincare Co. began from their needs, it was natural that Mells and Mia would often refer to their experience when understanding the product. Mia remembered how, when growing up, she had a simple approach to skincare, and thus as she discovered more options for skincare, like the Korean 16-step system, it wasn’t easy to recall which steps corresponded to which product.
“I didn’t grow up always taking care of my skin, it wasn’t part of my daily routine. So with the new trendy regimens, like the Korean 10 step-process, I could never seem to remember which one goes after each one. It’s just so confusing,” says Mia.
“Which was why when this concept of Skinimalism got to us, it truly appealed to us. It was really designed for us.”
And so, it took a year of research, of formulating and reformulating the ingredients, for these two perfectionists to give their seal of approval.
“When we tested it, we thought, who better to try it than people like us who were going to use it, and we had very sensitive skin,” Mia adds. Throughout the process, they always demanded for the product possible. They kept asking for more, seeking better ingredients, and better results. And even while their chemists were already telling them the products were coming out too expensive, the two were relentless.
“It’s okay, we really wanted a good product, a product that we ourselves will use and will love,” shares Mia of their conversation.
After a year of formulating and reformulating, and from editing down the offerings to the ones with the best results, they came out with three products: The Cleanse Wash, the Day Wash, and the Overnight Cream.
Instead of offering a lot of options and steps, the two went down to what was most essential.
“We are very cognizant that from 10 or 11 products that you put on your face and layer on your face, we decided we wanted to pack all these into one. It doesn’t matter if it would become really expensive. But we want effective skincare for everybody,” says Mia.
“It can become so overwhelming if there are too many options. Instead, we wanted to uncomplicate skincare. So each of our products are multi-functional in a way,” she says.
The two fell in love with the concept of Skinimalism—they loved it so much that they actually trademarked it!
Not surprisingly, a lot of people understood what they wanted to do. When Mells and Mia first tested the brand on lifestyle and fashion e-commerce retailer Seek the Uniq, the results were promising. The products would get sold out after only one day of display, prompting them to release even items.
A brand called Unbranded
What makes The Unbranded Skincare Co. different is that it celebrates the uniqueness of the individual by keeping the product line to the barest essentials, from the ingredients to packaging, and even the name itself—The Unbranded Skincare Co.
“We called it Unbranded because we really wanted people to concentrate on the product,” explains Mells. “The hero will always be the product itself—The Cleansing Wash, the Overnight Cream, the Day Shield."
The two are also proposing a new take on beauty, one that won’t dictate what beauty is, but instead, encourage the appreciation of diversity.
“Everyone’s beautiful, we’re all unique. So no one should dictate what beauty is—and that’s why it’s unbranded, says Mells.
They wanted the product to be simple and results-driven, and at the same time easy to understand. “We didn’t want to concentrate on the glitz and glamour but really focus on the product,” explains Mells. That meant they had to go down to what’s really essential and remove the unnecessary ingredients, such as fragrance.
This also meant that the product upholds the highest of all standards, making sure that all their products are clinically-tested and dermatologist-tested, cruelty-free, paraben-free, fragrance-free, sulfate-free, alcohol-free, and likewise free of any mineral or comedogenic oil or any ingredient that is toxic or irritating to the skin.
The underlying feature in all the products is moisture. This is because they have discovered that for a product to be effective for the skin, it needs to be prepped first with moisture, because that’s the first thing that the skin will fix. “All our products have that so that whenever your skin would interact with any product, you don’t have to worry about it, and all the ingredients would work well on your skin,” she adds.
The Cleansing Wash (Cleansing and Toning)
This product is hardworking without being harsh. It is specially designed to remove dirt, grease, and grime while still leaving skin with moisture and visible clarity. "The most important ingredient of this product is PhytoSqualan that’s derived from olives. It actively restores the lipid and protective barriers of your skin, allowing you to store the moisture,” explains Mia.
Apart from this ingredient, the Cleansing Wash also has tea tree oil, which has anti-microbial properties and anti-inflammatory properties to reduce skin irritation and redness. Plus, it functions as an antioxidant. There’s also the calamansi extract, which brightens and exfoliates, and at the same time, is known to regulate oil production. This is perfect for those with acne-prone skin.
Tip: The cleansing wash can be used as a traditional wash, or it can also be wiped off. For those who prefer double cleansing, you can put it on your skin as a makeup remover, add water, and work up a lather to remove makeup.
Finally, here’s something to convince you of the benefits. In terms of the product rating based on the Ingredient Safety Breakdown (EWG Health Ratings), this product scored a perfect 100%. “That means it’s a pretty safe and effective product,” says Mia.
The Day Shield (Protect + Brighten)
More than just protecting your skin from the sun’s harmful UV rays, the Day Shield protects you from pollution and other infections. It contains your daily supply of nourishment and protection that keeps different types of skin problems at bay: From photoaging, to skin darkening, to acne, while also maintaining moisture.
“The day shield is more than just sun protection. Whenever you look at sun block, you have to check if it’s broad spectrum,” explains Mia. Sun Protection Factor (SPF) protects you from sunburn on the reddening and burning (highest from 10AM to 4PM), in this case, it’s 30-40 SPF. So why did we put it that way? Why only that? The misconception is that the SPF indicates how long you can stay under the sun. What it actually means is that this is the amount of UVB rays that you are protecting yourself against. We are already at an optimal 98%—anything above that will only have incremental effect.”
It also has the ingredient of Allantoin—it’s a soothing, calming, and healing ingredient for skin renewal. “Everyday, as you are exposed to the sun, there is TEWL or trans-epidermal water loss—and Allantoin and Squalene can protect you against. At the same time Allantoin helps you grow new cells. It also helps you shed your dead skin cells.”
“The overnight cream is all about repair. It’s packed with a lot of ingredients like Centella Asiatica, a key ingredient that improves blood circulation in the skin which helps calm irritated skin and initiate repair. It accelerates that reparative quality,” says Mia. She also mentions the presence of Bee Venom, which improves blood circulation and stimulates the production of natural collagen and elastin. “That collagen is good for the plumpness of the skin, so it improves the appearance of wrinkles, among others.” The last key component is Vitamin B3 and E, which tightens pores and creates smoother, tighter skin, a lighter and smoother complexion. The formula is topped with other ingredients that support repair and renewal.
When two bosses unite
Indeed, there's so much to learn from how these two women have built and set-up their brand. Mia takes on the role of President of The Unbranded Skincare Corp, bringing with her the deep knowledge and experience in Scientific Marketing, CRM, and Customer Experience that she has gained from her different leadership stints across the country's leading companies in different industries—from telecommunications, banking, broadcast media. She continues innovating even in her current role as President and COO of QuadX Inc., the country's fastest growing e-commerce logistics start-up.
Mells is another tech powerhouse, the CEO of Amplifi Technologies Corp., who has founded a number of the country's most successful tech start-ups, including one of the biggest exits in local history—ECG (bought by Globe Telecom in 2008). She's an achiever through and through, and even in her hobbies reflect this, as she managed to complete the New York Marathon in 2010!
While Mia and Mells are both involved not only in their respective companies and The Unbranded Skincare Co., they also delicately balance family life in style. Mells has two lovely daughters—both are graduates of Stanford University, and is married to Timmy who is an entrepreneur as well. On the other hand, Mia balances time with her husband and two kids, and juggles all these roles by finding ways to keep her grounded and fit.
And with the brand that they've established, which is creating a new movement towards Skinimalism, we have to hand it to our two power women, who were able to distill the essence of skincare into uncomplicated products that cater to the Philippine market's unique sensibilities.