good food for the skin

be good products

a degree in dermatology, working experience in the beauty industry or a love for skincare is the usual premise on which one may formulate a skincare range. for james wong, however, it is his love for travelling, cooking and food that shapes his personal care brand, be good. it is so named because he believes in the simple philosophy that we should take care of and be good to ourselves.

currently 30-product strong and growing, the collection includes lip balms and scrubs, body oils, face scrubs, foot scrubs, body lotions and soaps. james makes all the products by hand using natural ingredients and essential oils.

often, his creation process begins with a scent that he enjoys. “if i like the smell of a flower, i will find out if it’s available as an absolute or essential oil, if it’s safe and what the benefits are. then i will incorporate it into my range,” he says.

be good making
be good oils

ideas also come from food he enjoys whipping up in his kitchen. last christmas, he released a small collection of body scrubs built around ingredients that reflected the season: cinnamon, nutmeg and orange (which recalls christmas pudding or mulled wine), and geranium and thyme (not unlike the aroma that wafts from a chicken roasting in the oven).

he has found just as much motivation from his travels, particularly when exploring our south east asian neighbours. “i love the kampot pepper from cambodia, thailand offers a great many oils while bali was one of the places that sparked off the realisation that i can make my own products.”

tea is another source of ideas for james. a soothing cuppa he enjoyed while staying with a friend’s family in france, for example, is now immortalised in the afternoon tea face scrub. a blend of almond oil, green tea, orange and bergamot oils, it has a refreshingly citrusy scent with a hint of rawness from the tea.

each of james’ creations thus has a story behind it, and you can tell from the evocative product names that there’s always a suggestion of something more. think lavender dreams and mint breeze lip balms, vanilla cookies lip scrub, soothing serai body scrub or how about showering with the heaps of happiness or mojito body soap?

correspondingly, the packaging design is simple and cheerful but all that belies the amount of research (it typically takes at least six months before a product leaves his test kitchen and hits the shelves) that james puts every product through. not to mention, the rigorous testing he conducts on them – on himself; if it doesn’t pass his own test, he won’t sell it.

a soothing cuppa he enjoyed while staying with a friend’s family in france, for example, is now immortalised in the afternoon tea face scrub

in fact, be good is an entirely self-taught, self-built endeavour. it came about three years ago when james was facing a lull in his day job in research and insights with a media agency. he had been interested in essential oils for a while and enjoyed pairing oils for his own use, so he decided to dabble in them again.

in fact, be good is an entirely self-taught, self-built endeavour. it came about three years ago when james was facing a lull in his day job in research and insights with a media agency. he had been interested in essential oils for a while and enjoyed pairing oils for his own use, so he decided to dabble in them again.

james learned the basics of handmade skincare from watching youtube videos, and trawls the internet for information about essential oils and complementary therapies. he concocts the scents much like how one would build a perfume: there are top, middle and base notes that come together in a harmonious blend.

his initial experiments weren’t altogether successful. “the first lip balm i made was as hard as a rock!” he recalls, likening the process to cooking. “i change and adapt recipes as i go along, until i’m happy with the outcome.”

indeed, the ingredients list for his products does read like food recipes, featuring kitchen staples like sugar (used in the scrubs, as it releases anti-ageing hormones when in contact with skin), herbs, dried plants and flowers.

be good james
be good add oil
be good fill jars
be good balms

james chooses his ingredients carefully, sourcing them only from trusted brands such as uk-based new directions for the oils and mineral clays (used in facial creams and masks). be good’s products are not specific to any skin type but are generally suitable for all, including children above the age of five. even those with eczema have found that they are able to use his products without any negative reactions.

working from home and mostly by himself with the occasional help from friends, james is able to churn out about 30 units each week. he prefers to produce in small batches so as to keep everything as fresh as possible, and offers customisation as well as gift baskets. recently, he created body soaps as wedding favours and as the bridal party featured lots of baby’s breath, james encrusted the tiny blooms into them, making the soaps not just a takeaway gift but also a part of the happy couple’s story.

be good soaps

watching him in his home kitchen is not unlike observing a pastry chef in motion. the ingredients are weighed out with precision and the tools are similar to those used in cake making. ingredients are added to a big stainless steel bowl, then mixed and mashed evenly with ladles and spoons. after adding the essential oils, james picks up speed and makes sure that the finished mix is packed into the sterilised jars as quickly as possible. “the oils are volatile,” he explains. “leave them out too long and they lose some of their properties.”

be good labels

that’s among the crucial know-how that he picked up from his research into how raw ingredients react to environmental elements and on the human skin and psyche. essential oils, james believes, should never be ingested but only used topically. “there are two types of sage, and one of them can cause giddiness,” he shares. “some people may suffer phototoxicity from using certain oils, which is why i choose to work with a begatin-free bergamot oil in my collection.”

as james uses all natural ingredients and no preservatives, be good’s products have a fairly short shelf life of around six months. “keep them in a cool and shaded area away from direct sunlight,” he advises. “think of them as food.” that does not, however, mean that one should literally consider them as edibles. “my customers often describe my products as being good enough to eat. but no, i do not recommend consuming them!”

 


 > see and shop the full range of be good products via their facebook page (www.facebook.com/begoodto) and at www.begoodto.blogspot.com; you can also follow james on instagram (@begoodto) and wechat (begoodto)

 

this story first appeared in the malay mail online and crave in sunday mail