Clean beauty brand OLUMES harnesses the power of Mother Nature to give us the elixir of youth

AN all-encompassing skincare product that targets all skin woes sounds too good to be true, but local skincare brand OLUMES aims to prove otherwise.

Founders Aerin Gabor and Ika Yahiya named their brand OLUMES (pronounced: oh-lu-miss) after the Kadazan-Dusun word for “beautiful”. The brand harnesses an age-old Bornean beauty secret to achieve luminous skin using kalalit extract derived from sappanwood.

Aerin said: “All my life, I was not blessed with a perfect complexion; I’ve had multiple skin problems all at the same time. In my late 30s my skin was breaking out badly, with adult acne, open pores, sensitivity, strangely dehydrated, redness, and fine lines and wrinkles starting to appear.”

She tried various skincare products, from drugstore to luxury brands, but none delivered the promised results she hoped for. Until she was introduced to a generational, cultural beauty ritual by her grandmother.

“During a visit to my grandparents’ house in the foothills of Mount Kinabalu, I noticed that my grandmother and my aunties had this perfect flawless skin, even at their age,” she shared.

“One day, my grandparents took me to their paddy orchard on foot, on the way there, my grandmother spotted a tree and cut off one of its branches. To my surprise, the branch produced dripping water, which she quickly drank to quench her thirst, and splashed the remainder onto her face.

“She told me that this is the kalalit tree, and they believe it possesses numerous healing abilities. So I tried applying it to my face every day, and after a week, my problematic skin became better each day.”

Aerin created her own simplified skincare routine with the power of one botanical extract packed with anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, antioxidant and anti-photoageing properties.

$!Cousins Ika (far left) and Aerin (far right) who are half KadazanDusun, tapped into their heritage and natural surroundings for inspiration when creating OLUMES. – PICTURE COURTESY OF OLUMES

Have you always been interested in skincare?

Aerin: “Yes! Growing up, I’ve always been fascinated every time my mum put on her moisturising cream, and I remember buying my first acne cream with my school allowance when I was 13. Reading and flipping through my mum’s fashion magazine during my teenage years also made me believe that beauty starts with a clear and healthy complexion.”

Ika: “Me too! As soon as I hit puberty, my mum introduced me to skincare to prevent me from having hormonal teen acne. That said, I’ve never really had any major issues with my skin throughout my teenage years, but after becoming a mother, my skin got more sensitive. That’s when I started to learn more about skincare on a much deeper level. When Aerin invited me to embark on this journey, there was no way I was going to say no.”

Why is starting OLUMES important to you?

Aerin: “When I discovered kalalit water, almost immediately I knew that this would benefit lots of people that had the same problem as me. The endless struggle with our skin issues: adult acne, enlarged pores, pigmentation, fine line, etc can be stressful.

“With this discovery, paired with Ika’s passion for clean beauty and sustainability, we decided to start OLUMES with the mission to offer authentic, clean, sustainable and high-performance skincare that really works.”

What are the sustainability efforts being practised when sourcing the kalalit extract to avoid overconsumption and potentially leading to the destruction of the resources?

Ika: “We are only extracting from the small tree branches, thus, this will allow the tree to regrow itself. Our plan was to incentivise the locals to plant more trees near the foothills of Mount Kinabalu to ensure sustainable growth.

“However, the plan has been put on hold until the travel restrictions are lifted, but we hope to carry out this initiative before the end of 2021.

“Additionally, we also focus on how our ingredients could affect the environment as a whole. We wouldn’t want to include anything that could be detrimental to the skin or to the environment too.”

Could you talk to us a little about OLUMES’ Save The Rainforest pledge to a conservation fund that helps to protect and safeguard our rainforests?

Ika: “We believe that we don’t only play the part of improving complexions, but also to better the treatment of our planet too. With our Save The Rainforest Movement, we want to use our platform as a tool to educate our society on the importance of preserving and nurturing our magnificent rainforests.

“Therefore, we actively give back to society by donating a portion of our sales to our local rainforest preservation organisations. By doing so, we hope that these initiatives will continuously educate the public on issues such as deforestation and climate change.”

Do you believe in skincare that is ‘one size fits all’?

Aerin: “Yes! This is especially true with our The Refining Lotion, a real multitasker for all skin types. It’s possible due to the multifunctionality of the kalalit extract itself, alongside the other accompanying active ingredients.

“One or more items in your skincare routine should be multifunctional or multitasking to save on cost, time and effort. Formulating a multitasking product is a complex process, as we need to ensure the compatibility and the stability of each active ingredient that will work in synergy to deliver what it promises to do.”

Like many trends, do you think there will come a time where the clean beauty movement goes into decline?

Ika: “I highly doubt that. With the power of social media at our fingertips, customers have become more educated [when it comes to] skincare’s ingredients list.

“We noticed that the younger generation is constantly sharing reviews and feedback about skincare, along with passing on knowledge about the key ingredients of each product. They are aware of the benefits of naturally-derived ingredients, and know exactly the kind of substances or chemicals that can be harmful to the skin.

“At the end of the day, joining the clean beauty movement means that you’re taking responsibility for your environment by supporting ethically-sourced ingredients.”

$!The Refining Lotion and The Satin Cream. – PICTURE COURTESY OF OLUMES