Mums and dads the world over wholeheartedly believe in giving their children the best — kiasu Singaporean parents more than most, we reckon — and surely that extends to necessities such as personal care, in addition to the usual suspects like education, nutrition and (dreaded but compulsory) toys. If you check all the above boxes when it comes to your mini-me, then turn your attention to NAÏF for quality skincare products uniquely formulated for young children.
But why make the switch from the functional tried-and-traditional baby care brands handed down from your parents' parents? Founders of NAÏF (pronounced 'naïve') Sjoerd Trompetter and Jochem Hes are just the right people to ask, being fathers themselves. In fact, it was this life changing news that spurred them to create their top-shelf hypoallergenic baby care products, after a far and wide hunt yielded only mass labels that included components that were unsafe for infants and kids. Factoring in the sensitive skin needs of your precious tots, NAÏF works with dermatologists and experts, committing to using only natural ingredients for the best possible baby-friendly products. Now launching locally at Gallery & Co., we foresee a gaggle of parents with babies in tow making their way down to pick up a tube or five. And if it's good enough for supermodel Doutzen Kroes to pamper her kids with NAÏF, you can bet your children need it in their lives too.
Can you share with us how long the two of you have been friends before going into business together?
Sjoerd Trompetter (ST): We studied together a long time ago. We stayed together though we studied completely different things. I worked in oil and gas and Jochem worked for Unilever, and then in marketing for Google. Then we both became dads about two years ago and we saw this opportunity. We saw that there was this gap in the market for quality baby products so we quit our jobs and now we're doing this.
At which point during your impending fatherhood did the idea of starting your own baby skincare line come about?
Jochem Hes (JH): We work with our hands, literally, in baby care products. It was my second child and Sjoerd's first, and like we mentioned we noticed two missing things, the first being quality. We saw that all the big brands, the mass brands, are using chemical oils and preservatives. We miss quality in the market for babies, which we thought was strange because for adults you see so many labels that do use quality ingredients. Because a baby's skin is much thinner than an adult's and is also much more sensitive, so it's very important that you use the right products especially for your kids.
And the second thing missing is a cool brand. That sounds very superficial, I understand, but when you become a dad or a mum or a parent, you get a lot of presents for your kid but we didn't receive any cosmetic brands. And if it's your birthday and I give you a present such as cosmetics, you'll be happy, right? So we try to combine top quality, natural ingredients and on the other hand it should also look, feel and smell nice and make you happy. That's the story in a few words.
NAÏF really took off in a fairly short span of time. How did you grow the brand? Or was there was already a demand in the market that you didn't expect?
ST: The easy answer is always that you expect it goes well otherwise we wouldn't have quit our jobs (laughs). I think what was a surprise to us is the feedback we got from customers — from mums and how enthusiastic they were about the products. We still get Facebook messages and emails from enthusiastic customers on a daily basis. We wouldn't have expected that it would be so strong but that's very cool, and I think that's the base of the brand: The customers — which in our case are young mums that love the products.
JH: And I think you also do see in Singapore a clear trend in people, especially mums, becoming more conscious. Not only when it comes to food but also when it comes to other products like for example, cosmetics. The good thing is we this trend all over the world. We see this same trend in Indonesia, in Europe and even in the US, so it's a whole market moving towards natural products that use fewer chemicals that's better for the skin and better for the environment. We try to be as open as we can and on our website you can find exactly what we do use and what we don't use, as well as why we don't use a list of certain ingredients.
What were some of the biggest challenges you faced in the process of creating organic baby products?
ST: We did a lot of research because in the end we're both not cosmetics experts so we really dug in. We talked to a lot of dermatologists, formulators, and doctors... but especially to a lot of mums. We have small talk groups in our office with a few mums and we ask them which products they buy, what they want to pay, what magazines they read, and that gave us a lot of insight.
We first started with a lab in Switzerland that did a lot of work for us then we switched to a lab in the Netherlands and we've since found a very good supplier.
We always say if it's good for babies, it's good for everybodyWere either of you into skincare before, or do you now have a much better understanding of it after founding NAÏF?
ST: Yeah, it was really a learning process! It took nine months to a year. Although Jochem worked for personal care before in Unilever so he had some working knowledge.
JH: I had some chemical background but it was a combination between us. Sjoerd is the technical one and I'm more the marketing guy; so it was a great fit. But when we started, we had no clue (laughs). So it took us a couple of months to really dig in and understand and also to base our choices, like 'hey, we want to use these types of ingredients and we don't want to use these types of ingredients'. It was a lot of market research.
What are some of the common ingredients found in most baby care products that aren't good for infants?
ST: There is a couple. I think one of the big differences between good quality and lesser quality products is the base. Most brands use mineral oil as a base, which is petroleum oil — that's what you put in your car — and that's in most mass-market products. And it doesn't do anything for the skin. It just forms a film but it's not a nurturing ingredient. Instead, we use natural oils like cottonseed oil, avocado oil, macadamia oil — much better oils that feed and nurture skin.
And that's the base but you also need to put something in the product to preserve it otherwise it won't last. Most brands use parabens, a kind of chemical preservative, and those can be quite harsh on the skin. They're said to cause hormone disruption. They can stack up in your body and especially when you're a small baby and everything you put on is penetrated into the skin, that's not a good ingredient.
We also use natural preservatives that's much more mild. A common one found in soaps, shampoos and wash gels that most brands use is sodium laureth sulphate, also known as SLS. It's a foamer but it's quite a harsh ingredient. It washes away all the fat that's normally on your skin that protects the skin surface and it can cause irritation. But we use coco-glucoside that is derived from coconuts — a natural soap foamer which is much milder and gentler on the skin. There are many more, but these three are the most common.
Can NAÏF be recommended to adults who have sensitive skin or even teenagers who are suffering from acne problems?
ST: Yeah, we have a whole range of customers. We focus on young kids, but we have cancer patients who use the shampoo because they have sensitive skin and we have women who use our body lotion as hand cream. We always say if it's good for babies, it's good for everybody and we encourage mums to use the same products their kids use.
JH: Of course, in communication and everything we do, we focus on mums, babies and kids but the philosophy is that it's very mild products that actually do something good for the skin, so that applies to most people.
ST: It should be good enough and you should be able to trust the producer; that he puts good products in it. Unfortunately, these days you have to read the ingredients because there's a lot of bad stuff.
JH: Everybody claims that they're natural or organic, and that's the same with food but it should not be the case.
ST: As a consumer, you should able to just buy whatever you like and trust that it's a good product.
What are your top three favourite products in the range?
JH: For me, my number one is the bath oil. Every week, I will go into the bath and take the bath oil with me; I really like it. The cream: I use it after shaving because it's thick so it's really good. And I use the wash gel when I shower.
ST: I like the cream the most. It's very comparable to the lotion, it's just thicker and more emollient which is really good to put on your face or for your kids if they have dry spots. It's like a dense, creamy moisturiser.
How are you planning to develop NAÏF as your following grows stronger? Are you looking to expand into more markets or create a new product lineup?
JH: What's important is that we want to make relevant products for each mum and not to make any exotic product. We are working on some new products and we just introduced this one, the hand wash, together with UNICEF.
ST: We started with six products and now we have ten. We'll keep on expanding the range but we try to make products that you'll definitely use. We need to have products that are good for the skin and should also be fun; like how giving your child a bath is a fun experience. That's what we get back from consumers as well. It's something that they like to put on and use, and it also looks good in the baby room — which is very important, when they decorate the baby room and their friends come and check out the nursery. Plus when you use it, you associate it with your kids.
Do you have any tips to share with new or expecting parents?
JH: We work with a dermatologist in the Netherlands that helps us and she always says 'you brush your teeth everyday and you wash your hair regularly, so you also need to take care of your skin'. Your skin is your biggest organ so you have to moisturise it, take care of it and use good products.
ST: And for small kids, that's especially the case because their skin is still developing. It's young and sensitive so that means keep them out of the sun, and if their skin is dry, moisturise it and clean with gentle products. It's part of daily life.
JH: I think as a new mum you have tons of questions and ton of worries because it's all so new. So it really helps if you have the right product with the right ingredients so you don't have to worry about that, and you can focus on being a good mum.
NAÏF is available in-store at Gallery & Co. and online.