What is minimalistic skincare? The co-founder of Australian beauty brand, Dr Roebucks, weighs in

What is minimalistic skincare? The co-founder of Australian beauty brand, Dr Roebucks, weighs in

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Text: Emily Heng

Image: Instagram | @drroebucks

The surge of interest in all matters skincare over the last couple of years proves to be a surprising (yet welcome) change. While initially overshadowed by the bells, whistles, and instant gratification brought upon by makeupbeauty devotees have gained a whole new set of priorities as of late. At the top of the list? Healthy, glowing skin by way of clean, organic products. Leading market research brand, Technavio, predicts that it is a movement that will continue to gain traction over the next five years as consumers develop deeper awareness and interest as to what they're putting on their precious moneymakers. Word.

It is a cause Sephora's latest Australian import, Dr Roebucks, wholeheartedly approves of — and participates in — with their range of clean, cruelty-free, and (mostly) natural products. The brand goes a step further where safe, nominally-processed beauty is concerned, with their philosophy: minimal ingredients, maximum results, i.e. skincare formulated with, and only with, ingredients that deliver equally potent, powerful effects as commercial offerings. With labels such as The Inkey List and Herbivore Botanicals leaping onto the bandwagon as well, we can't help but wonder — is skincare minimalism what we should be striving for? Is it the secret behind good skin? And is it the future of industry as we know it? We get the founder of Dr Roebucks, Zoe Roebucks, to answer our burning questions.

Dr Roebucks has a pretty unique philosophy. How did you come up with it?
Growing up, my sister and I had really difficult skin. Bear in mind, this was 40 years ago, so this whole skincare minimalism movement wasn't quite a thing yet. Our parents were physicians, so they just went into the house and removed everything that was setting our skin off. And it worked! So, we're always lived that way, and that's how the Dr Roebucks philosophy was built.

Does this mean that less is really more when it comes to skincare?
In a sense, where you don't have to put in extra ingredients or chemicals that serve no purpose. I just use what works for the skin and don't add any extra stuff. A lot of brands tend to add things into their formulations so they feel, smell, and look good. I don't think it's necessarily bad for the skin; I don't believe in the fearmongering mindset. But I also believe that every ingredient has to have a benefit for us to use it. If you take four of our products, for instance, you will find 20 skin-nourishing actives. If you like a longer skincare routine, that's fine, but with Dr Roebucks, you can use four products and get 20 benefits, and I think that's amazing.

What are some of the 'extras' that we'll never see in Dr Roebucks products?
No silicones, no dimethicones, no sulfates... I could keep going, really. It's a long list! You can check out EWG's (Environmental Working Group) site to look at it in its entirety.

Skincare minimalism and clean beauty is catching on in the US, but not so much in Asia. What is your take on this?
It has everything to do with education. When it comes to Asia, particularly, it's just not being done in an appropriate way for the market. There are a lot of very educated people here in Singapore, and we need to tell them more, you know? They want the data; they want to know the mode of action... You can't just say, "Bananas are good for skin" and leave it at that. You have to tell them what minimalism and clean beauty really mean, how it benefits them, and why. We're doing really well in Thailand, but growth is a little slower in Singapore. I also think we have to change the way we frame our message. Why do you use skincare? Because it works, right? We have to say it works and it's clean. Not it's clean, so use it.

Is the clean beauty movement here to stay?
Definitely. I think it will become a staple in the industry. Going organic, minimising your chemical overload... these are going to be the norm. People are going to be using things that are good for the skin and the environment. But that's not to say that all your luxury brands are going to go away either. There's nothing wrong with mixing it up, using a clean brand like Dr Roebucks with Chanel. It's like how you do your green juice for five days a week and have a glass of wine on the weekends. There's nothing wrong with that.

Are there stereotypes about clean beauty that you're dying to debunk?
That clean beauty users are just a bunch of yogis who don't shave their legs, sitting on a hill somewhere. [Laughs]. I'm always telling people that we want to be the Christian Louboutins of beauty. That's what we want to do. We want clean, minimalist skincare that is also beautiful and aesthetically pleasing.

Does that have to do with the re-branding you guys just went through?
Yup! Initially it was just my sister Kim and I going into this, but eventually, it got to the point where we've expanded to 20 countries in three years. We got a CEO who's like, "Oh, the packaging doesn't scream clean beauty. It doesn't say who you are, it doesn't talk about actives. It's not you." We took a step back then, and decided that we wanted to go in a direction that wasn't too serious. We're Aussies, you know? We like to have a bit of fun. So, we renamed and repackaged our products. We named our cleanser Kibosh, for one, and it's actually slang for 'you've beat someone at a game'. When I say that I kiboshed you, it means I beat you. So, Kibosh, because it's a cleanser that 'beats' the skin.

That's so cute. On a more serious note, what are some of the challenges in running Dr Roebucks?
Educating people properly. Google is great, but people are always getting wrong information off it. Consumers are trying to do the right thing, but they get confused by the amount of information they're getting, you know? A good tip is to use Google Scholar instead of just Google if you're researching your ingredients. They're a lot more accurate.

Would you say that social media goes a long way in education and awareness?
I'd say social media is a double-edged sword. It helps, but only to a certain extent. I like that people are realising that Australia is not backward anymore. We do have new and interesting innovations; social media has definitely helped with that. It can be difficult to control your message on social media though, which is why I like talking to journalists like yourself because you do your research, you check your facts, you write a story... I actually think we might revert back to the world of traditional journalism — consumers will be a lot more informed from that.

In the spirit of skincare minimalism, name the one skincare product you can't live without.
The Dr Roebucks No Worries Moisturiser. It is a hydrating face moisturiser which comprises hyaluronic acid, macadamia, vitamin E, and rosehip. I make the hyaluronic acid to order, so we are constantly sold out. I bring it along when I travel because it just does so much for my skin.