As someone who has been suffering from frequent bouts of adult acne for most of my 20s, my acne-acceptance journey is now fully realised. And staying in quarantine did wonders for my skin – with daily commute out of the pictures (a blessing for Bombay girls on the go!), my acne-prone skin was finally on the mend. That was until restrictions eased, and we were back to work. Long commute and constant mask-wearing did the deed – I had sudden, angry acne flare-ups that brought me to tears almost every night. But these painful zits were itchy, irritating, and uncomfortable under a mask.
After consulting my dermat and discussing various options, I decided to take the longer route of simplifying my routine (with the usual acne fighters like salicylic acid still in place). But I still needed something to calm the active breakouts, but everything just made it sting and burn!
Until I stumbled upon Malezia! Their one of a kind benzoyl peroxide was the only thing I could put on my skin without it feeling like hot lava. And in a couple of weeks, I started seeing results that even an acne cynic like me could believe. So, I decided to talk to the founder, f.c. about the miraculous BP gel. Going by just those initials and nothing else (yes, he loves the low-key life), f.c. shared Malezia’s journey. And it turns out to be a story that hits close to home –
ELLE: Give us an insight into your early beginnings in skincare.
f.c.: It all started at the ripe old age of 10 (haha!). I was unfortunately bullied in the 5th grade for having cheilitis (inflamed rashy lips). Kids would call me “kool-aid”, and I have vivid memories of rushing home from school so that I could apply globs of vaseline on my face. I was too embarrassed to wear it during school time, which meant I had to be an itchy mess for like 8 hours before getting any relief, LOL.
So, like many others, I got interested in skincare out of necessity. It started with cheilitis at 10…. then acne in my teens…. Malassezia Folliculitis in my twenties. There was always something to battle: adult acne, seborrheic dermatitis, eczema etc. My personal struggles are what got me interested in skincare.
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ELLE: Why is the benzoyl peroxide gel a star of the show?
f.c.: Several reasons! Firstly, I’ve long thought BP is the most effective active ingredient against acne. Unlike some antifungals and antibiotics, there is no known instance of microbial resistance to BP despite its use in dermatology since the early 1900s.
Secondly, according to quantitative microbiology, there are three significant microorganisms involved in the formation/exacerbation of acne. They are cutibacterium, staphylococcus, and malassezia. In our opinion, it is not good enough to simply target the bacterial component of acne (cutibacterium and staphylococcus). You must also address the fungal part (malassezia). And that’s where benzoyl peroxide comes in. It has the broadest spectrum microbicidal activity of any acne medication. It’s effective against cutibacterium, staphylococcus, malassezia, pseudomonas, and candida (among other species).
So to answer your question more simply… It kills ALL the bacteria and fungi that potentially contribute to acne. Many other acne medications only target one or the other.
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ELLE: What makes Malezia’s BP gel different from other BP products available in the market today?
f.c.: For one, it’s minimal. There are only seven ingredients total, none of which contribute to the growth of the three microorganisms mentioned above. This is important given that published studies in The Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology (JAAD) show that antimicrobial drugs are less effective when their excipients contain ingredients that are known nutrient sources for bacteria and fungi.
One study found that antifungal products with esters or medium/long-chain free fatty acids are approximately 95% less effective at inhibiting malassezia than products without them. The researchers concluded that some ingredients “enable the fungus to get nutrition and maintain cellular integrity while reducing the efficacy of the formulation.”
This is not to say antifungal drugs are ineffective! However, I like to use the analogy that including problematic ingredients in a formulation is like taking two steps forward and one step back. I made sure to avoid that at all costs when developing our acne treatment gel so that we are only walking forward, so to speak. For that reason, none of our products includes ingredients that were flagged on our 50-page article about malassezia.
Secondly, most commercially available benzoyl peroxide products are irritating and make skin drier than satan’s weenus. We addressed this issue by reducing the benzoyl peroxide particle size (i.e. micronisation). This is important because homogeneous dispersions of finer particles have yielded better results in fighting acne with less risk of irritation. In fact, one study found micronised benzoyl peroxide actually INCREASES skin moisture!
For reference, our benzoyl peroxide has an average particle size of 5 microns. That’s smaller than the size of a bacteria cell!
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ELLE: To what do you attribute Malezia’s cult status?
f.c.: We haven’t run a single ad or done any sponsorships as of today. I intentionally reinvested all our profits into research, development and scaling versus marketing. If given a chance, I think our products speak for themselves. For example, I can’t think of any other small startups with as many user-submitted before/after photos as we do.
Additionally, I believe that ads don’t convince people to buy products. Instead, they are an investment to let people know you exist. A recommendation from a friend, family member, or someone you trust is infinitely more powerful than anything a marketing department could say.
Whether we will keep growing organically, I’m not sure. Still, I’m very grateful for it in the meantime because it allows us to prioritise what we think matters most!
ELLE: Simple Skincare Science itself is quite a well-known platform for true skincare lovers to marinate in. Why do you think consumers are now so religiously dedicated to educating themselves on the science of skincare?
f.c.: I think you answered the question yourself! Haha. Why would someone choose a marketing gimmick or paid celebrity recommendation when they could educate themselves instead? Access to information is what caused the shift. The internet has become a great leveller by giving power back to the people and drawing their own conclusions. You are your own best advocate!
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ELLE: It must be challenging for a small team like yours to be at the helm of a fast-growing brand. What is the driving force for you to keep innovating and creating?
f.c.: Leslie Eisen, the lovely founder of Almond Clear said it best – “Skin to smile about.” That’s really all we’re trying to do — give people skin to smile about. It’s what drives our every action.
Looking into the mirror and not liking what you see is awful. I know what that’s like, and I don’t want anyone to feel that.
Regarding advice to entrepreneurs – Ask yourself what the hardest thing you’ve had to overcome is? Can you make a product to help people overcome that? If the answer is yes….Just start.
ELLE: The only other product under Malezia is the Urea moisturiser. What other forms of diversification are you planning with your product range?
f.c.: Our next product will be an oil cleansing balm with salicylic acid! It will have a similar consistency to vaseline, but foam up and rinse off completely when mixed with water. Everything after that we’re keeping a secret, but there are plans to expand and include a whole range of stuff 🙂
ELLE: The Malezia BP gel is quite affordable, even with including overseas shipping costs. What made you choose such competitive pricing for your product? To make it more accessible for consumers?
f.c.: Skincare should be affordable to all! I was once a broke college student with acne. That’s no fun, and finances shouldn’t dictate whether someone feels comfortable in their skin or not. Lastly, I’m an immigrant from a third world country. We didn’t always have money growing up, so I’m just doing my best to pay it forward any way I can!