If it’s one thing that I learned from my experience as a beauty journalist, it’s that skincare is subjective and unforgiving. When it comes to my skincare routine, it has taken me months on months of trials to understand what my skin needs. There is not one product or beauty brand that does it all, and if you have been sold one by a persuasive beauty advisor, believe that he’s good at marketing and you’ve mostly been duped. For instance, there’s no one moisturiser that can give you well-hydrated, plumping skin, while giving anti-ageing benefits along with sun protection. If you have one on your shelf, it’s either doing none of these or is extremely average at all the said functions.
Therefore, when I come across beauty entrepreneurs and experts, my first question to ask them is who the brand is for and if I have to use all of their products to see a difference on my skin. I never found an answer that satisfied my beauty brain cells until I met Nicolas Travis, founder of Allies of Skin, whose understanding of his brand and its pain-points is the honesty that consumers deserve. “Let’s be honest, Allies of Skin is expensive; I cannot ask any beauty buyer to buy all of our products, you can’t try all new products at once; use one of my products in your existing routines to see if works for you and if it’s worth your money,” says Nicolas during my chat with him at the launch of Allies of Skin.
Allies of Skin is a Singapore-based skincare brand that launched in 2016 by Nicolas with just three products. Nicolas, who has a background in biochemical and pharma science, formulated the brands from scratch with potent ingredients and advanced technology that gives it an edge over other skincare brands. In a market that’s faintly familiar with single-ingredient and high-potency products, Allies of Skin backs itself with its cutting-edge technology, transparency, and promised results. Here are the excerpts from the interview:
ELLE: I read about your endearing journey to launching Allies of Skin. Would you like to take our readers through it?
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Nicolas Travis (NT): There are actually two reasons; the first is when I was a teenager, I had severe acne. And I found the entire process of shopping for products daunting and intimidating. I also realised that there were empty promises in the market. That along with my background in biomedical and pharmaceutical science was what ignited my passion for skincare.
The second reason is that when I was 19, I had an accident that smashed my face and I needed to have reconstructive surgery. I went to the best hospital and I picked what I thought was the best surgeon. However, he ended up butchering my face and I had multiple infections. I had necrosis where the infection was eating the flesh of my skin, and I had holes in my face. It completely shattered my self-esteem and I attempted to take my life.
I went to see a therapist who asked me all the things I want to achieve by the time I am 30. I wondered that if I can change how I look, perhaps I could change how my skin looks. And it was something I could control. I think when you go through trauma like that, you often feel like you don’t have a choice and everything’s taken away from you. I realised if I could channel my pain into helping people feel fearless or confident in their skin, then it would have been worth it. That’s how we’re here. I also truly believe like this is the only thing I want to do in my life.
ELLE: How has the industry changed since you started the brand?
NT: I wasn’t somebody with connections or experience when I started. Fast forward to 2024, we are Singapore’s most global beauty brand with an international footprint. When I started formulating in 2013, nobody was talking about waterless vitamin C, or peptides or probiotics or the microbiome. I remember when I first launched in 2016, people would say, ‘you’re too ahead of your time.’ It was hard to get a foot in the door. I feel that the time is now for high performance skincare, for ingredients that are used at a certain percentage, and for innovative formulas that deliver results. I think it’s changed for better and I’m here for that.
ELLE: It’s a competitive industry, especially in terms of skin care. With such a huge influx of brands, where do we find Allies of Skin?
NT: I love that question so much. I don’t see competition as a bad thing. I truly believe that I want to live in a universe where we’re all infinitely abundant. The reason why I truly believe in what we’re doing is that you’re not going to find a waterless vitamin C serum like we have or a patented encapsulated retinol, I can guarantee that. The Allies of Skin face oil, the CE15 Bakuchiol Firming Oil, is the world’s most biologically active face oil. Every other brand may have the access to the same ingredients but it’s what we put together, how we combine it, and how we create the delivery system.
Also, I’m not building a brand that says one has to use everything from us. I create my products to play well with other products in an existing routine. Also, at the end of the day, we are also transparent. If you look at the packaging, we have the actives listed in the percentages cause we’re not afraid of what’s inside. Our products are not cheap; they’re above a certain price point. I want people to know what they’re paying for.
ELLE: Which one product from Allies of Skin should we start with?
NT: The safest bet is the cleanser and the second one is our daily treatment. That’s our number one bestseller. It’s a do-it-all moisturiser that brightens, refines, de-puffs, strengthens, and protects the skin. It also gives your skin an incredible glow so I suggest starting with it.
ELLE: Who are the people that your brand is for?
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NT: I like to think that we create products for people who work too hard, sleep too little, and drink too much! So if you fall into any of these categories, the brand is for you. I aspire to be the kind of brand that’s a safe space for all your skin care mistakes, no matter what your gender is. Allies of Skin can reset your skin. You can ask your questions and we’ll help you.
ELLE: I read that you don’t think switching skincare routines according to the season change is needed…
NT: I don’t formulate based on the climate. Yes, the brand has creams that are richer but that’s if you have a disrupted barrier. More importantly, I believe that you can use one product and see results. If you have mature or dry skin, you can easily add an oil or a serum. This is how you can customise your routine, you don’t have to change or witch it up entirely.
ELLE: A product from your line that you are proud of…
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NT: I’d say the CE15 Bakuchiol Firming Oil. It’s extremely potent and works as a treatment. It’s 10% vitamin C, 5% vitamin E, 1 percent bakuchiol, teprenone, all of the good ingredients in an oil base that wouldn’t clog your pores. It’s designed to help clear the skin as well. If you buy the oil and you use one or two pumps a night, this bottle can last for six to eight months. You can use a drugstore moisturiser with it for a supercharged treatment. it’s versatile and can be used around the eye area.
ELLE: What’s next for the brand?
NT: I am excited because I am looking into new categories. We just launched a lip balm last year, which I love and we’re registering it now to come to India. We also have Epidermal Growth Factor serum coming soon to India. We are also going to be launching our first SPF, which I’m so excited about because it’s such an important formulation for us and it’s taken me six years.