Local skincare entrepreneur Lily Kew is so unassuming, so down-to-earth, that you’d never guess she had such an extraordinary story to tell. The mother of a 10-month-old girl is passionate about organic skincare and her two Kew Organics Facial Bars, but she is equally eager to share about her journey to motherhood, and also totally cool about her unusual marriage history — like diva actresses Elizabeth Taylor and Pamela Anderson, Lily has been married to the same man twice, once when she was 32, and once when she was 42. Except that Lily is no diva, just an ex-beautician who believes in hard work and practicality. Heck, she doesn’t even wear make-up. Here’s her interesting story.
8 DAYS: You don’t believe in wearing make-up. Why?
LILY KEW: I always tell people to ditch the make-up. It’s better for your skin over time. I usually use just lip balm and sunscreen. But if I’m doing a shoot or going out for dinner I may wear some make-up. In my 30s, I stopped using make-up — make-up is to accentuate and to hide flaws, so if I don’t have any flaws, then I don’t have to hide anything, right? The idea is to have good skin, then you’d have nothing to cover up. If you’ve very used to wearing a lot of make-up, I’d suggest going without heavy foundation for a start. Try using loose powder instead of CC cream or foundation. Concealer, foundation and compact powder are bad for the skin. The coverage for these is very good, and the better the coverage, the more pigment molecules there are, which prevent the skin from breathing. Imagine if you’re strangling someone for eight hours — sure turn blue, right? I’d suggest proper, regular facials to treat your skin problems, whether it’s pigmentation or dry skin. With good skin, you need less make-up.
Your skincare products are organic, yet you advocate using machines in your facials. Doesn’t this go against the all-natural vibe of organic products?
The therapists’ hands can only do so much. To be effective, we need aesthetic machines to stimulate the collagen in the skin, to go deeper into the muscle layer. The Kew Organics skincare line is water-based and our facials use medical aesthetics machines — I feel it’s a good marriage of nature and technology. I started as a beautician 15 years ago and actually started my first beauty business with a partner, but we had different ideas after a while and I sold the business. In 2014, I started Kew Organics as I wanted to have the best of best worlds — to have organic skincare that was efficacious and which worked for your skin.
Is there a misconception that organic products are mild and not as efficacious?
Some organic products are very mild. And there are others that are too rich for our climate, and will clog up your pores. Kew Organics understands the needs of Singaporean skin because we are local. We’ve formulated a range of products that is treatment-based, with active ingredients. Kew’s whole range is about treatment, about targeting skin problems. There are people who have problem skin, or skin that is already sensitive due to aesthetics treatments. They cannot do any more harsh treatments and or take any more chemicals on their skin, so they come to us to start from square one, to renew and rebuild their skin.
Very unusually, you married the same man twice.
Yes, we first got married when we were both 32. We were married for five years, then we got divorced, ’cos we drifted apart. There was a lot of friction and we thought it’d be better to be friends. After a while, I changed and so did he, and we realised we still had feelings for each other. Four years later, we got back together and got married again at 42. Yes, I’m like Elizabeth Taylor, married to the same man twice! (Laughs) Then we thought we would try for a kid, but we were not young already.
Eventually, you went for IVF and and gave birth to your daughter last December.
Yes, we tried for a baby the normal way and also tried TCM, but eventually we decided we didn’t have a lot of time. I told my husband, let’s try IVF and if we’re not successful the first round, then forget it. So I was at this fertility clinic at SGH, and I saw a newspaper next to me with a story about this couple who got pregnant after going to a clinic in Johor Bahru. I took it as a sign and went to the JB clinic. There were so many Singaporeans there. They go there ’cos it’s cheaper and more advanced than in Singapore, and also ’cos [the doctors are] more gung-ho. There are a lot of restrictions in Singapore. And I told myself if my IVF attempt was successful, I want to share. To me, it’s not taboo — I want to use my experience to help others. Thankfully, we managed to get pregnant on our first try.
Do you think it’s challenging being a first-time mum in your 40s?
I thought I’d be very tired ’cos of my age. But during my pregnancy, I felt so energetic after my first trimester that I started my second facial outlet at Clarke Quay, and also launched my new line of 19 products. And after I had my baby, I went back to work after the second week of confinement, for a few hours each day. So it’s not about age; it’s about lifestyle. I’ve been taking organic food and exercising regularly for a long time, and I think that helps.
What’s your skincare regimen like?
No matter how tired I am, I double cleanse, even though I don’t wear make-up. After all, there’s one whole day’s worth of dirt and grime on your face. I cleanse with our Mandarin Acai cleansing lotion, then the Coconut cleanser, before using toner, then a water-based serum. I don’t use moisturiser every day, maybe just once a week. Even at our age, our oil glands are still active. Usually, our skin is lacking moisture, not oil, so the serum is sufficient as a moisturiser — you don’t need an oil-based moisturiser. Sunblock and eye lotion are also musts. I’d say if you have problem skin, fix it with facials and treatments, but after things settle down, you just need to maintain. It’s not hard to get good skin.
Kew Organics Facial Bar is at Block 2 Everton Park #01-47, Tel: 6534-8255 & #03-83 Clarke Quay Central, Tel: 6904-4161. Sugar K Organic Peel Bar is at Kew Organics Clarke Quay Central.
Photo: Ealbert Ho
Shot on location at Stamping Ground Coffee & Dawn Q Flowers (87 Upper East Coast Rd)