Organic cosmetics are becoming increasingly popular in Vietnam as local residents become more aware of the harmful effects that chemicals used in makeup products can have on both their health and the environment.
Two Vietnamese women are pioneering Vietnam’s organic cosmetic market, giving the country’s women a handcrafted alternative to the harmful chemicals used in big-brand makeup products.
Makeup and soap bars
When Tang Boi Quan finishes her daily duties as a full-time director’s assistant at a Taiwanese bank in Vietnam, she heads home to tend to her true passion - an online business focusing on organic soap and makeup products she’s handcrafted herself.
Quan’s organic makeup is her response to the harmful chemicals used in conventional cosmetics and the high prices Vietnamese often dish out for such products.
The 30-year-old entrepreneur also holds workshops to teach others how to similar products on their own.
Though she only began selling her products three years ago, Quan has been making them for her own personal use for much longer.
“I started out with lipsticks and then became passionate about making cosmetics,” Quan said.
“I eventually branched out into making different products like soap bars and charcoal toothpaste.”
Quan specifically ensures that each of her products is made only natural ingredients that can be found locally in Vietnam.
“Vietnam has a variety of natural oils that are good for health like coconut oil, coconut butter, avocado oil, and lemongrass,” Quan explained. “The greatest challenge is finding pure oil extracts.”
|Tang Boi Quan’s handmade soap bars. Photo: Tuoi Tre|
Of all the products she crafts, Quan says soap is her favorite because it allows her to get creative with the different colors and patterns she uses to decorate the soap bars.
“I want people to know what a ‘real’ bar of soap is like and I want to produce it at an affordable price,” Quan said.
“Real soap bars” are made using fatty acids found in vegetable oil and serves as a natural detergent that does not cause harm to our health, our skin, or the environment, according to Quan.
Quan says the natural oil’s skin benefits are also the main reason why people in Western countries, Japan, and Taiwan are turning to organic cosmetic and hygiene products.
“Some people even use them [handmade soap bars] to wash clothes because they do not want to use chemical detergents that pollute environment,” Quan said.
Her soap bars are cut into small pieces with prices ranging from VND35,000 (US$1.5) to 45,000 ($1.9) per piece. Each bar typically last for an entire month and is wrapped in eco-friendly paper.
Quan also encourages customers who use her other projects to bring bank the containers, such as wooden lipstick tubs, so that they can be washed and refilled in order to minimize waste.
Every month, she chooses one of her days off from her full-time job to hold a workshop focused on instructing others on how to make the DIY products she sells.
“My customers include a lot of foreigners, but I really want to expand my Vietnamese customer base because it’s important to focus on local health and environment,” Quan said.
|Tang Boi Quan at a workshop instructing others how to make handmade lipsticks safe for health. Photo: Tuoi Tre|
Nguyen Le Quynh Nhu’s shares a similar passion. The 25-year-old has spent the last three years building a business centered around handmade scents and perfumes.
She first began experimenting with mixing scents in her bedroom, doing her best to hide the hobby from her family.
“One day, as my dad was looking for something and he walked into my room; that was when my family found out I was making my own perfumes,” Nhu shared.
“They weren’t very supportive because they wanted me to pursue a career in education or banking, not start my own business.”
|Nguyen Le Quynh Nhu’s bottles of handmade perfume. Photo: Tuoi Tre|
After graduating with a biotechnology degree from International University - Vietnam National University Ho Chi Minh City, Nhu worked as an English teacher before starting a job as an assistant for a South Korean corporate director.
Now, after striking out on her own, she not only sells organic and handmade scented candles and perfumes, but she also holds workshops where she teaches others how to make the environmentally friendly products.
For Nhu, each scent has its own story, usually reminding her of a person and the story that person represents.
|Nguyen Le Quynh Nhu’s handmade candles. Photo: Tuoi Tre|