Gandang Pilipina: Navigating the Maze of Filipino Beauty Brands

by Jess Pacis

| Photo by PMV Chamara on Unsplash

Years ago, I was one of those people who blindly jumped into the Korean skincare bandwagon. It became too overwhelming (and frankly, too expensive) that I eventually gave up and regressed to the bare minimum drugstore-cleanser “routine” that I was used to as a teenager. Then the pandemic happened, and I threw even that out the window. But lately, despite daily COVID numbers still in the thousands, things have been settling into some semblance of normalcy in the Philippines. Establishments and public transportation are back at total capacity, schools and workplaces are reverting to face-to-face operations, and, as I wrote in my last column, even foreign tourists are pouring in.

The outside world reopening gave me a much-needed wake-up call that I have been taking poor care of my skin. Two years of being locked inside the house made it too easy to be complacent at skincare and makeup. After all, what’s the use of putting too much effort on your face when it’s covered by a mask 90% of the time anyway? And so, with close to zero knowledge about skincare and the plethora of products available on the market, I started my skincare journey.

Having specific standards made my search much less overwhelming, but it took me weeks of research to finally jump the gun and make a purchase, hence this article. A disclaimer, though: this isn’t meant to be a product review – I feel like I still don’t know enough to do that – but more of a reflection on things I learned from my search.

“Still, like when I started doing CGM, I was pleasantly surprised by the sheer number of Filipino skincare brands. I wanted products that would allow me to support the local economy and minimize environmental harm but still get the job done.”

While this is my first time delving into local skincare, I am no newbie when it comes to Filipino beauty brands. I have curly hair, so a few years ago, out of my desire to end the cycle of having it chemically straightened and damaged to hopeless levels, I started subscribing to the Curly Girl Method (CGM), a hair care method aimed at restoring or preserving natural curls by discouraging the use of products with sulfates, silicones, alcohols, and other harsh chemicals. CGM started overseas but eventually found its way and gained a massive following in the Philippines. It did not take long for the movement to gain traction here because, first, a huge chunk of Filipinos are naturally curly; second, this surprised me – there were already a lot of locally made CGM-friendly products that were readily accessible to Filipinos.

This experience with CGM gave me an idea of the standards to start with for choosing skincare products: local, natural, and sustainably made. I initially thought that having these specific criteria would whittle my choices down to a select few. Still, like when I started doing CGM, I was pleasantly surprised by the sheer number of Filipino skincare brands. I wanted products that would allow me to support the local economy and minimize environmental harm but still get the job done.

I didn’t even know that VMV was a Filipino brand until I started looking into it! There are, of course, trusted brands like Human Nature and VMV Hypoallergenics that have made their name not just in the local scene but also globally. And then there are the local cult favorites. Proudly Pinoy brands like Apotheke Science and Wildleaf may be reasonably new. Still, they’ve quickly built a loyal following because of products comparable to global names when it comes to effectiveness.

“It’s proudly Philippine-made, boasts botanical ingredients that highlight the best that our country offers, and is packed with all the stuff that makes global favorites effective.

But here’s what I quickly learned: the world of “clean beauty,” even among local brands, can quickly become a minefield of shoddy PR stunts and greenwashing. Some businesses, for example, are obsessed with marketing their products as being “chemical-free,” but this is a misnomer because everything on our planet, even plants and our bodies, has chemicals. In the same vein, just because something is “natural” doesn’t automatically mean it’s safe. Essential oils have been the talk of the town in beauty and wellness but could also be irritating and harsh to the skin or trigger allergies. At the end of the day, it still boils down to your skin type and specific needs and the actual formulation of the product, regardless of what the packaging says.

After agonizing research and about a hundred ethical dilemmas, I eventually settled with Habitude’s Overachiever Skincare Set. Again, this is not a product review nor a paid sponsorship, so that I won’t go into details about the products themselves, but what drove me to this choice was that the recently-launched brand checks all my boxes. It’s proudly Philippine-made, boasts botanical ingredients that highlight the best that our country offers, and is packed with all the stuff that makes global favorites effective. The products are on the pricier side than other local brands, but as soon as I applied them to my face, I knew it was worth every penny. I’m happy that the set covers all the basics without needing a 10 (or more)-step routine, but who knows, I might try other local brands and products in the future.

One thing’s for sure, though. With the richness and unstoppable growth of the Philippine beauty industry, I know I’ll never run out of options.

________________________________________________

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jess Pacis is a regular columnist for Know Your Philippines in our Lifestyle section. She is a writer and development worker based in the Philippines.

You may also like

Leave a Comment