The Silk Body : Inspired by Nature
Updated: Mar 26, 2022
She may be just warming up but her story and ambitions definitely indicate that she is onto something BIG. Shameema Azmeer of team BusinessLoungeLK goes one on one with Taneesha Wijegunawardene, the face and the braid behind the all natural cosmetic brand startup The Silk Body.
1)What prompted you to start the silk body? How did it all begin?
The answer is deeply personal for me. I have highly sensitive and reactive skin that led to a very severe acne phase due to various hormonal imbalances. After meeting many dermatologists and having countless skin treatment sessions I found that the results of improvement was only temporary for the extensive money that was spent. Therefore, I resorted to using skincare products, which had ‘natural’ ingredients. However, the problem I faced with that alternative was the fact that when I looked at the back of the product, though it claimed to have natural ingredients, a good 90% of it was all chemicals which had a negative impact on your skin in the long-run.
Hence, I decided to take measures into my own hands and do a bit of research into using pure 100% natural ingredients and the effects it had on my skin. I consulted with a few Ayurvedic doctors and looked into the healing ingredients they recommended such as Sandalwood, Turmeric, Neem etc. I was thrilled to find that the use of just simple 100% natural ingredients worked on my skin and started to cure my acne gradually. Ever since then, my hobby led me to formulating my own DIY products which then encouraged me to start a brand on my own on the basis of promoting – pure, 100% organic skincare with absolutely no artificial chemical preservatives.
2) What makes The Silk Body different from the rest of the cosmetics?
The simplest answer would be that it defines organic. All the ingredients that are used are bought from organically certified farms. Not even artificial fertilisers are used on them and that is the amount of detail and precision the silk body looks into it’s ingredients. All ingredients come from Matale as the nutrient values are so much higher in the highlands and in those areas. I think that’s what mainly differentiates the silk body from other cosmetic brands because it has no artificial substances even when it comes to the fragrance. The essential oils that are used aren’t artificially produced instead is the exact extract from the fruit. Many people question me asking if it’s a chemical fragrance that I use but no it’s completely natural .The beauty of it is that you don’t have to use chemicals to bring out a certain smell or a texture , it comes out naturally by the use of natural ingredients alone .This exactly is what I am trying to promote in Sri Lanka .
We’ve got a wide variety of ingredients that can be used and many people are not aware about this fact .And for this reason Sri Lanka has started outsourcing ingredients from various other countries .Although we have the availability of these ingredients that the Western world has no access to in their land we do not seem to take the maximum benefit out of it.
3)How did it feel when the first scrub was made? Share that feeling
The first scrub I made was the coffee one. I thought coffee was too much of a strong scent so I balanced it out bringing in a bit of soothness by adding orange. I made that combination applied it on my skin and found that it worked well on me. It was messy but all of scrubs are do messy and this is because it’s not cream based and has the actual granules. As soon as you use it your skin feels so much smoother that been the reason why I named it the silk body. I myself was surprised at how much smoother and silkier my skin felt once it had taken away all the dead skin and the dirt clogged in the pores.
4)Tell us about your supply sourcing. How do you ensure the authenticity?
The coffee, cocoa, lavender all of it is from Matale where they courier it down directly to me. I use salts in my products and I get them from Puttlam while the essential oils are from Kelaniya . None of the sourcing is from Colombo only because they take advantage of a lot of chemicals. It’s when you step out from Colombo you realize how they could be grown naturally in the absence of these chemicals. The chemicals are able to even wear off your skin and have other side effects on you. So even the sourcing is done with very much care.
5) Tell us about the research and development process you went through.
I started research 2 years before I started the silk body. I went to different farms, organic farms and suppliers who could provide clean organic ingredients. If it’s natural you can’t keep it for a long time so I used to buy in small batches test it out how long you could store it and the pH values with care to look into if its good to be used on the skin and could suit all skin types. Research is essential because you find that different ingredients have different purposes. For example lavender is more soothing and it also heals blemishes. Cinnamon is used for muscle pain and it calms your senses. It’s not just simply taking an ingredient and dictating that it is good.
What I do is take 2 to 3 different ingredients and make sure that they are paired together in such a way that they complement each other. For instance I have one as lavender and chamomile where both these ingredients work well together because on the other hand there are some ingredients that aggressively act against each other. The combination has to be effective as much as they are individually.
I did a lot of research by speaking with the farmers and even local people around Matale in which I gained more knowledge. It is the farmers who grow the ingredients and they tend to know more about the benefits of them. I even got to know that many village folks use sandalwood and turmeric to brighten your skin, and aloe vera for a cooling effect. At the same time I tested them out and checked out the accuracy in what they claimed. I also conduct research by taking different samples individually.
My next step is to introduce a variety of 6 different face masks. For the sugar I am going to use sugar cane something which is not conventionally used anywhere else. I am also focusing on ingredients like sandalwood, turmeric and lotus flower. Lotus is very much abundant over here and the main reason it is good to be used on skin is because it grows in water and provides hydration to your skin similar to aloe vera. Research for me is very interesting when I begin to discover new areas. It has been found out that 'murunga' is really good for your skin and has internal uses as well. When I get a feel of the ingredient I begin to experiment with it.
6) Why these specific flavors or types? What was the motivation for that?
Right now I have 5 varieties of body scrubs that suit different skin conditions. Some people want a moisturizer, want to remove their scars, an overall scrub or they have particular areas they want to treat. I have coconut infused with peppermint, lavender with chamomile, citrus with lemon grass, coffee and cocoa. Citrus is very rich in vitamin C and can be used to remove scars. The citrus one is packed with orange, lemon, lime and lemon grass to specifically treat people who are going through blemishes. As soon as you get a pimple it leaves a scar and you should treat it and for that this works effectively. Lavender and chamomile also works in the same manner. But why it is different to each other is because not only in skin treatment but I also look at the aroma therapy they have.
Aroma therapy is that when you use a product the aroma that it gives out can help change your mind set and give you the essence of a luxurious shower. Lavender has a very soothing smell and then you have peppermint which provides a cooling effect and is also a sweetener at the same time. Once you are exposed to different fragrances it subconsciously changes your mood. It’s not only treating your skin but even after the shower it is going to take your mind to a better state. The reason you breakout is because you are stressed out. So these products not only externally heal your skin but also internally heal your mind. And in this way aroma therapy plays a huge role.
7) How far has the digital channels been useful in promoting your brand? Any luck with Instagram?
Yes, a lot of luck with Instagram. The Silk Body has come to where it is today because of social media. I started off only with social media that is mainly Instagram. What I found out is that you can attract a person with content and proper images. More than content it is visual presentation that catches the eye. I took some of these packs to Trinco and I took pictures by the side of the ocean playing around with background images. Even though it is a product shop that nice turquoise blue background makes people more engaging. Even the packaging has to be proper and up to standard. I have never marketed my products to stores instead they have inquired me about it through social media.
The first store I got to retail was “Exotic roots” and they got in touch with me through Instagram then came the “Design collective” and a store in Weligama called “Ceylon sliders” which is a Swedish owned hotel. For all the way to go up to Weligama it shows how digitally you can get the message across efficiently. Social media has been so cost effective for me. It’s not only posting pictures but also Instagram stories which makes me interact with my customers and by this means I show them the process of how the body scrubs are made, sending off them to the stores and things like that. Social media has done a lot for me.
8) How receptive has the market been? Especially the tourists in Weligama?
My target at the market is the expat market who have come to Sri Lanka on holiday. The biggest challenge that I found with the silk body is that a lot of locals kept asking me as to why it isn’t cream based and why it is so messy whereas the foreigners understand it immediately that you need it like this if you are to properly exfoliate your skin .Marketing through digital channels has helped me .The only trouble you face is that you can’t store it for a long time but that is the price you are going to pay because you are going to get the most effective results.
The market has been really good so far they seem to understand how all this is coming about and I explain how to use them and now they are very encouraging. Customers are now aware that you pay about 10 times more for just temporary results whereas you can go all natural and have results that are long lasting and this when they begin to choose products like mine.
9)Any future plans?
I am expanding at the moment from scrubs to face masks for that I’ve been doing research for a while and that will come somewhere in mid-September October. I am trying to finalize the packaging and make it more environmentally friendly because there were concerns about it. I’ve already got my formulations for that. It’s going to be 6 different face masks. One which is based on botanic, another which is sandalwood and turmeric. I’ve got requests asking if there is any way to make skin look lighter and as an answer for that I have come up with this face mask.
I have a matcha and green tea face mask and the other one is kohomba, tea tree oil with different herbal roots. I want to prove to other cosmetic companies that you can do a lot to your skin with absolutely no chemicals that too with natural ingredients. I am trying to build the silk body to a place as to where one would associate organic skin care with. You use make up, skin care products every single day and you will be surprised at how much of chemicals you are putting into your skin and there’s a limit your body can take. Ultimately when you age you will realize that the chemicals have already done the damage, have made you adapted to it and you may want an even stronger product later on. I am taking baby steps but I definitely want to expand to soaps, shampoos and maybe even hair dyes.