As much as I love writing about my own beauty stories, I also enjoy reading about others just as much, if not more. I’m just really nosy. Enter the Dressing Table Diaries, an excuse to chat to some brilliant women in beauty and find out some of her absolute favourites. This instalment is all about the incredibly inspirational Susie Ma, CEO & Founder of Tropic. Susie started her own business aged fifteen and now it’s an incredibly successful beauty brand focussing on naturally derived ingredients. The brand’s turnover for last year was over twenty-two million, and the brand all started with Susie making body scrub in her kitchen. Inspired? Yeah, me too…
What started your love for beauty & how was Tropic born?
Tropic was unofficially started in my mum’s kitchen in Tropical North Queensland, Australia. Growing up with an abundance of gorgeous ingredients right on my doorstep meant that we were always exploring local artisan markets and mixing up our own skincare concoctions at home. Throughout my childhood, we made a skin softening sea salt body scrub, soaked in macadamia, coconut and sweet almond oils and brightened with invigorating essential oils of lemon myrtle, eucalyptus and peppermint.
When my mum and I first moved to the UK, it was difficult to make ends meet, as it is for many families now. We were struggling to pay our bills, and I wanted to help out. When I was 15, I bought 50 jam jars and the ingredients to make the body scrub, and began to make a batch in our kitchen at home. The following Saturday, I joined my mum at Greenwich Market, where she ran her souvenir and toy stall, set up a stand and demonstrated my body scrubs so customers could really experience the effects of natural ingredients on their skin. Everyone simply loved it and, by the end of my very first day, I’d completely sold out, making a total of £980, which was enough to pay our our bills for a whole month! Feeling motivated, I re-invested some of my profits, bought even more ingredients and jam jars, and returned to the market every weekend and throughout the school holidays while making the scrubs in the evenings at home after school.
By the time I applied to university, I had enough money saved to buy my mum a house, and help pay towards my university living costs and tuition fees – something I may never have been able to do without those early days of Tropic. When I had finished university, I landed what I thought was my dream job in Sales & Trading at CitiGroup, but quickly realised it wasn’t for me. I decided to re-ignite my passion for Tropic, and officially launched the business two years later in 2011, along with our social selling platform that currently celebrates over 10,000 Ambassadors who have a business with us. The best thing? The body scrub that started it all is now one of Tropic’s bestselling products: our Body Smooth Refreshing Polish.
Why should we use natural skincare?
There are so many reasons! My grandmother was a medicinal chemist, and had an in-depth understanding of the effects certain chemicals have on our bodies. Whenever I was sick as a child, she would mix me up a concoction of natural extracts that would help me get better.
I see skincare in the same way. I have always said that skincare is our skin’s diet, and we should choose our products in the same way we do the foods we eat. It’s worth noting that ‘natural’ doesn’t always mean ‘safe’ when it comes to skincare. At Tropic we state our products are naturally derived, which means we’ve harnessed the extracts and oils from natural ingredients that are safe for application to the skin. The ingredients we use are so rich in nutrients, such as fatty acids, bioflavonoids and vitamins, that you just don’t find in synthetic products. I liken it to the difference of eating natural fruits and veggies, compared to eating processed ‘junk food’ that might give the illusion of making us feel good, but actually doesn’t serve our bodies many benefits at all. Nature has so many incredible ingredients, rich with vitamins and minerals – what more could you want?
There are environmental benefits too. The effects of chemical sunscreens on our environment is no longer a secret, with common ingredient oxybenzone being linked to the bleaching of up to 10% of coral reefs. With 4,000 to 6,000 tons of sunscreen washing off swimmers into the ocean worldwide each year, we have to be conscious when it comes to our sun protection choices. I spent two years formulating Tropic’s mineral sunscreens, which are kinder to our bodies thanks to their lack of harsh chemicals, and kinder to marine life because of their inert mineral sun protectors, zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. Our hair care products contain only biodegradable ingredients that won’t disrupt marine life.
What made you decide to use social selling?
Firstly, Tropic products are freshly made each and every day in our Surrey Beauty Kitchen, and we didn’t want to pack them full of harsh preservatives in order to offer stores a long shelf life. I didn’t realise until I started speaking with stockists in the early days of Tropic that sometimes products may be kept in a warehouse for a year before you purchase them!
Secondly, and most importantly, I wanted Tropic to be an empowering brand, that stood for something more than just selling products. My experience selling Tropic on the market stall taught me the power of giving a personal service, and I couldn’t think of a better way for our customers to learn about the products, than with a story from our Ambassadors.
What’s your daily go-to makeup look?
Very natural, especially during the summer! For everyday makeup, I use our Tinted Skin Shade in medium/dark or our Pure Effects Beauty Booster in ‘Soft Honey’, a bit of concealer, blusher, eyebrow powder, a swipe of mascara, and a wash of our Lip Fudge Plumping Lip Conditioner in Rosewood is perfect.
If you had to choose, what would be the three beauty products you can’t live without?
Tough one! I definitely couldn’t live without my holy grail Smoothing Cleanser Complexion Purifier – a reliable cleanser is a must in every beauty lover’s stash, after all. Then I’d have to say our Super Greens Nutrient Boost Serum is a close second. It’s at my beck and call for any skin eventuality, including blemishes, redness and dryness; it’s great at protecting against pollution, too, making it an essential for city life. The final product would have to be our Tamanu Healing Balm, which I always have on-hand for any skin emergencies! I’m training for the Virgin Strive Challenge right now, which is a charity expedition in aid of Big Change. My spare time currently revolves around intense physical training in preparation; naturally, my skin has been nicked, grazed and sore, so I just smooth on this wonder balm to help accelerate its natural healing process.
What’s the product you go through the fastest?
Our Clear Skin Blemish-Fighting Mask. I have very oily skin, so I’m always calling on this mask to help keep this under control – especially during summer! When I don’t have time for a full mask routine, I use it as a face wash by mixing with some water, applying to my skin, and rinsing straight away. It’s just enough to regulate sebum levels for the day.
What would your ultimate Sunday night skincare pamper look like?
Step one is phone off! Pamper time is an opportunity to truly switch off, so distractions are a no-go.
Step two, I tie back my hair and apply 2 to 4 pumps of our cleanser to melt away every trace of the day. I supercharge the cleansing process by soaking my face cloth in hot water, wringing it out, and laying it over my skin to steam and really open my pores.
Next, I draw a bath and pour in a generous helping of our Tahitian Vanilla and Coconut Luxury Bath Foam. The natural bubbles are so comforting, and the sweet scent with just a hint or orange is so spa-like, it’s instantly relaxing. Before I step into the bath, I go for a little mask mapping with our face mask collection: Clear Skin on my t-zone to keep oiliness under control, Face Lift on my neck to keep my skin looking youthful, and Deep Hydration on my cheeks to keep my skin soft and hydrated. I leave these on for at least 30 minutes to let them get to work on my skin, while the steam from the bath keeps my pores open.
After soaking in the bath with some music (I love the relaxing piano playlists on Spotify) I pop on a robe and rinse away the face masks. After patting my skin dry, I spritz on our Vitamin Toner, which is the most refreshing facial mist, full of nutrients and cooling cucumber and aloe vera juices. After that, I warm around 3 or 4 drops of Super Greens in my hands, and pat onto my skin. Your skin acts like a sponge when pressed; once you release, it soaks up all your gorgeous skincare products and absorbs them much more easily. I massage any excess oil into my face when I apply our Skin Revive moisturiser, which leaves skin velvety soft.
Before I get into bed, I cocoon my skin with our Whipped Body Velvet Intensely Rich Buttermelt; it has the most luxurious, whipped body butter texture, which melts effortlessly into skin and leaves it ultra-soft. The scent of rarabe butter – which smells like warm caramel – mixed with vanilla and coconut, is dreamy, and complements the Luxury Bath Foam perfectly.
The final step is a spritz of our So Sleepy Pillow Mist to help me unwind even more, and drift off almost immediately! The aromatherapeutic benefits of the lavender, rosemary, eucalyptus and vanilla are so powerful; I always sleep so peacefully when I use it, and wake up feeling refreshed.
Do you have any secret beauty tips that you think everyone should know?
It sounds very cliché, but taking time out for ourselves is so important. Self care means something different to everyone, and I find a mini facial massage so relaxing, but also beneficial for my skin. Warm your favourite facial oil in your hands, apply to your skin, and massage in upward circular motions for 1 minute. The dewy glow it gives my skin is amazing – just taking one minute of your day can really help to boost your confidence, and help you to unwind.
Check out more dressing table diaries here!