Necessity is the mother of invention. For these two mothers, it definitely is.
There is nothing more frustrating when you cannot find a solution to relieve an itch caused by eczema or when you simply cannot find the right support clothing for your tweenie.
So both Traslin Tan and Vanessa Hooi put their training and skills to work and came up with not only a solution for themselves but also for all who face the same challenges at one time or another.
Ms Traslin Tan developed chronic eczema a few months after giving birth to her daughter and they would develop on her hands.
“They are the worst to treat because we use our hands constantly. The eczema was extremely itchy and painful at the same time. The wounds cracked and oozed and it affected me badly — both physically and emotionally,” she says.
Ms Tan says she was prescribed antibiotics soon after giving birth and believed the course had “disrupted some sort of equilibrium in my body, affecting my immune system”.
“It just happened out of the blue. I started reacting to certain foods and my lips would swell. Multiple painful splits would develop in the corners of my mouth a day after and the skin on fingers cracked too. It took me a few weeks to actually zoom in on my food triggers. They include MSG (monosodium glutamate), overly salted foods, prawns and crabs,” she tells TheHomeGround Asia, adding that her condition made eating out difficult and her hands were in constant pain.
By then, the family had moved to the United States when the baby was only a few months old and for the two years she was there, she had to cope with looking after her daughter and managing her pain with no extra help. The cool, dry weather was not helping solve her
Being in dusty places and using harsh hand soap also triggered a reaction.
“I couldn’t carry my baby and simple tasks like washing my hair was torturous as the strands would cut into the slits on my hands and the shampoo bite into the skin. This was an everyday affair and I kept asking myself, ‘When will this be over?’ Mind you, I am someone who has a high threshold for pain,” she says.
Ms Tan says she was diagnosed with atopic dermatitis, dyshidrotic eczema, nummular eczema by different physicians “all on the same pair of hands” and throughout that period, she had to deal not only with angry red hands and wet oozing skin, but also the stares and glares from strangers, “wondering if I have some contagious disease whenever they catch a glimpse of my hands.
“Eventually I wore gloves whenever I went out. This went on for a couple of months and that was the darkest period of my life. It affected my self esteem as well as my confidence. I was struggling and trying to manage my girl alone with my cracked hands. It was no small feat,” she recalls.
“The good thing in the US was that its organic foods are cheap and I was able to slowly change to eating a lot cleaner there,” Ms Tan adds.
After three painful years away, Ms Tan and her family returned to Singapore and that was when she made up her mind to find an alternative solution to her eczema issues.
“I did not want to take the usual or traditional medical route. That only treats the symptoms and I wanted to get to the root of my problem. I believe highly in alternative remedies and working from the inside out. So I delved into research and decided to change my entire range of products — prescribed or otherwise — to au naturale and simple ingredients. That includes skincare, laundry soap, dish soap, hand soap, floor cleaner and other toiletries,” she says, adding that she also adopted a clean diet of no processed foods.
The process took Ms Tan two years and it spurred her on to continue her research to develop her own line of products to help others who suffer from eczema.
“I have been in the skincare industry for more than 20 years and was looking at product development. I have a food science and nutrition background and I believe strongly in working from the inside out,” she says.
“Working closely in R&D was how I came across marine botanical stem cell technology and managed to use stem cell extracts with other scientifically proven ingredients to develop a formulation that will aid in the management of eczema-prone and sensitive skin. The proprietary formulation helps to boost the skin’s natural ability to regenerate new cells and helps open sores by providing antioxidants protection, calms and strengthens skin,” Ms Tan adds.
After three years in development, Ms Tan launched TOS Skin in July 2020 with a specialised eczema treatment serum.
“Stem cell extracts have always been known for their regenerative properties and thus provide anti-aging benefits. Those available in the market are mainly derived from fruits. I was searching for something more and that was how I found the ones from marine botanics which are also vegan friendly. That was how the serum came about,” she says.
The serum has undergone pre-clinical trials on human skin models to determine its ability to reduce oxidative stress and provide protection against damage. “I want to make sure that every product TOS pushes out is tested. The core of the brand is eczema care and we want to educate and support people who suffer from the disorder,” she adds.