Conscious Beauty And Beautiful Minds: Interview w/ Susie Ma of Tropic Skincare
Susie Ma is the Founder and CEO of Tropic Skincare, a multi-award-winning, scientifically backed, all natural, vegan and cruelty-free beauty brand. Celebrated as one of the UK’s most successful female entrepreneurs, Susie is the driving force behind Tropic’s growth as the UK’s fastest growing beauty brand.
Born in Shanghai, Susie lived with her grandmother, a medicinal chemist and toxicologist well versed in the value of homeopathic remedies, which sowed the seeds of her interest in the natural world and its nourishing properties.
She would later move to Cairns, Australia where she began to whip up her first natural skincare concoctions, inspired by the lush, vibrant plant life growing around her in abundance.
At thirteen, Susie and her mum moved to London. Two years later, to help pay off household bills, Susie borrowed £200 from her mum and invested in ingredients to create a batch of body scrubs using a family recipe, which she then sold at Greenwich Market.
On that first day, Susie raised enough money to pay the bills for a whole month. Motivated by success, she continued to spend weekends at London’s markets, selling what’s now known as Tropic’s best-selling Body Smooth. By the time she reached 21, Susie had funded her studies at university and bought her mum a house.
Susie aims to be a force for good beyond beauty and is committed to Tropic’s Infinite Purpose, which is to help create a healthier, greener, more empowered world.
What was the first beauty routine you adopted as a child or teenager? Which emotions do you connect with this memory?
When I was 14 or 15, I discovered kohl eyeliner. To remove it, I knew I needed a skincare routine, and my mum recommended jojoba oil. Every evening, I’d apply a few drops of it to dry skin to dissolve the black kohl and mascara, using water to remove it completely afterwards.
I still love jojoba oil, thanks to those early routine memories — it really would remove all traces of makeup and just leave my skin feeling so moisturised. Oddly enough though, I’d say I only started to develop a proper skincare routine in my 20s, before really making it a priority from my late 20s onwards.
It’s calming to think of those early days. At the time, I was just starting to develop my business, which would later become Tropic, so even as a young adult, I was kept pretty busy most of the time. Being able to press pause at the end of the day and wash away my eyeliner meant that I got to take a moment for myself, tune out everything around me and just relax for a few minutes. To this day, that’s the same feeling I get when I use skincare!
CONSCIOUS BEAUTY — What meaning do you give this term?
To me, conscious beauty is being considerate and aware of the wider impact your purchases might have on the world, beyond simply their day-to-day use on your own skin. When you’re using beauty products, take action to ensure that impact is as positive as possible.
Make an effort to recycle, cut open a tube to use every last bit of product to minimise wastage, and think about where products come from. Can you shop local? What are the ethical credentials of the company you’re buying from? Are they supporting green initiatives and being considerate of their environmental impact? That’s the true meaning of conscious beauty — thinking about what beauty means on a grander scale.
Which aspects of sustainability in beauty are especially important to you?
There are two incredibly important aspects of sustainability to me; ingredients and packaging. What many people don’t realise is that a lot of ingredients used in conventional beauty products are derived from petroleum, better known as crude oil. That means the burning of fossil fuels to create those ingredients, which massively contributes to climate change.
Really, we should be using ingredients derived from plants. You can enjoy a lot of the same benefits, if not better, from plant sources, and they don’t emit any carbon dioxide. In fact, they actually remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere! A beauty brand can only ever be truly sustainable when it’s using sustainable ingredients.
The same is true of cutting out plastic. One third of all waste in landfill is personal packaging, which then breaks down into microplastics and enters the ocean, where it’s devastatingly harmful to marine life. Even in some of the world’s most notoriously pristine locations, we’re seeing beaches left absolutely littered with waste.
Always seek out brands which aim to avoid using virgin plastic wherever possible, offer refills for their products and strive towards greener packaging options.
When do you consciously feel beautiful?
I feel consciously beautiful when I’ve slept well, eaten well, put on a nice outfit, done my hair, and applied a fresh face of makeup. Generally though, I feel beautiful every day because of the difference that I know Tropic is making in the world. I make sure every decision we make as a company is guided by our Infinite Purpose, to help create a healthier, greener, more empowered world. That means everything from filling our products with sustainably sourced natural ingredients to ensuring that every order funds education for children in some of the world’s most remote regions.to our work. When I stop and take a moment to reflect on that in the middle of my busy day-to-day…yep, I’d say that makes me feel beautiful.
Did your approach to beauty change within the last 1–2 years?
I used to spend a lot of time on makeup and breeze through my skincare, and now it’s the other way round. The pandemic has certainly slowed my life down, as it has for so many people, and that left me with more time to think about how I was taking care of my skin, so I’d say I’m far more conscious of my skincare routine these days. I also spend much more time exploring holistic ways to look after myself, through yoga, breathing exercises, filling my home with plants and moving my body more, especially in nature.
How would you like to see the image of beauty change within the next 5 years?
I want to see people embrace who they are and work with what they’ve been blessed with. I’d love for younger girls to realise and celebrate the fact that beauty exists at all ages and in all skin tones. Real beauty is the energy and light you radiate, and I want to see more big grins and eyes that truly smile, expressions and all.
What or who inspires your beauty routine?
My inspiration comes from all over. I am really inspired by Japanese beauty, which, to a large extent, takes the complete opposite approach to Western beauty. In countries like the UK and the US, we expect speedy results from our skincare, but Japanese beauty is slow and sustainable, creating small everyday changes, nothing too drastic or harsh. I find that products hailing from Japan really take their time tackling each of your skin’s needs, and that consistency pays off in the long run. What’s not to admire about that?
What is your best beauty advice to others?
Focus on your skin’s hydration, whether that means treating your complexion to skincare with high volumes of hyaluronic acid, gently patting skin dry or air drying, or applying hydrating body care from top to toe. If there’s any ethos I live by when it comes to beauty, it has to be ‘hydration, hydration, hydration’ — it’s that simple!
Is there anything you would like to share that we have not asked you here?
Real beauty and attractiveness comes from confidence, kindness and warmth, knowing you’re a beautiful person inside and out. We can spend so much time thinking about the ways in which other people see us and obsessing over that, noticing tiny flaws which, in reality, nobody pays any attention to. Look at yourself from a metre away in the mirror and really focus on tuning out all of those small imperceptible gripes with your appearance which only you fixate on, and you’ll realise that you actually look pretty fantastic.
Follow Tropic Skincare on Instagram.
Demee Koch about the MEDIUM interview series on CONSCIOUS BEAUTY:
Hello! I am a serial entrepreneur with more than 2 decades of experience in the health & beauty industry. This interview series is intended to create awareness about the movement of Conscious Beauty.
We are in a beautiful time of Conscious Beauty — you may have heard of this term, but what does Conscious Beauty mean, and why does it matter?
For us, beauty is a way to love — it is about self-care, art, nutrition, exercise, life, self-love. I invite you to become part of a movement that re-defines beauty. Let’s empower beautiful minds.
Thank you for being the change. I’m looking forward to learn from you. Reach out to me via LinkedIn.