Perception of beauty is fluid and I am quite sure that first and foremost it comes from within. From the moment we are born we start to accumulate beauty traditions typical to our nationality and culture, later adding what we learn from our travels and people around us, with our beauty ultimately becoming all-encompassing. Ada Ooi, founder of 001 skincare, is a young woman who combines professional wisdom with beauty traditions of her ancestors. Add to that her curious mind, her drive and her constantly evolving skills coming from her passion for dance, art and photography among other things, and you will get the essence of what is distilled in 001 skincare pots and bottles and shared with her clients during the facials that she administers.
Ada is a surprise when you meet her-petite, with gloriously shiny long hair and oodles of energy shining through her sparkly eyes. This is a confident woman who has strong opinions which are backed by in-depth knowledge. Ada was born and raised in Hong Kong, by a mother who would be considered a Tiger Mother in the West ( she was the head of Human Resources of the HK Stock Exchange and would place very high expectations on both of two daughters, leaving no room for argument or girls opinions ). Ada is very creative and from a young age she nurtured her interest in musical theatre and dance, taking part in shows and projects. Ada’s mother placed importance on concealment of emotions and strong ambitions, while Ada was determined to nurture her inner raw talent, by teaching aerobics after school to make some money. She was fascinated by the expression and freedom of movement, talking of the ‘vocabulary of dance being fluid’ with an inner passion blazing from the inner sanctum of her dark eyes.
After finishing high school, Ada taught dance in Taiwan and other countries and gained a degree in literature and performing arts from Portsmouth University because ‘it allowed me to do creative studies and not have a fixed module-I could do what I wanted from the beginning’ and listening to Ada say it aloud, I wondered if in way, in addition to following her inner compass, she also tried to rebel against the rigidity that her mother tried to impose while raising her and her sister ( who became a fashion designer – not something that the girls mother pictured for her second daughter’s career, I would imagine ).
While Ada’s girlfriends preferred to shop mindlessly at the shopping malls, Ada always gravitated towards the beauty department. She loved skincare in particular and started wearing perfume from the age of three of four, always taking an opportunity to observe her mother applying them. Ada started using skincare herself from the age of 12, sticking mostly to toner and moisturiser to begin with.
In her 20s Ada worked in London in the marketing sector, before deciding that she wanted to go and work in China, where she ended up doing a course in aromatherapy. She was truly intrigued and curious why smells would create such an impact on the mind, as well as the body and this was the impulse that lead her to explore the science behind aromatherapy. Learning about 41 essential oils wasn’t enough though, so she went off to learn about chemistry & anatomy, followed by a beauty diploma. In China in particular you need to spend a lot of hours honing your professional skills and applying them in a practical setting. Upon turning 30, Ada chose England as her next destination, where she started taking on clients, using her DIY tailor-made products, attuned to her clients needs.
My jaw literally dropped when Ada started telling me about the differences between Western and Asian skin-her knowledge and attention to details are so vast that I actually told Ada there and then that she should write a book and I certainly hope that it will happen-so fascinating is her knowledge. We started talking about the t-zone ( in Asia a lot of time is spent on the extraction, which in the West is often done very quickly, as it isn’t a pleasant part of the facial ). Peels are never done in the summer in Asia, make-up is always taken off before bed and never ‘recycled’. To have a facial every two weeks in Asia is considered a norm, not a luxury and most often than not it includes massage, chinese acupuncture and machines or gadgets that also form an integral part of the facial. Equally Ada is very honest about the facialists and skincare capabilities, saying that wrinkles are ‘hard to make disappear’ or that you can correct skin’s dryness but not some other skin conditions with it.
001 skincare won’t promise you the un-achievable, instead it will work hard to help with some issues we all come across daily, like puffiness-we all sometimes wake up with a congested face, especially after a late night partying. Ada is a big proponent of massage, as it triggers the brain to think that your skin is being ‘intruded’, so Ada takes ‘advantage’ of it by using lots of gadgets, including the ones with ions. That’s another thing about Asian approach to beauty-there are gadgets, jade rollers, pins and needles and other things that I don’t even know about yet and they all seem to enhance the effect of the products that you put on your skin.
Imagine taking the time in the morning and evening and sitting leisurely in front of mirror, giving yourself a thorough face massage. You can use your fingers or do it with a jade roller ( by the way Ada told me that a jade roller isn’t in any way more effective than a simple spoon- it is how your massage your face ).
001 skincare isn’t Soil Certified, as Ada doesn’t want her products to be perceived as ‘natural’ simply for the sake of it or popularity of the term. Her products maintain stability for six months once opened ( let’s see if once you start using them they will last you THAT long, before you have the need to purchase another one ) but she is adamant that SLES is truly bad for your skin, as it is harsh and can lead to skin’s allergic reactions. Ada first started making skincare products for friends but the actual 001 skincare line took about two and a half years of perfecting, before Ada was completely satisfied and ready to launch them. The ingredients are sourced from around the world, while the products were tested and formulated by Ada with bio-chemists and botanists in UK labs. By combining traditional apothecary with modern bio-chemical innovations Ada created two botanical collections, called 001 Classic ( for daily skincare ) and 001 Precious Finds ( for more luxuriously intensive treatments ) which help to strengthen the skin matrix, balance the skin by combating environmental aggressors and delay the ageing process.
Ada views skincare products not as just tools for looking beautiful, she also considers the emotional and olfactory aspect as part of the beauty equation. Considering how often we touch our faces, we need to love what we apply to our face as the combination is much more likely to produce a superior result to just applying your average cream or face serum on the run. If you also add regular facial massage you will see further improvement in your skin, from the tone to the evenness. In some ways 001 skincare works in different ways, for example one of my favourites, the most beautifully textured ( this one is unlike any other serum I have ever tried until now ) Active Marine Power Concentrate works on your entire face, including the delicate eye area.
All of 001 products contain powerful blends of active ingredients, including minerals, vitamins, marine algaes, pure essential and plant oils and extracts. Each product comes in a dark glass bottle making the products more effective and longer lasting than if they were contained in plastic pots or bottles-there are also beautifully evocative literary quotes to inspire your mind. Within 001 Classic daily skincare range you have Lavender Hydrolat Toner ( 99% pure hydrolate collected from high-grade distilled harvested lavender ), Exfoliating & Conditioning Cleanser, as well as the above mentioned and much adored Active Marine Concentrate. 001 Precious Finds consists of Supreme Equilibrium Mask, Pure Active Peel and Intensive Elixir.
Exfoliating & Conditioning Cleanser ( £23 for 100 mls ): this foaming cleanser contains Lactic Acid which will gently exfoliate your skin and moisturise it, while enhancing the absorption of natural essences of Melissa, Fennel and Vanilla. Ada also added L-Carnitine, which is known for its cell regenerating properties. It feel like a light oil and have a faint, delicate flowery smell. I tend to apply it to my dry skin and massage it all over, then when I add water to it, it turns milky and delicately, but effectively cleanses my face and neck. What I see in the mirror after I pat dry my face is clean, radiant & relaxed complexion. This cleanser is good for everyday use and was tried and tested by Ada on different skin types, including sensitive, prior to launch.
Intensive Elixir ( £94 for 50 mls ): it is a beautifully refined blend of Sandalwood, Patchouli, Frankincense ( those three oils help to heal the skin, prevent tissue deterioration and rebalance skin’s sebum levels ), Rose (soothes and strengthens the skin ) and Vitamin E ( anti-oxidant and line-smoothing qualities ), which are infused in no less than six bio-dynamic plant oils, including Macadamia Seed, Evening Primrose and Sun Flower ( high in GLA, their fatty acids mimic our skin’s natural sebum and lipid barriers, thus helping preserve the health of skin cells ) which will rebalance, rejuvenate and moisturise your skin.
This strongly fragranced oil ( woody with a delicate earthy undertones and flowery essence )feels rich but sinks quickly into your skin, leaving behind a trace of radiance. Ada advises on warming one or two drops of this oil between the tips of your fingers and then massaging or lightly tapping it into the skin. Try massaging it in small circles, drawing inwards and let your skin enjoy its benefits as you sleep.
Supreme Equilibrium Mask ( £82 for 50 mls ): this mask looks, smells and feels quite unique in the sea of many face masks. It has a gel-cream like consistency and includes three precious resins- Benzoin, Frankincense and Myrrh-which are combined with Manuka Honey, Ginko Leaf extracts, Brown Marin Algae and Rosehip Oil. The resin gums come from tropical trees in Africa and Arabian Peninsula and as their extraction is a lengthy process, it makes them highly prized, like spices in the Middle Ages. Resins have deeply aromatic fragrances, as well as powerful anti-oxidant properties which promote healing, as well as the sense of calm and relaxation for the skin, body and the mind.
Ginko is a natural anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial and anti-oxidant that will protect your skin from free radicals to which we are exposed on a daily basis and which lead to the skin showing the sigh of ageing through wrinkles and age spots. Manuka honey is not just great for your immunity but it also helps to heal your skin, oxygenate it, as well as gently exfoliate and nurture it. Rosehip Oil is added because of its high-concentration of Omega 3, 5 and 9, as well as essential fatty acids which improve skin’s moisture levels, while Brown Marin Algae prevent depletion of elastin and collagen within our skin’s matrix.
This mask can be used during skin’s emergencies, when it feels dry or distressed. You need to apply a thin layer of it all over your face and leave it overnight if you fancy or apply it to the cleansed skin, wait a few minutes and then rub it in gently with slightly damp fingertips. Its beautiful aroma transports you to the land of indulgence, while the skin itself feels a light cooling sensation-a well-deserved heaven at the end of any given day. There is a spicy note to it that feels uplifting to the senses and I love to sit down and meditate while inhaling its aroma and smiling my inner smile.
Active Marine Concentrate ( £49 for 30 mls ):this product should be nominated for an award just for its consistency alone-it is gel like, clear like a tear of a baby and makes your skin feel incredible. Did I say that it can be also used around the eye area? This product was created with the aim of promoting cell viability and it packs a powerful punch with a combination of marine algaes which help to restore lipid synthesis and recover moisture levels to its normal state. In addition there is the stabilised Vitamin C, Aloe Vera ( with its soothing & calming properties ), Green Tea and natural citrus essences which enhance anti-ageing benefits with their anti-oxidant properties.
According to Ada, Marine Concentrate is to be used as a concentrated serum, so you will need to also top it with a moisturiser. Your basic basic routine with 001 skincare could be as follows ( as recomended by Ada ): ” Cleanse, tone, concentrate or elixir (over face and eyes), moisturiser. Concentrate gives a nice dose of ‘supplement’ for the skin but the skin still needs the moisturiser to maintain good lipid, sebum level for protection. We’re taught these four steps in our skincare routine in Asia )
Personally I am smitten with this product because of its texture, its delicate smell and of how even and soft it makes my skin look. This product is wonderfully addictive in its benefits, be happily warned!
When I asked Ada why she named her skincare line 001 she said that it resonates ‘visually’ with her surname and that she has a vision that with her skincare brand she is on a mission to help people discover what’s hidden within themselves and their senses. On the path of self-discovery we will find out what works best for our skin as well. She smiled and added that in her opinion culture will play a very big part in helping bring that vision to life.
Talking to Ada is endlessly fascinating because via her Asian roots comes insightful and practical advice, like the fact that our top third vertebrae is called ‘pool of wind’ and we need to keep it warm and wrapped up in cold weather because if it is exposed to elements, it will accumulate coolness and you will be ‘attacked by the cold’ – don’t worry if that happens-you will just need to steam our the dampness created within your body. Or the fact that when you have spent the whole day on your feet you need to take a wooden foot file or something similar and actively tap all over the soles of your feet for a few minutes. It might feel uncomfortable but your legs and feet will feel so much better in the morning-hard to find advice like that in your average beauty book, wouldn’t you agree?
For now Ada continues to work in advertisement but keeps true to her roots through dance or singing karaoke at home and taking time during her beauty routine ( and her other half knows better than interrupt that process ). If you follow Ada’s Twitter account and blog, you will soon find that she will educate your brain as well, with theatrical and dance endeavours, wise thoughts, photography, interesting quotes, art-the list goes on and on. She has an unusual depth for someone who is still relatively young and in our day and age, when celebrity culture promotes shallowness, this deeply resonates if you look for substance and traditions that are current in the modern world. Beauty after all, is skin deep-talking to Ada I am more sure than ever of that.