[Interview] Melixir’s product developer Tini talks about the principles and difficulties in developing clean, sustainable vegan skincare products.
Hello, Tini! What is your role at Melixir?
I am currently in charge of developing various skincare and bodycare products at Melixir. I plan and execute product development from market research to production. To ensure that we release only the best products, I oversee the manufacturing process meticulously. It is important to me to focus on finding healthy, effective ingredients and eco-friendly ways to source materials for all our products. I also set the quarterly and yearly production timeline and solve any issues that arise during the process of creating our products.
Tell me more about the product development process.
We first conduct research on which ingredients are best suited for people’s skin. Next we conduct marketability research, which includes creating a concept around the final product and developing marketing strategies. We keep our customers at the forefront throughout this entire process. After we’ve identified the best ingredients for a product, we get samples of the product and enter the compliance testing phase. If the product passes all the tests, we then complete the design for the packaging and begin production. In between the stages of production, we continue to test the product for quality so that we are delivering the best product to our customers. After the launch of the product, I check customer reviews to assess customer feedback. I appreciate how candidly customers talk about the good and bad sides of the product, so I always take their feedback to heart and incorporate their suggestions to improve existing products or develop new ones. The customer’s voice is for sure the most important and accurate index in developing quality products.
What is your daily routine at the office?
When I get to the office, the first thing I do is check emails from our manufacturers and suppliers. I follow up with the current production schedule and make sure that everything is going smoothly so that we can deliver results on time. I also have daily product development meetings with Hana, our CEO, who is deeply involved in every aspect of product development. At these meetings, I share our production schedule projections, as well as our current progress, so that we are all aligned on status and action items. We also spend a large portion of the day assessing customer reviews, researching and studying plant-based ingredients and eco-friendly packaging technologies, and developing future products for our brand. For example, these days we are developing new colors for our Vegan Lip Butter and also developing new bodycare lines that are scented with our signature fragrances. Since the majority of our customers have sensitive skin, we try to develop all of our facial and bodycare products that are effective and safe for the most delicate skin.
How do you get ideas for new products?
We really value customer input, so I read a lot of our customer reviews, especially for our best-selling products. This helps us understand what our customers want from us, and customer feedback is often the starting point of a new product idea for us. We also do extensive studies of industry trends to evaluate products or trends that resonate with our customers, and we are constantly researching to use the most innovative ingredients and materials that are not used by other brands. For example, Melixir's Vegan Relief Facial Cream contains hemp seeds, which has a great hydrating effect. When I came up with the concept of using hemp seeds in our products, at the time, hemp seeds were not widely used in cosmetics in Korea. Given that the use of hemp seeds was uncharted territory in Korea, I did a tremendous amount of research on how to incorporate hemp seeds into our products so that we can create an innovative plant-based and effective product for our customer base in Korea. Ultimately, we had a successful launch of our Vegan Relief Facial Cream, and I am thrilled by the positive reception it has had in Korea and abroad.
Who do you mainly collaborate with within the process of developing a product?
I often collaborate with our CEO Hana and our designer Koeun. Close communication between us is vital so that we stay aligned with respect to the direction of product development and marketing strategies. Melixir also uses eco-friendly materials throughout all aspects of any product, so we are always trying to develop new packaging that is more sustainable. Because sustainability and being kind to the planet is an important tenet of Melixir, we really spend a lot of time discussing the best possibilities for packaging. I also work with Mina, one of our sales representatives, to discuss how to proceed with product development and delivery schedules.
I think making a product that many people enjoy requires a lot of responsibility. What is the most important thing in the process of developing a good product?
At Melixir, we aim to be as sustainable and kind to human nature as possible. So, when we are developing a product, we want to ensure that it benefits the skin without using any animal ingredients. It is also important to use eco-friendly materials and plant-based ingredients that are safe for the skin. This means, in order to make products that are safe, sustainable, and effective for the skin, we are constantly studying and testing our products and their ingredients.
Melixir's products minimize chemical components, are not tested on animals, and are made of eco-friendly materials. It’s not easy to adhere to these principles in the product development process. What are the difficulties you face in developing vegan cosmetics?
I think the hardest part is to minimize our use of plastic, but where we are at with current technology sometimes limits our ability to do so. When developing the Vegan Lip Butter (which is one of our best-selling products), we tried very hard to develop a biodegradable container for the product. However, it was impossible to make a lip butter container out of biodegradable plastic with the current technology. So, we had to use plastic and I really wish we did not have to. Our research, however, is not over, and we hope one day to be able to provide our Vegan Lip Butter in biodegradable plastic.
Some people think that environmentally friendly products are less effective. As Melixir's product development manager, can you share why Melixir’s products are special?
Melixir’s products are non-irritating and more skin-friendly than some other cosmetics that promise dramatic results in a short period but are harsh on the skin. This makes Melixir perfect for people with sensitive skin while being just as effective as other products. I think this ability to provide skincare that is gentle yet effective is Melixir’s biggest advantage.
Besides using eco-friendly ingredients and not experimenting on animals, what makes Melixir special?
I think what makes Melixir special is that our products are easy, natural and simple to use. Melixir is a brand that doesn't overdo it. Even without the use of harsh chemical ingredients, our products work and are effective. Because of this reason, people are not worried about overapplying or the side effects that can occur because of extensive use of the product. Also, people of all ages can use these products without having to worry about serious side effects. As a man, I also think about how products will be received from a male perspective. For example, male customers these days also look for beauty products, and I think about what aspects of a product would resonate with men. In the case of our Vegan Lip Butter line, we’ve currently released the colors Agave, Nude Cracker, and Red Velvet. These colors were all designed so that men can use them as well. Agave is very moisturizing, and the other two colors add a natural vitality to the face without appearing like makeup. I use Nude Cracker. So, I think perhaps the greatest advantage Melixir has is that our products are made for anyone of any gender and any age, really. Also, I think Melixir’s overall vibe reflected in the design of our products is very special. Because I am interested in clothes and fashion, I really value the design and aesthetics of the items I carry. So, I really like the attractive design of Melixir products in that they are sleek and classy, while also functional in that they are easy to carry around in a bag or briefcase.
You are a product development manager at Melixir. What are the pros and cons of working at Melixir?
I love Melixir’s opㅅen and transparent culture. Our team members are relatively young, so it’s easy for us to empathize with each other. I also love being able to create products that reflect my own ideas and tastes. I have what is called “combination skin”. So, I created a vegan balancing toner that can help others with my skin type. It’s really gratifying to know that I can create products who are troubled by the same skin concerns as I am. The downside is that I am in charge of product development at a small startup, so at times the responsibilities can be overwhelming. But, I welcome the challenges and am constantly working to stretch my abilities so that we can deliver the best products for our customers.
There must be days where work stresses you out, how do you deal with the stress?
It is inevitable to feel tired and frustrated sometimes. Work can be really stressful when there are issues with scheduling and product delivery. I tend to relieve stress with exercise. I used to go to the gym, but now I work out at home due to the Coronavirus. Watching Netflix also helps a lot. I am currently watching ‘The Secret Forest 2’ and it is great.
Finally, please tell us about the future you see for Melixir.
We truly make our products for all people from all backgrounds. I truly hope one day Melixir will be a brand recognized and known by everyone as representing health and sustainability. We’ve achieved great success in Korean, and I hope that we will continue to expand globally and be just as successful overseas.