Exploring age dynamics and relationships

March 2018

Originally published on White Noise

September 2018

As someone who battled with acne for over a decade before finding a peaceful resolution, skincare is one of my biggest passions. I’m very eager to meet someone who loves it just as I do. As Jin Kwon walks over with a warm smile, I notice how flawless her skin is, a vivid testimony to why Korean beauty has become so popular across the globe. Jin is the CEO of Tonic15, a company that scouts for the best Korean skincare brands and brings their products to the UK.

Korean-born Jin’s love of skincare was passed down from her mother. She gives me some contextual background on skincare in Korea, explaining that going to a dermatologist is part of everyday life in thFe Far East. Just like my own, her journey with skin cosmetics has been an on-going one. “I realise how important skincare is as I age. I’m 34 now, soon to be 35. A face isn’t just a face. It isn’t just about what brand you put on it. It’s how stressed you are, how you manage it and what you eat. Your lifestyle shows on your skin.” It’s true. Processed sugar, dairy and hormonal changes turn my skin into an angry, bulbous battlefield.

Much like myself, Jin has always had her heart set on starting a business; she tells me that she originally wanted to set up a Korean fried chicken place when immigrating to London, but her husband wasn’t so keen. Graduating with an MBA from the London Business School last year gave Jin the kick that she needed. “I felt it was my last chance to start up a business.”

She decided to take the plunge and utilise her network of beauty magazines, spa, professionals and friends in the beauty industry. Jin explains how the scouting and on boarding process works. “If I find an interesting brand, I’ll reach out to them and help to bring them into the European market. It’s quite difficult because we have to go through regulations and compliance,” she says. I’ll work with the brand on their branding and marketing in the UK using services like Scaffolding Wrap Advertising and others.

Finding a routine that works for you is a game of Russian roulette with your visage, which Jin knows all about. Her business partner in Korea works alongside a number of Korean beauty brands, meaning Jin always has plenty of samples to try out. “I’m the master guinea pig. I have panel including people with different types of skin. Everyone has different skin so you have to test it on a lot of different types.” She compares her skin to her husband’s. “He has oily skin with acne. I have dry combination skin. I can’t promo what I don’t believe in. My goal is to share high quality products that I like and that works.”

I’m interested to know Jin feels Asian beauty has become so popular in the West.

She says, “The quality of Korean products is outstanding. Korean beauty is such an interesting space and its customers are super demanding when it comes to beauty. They’re really well educated. People are always checking the ingredients of products. If a brand has really harsh ingredients like parabens, then people never buy it.”

Ever the eager beaver, I want to know more about the ingredients in skincare products from the East.  “In Asia, horse oil is very popular. It has a lot of vitamin E. I’ve seen seahorse as an ingredient. Korean products are known for ingredients like snails and those are good, but now you see a lot of plant-based ingredients. I’m more focused on that. I make sure there are no harsh ingredients in it.” Harsh chemicals are a no-no for me too. They can mess with the skin’s natural barrier, causing inflammation, breakouts, dryness and rashes. I steer clear of products with benzoyl peroxide, which make my skin dry and itchy.

Korean skincare is infamously known for its 10-step routines, which Jin doesn’t abide by. “It’s about making sure you clean, nourish and protect your skin. You don’t need to use 10 products. It’s about finding the right skincare routine that you can use within a short time and keep it simple.” That’s exactly what Tonic15 does with its 15-minute fixes. “Everyone’s busy. No matter how busy we are, we should have those 15 minutes of taking caring of ourselves.”

With autumn on the way bringing with it dry and cold air, it’s time for a skincare overhaul, but not all at once. Jin says it’s important to build a relationship with each product to see how it reacts. She gives me some more tips “You shouldn’t exfoliate seven days a week, but it’s good twice or three times a week to make sure you don’t have dead skin cells piling up.” She says, “It’s good to moisturise and mix a little bit of oil for a good hydration level. During the changing season, you need to use products that are thicker in texture.”

With enviable skin, I’m dying to know about Jin’s routine. “If I have make up on, I’ll use an oil cleanser and then I’ll use a foam cleanser and toner,” she explains. “It depends on how lazy I am, but I’ll use a sheet mask and moisturiser, or Essence and cream moisturiser. Twice a week I exfoliate. When my skin feels dull, it’s a bit of a psychological thing, I’ll use a sugar polish or mandelic acid.”

If you feel like jumping on the Korean beauty bandwagon, here’s a rundown of Jin’s favourite products.  “Black sugar polish from Klairs.When you use it, it’s such a treat. It exfoliates really well. You feel the difference. It has the oil in it as well as shea butter. After you exfoliate, it keeps your skin moisturised and balanced.” Toner? “The mandelic toner is milder than your typical AHA or BHA toners. It works for sensitive skin.” Serum? “Huxley has such good quality prickly pear seed oil. It’s not sticky but has a velvety texture.” What if you’re looking for a quick fix? “We have the Huxley sheet mask.” What’s the last step? “Mist with oil is important. Essence with lotus leaf extract by the Lotus is lovely with a lovely scent.”

Jin sends me away with my first taste of East Asian beauty. It’s a mini pamper kit including a scrub, a selection of masks, as well as a chemical exfoliator (to slough off those dead skin cells and clean out my pores). It’s too early to see the effects, as you should really commit to a product for at least 28 days (it takes roughly that amount of time for your skin to regenerate), but the difference in quality is obvious. I’ve completely fallen in love with sheet masks and I’m eagerly awaiting my next batch of Korean skincare products.

Ladies and gentlemen, I’m officially a K-Beauty convert.



Published in Wired UK’s Feb/March 2019 Edition

Originally published on West London Living

January 2019

CEO of furniture brand Vênoor Living Wesley Pereira on going back to his roots, the beauty of being imperfect and the importance of a strong family network within business.


Originally published on White Noise

September 2018

YouTuber, writer and podcast host Debra Oludare is a woman on a mission. After hitting rock bottom two years ago, she decided to turn her pain into a passion project.

Oludare created Trusting the Process, a podcast show that celebrates successful black women by providing an insight into their journey. Listeners can expect laid-back and inspiring conversation where Debra effortlessly directs her curiosity, with a touch of Nigerian flavour.

You were born in Nigeria, before moving to Birmingham via Northern Ireland, Scotland and Cumbria. Now you work just over the West Cross Route at the Monsoon Accessorize HQ as social media executive. How did you get into that?

After being made redundant from a role six months in, I was in a very difficult place. I decided to use the unfavourable circumstances to propel myself into the career in London I had always wanted. The journey wasn’t easy. I was looking for work for a year. Numerous interviews, over 100 applications, and a lot of ‘no’s. My current role originally sent me an email saying I had been unsuccessful in my application, but I have this belief that no is not always the final answer, and so I looked for a back door to knock on. Two years later and here I am.

What was the pivotal point where you thought: this 9 to 5 isn’t enough, I want to write, be on YouTube, and motivate people?

I’ve always been the kind of person who loves to create. Over the years, what that looks like is all that has changed. As a child, I was never without a book. I wrote short stories and diaries and believed one day I would be a published author. For me, I believe life is lived to its fullest when we walk in alignment with our gifts. Our gifts are there for a purpose bigger than us. When you create, it inspires someone else to create and, likewise, when you are open and honest about a topic, it comforts someone else to know that they are not alone. That’s what motivates me.

Tell me more about your writing?

Once upon a time, I found it bizarre to call myself a writer. It seemed pompous and misplaced, but over the years I have learnt to wear the title proudly. The truth is, throughout my career, education and passion projects, writing is a thread that flows throughout. I find expressing myself through words incredibly therapeutic.

The first three recordings of your podcast Trusting the Process were recorded at White City Place. What was the catalyst behind it?

During the year 2015, I was in a very dark place. I had been unemployed for a year, was dealing with mental health attacks in my family, and experienced the weight of heartbreak – all at the same time. I began to research other black women who had navigated difficulties and risen to success against the odds. I needed to trust the process, and their stories gave me the strength to do so. A lot of the women I followed were over the pond, such as Ngozi Opara, the founder of Heat Free Hair, and Zim Ogochukwu, the founder of Travel Noire. I could see so many great stories, but I knew they needed to be more easily accessible here in the UK. And thus, the idea to create Trusting the Process – the show that celebrates black women doing big things – was born.

You recently spoke at an event called Coffee & Prayer. Tell me more about that, and the role of faith within your life.

Coffee & Prayer is a monthly forum that is set to equip and empower women from different walks of life, founded by my friend and amazing author Susan Deborahs. I had so much fun hosting the panel and Q&A, where we spoke about relationships, comparison and identity – topics we as women all navigate in our daily walks.

As a young women who gave my life to Christ aged 16, faith for me is everything. I wholeheartedly don’t know where I would be if not for the influence and presence of God in my life. My faith is my strength, my hope, my direction for today and tomorrow. There’s truly nothing like experiencing the love of Christ and I consider it a great privilege that we as humans get to walk and live in that daily.

What’s the ultimate goal for you?

First and foremost, it’s to be happy, fulfilled, and live my purpose by giving all of my gifts to others. It’s to boldly be myself and push towards the best version of me, to live life, intentionally. If I could say one thing about trusting the process, it would be that it is entirely worthwhile. We will all face situations and seasons that challenge our trust. When I hit rock bottom, I didn’t understand the purpose at the time, but I can now see the fruit that came from it. Trusting the process is about trusting the direction of your life. Believing that everything, from the little details to the bigger picture, are working together for your good. It’s not always easy, but it is entirely worthwhile.