Saturday, November 22, 2014

Skinfatuated with VMV

“Skinfatuated with VMV”
Sun.Star Davao, Nov. 22, 2014

Growing up with sensitive skin, there was only one local brand that helped me survive my teenage years—VMV Hypoallergenics. Now, as a mom, I still continue to use various VMV products to look my best.

From a brand that one would find only in the Philippines’ department stores, VMV has emerged to be a successful world-class brand in the US, with its flagship VMV Skin-Specialist Boutique in SOHO, New York; Italy, Sweden, Norway, Mexico, United Kingdom, Hong Kong, Spain, Japan, Singapore and Costa Rica (soon), both through e-commerce sites and brick-and-mortar stores.

VMV is also close to my heart because a dear childhood friend/former neighbor of mine, Anna Marie Tancongco-Anastacio, is VMV’s awe-inspiring Chief Business Development Officer. Yes, we have a Davao connection at VMV!

Let’s get to know the dynamic Anna--business executive; president of the Chamber of Cosmetics Industry of the Phils., Inc.; wife to Warren and doting mom extraordinaire to Gian and Diego in this interview:

*How did the Tancongco family end up in Davao?

Our family is really from Cagayan de Oro. However, my dad worked for Del Monte, the manufacturer and marketer of processed food, as an operations head for the Mindanao plantations. Del Monte’s Mindanao office was based in Davao City. So, our family had to move to Davao City.

*How many years did you live in Davao? What was your childhood like?

I lived in Davao from 1982 until 1990, from 3rd grade until 4th year high school. About 8 years of my formative growth was spent in Davao. I had great memories growing up in Davao, among the best years of my life! At first, I didn’t know anyone at all, but I quickly gained awesome friends in our village such as you, the children of my dad’s colleagues in Del Monte who were Americans, Puerto Ricans, Spanish and Costa Ricans, and my schoolmates. I attended grade school in Stella Maris Academy, then went to high school in Ateneo de Davao. I was very blessed with a lot of friends, many of whom I still keep in touch through Facebook. 

*What do you miss about life in Davao? 

The food! I love durian, mangosteen and pomelo... So every time I go to Davao, I gorge on these fruits and bring crates back to Manila. And even when I buy fruits in Manila, I try to look for Del Monte or Dizon Farms produce... And, of course, my friends. Although some of them are already based in different places around the globe, some are still based in Davao.

*How did you end up working for the beauty industry?

Since companies usually start looking for prospects in colleges even before the students graduate, I immediately had three offers for work even before I graduated from Ateneo de Manila University. Two were banks and one was a cosmetic distribution company.

Among these three, it was actually the cosmetic distribution company that had the lowest offer - even lower than the monthly allowance my father would provide me when I was in school! However, I realized early on that I would rather work for an industry I know I will enjoy working in because then it wouldn’t feel like work, and the company had a portfolio that would be great on my resume. The company was part of a group of companies that distributed Estee Lauder, Clinique, Yves Rocher, Orlane, Burberry and other fragrances; Max Factor, Neutrogena and more.

Later on, I would get a call from VMV Hypoallergenics, inviting me to join them. Then I became a managing partner... And, the rest, as they say, is history. 

*Can you give us a short background of VMV?

VMV was founded in 1979 by a research-oriented, well-published dermatologist-dermatopathologist.  With all 76 allergens omitted from our formulations — and with the first and still the only validated hypoallergenic rating system — there's no safer brand out there.

We’re thoroughly skinfatuated: besides loving every minute of what we do, our products are unabashedly skin love: validated hypoallergenic (sans all known cosmetic allergens); 100% all-types-of-fragrance-free; 100% phthalate, dye, paraben + preservative-free; and non-comedogenic.

We’re proud skintellectuals: we really know what we’re doing; so hypoallergenic, we’re part of the American Contact Dermatitis Society’s reference database; so medically
impressive, our studies appear in (and are even awarded by) peer-reviewed medical journals and conventions.

*What makes VMV different from other cosmetic brands?

Its key proposition is really being the safest, most proven effective care on the planet.

The safety comes from its proven hypoallergenicity. I know “hypoallergenic” as a claim has been thrown around a lot lately, but our definition is quite unique in that it is objective and has been validated.

What we did is to use the allergen lists published by two most respected dermatological groups, American Contact Dermatitis Society and the European Surveillance System on Contact Allergies - and we exclude these allergens from our formulations.

The proven efficacy comes from our obsession with testing — at the highest standard. We patch test every ingredient, finished product and accessories such as brushes and puffs to ensure their hypoallergenicity.

Lastly, we’d like to say that we care for you, from our diapers to our dermabrasion. We’re skinvolved; we’re in this with our customers for the long haul. We have products for babies, for sun and light protection, shaving, body and bath, for different skin concerns such as acne, anti-aging, lightening, and even a laundry shampoo for those who are allergic to regular laundry detergents!

*In recent years, VMV has expanded its market globally, what was your personal experience like pushing a Filipino brand to other countries?

At first, it was quite tough. The Philippines is not really known for skin care or cosmetics. It is more known for things like furniture, or for its skilled workers. We didn’t let that deter us. We were clear on our positioning as a brand: that we are a validated hypoallergenic brand and its science is evidence-based.

We let the brand’s strengths speak for itself instead of focusing on the origin. Many Filipinos were telling us “why don’t you target the Filipino communities abroad first?”. We knew we had a great brand story to tell and solid science-based products to showcase. So we decided not to limit ourselves to a specific community only. We went in the mainstream, accessible premium category in every market we entered. And when the consumers find out that we are actually from the Philippines (the packaging also says that we are “Made in the Philippines”), it becomes a pleasant surprise!

What also worked for us is the trend on organics and naturals. The driving force behind the organics and naturals trend is really the consumers’ desire to have ‘safe’ products for them to use.

Truth is, not all organic and natural are actually safe - peanuts and lanolin can be organic and natural but highly allergenic. Strawberries can be organic and natural, but some people are very allergic to it. So, VMV’s hypoallergenic angle fits very well into that market need, not only delivering safe but also effective products.

*If I were a busy mom and could only have time to do my make-up for 5 minutes, what VMV products do you recommend?

For on-the-go make-up, I suggest our Skintelligent BBBB (BB But Better) Skintangible SPF 30 as a starter. It evens out skin tone, gives you that fresh, dewy, natural look. At the same time, it gives you SPF 30 to protect your skin against damaging effects from sun and light exposure.

Then, apply a dash of Skintelligent Beauty Skin Bloom Blush to give cheeks definition and radiance. We also have dye-free options for those with extra-sensitive skin.

A mascara is a must! It enhances your eyes and it can make a difference to your whole face. VMV’s Ooh-La-Lash! Volumizing Mascara forms tubes around each lash. It is non-smearing so it won’t give you the “racoon eyes” at the end of the day. It is also easy to wipe off with VMV’s make-up remover or with warm water, with just few splashes, the tubes slip right off.

Then of course, a lip color. VMV’s Skintelligent Lipstick range offers different textures of lipsticks - from Subtle Shine for that elegant basic look, to Velvet Matte for that full coverage, full bodied, dramatic velvet finish, to Glitz for that glimmer glam look - and in colors available both in dye and dye-free shades. 

*I’ve heard so many good things about your Grandma Minnie line. What makes it such a hit with moms and kids?

Our Grandma Minnie would be our gentlest skin care line. All of the Grandma Minnie products contain an effective coconut-derived, anti-bacterial ingredient called monolaurin. Monolaurin is also anti-inflammatory, anti-fungal and anti-protozoal. Together with monolaurin, all our Grandma Minnie products also contain USDA certified, cold-pressed virgin coconut oil. So, you get all the goodness of VCO as well.

The most popular product in that line is ‘The Big, Brave, Boo-Boo Balm’. I always carry around and travel with one. It is the best ‘emergency’ buddy you can have. Got insect bites? Boo-Boo Balm soothes away itchiness while monoloaurin will also subside the inflammation. Got scrapes and shallow cuts? Boo-Boo Balm’s anti-bacterial properties will stop it from getting infected and facilitate faster healing. Got chapped lips? Apply Boo-Boo Balm’s moisturizing properties can help. Got joggers’ nipple chafing and bleeding? A common injury suffered by runners which has soreness and, in extreme cases, even cracked and bleeding nipples. We recommend the use of Boo-Boo Balm before and after a run. I have heard so many other cases where Boo-Boo Balm was so useful for our customers, even in loosening skin when stuck during use of superglue!

*Lastly, what are the must-have products of VMV for the family?

It’s difficult to only choose a few products to recommend as our products tend to have different purposes for each of the member of the family. But for basics, I would recommend the following at the very least:

ARMADA FACE COVER 30, 45 OR 60: A daily use of sunscreen by everyone in the family is a must. Skin cancer, even among Filipinos, is on the rise. Most people think that they only need protection from the sun. Recent studies have shown that immunosuppression and skin cancer can also be triggered by constant exposure to indoor lights that emit UVA, infrared and visible light.

ARMADA SPORT 70: For outdoor activities such as sports or family vacations. American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) strongly recommends that sunscreen be reapplied every two hours at least.

BOO-BOO BALM: A basic emergency buddy for any “boo-boos”.

ESSENCE ANTI-BACTERIAL HAND GEL: Viruses are easily passed around from the things we touch. Schools can be a great haven of viruses as children interact with sick teachers or classmates. So I always make sure that all (and I am not kidding) of my family members have their own Essence Hand Gel so they can easily sanitize anytime, anywhere.


In Davao, VMV products can be found at Ayala Abreeza Mall, Chimes and SM Department Stores.

The company will have a VMV Skin-Specialist Boutique in January 2015 in the soon-to-be-opened Centrale Mall, offering their products and facial services.

VMV can also be accessed through their online stores: for markets outsides the Philippines, and for the Philippines.

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