Antipodes' Founder Interviewed for Hong Kong's The Standard

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Antipodes' company director and founder Elizabeth Barbalich was interviewed for Hong Kong's The Standard this month.

Skin Food by Jourdan Ma

To keep skin problems at bay, follow Elizabeth Barbalich's beauty regimen. The New Zealander created her own line of natural skincare products 11 years ago and has since won a loyal fan base.

Her background laid a great foundation. In the 1990s, she completed a biology degree at the University of Canterbury, followed by an MBA at the University of Auckland.

She later had an eight-year stint at the United States Surgical Corporation, where she trained surgeons to use the company's pioneering laparoscopic instruments.

"It was amazing to work for such an innovative company," Barbalich said. "It taught me to research and do everything perfectly. To be honest, I wouldn't have started my own business if I haven't worked there."

She has put her dexterity, research expertise and rigorous approach to good use, launching her niche label Antipodes. It is a scientifically validated and organic brand that freshens up the saturated skincare market.

"There has been a wide selection, but not many brands are genuinely organic. Their products may have a little bit of natural ingredients, but they are mainly synthetic," she said.

Growing up in New Zealand has given her a love of nature and a sharp eye. With high sunshine hours and rainfall, the country produces the highest-quality food products and is home to many medicinal plants.

She thought it was wise to extract these nutrient-rich ingredients for skin nourishing. She started testing formulas and putting concoctions on her dry and sensitive skin.

At the beginning she worked 15 hours a day. It took her two years to bring the first seven products to the shelves. Among them was the lime and patchouli cleanser which has a complex formula and conjures up a botanical garden.

Securing a research grant of about HK$1 million from the New Zealand government took her one step forward.

Her products curb flare-ups, as mainstream synthetic products do, yet in a more eco-conscious and cruelty-free way.

"We test our products on human skin cells and we also do human clinical trials. We don't believe in animal testing. Animals don't use skincare and their skin structure is different," she said. "But to sell in some countries, you have to test on animals. In China, for example, we're only available online."

The brand is particularly strong in its home market and Australia, offering nearly 50 skincare and makeup products. In Hong Kong, the products are available at Watsons.

"The hardest thing is to think about what is coming out in the future and how you stay ahead of everyone else," she said. "We cannot compete with any Asian country on price, but we can compete on quality," she said.

The products are enhanced by aromatic bases like wild blackcurrant, spearmint and cardamon, alongside lime and black pepper. "These natural fragrances linger. You will find it hard to go back to synthetic ones," she said.

Absorption is equally important. The label's bestseller kiwi seed oil eye cream boosts collagen production, but is light on the skin. Rich in Omega-3, Vitamins C and E, kiwifruit seed oil plays well with grape extracts and avocado oil to reduce fine lines and uplift.

Barbalich said many women tend to look for products that help with wrinkles, but have overlooked dark circles, another sign of aging.

The brand has incorporated manuka honey, commonly used to fight sore throat, into its eye cream, creamy mask and day cream.

New Zealand women love using oil to fend off dryness. "Skin pigmentation is also a big problem and we use a lot of SPF products to beat harsh sunlight," she said.

Polluted air in the SAR may clog the pores. It is crucial to have a good cleanser to fight pollution internally and externally. Rid your face of grime instead of applying layers of moisturizer, she suggested.

She has her sights set on more anti-pollution products and getting the right texture for Asian skin types.

She firmly believes that wellness gets reflected in one's skin. When she reaches home, she still thinks about work. But she must sleep before 10. She goes to the gym at six and runs with her dog.

As a vegetarian, Barbalich drinks juice twice a day. The blend of beetroot, spinach, avocado, carrot, apple, parsley and kale is luscious.

"I'm 50 and I have to be really focused on what I eat. I cut back on buttery and fatty ingredients," she said.