Business Times - 23 May 2009
Sun, sea and super skin
An impossible combination? Not for Elaine Lek. The S'pore country head of Esthetics International Group shares some of her beauty secrets. By Amanda de Guzman
Singapore & General Manager Regional Marketing,
ONE of the first things you notice about Elaine Lek is her deep, golden-brown tan, the kind that is impossible to attain from sunbeds or self-tanning sprays, and which only comes from steadfast worship of the sun and sea.
'I have been doing watersports ever since I was a kid, less than 10 years old,' she says. 'My father was very interested in sea sports and we had a family yacht. So it was nice to have the opportunity to be able to go out to the open sea. Then when I was older, I became interested in watersports. The first time I tried it, I found it really exciting because of the speed. Being out there in the open sea, I found the feeling to be very calming and free. That is how I got hooked.'
Her favourite water sport of all is kneeboarding, a hobby she has been perfecting for decades. However, competing - either recreationally or professionally - has never been on Ms. Lek's mind.
'I do it to relax, not for competition,' she says. 'I have enough competition in the real world!'
This is indeed the case, as any professional working in a fast-paced industry knows. There isn't anything unusual about Ms Lek's constant frolicking in the sun until you learn that she is the Singapore head and regional marketing manager of Esthetics International Group (EIG), one of the leading distributors of skincare, health and cosmetics brands, such as Dermalogica and Bioxil. That is when conflicts seem to arise between what she does for a living and her obvious tendency to expose herself to UVA/UVB rays.
Yet, there is nary a line on her sun-browned face. In a way, Ms Lek, 44, is the ideal advertisement for the brands EIG represents. Yes, you can have your cake and eat it too, is the mantra her image seems to project: you can sun yourself silly, just as long as you use the right products.
'Sea sports take me out in the sun quite often. Over-exposure to UV rays or even improper cleansing after coming out of the sea can be harmful to my skin,' she says. 'To help me maintain a good complexion even though I like sea sports, it is important to use products that do not contain harmful ingredients such as mineral oil, lanolin oil, SD alcohol and comedogenic ingredients.'
It does seem that Ms Lek is in the right industry, where she has at her fingertips a veritable arsenal of high-tech products and processes to protect her skin.
However, while Ms Lek has been in either the cosmetic or fashion industry for the past 15 years - she started with Metro Department store as a senior buyer and then went on to work for Gamut, the fashion arm of Tangs, before being headhunted by EIG - she admits to having made mistakes in the past when caring for her sun-exposed skin.
'When it comes to sun tanning, I used to have the wrong mindset. I avoided using high sun protection factor sunscreen in the past, as I wanted a maximum tan in the shortest time. I ended up with very dehydrated skin,' she says.
'Now I realise that I can still achieve a maximum tan in a short time, while still protecting my skin, if I use the right products.'
It's a boon to Ms Lek that her job allows her to up the ante when protecting her skin from the sun, as she clearly relishes the weekends she spends at sea on Luzerne, her family's new 65-foot yacht.
'My boys have the same interests, the entire family does, including my sister and her family. They live in Tokyo, but they will come down and join us for family vacations. If we are in Singapore, we are usually at Lazarus Island,' she says. 'If not we are mainly in Phuket and Tioman on our yearly pilgrimage.'
Her memories of these jaunts are detailed and vivid, and are usually related to what seems to be another passion of Ms Lek's - food.
'You wake up in the morning and sit on the ledge at the back of the yacht with both feet in the open sea waters, watching the fishes swim around your feet while having breakfast. It's also great eating fresh baked crabs full of roe on the yacht in the open sea and throwing the shells directly back into the sea,' she blissfully recalls.
'And you can watch the sun set with your loved ones, while sipping great vintage wines and snacking on truffles and cheese. It's totally decadent!'