A powerful conversation with Ms. Alisa Phibunsiri, creator and founder of Soap Kitchen

BACKGROUND

Calling myself an entrepreneur always feels strange. I never really planned to be one or start my own brand, it all just sort of happened. I am really into ‘DIY’ and I used to make soap, bath oils and eyelash serum in my kitchen at home. I gave one of these bars of soap as a gift to a friend who loved it and suggested that I start my own brand. So that’s how Soap Kitchen was born- literally out of my kitchen. We’ve been making handmade bars of soap, inspired by my passion for beauty and love for cooking, for two years now. Our best seller is the Mango Sticky Rice soap.  

I’m half Thai and half Taiwanese, and I grew up in Bangkok. I was a huge fan of LUSH. Whenever I’d travel to Taiwan, I’d stock up on LUSH products to bring back home. I had enough on my bathroom shelf, but I’d still buy more handmade soap on every visit. I’m not sure what exactly I love about handmade soaps but I do know that once you go down the natural-handmade-soap road, you never go back.

I visited Taiwan less frequently as my schedule became busier, and slowly my LUSH supplies began to deplete. This was when my mother and I started looking into making natural soaps. We read multiple books, blogs, joined online communities and watched numerous tutorial videos. Most importantly, we made a whole lot of soap. I remember that the first batch of soap I ever made was oatmeal and honey. Being a beginner at the time I topped the soap with too much honey and the next day there were ants all over it! We still make all our soaps at home, which means that everything you buy from Soap Kitchen is handmade in our actual kitchen with love and care. Fortunately my mom and I have a big kitchen! Currently Soap Kitchen has three displays in Bangkok, but I’m considering opening up an actual store and expanding the product line very soon.

I think I’m pretty lucky and am an optimistic person. It’s just easier being optimistic because this way you’re not always bringing yourself down, so mentally you’re not tiring yourself. My philosophy in life is to trust and follow my gut instinct. I’ve always done that, and it’s been good so far.

BEAUTY

I am very conscious about ‘beauty’ and feeling beautiful. I work hard to maintain and achieve a certain standard that I set for myself. I aspire to feel good and in turn look good. The media has definitely influenced my perception of beauty, whether I like to admit it or not, but I try not to get too sucked into that imagery of perfection. I’ve always had a unique look which may not be considered stereotypically ‘beautiful’ in Thailand. When I was a young girl, I struggled to come to terms with that. Other kids teased me about how I looked, and I remember that I began considering it to be my weakness. But now, I’ve grown to appreciate the fact that I look different from most people. I think that feeling beautiful is to be happy with who you are and to accept your differences. Forget stereotypes, they are so boring.

My two most effective beauty tips are- Sleep & Water. As clichéd as that may sound, there is no face cream or soap on earth that can do what sleep and water can do for you.

HEALTH

I start my day with a teaspoon of organic flaxseed oil and a tablespoon of raspberry vinegar that I get from Vomfass Bangkok

I’ve been on a pretty strict diet for the last few months, except today with all these lovely treats courtesy Elysian Tea House (get a glimpse of what she means by watching this). I am careful about my calorie intake, but I don’t cut out any food groups. I eat a balanced diet and include carbs, protein, and fat. I stay away from processed and modified foods, and prefer wholesome healthier alternatives. For example, I don’t enjoy 0% fat yogurt; I’d rather have the full fat yogurt- which is how it naturally is. My secret I guess is just to relax and enjoy it. I don’t let myself stress about the diet or overthink it. I started by making small changes; the results may be slower but overtime it is both physically and mentally healthier.

I really enjoy cooking; my favorite is tuna tartare. I prefer eating at home, but when I do go out I like to go to Isao, Bangkok for sushi.

FITNESS

Gym- No

Run- No

Yoga- Sometimes

Swimming- Sometimes

I need to make more time for fitness!

SKINCARE

I have sensitive-combination skin. I don’t take any supplements, but I focus on eating well and eating healthy. I noticed that what I eat, definitely affect the way my skin looks.

What is not natural is not sustainable, so besides eating clean I use natural skin care products. To wash my face, I use Soap Kitchen’s Le Savon bar, which is an unscented bar with a base of coconut and olive oil. To tone and moisturize, I use L’Occitane products with Angelica extract. Since I have sensitive skin, I’ve had terrible reactions to other skincare products but L’Occitane products have been safe for my skin. My must-have product is L’Occitane shea butter lip balm. It’s basically just 100% shea butter in a tin, which is great not only for chapped lips but also any patches of dry skin on the body. To remove makeup, I just use Jojoba oil. Occasionally I use a natural face mask, that I make myself, by mixing some honey, a tiny bit of tea tree oil and green sea clay.

I love taking long baths and make my own bath oils and bath salts. I think I might even start selling them! My favorite body creams are also from L’Occitane. I alternate between their almond scented one and their shea butter body cream.

Another thing that I always try to remember to do is to smile. It’s a skincare secret that my mom told me about. Well, she is 55 now but looks 20 years younger, so I guess smiling actually works!

HAIR CARE

I have a very simple regimen. I use this organic Thai brand called Gla that makes this amazing shampoo and conditioner with bamboo charcoal that is great for my oily hair. I don’t really have the patience to sit still for hours while getting a hair spa treatment, so I prefer products that work well and fast. I’ve been going to the same hairstylist, Max, at the Cut and Curl salon in Bangkok, for 12 years. He is the only man that I trust with my hair! I enjoy giving myself a mini-head-massage with organic Argan oil that I press onto the roots of my hair, and I make my own eyelash serum out of Argan oil and Jojoba oil to promote eyelash hair growth.

MAKEUP

I don’t wear much makeup on a daily basis. I’m a huge fan of eyeliner to accentuate my eyes, so that’s probably the only thing I would apply on a daily basis. The MAC eyeliner seems to be the only one that doesn’t cause irritation around my eyes. When I do apply a full face of makeup it usually consists of spot-applying some foundation, mascara from MAC, eye kohl also from MAC and MAC’s face powder (clearly, I’m a MAC lover), and I end with a swipe of lip balm.

FRAGRANCE

My favorites are Coco Chanel’s Mademoiselle fragrance and Miss Dior’s Cherie. I like caramelly-vanilla-floraly notes but without being overly sweet or too in-your-nose.

STYLE

I get a lot of style inspiration from blogs, social media, and magazines. I think I’m pretty experimental and try to switch it up, because I get bored easily. If I had to define my style, it would probably be bohemian-chic. I get a lot of inspiration from Margaret Zhang, a French-Asian stylist, whom I follow on social media. Liu Wen, the Chinese model, is also another one of my style icons; she is a gorgeous dimpled beauty who has a very effortless sense of style. I enjoy fashion and dressing up, I’m pretty girly that way.

PARTING WORDS

If you want to create something, do it. If you are passionate about something, pursue it. If you have an idea, build on it. Don’t let anyone or anything stop you. Don’t sit around and make excuses for yourself. Start small if you have to, the way I did, but start.

Ms. Alisa Phibunsiri was photographed in October 2014 by David Heischrek for TBR, at the lovely Elysian Tea House, Bangkok

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P.P.S: This is the Pick Quick with Alisa Phibunsiri video. More information on the Pick Quick series can be found here.

 

 

 

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