9 to 5: How Lawrence Wong Started His Own Skincare Brand During the Circuit Breaker
What do you remember being busy with during last year’s circuit breaker?
Were you working out? Baking? Perhaps trying your hand at the #dalgonacoffee trend?
Not Lawrence Wong though. The Malaysia-born Singaporean actor was busy creating his own skincare brand. That’s right, while the rest of the country were noshing on the latest food trends or working on our fitness goals—he decided to pursue his other dream of starting his first beauty brand, Grail.
And why shouldn’t he? The handsome actor, who rose to international fame in China’s 2018 hit period drama series Story of Yanxi Palace, is well known to have enviable flawless skin. But it wasn’t always a bed of roses for him in terms of his skin’s health. He admitted that he had “really problematic skin” since he was a child, to the extent that his skin would flare up due to various factors such as the weather, makeup and reactions to certain skincare products.
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“A lot of people think that I have good skin and will often ask me what I do or use on my skin,” Wong shared with Tatler in an e-mail interview. “It was a long journey and process for my skin to be healthy as it is right now. So, I want to apply all my knowledge and experience throughout all these years and create essential products with the aim to become the holy grail items in anyone’s life.”
Grail made its debut in January this year, with a multitasking face mask named “Do-it-All” as its first product. The hydrating mask incorporates the world’s only Japan-patented moisture locking technology, a premium cellulosic filament nonwoven sheet from Asahi Kasei. It’s also naturally sourced and made up of botanical ingredients, as well as packed in biodegradable packaging.
Wong wanted to launch an effective product that was suitable for everyone to use, especially those who lead hectic lifestyles just like him but needed to give their skin a little TLC. And just like how Wong is dedicated to his craft in terms of acting, he was deeply involved in every step of the way for his skincare brand.
“It’s been a dream of mine for many years now, but it was only during Covid when I had the time to fully materialise it, with the lockdown and all,” Wong said. “I took my time to really focus on conceptualising my brand direction, ingredient selection, down to the design and packaging.”
And it’s clear that the talented actor, who currently stars in iQiYi’s Chinese drama The Ferryman Legends Of Nanyang, is not slowing down in his newfound role as a beauty entrepreneur. Barely five months after releasing Grail’s first product, the brand has debuted its second item: a mineral sunscreen.
After many clinical trials, Wong took the plunge to formulate a gentle, high-protection sunscreen that is suitable for all skin types. Dubbed “Got It Covered”, the sunscreen has a high sun protection factor of SPF 50, PA ++++, and also protects the skin against UVB, infrared radiation, and effects of blue light.
Wong shared: “Sunscreen is the ultimate essential to my own skincare routine and it is the first layer of protection to the skin. Some of us don’t realise that even as we work from home, we are still exposed to sun rays through our windows.
“We are also constantly exposed to blue light as we are sitting in front of computer screens and our mobile phones all the time!”
He added that he personally prefers physical sunscreens because it’s more eco-friendly and chemical sunscreens “take a while to work upon application”.
Wong’s ability to start his own brand from scratch while juggling an acting career has probably left many of his fans as well as aspiring entrepreneurs wondering how he manages it all—while maintaining excellent skin on top of that. The actor’s achievements to date are a lot to shout about, having gone from playing bit parts in local dramas to securing his role as Hai Lan Cha in Story of Yanxi Palace—which was the most Googled show of 2018.
We ask the multi-hyphenate to share his best tips on achieving work-life balance, the challenges he’s faced as a brand owner and how he deals with shortcomings as a public figure.
What is a typical morning like for you?
Lawrence Wong (LW): The first thing I do is have my vitamins and breakfast to kickstart my morning. I would then check my messages and social media and prepare myself for the day of shoots and appointments. It’s important for me to have my me-time in the morning.
What does a standard workday look like for you?
LW: My regular workday begins with hair and makeup. A full day of work takes me about 14 hours where I have back-to-back photoshoots and filming. By the end of the day when I reach home, I try to unwind by putting on a mask. I’ll read my scripts to prepare for the next day’s shoot before going to bed.
How would you describe your working style?
LW: I work very hard but I also work smart. Talent without hard work is nothing.
How do you achieve a work-life balance and set boundaries?
LW: I believe in going with the flow. When I have to work, I work hard. When I have a chance to play, I play hard too. The same goes for leisure. When I have the chance to rest, I wouldn’t do anything and just recharge. I like to be present in everything I do, and with this, I’m able to achieve a balance between work and my me-time. In terms of boundaries, self-care sessions are important. They are like mini pockets of time for me to disconnect from work. I do practice masking every night and it’s a way for me to reward myself and take care of myself after a long day.
How do you chase your dreams?
LW: I set realistic goals and work towards them. Realizing them could be a longer journey than expected but all we need is to take the first step. Dreams won’t work if we don’t. That is why I work really hard to drive myself closer to what I want to achieve in life. And of course, I would seize opportunities that come my way. Work hard and smart!
What were some challenges you faced as a beauty brand owner that you did not expect?
LW: I wouldn't say they are challenges because I enjoyed the journey. The process of researching ingredients and learning about the benefits, and defining my brand were challenging at times because I really want this to work with high ambitions. At the end of the day, it’s all worth it and I’m very proud to watch my brand grow from zero to hero!
Why did you choose the name Grail for your brand? Is there a significance?
LW: The name Grail comes from the word “holy grail”. Whatever product Grail puts out will be items that you must use and will need in your everyday life.
What are some future plans you have for Grail? Will you branch out into a makeup line too?
LW: More products are definitely in the pipeline and I hope that one day Grail will become a lifestyle empire. At the moment I have no plans for makeup. But never say never, maybe in the future!
What do you hope to achieve as an actor with his own skincare line?
LW: I really hope that my products will be indispensable in everyone’s everyday life. The products that I put out there will be a need and not just a nice-to-have [item] for everyone.
As a public figure, how do you deal with naysayers and shortcomings?
LW: I deal with this on a daily basis. I tend to look at it objectively and see if there’s any truth in what they are saying. If it is true, I will address it professionally and if it is not, I'll just move on and I won’t let them affect me. Life goes on!
What is the best piece of advice that you have ever gotten?
LW: Everything will pass, be it good or bad.
What would you consider your greatest accomplishment to date?
LW: Having my own brand is pretty sweet.
What would you still like to accomplish?
LW: Hopefully, I'll have more chances to explore outstanding scripts and challenging roles in my acting career.
What is the last thing you do before you go to bed?
LW: Apply lip balm.