The founder of Hong Kong’s organic grooming brand Vitruvian Man, Vivian Lau, on sustainability, mental health and self-care

For many people, making a new year’s resolution to adopt a healthier lifestyle means exercising more regularly and eating a more balanced diet. But how often do we remember to prioritise our mental health as part of that goal? Vivian Lau, founder of Vitruvian Man, saw the impact of poor mental health first-hand when her friend’s psoriasis was exacerbated by stress. She talks to Tatler about how important it is for men to put their mental health first, and how taking care of their skin plays a part in that.

Why did you decide to create a skincare line for men?

It all started with helping a friend. Stress aggravated his psoriasis, and he was prescribed steroid creams by his dermatologist. Once the infected area healed, he tried to find over-the-counter moisturisers to help with the dryness but couldn’t find one that worked. I decided to try and formulate something clean and simple for him, and that’s how the initial idea for Vitruvian Man was born.

The name was inspired by Roman architect Vitruvius’s philosophy. Every step and aspect of the brand should embody his three central values: firmitas (strength), utilitas (functionality) and venustas (elegance).

There are so many catchy keywords to describe skincare nowadays. What does “natural, organic skincare” actually mean?

With Vitruvian Man, “natural” means ingredients that are mostly botanical and plant-based. “Organic” refers to how the plants are treated in their life cycle and if the seeds are GMO [genetically modified organisms]. That means no artificial pesticides, fertilisers or herbicides are used throughout the plant’s life cycle, from harvest to press. To take it one step further, we also try to buy from smaller farmers and producers that use organic and sustainable methods on their crops.

What is Vitruvian Man’s “giveback pledge”?

We donated 2 per cent of profits to [British mental health charity] Mind in 2020. However, this year we took on a different approach by doing volunteer work instead. Two of our team members in the UK volunteered over Christmas at Campaign Against Living Miserably (Calm), an organisation that spreads awareness of suicide prevention. One of the core Vitruvian Man beliefs is that prioritising skin health is an act of self-care. It is so important to be mindful and supportive of one another, hence the charities we focus on are mental health-related.

What is your approach to self-care?

A good evening skincare routine, putting on a face mask, reading a book or watching Netflix and sleeping early. Since travelling has been difficult, I’ve been gardening and learning how to swim. Swimming is my favourite form of meditation currently—totally inspired by the Olympians.

Are you working on any new projects?

Yes, there are quite a few things in the pipeline. We are developing bath products and a facial oil, and we are also in the initial stages of setting up a mental health digital platform with an NGO in Europe.


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