As one of Singapore’s most successful female entrepreneurs in the beauty industry, Spa Esprit founder Cynthia Chua wants women to “reclaim their vulvas and vaginas as assets that need to be cared for and nourished with the same love and attention” that are given to the rest of our body

As we inch out of yet another turbulent year, one of the key takeaways that should be acknowledged is how the interest in self-care took centre stage during a prolonged period where many around the world were forced to stay home.   

The act of practising self-care can take various forms, but fundamentally, it is all about protecting one’s own well-being and happiness, especially during periods of stress. In Singapore alone, there is no shortage of products and services catered to self-care.

However, one homegrown brand stands apart from the rest by focusing on a niche area in the beauty and wellness sector: vulva care.

Two Lips is Singapore’s first luxury vulva and intimate care brand and at the helm of it is none other than the “Queen of Vulva” and Singaporean businesswoman extraordinaire herself, Cynthia Chua. The founder of Spa Esprit, who splits her time between Singapore and Europe, is well regarded as a visionary in her field, and a leader of many firsts in not just the beauty industry but within the F&B field as well. From launching Strip in 2004 as the first Brazilian waxing salon that broke taboos locally to launching popular eateries and restaurants such as Tiong Bahru Bakery, Bochinche and more—Chua brings with her the same unorthodox mindset in every project she works on.

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And now, Chua has launched Singapore’s (and possibly the world’s) very first physical retail space dedicated to vulva care.  

“The vulva is an important part of the body but is often overlooked and neglected as it is a body part that is not discussed and deemed as embarrassing,” Chua tells Tatler in an exclusive interview.

“Vulva care is not only just about taking care of the skin around the area, it is about self-care and loving each and every part of your body, especially a body part that so represents the female form. We want to eradicate the embarrassment and to get people to love their vulvas more.”

Back in November 2020, Two Lips launched a prebiotic range of products as part of its luxury intimate care line that’s designed specifically for the vulva.

These products are specifically formulated to sit between the pH levels of four to six—which is the optimal pH levels needed for the skin on the vulva and face to thrive. These multi-taskers can not only be used for the vulva but on the face, too. In May 2021, the brand followed up with the launch of Wipeout—a biodegradable intimate wipe for the face, body and vulva. Today, Two Lips has grown from its debut product, the Blackout Mask, to a line of 16 products.

Despite the Covid-19 pandemic, Chua has made it clear that she has no plans of slowing down and this is evidenced by the opening of Two Lips’ first physical store in December 2021.

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Inspired by the concept of a “curiosity shop”, where strange and unusual objects are collected, displayed and sold, the Ion Orchard boutique offers a one-of-a-kind shopping experience that encourages customers to go on a multi-sensorial journey of discovery through various interactive touch points including unique cloches and peepholes.

“Two Lips has always been championing vulva care and I understand how intimate and personal this journey is,” Chua shares. “Therefore, I made sure that the experience within the store is intimate and personal. By obscuring our installations, we created an experience where the customer is empowered to use his or her own perspective to engage with the elements and seek out the secrets within the store.”

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Today, both Two Lips and Strip (Chua’s Brazilian waxing salon chain that was founded in 2004) are viewed as leading intimate health care brands, with the latter also recognised as a global brand, fostered by a local female entrepreneur who champions and values uncensored conversations about intimate care and wellness.

Chua’s mission is to break taboos and create a space where people can be educated and empowered to have unfiltered dialogues on intimate health and skincare.

In her own words, she tells us more about her journey in the wellness space and what lies ahead for her.

Tell us more about the first Two Lips boutique.

Cynthia Chua (CC): The Two Lips store will be Singapore’s (and possibly the world’s) very first physical retail space dedicated to vulva care. We have always been leading the charge and to chart new frontiers, to push the boundaries and challenge the mindset and the Two Lips store is no different. We are addressing the very real needs of the consumers. It is a bold mission and we had to jump through many hurdles and tackle many conventional mindsets. Who would have thought that the first vulva care store would be in Asia, it [was] four years in the making but we made it, it is almost surreal but it also shows us that nothing is impossible.

The store is a testament to my mission of seriously normalising the conversation about the vulva, to continue pushing the boundaries, and to celebrate women, their bodies and self-care. We want to proudly put across this message of loving your vulva more. We took special care to create a layered store experience, with fun, quirky and interactive elements, to ensure that the store appeals to women of various experiences and age groups, so as to make it a deeply intimate and personal journey for all.

Why did you choose to open a physical store for Two Lips this year, amid a pandemic? What were the challenges faced?

CC: We launched the store despite the pandemic, because vulva care is important and should be a normal self-care regime, and we want to meet the needs of the public despite the circumstances. We have always faced challenges especially as a first mover. To even come up with a dedicated vulva care line that grew from one product to 16 to now being the first physical Two Lips store in Singapore and probably even in the world. The challenges faced are also to take something sensitive and make it beautiful and accessible, changing people’s mindset.

 

You’ve chosen to work with several artists (Olivia Lee Studio, Mud Rock Ceramics, Sylvia Goubern, etc), can you tell us more about your decision to do this as well as why these artists were chosen? Spa Esprit Group has always been supportive of design and the arts.

CC: We want the Two Lips store to be a platform for experimentation and collaboration with various artists and designers. Being creative and using art to spark difficult conversations has always been in our DNA! We met with Olivia and felt that she was able to communicate our brand’s intimate and quiet boldness in the store design. We also wanted to push the boundaries by working with artists with disruptive ideas, such as Sylvia Goubern, who is known to create risque artworks featuring the female body. I came across her work in France and fell in love with the stories and intricacy her art conveys. Lastly, we worked with local ceramic artists from Mud Rock to create those cloches that enable a tactile experience, so that all the installations add up to create a complete experience of the senses.

What does wellness mean to you?

CC: Wellness means taking care of yourself holistically, through eating well, living well, and caring for your body, mind and soul. At the heart of “self-care”, it is all about self-discovery and developing self-understanding. It benefits us and the people around us in the long term, because it empowers us to be healthier, happier, and more productive. My mission has always been for women to be completely body positive. Therefore, with the store opening, we want customers to leave feeling more empowered with knowledge and be able to love themselves and their vulvas more.

Can you tell us how you practise self-care these days?

CC: I’ve always been interested in holistic care from yoga to essential oils to meditation. I love using essential oils as I believe in harnessing goodness from nature and there are different oils to keep one’s energy balanced. Being positive, always curious and finding joys in little things.

What do you anticipate about the future of vulva care here in Singapore as well as around the globe?

CC: As more people become open to the concept of head-to-toe holistic care, I believe they will be open to the idea of a vulva ritual, just like their face’s skincare ritual. Vulva care is not about being a trend; it is about embracing and creating a ritual to lavish attention and care to the vulva area, just like how you would for the face and the rest of the body. It is about opening up conversations on the vulva, advocating that there is nothing to be ashamed or uncomfortable about this feminine body part and that it should be celebrated and treated with respect.

This is how the future of vulva care looks like to me: one where we no longer have hushed or embarrassed conversations about the vulva, one where conversations about vulva care are a norm, as commonplace as any skincare and grooming regime.

Do you have future plans to expand more in Singapore or overseas?

CC: Yes, we definitely have plans to grow on both fronts, when the right opportunities arise.

What is one piece of advice you have for female entrepreneurs in Singapore?

CC: A combination of passion, creativity and tenacity is key.

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