Her baby suffered from eczema, and bath times proved agonising for both child and mother. June Yap took it upon herself to seach for chemical-free basic products for baby and home, and found that those available were too expensive for average households. This led her to create Chomel, a Malaysian-made brand of baby products that are natural, safe, and eco-friendly. We speak to Yap to find out more about her journey with Chomel.
Could you tell us about when your baby was born, and how you realised he had sensitive skin?
My second son was born in August 2016. I was so happy that he was born naturally and the birth had no complications. I thank God for a healthy baby boy, but little did I know that there would be an uphill journey for us managing his sensitive and eczema-prone skin. This was all new to me as my older son, who was 5 by then, never had this issue. Each bath time was a nightmare for both baby Terry and me – he would scream and cry when it was shower time as he had eczema wounds.
My baby had to go through a strict routine of cream applications, and only drank breastmilk for two solid years. There were also those itchy nights where he needed to be soothed to sleep.
The day Terry was born.
Tell us what you went through, and your feelings and worries at the time?
It wasn’t just hard for him. I had to change my diet for those two years of breastfeeding – no seafood, dairy, gluten or sugary food and drinks. I had to be strong with my diet change, but still, at times I would wake up in the morning shocked by my baby’s bed sheets covered with blood and eczema wounds. He had been scratching himself. There was one episode where he suffered from such severe eczema that I had to take him to the hospital, and the doctor and nurses gave him a wet wrap from head to toe. There were many times that I broke down, asking God if I could take this pain for my baby instead.
After two years, Baby Terry got better when his immune system started to build itself up. He still suffers from eczema attacks on and off. But as a family, we have learned to cope and watch out for his meals, skincare, cleaners and even the temperature as these can trigger a reaction.
What did you realise about baby products in general in your research?
My journey with Terry has educated me a lot, especially when it comes to reading ingredient labels and what to look out for. To my surprise, there are many baby brand products in the market today that contain harmful chemicals, ones that might cause long-term health issues linked to asthma, ADHD and even cancer. Due to my baby’s skincare needs, I searched for baby products that were natural and did not contain harmful chemicals. But I realised the baby products in this segment were super expensive, sometimes five times more than more mass-marketed brands. June and Terry when he was just a few days old.
Why do you think parents should be careful with their babies’ skincare? What do they need to be wary of?
As a mother who has been through this eczema journey, I think all parents should realise that not all baby products are safe for your baby. A baby’s skin is thinner and under developed compared to an adult’s skin. It absorbs and loses moisture much faster. Parents need to be educated when it comes to reading ingredients, and try to select more natural baby products. Certain key ingredients to avoid are SLS/SLES, Dyes, Parabens, Fomaldehyde Donors, Solvent, DEA, Triclosan and others.
How did you start your business?
I started my business based on a genuine desire to help parents out there facing the same problems I had. Many other mothers I spoke to in support groups were also going through the same journey I was on. I learned that sensitive skin and eczema affects all races and income groups. Hence, with such expensive baby products catered towards sensitive skin and eczema, how were parents going to afford the right products for their baby?
This is why I created Chomel – I wanted a product that was natural, safe, effective and eco-friendly, but at an affordable price. We are also certified as hypoallergenic and HALAL by Jakim Malaysia.
Your products are biodegradable. Why was that important to you?
As a mother, I want to make the world a better place for my children and their children. As clichéd as it may sound, I believe change starts with me. When Chomel was developed I took much care to ensure that all of our products were Readily Biodegradable – meaning that the ingredients used meet a very stringent testing criteria. This was a readily biodegradability test, demonstrating ultimate biodegradability within a specific time period of 28 days.
We want to reduce our carbon footprint on earth by limiting carbon dioxide emissions in almost every aspect of our brand, from packaging to ingredients.
Do you think more parents are becoming more environmentally-friendly, more aware of issues like these?
Nowadays, more parents are becoming more aware and educated about ingredients in baby products as they too have babies that suffer from mild to severe sensitive skin and eczema. They are on the look out for affordable quality products for their baby.
However, there is still a big need to continue efforts and let them know about what ‘Readily Biodegradable’ is all about, for example. Many parents are still not aware that selecting the right baby products is important, not only to care for your baby but also to care for the environment. This is so our babies can have a better earth to live in.
What are some other tips you have for parents of children with eczema or sensitive skin? What can they do for their children?
As a mother that has been going through the same journey with them, my advice is to seek support from family and friends as it can be tiring and difficult. Do not give up, and stay strong as it eventually gets better over time.
Sensitive skin and eczema is a mixture of genetics and environment, so don’t jump on a product that claims it will heal your baby skin overnight – it does not exist. Choose natural products that are tested hypoallergenic and suitable for newborn and babies with sensitive skin.
Avoid steroids creams unless really needed as it does has side effects. For your baby to get better, it will be a journey for the family as well, to adapt to a healthier lifestyle and healthier eating habits. A healthy and happy family is the one that stays together and supports each other.
Interview conducted by Laych Koh. Photos courtesy of June Yap.