Ole Henriksen may say he’s one of the older brands on the beauty block, but OLEHENRIKSEN‘s perennial bestseller status proves that good formulas stand the test of time. Concocted with his whole heart, years of innovation, and the #OleGlow in mind are products like the popular Banana Bright Eye Vitamin C Serum, Glow 2OH Dark Spot Toner, PHAT Glow Facial and the iconic Truth Serum, which began the number one anti-ageing product at Sephora in 2010. His celebrated collection of skincare staples also include balancing elixirs to soothe and calm inflamed complexions; AHA-powered chemical exfoliants to gently refine and renew skin; a bakuchiol eye gel creme to firm and brighten the eye area; and the Banana Bright Face Primer that apparently, Kylie Jenner loves.
In celebration of his launch with Sephora Singapore, the celebrity skincare guru speaks to Vogue Singapore about his skincare journey, hero ingredients, being an “acid junkie” and the art of ageing gracefully.
Vogue Singapore: Skin in Southeast Asia is faced with high heat, high humidity and highly air-conditioned environments. How do Ole Henriksen products address the needs of skin, this part of the world?
Ole Henriksen: I lived in Singapore and Indonesia for years, and I’ve been to Southeast Asia more times than I can count, so I am acutely aware and familiar of these exact conditions. I’d say the C-Rush Brightening Gel Crème, Banana Bright Vitamin C Serum and Banana Bright Eye Crème. What I’m proud to say is that my products, like the vitamin C-powered Truth collection for instance, are all lightweight formulations infused with humectants that help to bind moisture without any greasy or heavy feeling on the skin. Vitamin C is also perfect for this environment. We use multiple sources of stable vitamin C—like L-ascorbic acid, goji berries, lemon extract and rose hip extract—which are great at strengthening the skin’s immune mantle, and healing, soothing and guarding the skin while maintaining its balance. Then comes the hyaluronic acid in many of my products, which works with the vitamin C as a key humectant that keeps skin hydrated, comfortable and protected in the heat and in air conditioning.
I read about your experience with cystic acne, which was treated by an aesthetician in Jakarta who used a variety of natural botanic remedies. This condition is something many in Southeast Asia suffer from—what ingredients and products should one invest in?
I developed acne as a young man while living in Indonesia and Singapore. I had porcelain skin before that and took it for granted. This was a combination of environment as well as my bad habits, like eating way too much junk food and pastries from an amazing Singaporean bakery. Then I met an amazing esthetician, Lagita, who was from Holland but was living in Jakarta at the time, and she was all about combining holistic approaches with beauty treatments. She transformed my skin, and that’s what kick started my interest and obsession with skincare, cosmetic chemistry, nutrition, and face and body work.
Side note: Before debuting his first skincare collection in 1983, the celebrity skincare guru we know today was a professional dancer and model in Southeast Asia—it was here that he discovered botanical treatments to relieve him of his cystic acne that eventually led him down the path of beauty. He then went on to open his own skincare centre and spa, where he worked on the complexions of the “supers”, from legendary models like Naomi Campbell and Helena Christensen, to the likes of Diana Ross—all of whom he remains life-long friends with.
During a flare up, people tend to search for harsh treatments rather than soothing ones, which shouldn’t be the case. What do you suggest?
It is very key when skin is erupted that you calm down the stress and redness, and don’t overtreat or overdry the skin. Good skin is about balance—if it’s inflamed, soothe it; if it’s congested, purify it; if it’s tired and dull, energise and brighten it. If your skin is already sensitive, don’t use harsh, sensitising formulas—you don’t want to over do it. Calm, heal, and hydrate, step by step.
What products are you particularly loving at the moment?
I’m currently gaga—my neighbour in LA is Lady Gaga!—for our Lemonade Smoothing Scrub. This gives you the benefits of a home facial being both a physical and chemical exfoliant. A global number one-selling product in its category at Sephora, this multi-tasker polishes, retexturises and refreshes all skin types in all climates. We’ve combined ingredients like lemon peel, natural sugars and silica that melt into the skin as they exfoliate physically; a blend of holy basil, licorice and chamomile extracts to soothe and comfort; and a host of Alpha Hydroxy Acids. I am an acid junkie. Never done drugs but as far as skin goes, I love alpha, glycolic, lactic, polyhydroxy acids… you name it. What’s important with this scrub is to be gentle. Close the door to your bathroom, play some soft music, take some deep breaths, and slowly activate the product in your palms then gently massage it onto your skin. Take in the aromas, take a few more deep breaths, and rinse after a minute and a half.
I am an acid junkie. Never done drugs but as far as skin goes, you name the acid, i love it.
Another one is our PHAT Glow Facial, which is a great at-home facial that instantly exfoliates and illuminates. This wash off mask is formulated with 15 percent polyhydroxy acids from oxidised milk sugar, and contains Nordic bird sap from tree trunks. I learned about this ingredient as a kid when my mom would fill in a prescription for this at the local pharmacy in my village, and this bird sap was made into an ointment for rashes, cuts and burns and I thought, what if we put in a high level of this into the PHAT Glow Facial? So not only will this gooey combination refine, resurface and repair, it will deeply hydrate and soothe. It’s exactly what us mask wearers need—and it’s perfect for skin conditions and skin types in hot and humid climates, like Southeast Asia.
Beauty lovers are increasingly more discerning, with many “skincare nerds” zooming in on ingredients first. How would you say vitamin C is your hero ingredient, and why should it be a vital part of everyone’s regime?
I have many heroes but there is no doubt that vitamin C is at the top of the list. I’ve worked with this ingredient for decades, ever since I worked full-time at my spa in Hollywood. I began getting interested in vitamin C during my studies as a nutritionist as well, and deep dived into the most researched antioxidant in the world. Then i met two-time Nobel Prize winner Linus Pauling and learned about how he was treating chemotherapy patients with vitamin C, harnessing its healing, calming and soothing benefits. I wanted to incorporate this “free radical scavenger” into my skincare, and that’s how the Truth serum came about. Vitamin C isn’t just great for rebuilding collagen and elasticity, it helps diminish fine lines, is a great anti-inflammatory, calms and soothes, and strengthens the skin’s capillaries. This then led to the creation of the Banana Bright and C-Rush products under the Truth line. The Banana Bright Serum was also particularly groundbreaking as well, because I also put an exfoliator in it. For those who like to brighten with an airbrushed appearance, we also have the Banana Bright Face Primer, which fuses skincare with skin diffusion, compatible with all skin types. Kylie Jenner is a huge fan. Vitamin C is queen and king in my book.
Vitamin C is queen and king in my book.
With the beauty industry shifting a lot of its gaze and efforts towards sustainability, how is the brand at the forefront?
Sustainability is everything. Personally and as a brand, we take an active and serious role in this change—LVMH sets high standards too. We are clean, cruelty-free and vegan, and our ingredients do not pollute one bit. In terms of packaging, all of our bottles and caps are 100 percent recyclable, and we’ve reduced our use of paper, doing without inserts or outer packaging where possible. Our outer packaging, where necessary, is completely recyclable too. Our ink is eco-friendly too. One of the last things on the drawing board, as there’s a lot in motion, is our jars. Take our C-Rush Brightening Gel Crème for example, it’s currently 60 percent recyclable and as of 2023, all of our jars will be made of lightweight, durable 100 percent recyclable glass. We’re also reducing the sizes of our Kits so we use less material without compromising the quantity of the actual formula. So across the board, we are working towards being 100 percent sustainable.
I understand you’re quite the believer of holistic beauty. Besides your products, are there any home remedies you like?
Once or twice a week, fill your sink or a big bowl with warm water, and stir in 10 to 15 drops of eucalyptus oil. Soak and squeeze a terry cloth through this mixture and on freshly cleansed skin, gently press this across your face and take a deep, long breath. Repeat this five to 10 times, like a mini relaxing moment for yourself. On these nights you won’t need to use a toner, but you should go in with the Banana Bright Serum and C-Rush Brightening Gel Crème after.
Your skin is glowing. What’s your daily skincare routine like?
Of course, I’m always experimenting with lab samples but my cleanser is almost always the Find Your Balance Oil Control Cleanser. Yes I do use the Truth Juice Daily Cleanser too—I love that—but I use the Find Your Balance one because I had erupted, oily skin at one point, I did have acne, and I just love how this formulate deeply cleanses, purifies and balances, plus it has a beautiful aroma. Then I use the C-Rush Brightening Gel Crème and Banana Bright Crème for daytime. I also often mix the Banana Bright Face PRimer with the C-Rush Brightening Gel Crème for an added sunshine-y glow.
Then every night, I love patting on the Glow 2OH Dark Spot Toner. One tip is that if you need a deeper treatment for blemishes, you can soak cotton pads and rest them on the target area for three minutes. Then I follow with the Banana Bright Serum and Moisturizer, and the Wrinkle Blue Bakuchiol Eye Gel Crème which is great for repairing—I use this all over the eye area, across the eyelids, under eye area, brow bone and temples. I also use a scrub twice a week combined with deep breathing for a mini facial.