Miko and Margaux Lucena are entrepreneurs who are passionate about green beauty. When the pandemic hit, they found themselves with a lot of time on their hands, so they decided to start a business selling natural skin care products under their brand Dermtropics.
Miko had suffered from eczema for years, and he had tried everything to cure it, but nothing seemed to work. He was at his wit's end until he tried virgin coconut oil.
His wife Margaux, who was raised by a dermatologist mother, knew that virgin coconut oil had many benefits for the skin, including its moisturizing properties and its ability to help with skin conditions like eczema and psoriasis.
Struggling to find the perfect skincare products for Miko, the couple decided to start a business selling virgin coconut oil skin care products because they believed in the product and thus wanted to share it with others.
"We wanted it to be more than just about us, we wanted to represent the country. So, we thought of the name Dermtropics, because we want people to believe and feel that we placed science in the old adage of our grandparents who told us that virgin coconut oil or coconuts are the tree of life," Miko told PhilSTAR L!fe.
They were able to start selling bar soaps made with coconut oil from local farmers in the Philippines, where coconuts are abundant. Miko's background in farming also helped the business, as he knew how to source high-quality coconuts and how to process them into virgin coconut oil via mill technology.
"Literally what we want to happen is, we want the oil to be really fresh. As soon as you desiccate the coconut, as soon as you cut the coconut, you want the same quality of the oil inside our products. And also, when it comes to opening the coconut, you want them to have the same quality and potency," he explained to L!fe. "Even though it yields less oil and it's of course more expensive, we didn't take shortcuts."
The couple's passion for green beauty, combined with their knowledge of virgin coconut oil, has made Dermtropics a successful business. Now, it has expanded its range to hair care and body care and has built a reputation among mindful consumers.
What is the story behind the brand's name? Why Dermtropics?
My wife is involved in dermatology and I'm involved in some sort of farming also—we decided for the name to be a tribute to the Philippines.
We thought of the name Dermtropics because we want people to believe and feel that we placed science in the adage of our grandparents who told us that virgin coconut oil or coconuts are the tree of life.
How does your Filipino culture play a role in your brand's identity?
It's very interesting because coconuts are only found in the Southeast Asian region. The coconuts in other parts of the world were brought by Portuguese and Spanish visitors. So, it's really in our region. That's why we are so proud of it. It really just brings out so many benefits to the users. And as they say, you don't throw anything from the coconut, you can even build a house out of it and a roof.
Dermtropics is a promoter of green beauty, why is it so?
Green beauty encompasses all of our ethos, all of our main aspects. For example, it's kinda hard to sell products that use our raw materials without us being sustainable because you're kinda contributing to the pollution of nature, we're kinda contributing to its decaying. So, we wanted it to be a comprehensive view of everything that we're about.
We're not just about clean beauty, we're all about green beauty on a mission, which means that everyone in our entire ecosystem is not forgotten, from the farmers to the end users. And of course, through nature also.
How do you think social media and e-commerce have helped your brand?
They've changed the landscape dramatically, especially during the pandemic. We're thankful for companies like Ninja Van, who can provide us with something that we have zero expertise [in]. For us to be able to study the entire logistics part, it's gonna take us years to be able to do it.
[When] we started in our condominium, we were manually booking everything ourselves. We even track the numbers, we even track the orders. And it's so exhausting. We weren't able to come up with new SKUs. We even forgot our correspondence with our other commitments because of that.
Thankfully, (logistics companies) were able to help us in that aspect and actually, they are performing more than what we expected them to be.
How often do you create new products?
We decide based on number one, if we can help somebody, if there's a pain point in somebody's life that we're able to help—that's the biggest contributor.
And number two, if we can be consistent on the quality, that's the second part. It has to be sustainable and realistic enough for us to be able to provide the results that the community expects. So, if that does not fit the criteria, even though how painful it is and even though the margins are better than the others, we let it go.
How do you make your brand stand out from the others?
By just being authentic, just becoming true to ourselves and never forgetting our 'why.' We understand that there's great competition out there and we'd love to compete with them. And in fact, we love that there are many brands out there to choose from. But internally, we just really focus on our 'why' and what our purpose is. And we'd want to be able to compete with the other brands out there and show them that it can be done also in this way.
How do you want your customers to feel when they're using your products?
We want them to feel the confidence that these products did go through the process. Before we release our products, we make sure that they also undergo dermatological testing.
We want them to feel that there are no shortcuts in the products that we created for them. And we also want them to feel that they are proud of these products because these products just came from their backyard. And it's something that it's sustainable, it's something that can easily be accessible to them. It's something that they can be proud of. And hopefully, they can see more of us wherever they go.