Women in Charge: Kelly Keak, Managing Director, mtm labo

by Portfolio Magazine
Photo courtesy of mtm labo
07 Mar 2024

This month, we celebrate female visionaries who are at the forefront of their respective industries. From finance and skincare to architecture and design, these industry gamechangers open up about their individual journeys towards success.

mtm labo takes skincare to the next level with the recent introduction of panoramic AI skin analysis with HD 3D imaging. Kelly Keak, the brand’s managing director, walks us through the technological breakthrough and reveals what she hopes the mtm labo brand will be able to achieve in the near future.

Walk us through the evolution of mtm labo – from when it was first founded until today.
Launched in Japan in 1991, mtm labo specializes in detailed skin analysis and custom-blended products that address specific complexion needs. More than a decade later, my mother, Dr Susan Teng brought the brand into Singapore.

The ‘mtm’ part of mtm labo actually means ‘Made to Measure’, which is what our brand is about. We believe that no two persons are the same. Your skin is unique, and mtm celebrates this uniqueness. We understand the importance of tailoring skincare to individual needs. Through customised skincare management, we examine every nuance of an individual’s skin and constantly strive to decode the secrets hidden in its subtleties.

Actually, my parents were the ones who brought mtm labo (back then, it was still MTM Skincare) into Singapore in 2003. I joined them in starting the business of MTM Skincare together and we basically started from ground zero. It was a difficult time as it was during the SARS period where many were in the comfort of their homes. Then, my mum told me: “If this business fails, we will have to sleep on the streets.” This was when I knew it was crucial for me to step up and to help think of ideas to help the business thrive. I even led the team to give out flyers around Wheelock Place to help increase footfall to our store.

I launched the re-branding of MTM Skincare in 2021 to the mtm labo we have today. This rebranding effort served as a throwback to its Japanese origins and scientific methodology. The new look on its product packaging is conceived by Kenya Hara, the acclaimed Japanese designer best known for his work with Muji. Its deep green hue represents the essence of nature and the pursuit of natural beauty, while a translucent finish accentuates this color of life.

As part of our brand revamp, we also placed a strong emphasis on genderless skincare as we recognise that skincare should not be limited to any specific gender. We want to remove the thought of how facials should only be done by women. Our commitment to inclusivity and diversity is reflected in our revamped brand identity, ensuring that our products and services are accessible and beneficial to individuals of all genders.

Through research and data, can you give us an overview of the beauty and skincare needs of modern Singaporean women? What are the most common issues that need to be addressed and what important practices are often overlooked?
Modern Singaporean women are increasingly grappling with the concern of pigmentation, largely attributed to extensive skin exposure. With fast-paced lifestyles and outdoor activities, prolonged exposure to the sun becomes inevitable. The lack of sufficient sun protection, particularly the consistent use of sunscreen, contributes significantly to the rise in pigmentation issues. It's crucial for women to recognise that protecting their skin from harmful UV rays is not just a beauty regimen, but a vital aspect of maintaining skin health in the long run.

We also have many customers coming to us in hopes of solving their pigmentation and dark-spot concerns. What sets our brand apart is the personalized and empathetic approach we adopt when guiding customers through their skincare journeys, ensuring that they have their very own treatment plan that will address their specific concerns

Technology, particularly AI, recently made its way as part of the brand’s offerings. Can you explain what this new breakthrough is all about and why it’s beneficial?
Adding the panoramic AI skin analysis with HD 3D imaging to its existing MAPS (mtm labo aesthetic profiling system) to provide comprehensive analysis and diagnose skin concerns in greater detail. Fresh on the market and one of the first few 3D scanning machines to be used in Singapore, it collects millions of key facial points to build a 3D model where it can locate and measure skin changes within seconds. The AI is able to almost instantly identify specific skin concerns or conditions in each region, allowing mtm labo’s consultants to quickly pair the most appropriate product or treatment for that facial region and condition.

The speed and efficiency with this panoramic AI skin analysis with HD 3D imaging will be a gamechanger in the industry and we are excited to be one of the first few to embark on this journey.

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What challenges did you and the team encounter while embarking on the journey to perfect this new offering? How did you lead the team through this exercise?
Embracing artificial intelligence in our skincare routine has indeed marked a transformative milestone for our brand. However, as with any innovative shift, this journey has presented its unique set of challenges. One of the key hurdles we've navigated is the need for seamless integration of AI into our existing operational processes.

Ensuring that the AI skin analysis machine becomes an integral and cohesive part of our daily routines has demanded a thoughtful and strategic approach. Our team has dedicated considerable effort to streamline workflows, aligning the technology with our established practices. This has required us to re-evaluate and adapt our processes to accommodate the new layer of data-driven insights provided by the AI system.

A pivotal aspect of this integration has been the training of our staff. Effectively utilizing the capabilities of the AI technology requires a deep understanding of its functionalities. We've invested significantly in comprehensive training programs to empower our team members with the skills needed to operate the machine efficiently. This emphasis on education not only ensures the proficient use of the technology, but also fosters a culture of continuous learning within our organization.

Interpreting the machine-generated data accurately has been another focal point of our efforts. While AI can provide precise and detailed analyses, translating that information into actionable insights requires a nuanced understanding. Our skincare experts have undergone specialized training to interpret the AI-generated data, allowing them to merge the technical outputs with their professional expertise. This synergy is vital to delivering a holistic and informed skincare consultation experience to our customers.

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As managing director of mtm labo, what are your current goals for the company? How do you see it growing in the future to address the ever-evolving needs of women?
The biggest hope I have for mtm labo is to empower customers, regardless of gender – to help as many customers, both men and women, feel comfortable and confident in their own skin, especially in today’s world where there are so many beauty standards to live up to. At mtm labo, we customize our treatment plans and products exactly to the skin needs of our customers.

To ensure mtm labo's sustained growth, we have to stay ahead in the skincare industry by adopting a forward-thinking approach. Our brand envisions future growth by proactively anticipating the evolving needs of both women and men. We are investing in research and partnerships to understand emerging skincare trends, ensuring that our product offerings remain innovative and relevant.

Our future strategy involves challenging outdated perceptions and offering a diverse range of products that cater to the evolving needs of all individuals. This commitment extends beyond products; it includes our marketing strategies and customer engagement initiatives, creating an environment that celebrates diversity and promotes confidence in skincare choices. At mtm labo, we are not just shaping the future of skincare, but we are actively contributing to a more inclusive and accepting beauty industry.