In 2009 when Law Hong Mei’s son was just six months old he developed very serious eczema. “Doctors told me it’s hereditary and children will either get eczema, sinus or asthma. My son has all three! At the same time my four-year-old daughter then also had eczema,” says Law, founder of The Olive Tree skincare brand, at an interview in Petaling Jaya, Selangor recently.

Her son’s eczema was mostly on joint areas like his neck, hand and legs, and each doctor’s visit ended with steroid prescriptions.

“I used a lot of reputable baby skincare products but nothing worked. I also kept my children’s environment clean and dust mite free, but the problem persisted,” says Law, 41 and a mother of two.

“One day my Melbourne-based sister – whose children also have eczema – sent me plant-based soaps to use on my children. Initially I thought soaps would be drying, but it wasn’t and I saw improvement on their skin,” she says.

Through research on ingredients used in skincare, Law learnt that SLS could worsen eczema and dry the skin.

The Olive Tree products are free from harmful chemicals and preservatives such as parabens, phthalates, sulfates (SLS, SLES, etc), petroleum, synthetic colours and fragrance, animal by-products, and are not animal tested.

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Law Hong Mei used reputable baby skincare products on her son who had eczema but nothing worked, so she created The Olive Tree. Photo: The Star/Kamarul Ariffin

“Two years ago I was getting tired of the corporate world and I saw that there were not many natural products available locally for family and kids, so I decided to create my own brand,” she says.

In 2015 Law established The Olive Tree PLT – with the support of her husband who handles the finances – to provide natural and high quality plant-based products.

“I wanted olive oil as the base ingredient in my products because its characteristics is the closest to our body oil, helping skin retain its natural oils and it absorbs easily,” Law explains, adding that olive oil has anti-inflammatory benefits.

According to the 2008 Paediatric Dermatology publication, Law noted that olive oil is a suitable ingredient in creams used in pre-term infants.

Law has over 20 years of merchandising experience having worked with Triumph International in South East Asia and Japan, and Levi Strauss & Co. It is this background that is reflected in her savviness in rolling out her brand. Before setting up store, Law tested the market with two pop-up stores in December last year, and the positive response resulted in her first store.

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The Olive Tree products are free from harmful chemicals and preservatives.

Law chose to have her products all made in Australia because of the country’s stringent regulations. “I wanted the best people to make my products! So, I looked for people with similar vision and had the expertise for my range of products. All my partners in Australia are small businesses, with different partners for different types of products. It was a lot of work and more costly but the right partnership is important to me.”

Being completely hands-on Law had her products photographed in the backyard of her sister’s home in Melbourne!

The Olive Tree range offers handcrafted soaps, hair care, body care, and bath and beyond products. The soaps are made in small batches in Australia using the age-old method of cold process, which involves the saponification of olive oil and sodium hydroxide (lye).

Through this process, the highly moisturising glycerine (by-product of saponification) is retained in the soap to ensure skin feels supple, smooth and moisturised.

Many have also questioned her decision to launch a brand in a soft retail environment but Law says, “The adverse situation will drive you to work harder to succeed in these challenging times, and this is when you and your brand will grow stronger.”

For more information visit theolivetree-organic.com.