Fashion and beauty

The Story Behind Tropic Skincare

Tropic Skincare started with just one product: a homemade body scrub, sold at a stall at Greenwich Market, when their Founder, Susan Ma, was just 15 years old.
Tropic Skincare product range

Tropic Skincare started with just one product: a homemade body scrub, sold at a stall at Greenwich Market on weekends, when the brand’s Founder, Susan Ma, was just 15 years old, back in 2004.

Her upbringing in Tropical North Queensland piqued her curiosity about how plants and fruits that flourish in tropical climates benefit the skin, so she created the body scrub recipe, with her family, in their kitchen at home.

Susie was born in Shanghai and lived with her mum and grandparents until she was six years old.

Her grandmother was a medicinal chemist and toxicologist, who studied in great depth how everyday chemicals absorbed by the body through the environment, diet, medication and skin care products affect our personal health and well-being. 

Her grandmother dedicated her life to these studies, meaning that Susie’s family favoured a simplistic lifestyle, calling on the best mother nature had to offer in all aspects of their lives.

When Susie’s family moved to Tropical North Queensland, Australia, they were surrounded by an abundance of the most nutritious fruits and plants nature has to offer. This upbringing, paired with her grandmother’s wisdom, later became her inspiration.

in 2002, when she was 13, Susie and her mum moved to London. It wasn’t long before they struggled to make ends meet. 

To contribute towards the household bills, aged 15, Susie decided to start her own business. She borrowed £200 from her mum and invested in ingredients to whip up a batch of body scrubs using a family recipe, to sell at Greenwich Market alongside her mum’s souvenir stall. 

On the first day, Susie sold out of all 50 body scrubs, raising enough money to pay the bills for a whole month. Motivated by this initial success, Susie continued to spend weekends and school holidays at London’s markets selling their original body scrub, now known as Tropic’s best selling ‘Body Smooth.’

She furthered her knowledge by studying cosmetic science to expand the range and Tropic continued to grow. By the time she reached 21, Susie had funded her studies at university, had bought her mum a house, and had purchased her first investment property.

After graduating from UCL with a degree in Philosophy and Economics, Susie worked as a sales trader for Citigroup before, aged just 21, before being selected to appear on the 2011 series of BBC’s The Apprentice. Back then, she was the only participant to receive funding from Alan Sugar, without winning the show.

She was given a £200,000 investment for a 50% stake in the business, which helped the brand to scale up production and grow awareness in the UK.

Tropic was a runaway success, and Susie later ‘officially’ launched the business in 2011, with just a handful of products. Now, the range contains over 100 products — spanning skincare, body care, hair care and makeup. 

The brand helps to create a healthier, greener and more empowered world. It aims to be a force for good, beyond beauty, keeping their ‘Infinite Purpose’ at the heart of everything they do. This not only defines their brand, but it also guides every business decision and product launch. 

Each formulation is created in Tropic’s Innovation Lab, at their HQ, harnessing the best in green skincare science.

For freshness, products are made on-site, so that customers can enjoy the active ingredients whilst they are most potent. Because they’re so fresh, each product has a best before date, so you know that you’re getting the most out of your products.

Susie remains the primary formulator behind all of the brand’s products and spends much of her time experimenting in the lab.

In 2019, Tropic sent zero waste to landfill and are helping customers live a lower impact lifestyle with a packaging returns initiative already available for some products. The game changing Colour Palette is completely refillable, minimising waste from your beauty routine. 

Its innovative design has prevented over 3 tonnes of plastic entering landfill so far, compared to Tropic’s previous makeup collection. Tropic are striving towards their goal to offer refillable packaging across the skincare range by the end of 2020, having already released refill versions of their powerful range of serums and facial oils.

Tropic is a certified CarbonNeutral® company: product deliveries, powering HQ and even the Tropic team’s commutes to work are all accounted for and all carbon emissions are offset by double, to go the extra mile.

Through this initiative, Tropic has funded conservation work in the Amazon rainforest and has helped to protect 65,000 hectares of forest from unsustainable palm oil conversion in Indonesia.

Tropic are also working with United World Schools (UWS) to help make their dream of every child having access to education a reality. Every order helps to educate a child, who otherwise would have no access to education. 

For every collective £50 spent with Tropic, a day of education for a child in Cambodia, Myanmar or Nepal will be donated, with a goal of providing over a million days of education by the end of 2020 — that’s education for 5,000 children across a whole school year.

In an industry that often overlooks animal welfare and the environment, Tropic promises to never test on animals, nor use derivatives that cause them distress. Tropic proudly stands with The Vegan Society, PETA and the Cruelty Free International Leaping Bunny programme as a certified cruelty-free brand — now and always.

Behind the brand is a family of over 14,000 Tropic Ambassadors. They are beauty business owners, most of whom are women, who sell Tropic products across the country.

Founder and CEO, Susie Ma, believes in empowering budding entrepreneurs and offering up more opportunities to women in the business world.

When Tropic was officially established, she launched a unique and empowering social selling platform in 2013. Tropic now has a family of over 14,000 Ambassadors that have helped to take the business from strength to strength.

The range has accumulated over 140 awards from Women’s Health, Psychologies, Natural Health and more. 

For the third year running, Tropic are the fastest-growing skincare company on The Sunday Times Virgin Atlantic Fast Track 100 league table and Susie was selected as an honouree in 2018’s Forbes 30 Under 30 list, in the Retail and Ecommerce category.

You can find out more about Tropic here.