In Conversation With Vivian Lam Founder of Naetal Skincare

What inspired your business, Naetal?

When I was 36 weeks pregnant with my first child, I developed a severe itchy rash from head to toe. It was the worst feeling. It felt like having a million ants crawling under my skin while my huge growing belly was raw with heat from the uncontrollable scratching. I tried more than a dozen products that claimed to be “natural” for moisturizing and calming itchy skin, but nothing worked. Eventually, the rash became so unbearable that I had to be hospitalized and was diagnosed with the PUPPS rash. The only treatment was to have me put on steroids of varying strengths, and that didn’t do anything for me. My only option was to wait for the baby to be delivered. Having been in the beauty industry for more than 15 years, I was surprised I couldn’t find any clean, pregnancy-safe, and effective products for my baby and I. Hence I knew I had to create something clean and effective to relieve my PUPPS rash should it come back for my future pregnancy, and to also help other moms in the same predicament.

You have two beautiful, healthy boys, but it wasn’t easy getting there in both your pregnancies. Can you open up with us about that time?  

When I gave birth to my firstborn, I was thrilled he was finally out, and the rash slowly calmed and dissipated. But my excitement was soon to be short-lived. I still remember at the hospital; my baby failed both hearing tests. Thinking it was just amniotic fluids that plugged his ears, as everyone had told me, I didn’t think much of it until we went for our full hearing assessment. It was then we found out he was born with hearing loss. We were shocked then as we had no family history of hearing differences.

However, after our first year navigating through our hard-of-hearing journey, we realized it’s a blessing in disguise. It has led us the opportunity to learn and immerse ourselves in the Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing (HoH) community, where we have the opportunity to learn American Sign Language and other techniques to effectively communication with our child through a HoH teacher.

Shortly after my firstborn turned one, I was pregnant with my second. All I was hoping during my second pregnancy, aside from a healthy baby, was to keep the PUPPS rash at bay. I carried even bigger than my first pregnancy, and by the second trimester, the size of my belly was as if I was going to give birth any day. Ironically, I didn’t reach my third trimester. My baby made a sudden entrance at 26 weeks, right before Thanksgiving. He was born in critical condition, and with less than 20% of blood volume for baby at his gestational age. No one knew if he would survive given he was anemic with a severe brain bleed. Thankfully, after four months of roller coaster at the NICU, we finally brought our little miracle home. He’s been thriving ever since, and we couldn’t be happier that he’s here with us today.

What was the most memorable part of your NICU journey? 

The most memorable moment at the NICU would be the first time I got to hold my tiny little two-pound baby skin-to-skin when he was ten days old. It was brutal not being able to hold my baby for so long as he was intubated. I remembered moving him out of the incubator with tons of wires and tubes attached to him. It was a procedure on its own, requiring two nurses and a respiratory therapist to place him on my chest carefully. I still remember feeling the vibration of his little body due to oxygen being pumped into his tiny lungs while he peacefully laid on me. His tiniest fingers grasped onto my thumb as if telling me never to let him go. Never will I forget those sweetest snuggles. 

What has being a preemie parent taught you? 

Trust your motherly instinct and advocate for your baby. I remembered not feeling the baby’s kicks and movement. Everyone told me the baby was only 25 weeks, and it shouldn’t be a big deal. But I know every night my baby would do somersaults, keeping me wide awake. And that one night, I was so curious as to why he didn’t move. I sat up in my bed, put my hand over my humongous belly and started rubbing and talking to him. All of a sudden, I felt his little fist pushing out and then slowly sliding down the center of my belly and disappearing. That was the strangest feeling, and I immediately called my midwife to let her know something was not right. Even after doing a non-stress test at the hospital, I was told he was fine. I got sent home but still couldn’t feel my usually active baby, and thankfully my midwife told me to head back to the hospital to monitor the baby a bit longer … then it happened. There was a dip in the heart rate within minutes of being hooked up onto the machine. Immediately they had the OB checked and found out from ultrasound that my baby was anemic and needed to be delivered ASAP for a chance of survival. 

Advocating for my micro-preemie was also something that I learnt in my NICU journey. You know your baby best. Ask questions, seek as many answers from professionals as possible.

Do you feel you experienced postpartum depression? How was your support system? 

I suffered postpartum depression with both of my births, something that I was very much unaware of before being a new mom. The first day going home from the hospital with my firstborn, I went right into my room crying inconsolably for no reason. I was an emotional mess and felt like there was no support even though my husband and family were always there for me.  

The second birth did not get any better. There were so many uncertainties with our premature baby, not knowing if he would even survive. Every day was a challenge, and our NICU journey was often one step forward two steps back. Shortly after giving birth, I was referred to professionals at Reproductive Mental Health. It helped so much having someone unrelated be part of the support system to listen and console me.  

What inspired the company name Naetal?  

At first, I was going to name the company after my two boys who inspired me to start my own business to develop clean products in helping relief their eczema and sensitive skin. However, I also wanted to find a name that resonated with the entire journey of motherhood: from trying to conceive to prenatal, to childbirth and postnatal, to nurturing our baby during neonatal and beyond. The definition of ‘Natal’ is relating to or accompanying birth. This was the essence of what I wanted to capture. And thus ‘Naetal’ was born.

What is your favourite item in your collection, and why? 

The original body serum is my personal favourite. This product is what birthed Naetal and was created after my experience with PUPPs rash. It’s also clean and gentle enough for my baby’s sensitive skin. Based on The original body serum is my personal favourite. This product is what birthed Naetal and was created after my experience with my PUPPS rash. It’s also clean, natural and gentle enough for my baby’s sensitive skin. Formulated from a facial serum with triple molecular-weight hyaluronic acid, this serum is great for both the face and body to soothe and intensely hydrate.

Can you tell us the importance of some key ingredients used in your products?  

I’m a huge believer in simple and clean ingredients. Many naturally-sourced ingredients such as herbal extracts have been used for centuries, developed from ancient remedies and known to have incredible healing benefits. After trying numerous products (both natural and not-so-natural) during my pregnancy, I discovered the most natural and effective ingredients that helped relieve my itchy and irritated skin — colloidal oatmeal and calendula, which are the key components in all of our Naetal products. We use a high concentration of colloidal oatmeal to immediately calm and soothe itchy skin while organic calendula heals and protects dry and irritated skin. All our butter goes through a 12-hour herbal infusion process, and because there’s no water content, we do not use any preservatives. As for our serum, we use only natural preservatives without paraben, phenoxyethanol, formaldehyde, BHT and BHA.

How do you manage your career with two littles that are only 18 months apart? Supermom truly!  

It’s definitely not easy starting my own business with two young children. We have challenging days, and It’s definitely not easy starting my own business with two young children. We have challenging days, and it’s not easy to strike that balance of spending quality time with the kids and getting work done. Thankfully, we get a lot of help from my parents and a lot of support from my husband.

When you do get a moment to pause … what do you like to do most? 

I’ve been a huge coffee addict since I was young. A moment to pause is as simple as sipping a flat white or hojicha oat milk latte at one of my favourite local coffee/ tea shops. 

What are your daily affirmations? 

Always be grateful, and don’t take it for granted.

Savour the little moments of stillness.

Begin somewhere, strive for progress over perfection.

Lastly, who is your Mother Muse? 

My mom and my godmother, who has 6 children. 

Explore Naetal Here

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