Not too long ago was the subject of hair removal considered awkward and taboo. It still is today, sort of. Whether one goes fully bare (aka Hollywood down there) or how often waxing appointments are scheduled, aren’t topics for the breakfast table.
Since launching in 2006, STRIP: Ministry of Waxing has done a lot in Malaysia to change the landscape (no pun intended) of hair removal — not just to promote the idea itself of hair removal, but also the importance of quality, speed and hygiene. They’re the pioneers of today’s commonly practiced ‘no double dipping’ rule, and have formulated in-house wax and post-wax care products.
Dare we say, they’ve even made waxing chic and cool? The brand uses fun and amusement so we can learn to laugh at what would be considered taboo or embarrassing — cute outlet decor that makes you feel at ease, mascot Orangutan dolls you can squeeze the heck out during your wax session, even a campaign with PETA to promote going furless.
The STRIP brand was brought to Malaysian shores from Singapore by Pua Lee Lan. Born in Sekinchan, Pua began her career in beauty as a facial therapist, when she was picked by STRIP’s founder Cynthia Chua to train as a waxing therapist for when the salon would first open in Singapore. In preparation for STRIP’s launch, Chua flew in top waxing professionals from New York to train her team on the art of hair removal, with an emphasis on Brazilian waxing.
Pua was a big part of the Research and Development team and helped to test the wax formulas and products, as well as developing pain-free techniques adhering to the high levels of cleanliness. Eventually, Pua climbed up the ranks from a therapist to trainer, and eventually as an area manager.
She took a bold leap of faith moving back to Malaysia and opening up the first local STRIP: Ministry of Waxing salon in Bangsar. What was the hair removal scene like, you wonder? Painful. Literally. There wasn’t much expertise at the time that led to customer confidence or innovation in hair removal techniques. Waxing was even more expensive and seen as an add-on treatment at spas. These days, there are hundreds of waxing salons in Malaysia. STRIP themselves have nine salons across the Klang Valley and Penang.
Let’s be real, if you’ve been trying your best (and given the fact that you’re no pro, your worst) to nip body hair in the bud (or should we say, follicle), then you’ll find some appreciation for your go-to wax specialist in this interview with Pua Lee Lan.
The opportunity I had working in STRIP Singapore was priceless. It was the learning of a whole new idea of what hair removal as grooming can truly be. I was there from the point of STRIP’s beginning, when STRIP founder, Cynthia Chua, brought in experts to share skills, and the best techniques were created. This was vastly different from what was available then in Malaysia. Not only was the subject seen as taboo, but there was also poor consumer confidence in the whole idea of waxing due to the atrocious hygiene standards. There was room for major improvement, a vacant spot that needed filling, and STRIP Malaysia became that improvement. We made hair removal a serious personal grooming that one doesn’t have to shy away from.
First and foremost, we introduced ourselves as who we are, as waxing specialists. By this, we mean that we are dedicated to this grooming service – to hair removal, instead of merely tagging it onto a menu of treatments.
Along with this is our commitment to hygiene standards and comfortable experience, both of which are achieved by the processes we have in place, an intensive 8-week training from the STRIP Training School to equip our therapists with best techniques, and our formulation of products.
Our mantra from the very beginning is HSQ – Hygiene, Speed, Quality. These remain our priorities at STRIP and are still relevant, more than ever.
While hair removal in general is increasingly appreciated, we do continue to educate on the joys of the Brazilian and Boyzilian treatments. Intimate care is a form of self-care and we continue to communicate the self-confidence, hygienic and refreshed benefits one enjoys from such personal grooming.
And then there’s the wrong perception that waxing will result in thicker hair growth. In truth, waxing removes hair from the root, keeping skin hair-free for a longer period of time, and the regrowth is finer. With frequent waxing, regrowth volume even decreases.
These challenges are not so much the Malaysian mindset as it is an uninformed mindset. The good news is, over the past fifteen years, with help from the Singapore team, our quirky and fun awareness campaigns have been successful in removing the embarrassment factor. Educating and creating awareness is our constant effort.
Our idea of having uniquely designed stylish outlets instead of a one-size-fits-all décor also appeals to many and demonstrates our commitment to being a specialist
Guava Wax is my favourite. I loved the colour and the scent of it, and it was one of the first few seasonal wax that we launched. I enjoy the guava fruit very much, so this wax ‘flavour’ was personal to me. It was introduced in 2006, the year of STRIP Malaysia’s birth. It’s a perfect choice for us to start off with because this wax blend is smooth, minimises discomfort and gives a good grip of the hair to wax off.
As for treatments, our Rosebud Vajuvenation is my absolute favourite. This facelift for the Brazilian, or the more fun term vajacial, was launched in Malaysia two years back, sparking positive curiosity in the intimate care scene. I particularly like it because it’s exceptional and defines self-care at the highest level.
Another favourite of mine is our Chocolate Berry Wax which quickly became a crowd favourite and is currently the in-house hard wax. It shares the same comforting characteristics that first-timers especially will appreciate. And that chocolatey scent — what’s not to love?
We advocated the No Double Dipping rule, which it seems common practice now, it wasn’t the case in the early days. Double Dipping is when the spatula is dunked in the communal wax pot repeatedly after contact with skin. STRIP’s No Double Dipping rule has in turn encouraged other waxing salons to follow suit, thus revolutionising the standard of waxing treatment.
STRIP’s Personal Hygiene Packs is used to advocate this rule. These brilliant sealed packs contain the one-time-use tools needed for Brazilian or Boyzilian waxing and AFT treatments, because the intimate area naturally requires the highest level of hygienic care.
In the current climate, STRIP has the advantage of sizeable treatment rooms that allow the therapist free movement, thus minimising proximity. Our rooms are equipped with spacious cabinets that are sanitised before and after use, so guests can have clean storage for belongings instead of these being left in the open. The treatment tools such as spatulas, cotton pads and relevant material are kept in cabinets to ensure proper care and cleanliness.
Aside from these, STRIP complies with the SOP outlined by the Ministry of Health. There’s the use of new face masks, gloves, disposable aprons, regularly sanitised face shield, temperature monitoring. All outlets and equipment within the premises – including treatment rooms, in-room cabinets and the tools within – are sanitised as well. Besides that, a limited number of guests are permitted in an outlet at any one time, by appointment only and for a limited time.
At STRIP, hygiene isn’t a new norm, it is a routine and at the core of STRIP’s practices from way back when we began.
STRIP’s seasonal wax are something of anticipation. They’re formulated by the Research & Development team in Singapore with skin-loving ingredients that result in a comfortable waxing experience, and intriguing scents that are pleasing to the nostrils. Our Chocolate Berry wax is the most popular. The seasonal wax that we’ve presented are Vanilla Cupcake, Strawberry, Desert Rose, Gingerbread and Forest Wax. Our customers find these seasonal introductions to be delightful and refreshing.
Our post-treatment products result from listening to the needs of our customers. The TWO L(I)PS comprehensive range of products, such as ICE and BLACKOUT to name a few, provides care beyond the salon. These products not only meet women’s intimate care needs but are able to address their skincare woes too. Since we introduced the range two years back, the response has been highly positive.
Once again, it’s about tackling an almost impossible topic: intimate care.
As with many industries, we are no less affected. The good news is; we’ve received many queries as to when we will be operating and on our TWO L(I)PS products. The eagerness for people to return to good grooming is apparent and is a positive sign. To meet these needs in part at least for now, STRIP Malaysia has decided to launch the range on Shopee and Lazada, so that our patrons can enjoy TWO L(I)PS while being at home.
The challenge is the huge impact on our revenue and having to sustain our overheads as well as retaining our staff. However, I understand how this pandemic affects our staff and do help our team of staff to the best of our capabilities. I wish to express my deep gratitude to all our employees, our customers, our partners and suppliers who have continued to support STRIP through this difficult time and to overcome it.
We celebrate our 15th year under trying circumstances. I think having achieved this far is a tremendous success given the hair removal scene back in 2006 with all the taboos and misconceptions and lack of confidence. STRIP has changed that landscape. With such an achievement to our credit, we certainly are confident and determined to succeed further, pandemic or not.
We are now intimate specialists with a wider repertoire of services – offering Waxing, AFT (Advanced Fluorescence Technology), Rosebud Vajuvenation and Thermal Shape. Our plans are to continue enhancing awareness on intimate care and make such premium care more accessible.
Visit STRIP’s Malaysia website for updates and appointment booking.