The Suu Balm brand, which is owned by Good Pharma Dermatology, is known for its range of rapid itch-relieving moisturisers and body washes for sensitive and eczema-prone patients.
The products were formulated by Associate Professor Tey Hong Liang, head of research and senior consultant at the National Skin Centre (NSC) in Singapore.
Suu Balm products contain menthol, and ceramides to relieve itching within five minutes, without drying out the skin. They claim to use premium ingredients, are steroid-free and contain hypoallergenic ingredients to prevent scalp and skin irritation.
The real problem
Good Pharma Dermatology’s co-founder, Jason Humphries said eczema was very common in Singapore: “About 20% of children below 18 years suffer from it, and that’s around 160,000 kids. In adults, about 11% or 540,000 adults have eczema.”
However, Dr John O’Shea, co-founder of Good Pharma Dermatology said there were some challenges with existing solutions for these patients.
For instance, these patients were usually prescribed steroids to reduce inflammation at the itch area, and moisturisers to improve skin barrier function, but the downside of these were they required time to take effect, ranging from days to weeks.
Associate Professor Tey added that current steroid sprays may not suit some patients due to side effects such as skin thinning, bruising and even tearing of the skin.
“Patients need a fast-acting itch relief to break the itch scratch cycle, allowing them to sleep, study and work in peace,” he said.
Solving the skin
He took three years to develop the spray, which he said was suitable for people with seborrheic dermatitis (dandruff), psoriasis, and eczema.
Its new facial cream contained menthyl lactate to repair the facial skin barrier and provide anti-redness and irritation.
The face wash has a pH of 5.5, making it moisturising and gentle on the skin, and does not contain any parabens and fragrance.
According to the firm, menthol acts fast in relieving itch within five minutes.
In a safety study, the NSC tested 3% menthol-containing moisturising cream on healthy participants and participants with dermatitis.
A subgroup analysis of the 16 subjects with eczema found they experienced a significant reduction in itch intensity scores after one week of cream application (34% decrease) and one month (56% decrease).
Itch relief was sustained over time with repeated use and no other side effects were reported.
This suggested that 3% menthol has been proven safe and effective in itch relief in eczema patients.
The presence of ceramide in Suu Balm’s products also help improve skin barrier function, as they have been found to play a role in holding water in the extracellular space, thus creating a waterproof barrier and reducing water loss, as well as acting as steroid-sparing agents (reduce or eliminate the need for steroids) in eczema patients.
Suu Balm’s products are available on their website, Guardian and Watsons stores in Singapore.
They are halal certified and can be found in 10 markets across Asia, including Malaysia, Hong Kong, South Korea, Philippines, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, China and Taiwan.
Humphries said Suu Balm had achieved SG$17 million in global retail sales since launching in 2015.
They have sold more than 650,000 tubes of Suu Balm to date, with aims to reach one million tubes by the end of this year. At NSC, 2500 units of Suu Balm are prescribed to patients every month.
The founders have plans for further regional expansion.
“Safety and Antipruritic Efficacy of a Menthol-Containing Moisturizing Cream”
Authors: Tey Hong Liang, et al.