Manila elemi is actually one of the country’s most lucrative exports, as it is a key skincare ingredient used in products by luxury beauty brands like Chanel and Nécessaire. Known for its firming, lifting, anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory qualities, it’s one of the hero ingredients for the Philippines-based brand Pili Ani, which makes its products using pili and elemi oils that come from the pili tree. Rosalina Tan, the brand’s founder, discovered the benefits of the pili tree, which is native to the Bicol region of the Philippines, during her work as an organic farming advocate.
While elemi oil is known for its firming properties, the pili oil has its own benefits, as it is rich in antioxidants and even more moisturizing than argan oil. If anyone remembers way back when the argan oil craze happened, this is a pretty big revelation.
Aside from an ingredients standpoint, there are many reasons why the Philippines is poised to be influential in the beauty world. “We are a country of many skin types and colors and I think what makes Filipina beauty special and unique is that we are appreciative and comfortable in our own skin,” says Tan. “Instead of hiding our imperfections, we prefer to highlight our features and make them stand out.” Vice Cosmetics, a makeup brand from Filipino celebrity Vice Ganda that launched in 2017, preaches “Ganda for All” (beauty for all).
“Being a country with diverse heritage—Spanish, Malays, Chinese—Filipino beauty embraces inclusivity and diversity,” a rep for the brand says. “As a local cosmetics brand with Ganda for All as our core value, we try to stand out by offering a range of shades that are suitable for the Filipinx skin tone.” This is especially important to highlight, as skin-whitening products were commonplace in Philippines stores, a product of the country’s colonial history.
Unfortunately, these types of products haven’t been completely eradicated, but things are getting better as more and more Filipinos embrace their diverse skin tones and reject these archaic, Eurocentric beauty standards.