by Alexandra Nicole Nuralam

Rachel Loh on Staying Connected and Makeup-Free Days

As a photographer, Rachel Loh has a way of finding beauty in everyday moments. Scrolling through her feed, you would notice details that don’t usually catch the eye—like the elegant slope of the shoulder, or the flickering gleam of a candle. The Singapore-based artist is also one of the creative brains behind Grey is the New Black: Unseen Singapore, a book that pays homage to senior style in Singapore.

Ahead, we chat virtually with Rachel as she opens up about learning more about herself during the pandemic, what drives her creativity and her skincare routine for sensitive skin.

The global pandemic has changed so much of our everyday lives. What have you learned about yourself over the past year?

Looking back on lockdown last year, that period of my life was such a necessity. It pushed me to create so much art to express myself and pushed me to grow at such an accelerated speed. I’m really grateful now, even though it was harrowing at that moment. It forced me to face my traumas and develop healthy mental health habits. I’m able now to observe my thoughts and feelings and talk myself through them to bring myself back to a peaceful equilibrium than before the past year.

Through this metamorphosis, I learnt that I (and in extension, the human population) have such a huge capacity to give and care. The sense of community I have experienced through my work as well as through the people around me (even if they were strangers) has been transformative. I hope that even now, people will still go out of their way to care for others—especially those who need that care in society.

Did you always intend to work in a creative field? How are you creating differently these days?

I’ve always been creative since I was a young child and I was always very interested in the arts. Even though I had other interests, none of them made me feel the sense of purpose I get now from being an artist and allow me to express myself through ways other than words. I’ve always tried to create some meaning through even my commercial works but since last year, I’ve really cemented that process through my art or through my commercial work.

“More than creating differently, it’s about finding shared meaning with clients or people who see my art now—that’s when I feel the most seen and connected.”

What inspires you creatively and spiritually?

I love going out to spend time in nature any chance I get and the act of being grateful for the things that happen in nature has been so spiritually nourishing. In nature, things come and go and can be very fleeting. The opportunity to see what nature has to give in any given moment always inspires me in both my life and work. I feel incredibly lucky that I can witness these moments and be in that space of gratefulness. This is something that is so accessible and I hope that more people can take a moment in their lives just for a while to feel connected with their surroundings. 

You’ve been a ‘woman of impact’ for a good number of years now; what do you hope to achieve with your platform?

That’s very kind of you to say. I don’t see myself as someone who created any kind of impact but rather, as someone who has allowed the community to channel itself into the spaces that I have created. The platform has always been a space that I saw as a blank space for the community to fill. I wanted that feeling of connection and the acceptance of all forms of art.

Being an artist in Singapore can be very restrictive and institutionalised and I felt as a young artist that I wanted a space that could push the boundaries of what art could be as well as how art was seen. For me, as long as an artwork resonates with someone who views it, it is successful. I want the platform to be a place where everyone and everything is accepted regardless of what society or the industry thinks art should be. 

What’s your approach when it comes to beauty and wellness?

I try to make my routine as simple as possible because my skin is really sensitive. Coupled with the weather here, putting a ton of products on my face just doesn’t work for me! I have been using a lot of natural skincare lately and they’ve been really good for my sensitive face. I have found products that I love and make me feel calm like my Aesop Resurrection Balm or my Everyday Humans Resting Beach Face sunscreen. 

What is a typical skincare routine for you? Talk us through your skincare routine and your favourite beauty products.

In the mornings, I use the Oasis Skincare Organic Spice Facial Bar to wash my face then mist my face with the Avene Eau Thermale. I’m not too sure if the spray actually does anything, to be honest, but it feels like such a good morning wake-up routine that I continue to do it anyway (laughs). I then use Kiehl’s Calendula Herbal-Extract toner and finish off with Argan Oil from local brand ANIA. I will do gua sha on my face if I have the time in the mornings too. At night, it’s pretty much the same thing but with the La Roche-Posay Toleriane Ultra Creme. 

Are you a no-makeup makeup person, or actually no makeup?

Definitely both! I like minimal makeup when I go out but I’m not afraid to go out with no makeup at all. It’s how you feel after all. Inner confidence, as well as self-love for me, is much more important.

How has your perception of beauty changed through the years?

I used to think I had to look a certain way to be beautiful or conventionally pretty but these days, I’m just happy to be in my own skin. Beauty is much more than what magazines and the media tell you—it’s about how you feel inside, as well as what you put into or on your body.

“Taking care of yourself well and being comfortable with who you are is an integral foundation of beauty for me. Now that I have found that out, I don’t want to return to superficial beauty.”

What is one mindful practice everyone should weave into their daily life?

I believe listing out what you’re grateful for each day is something I would recommend. The simple act of saying out loud, in your head or writing a few things that you are grateful for in a particular moment is so impactful. It changes your perspective, even if it doesn’t feel like it after just a few tries. By being grateful for any given moment, be it the trees moving, the sound of the birds or having food to eat, you are reminding yourself that you are alive and life has a bigger capacity to be much more than what you’ve envisioned for yourself.

What are your plans for the future? What would you like to have accomplished in the next five years?

Hmmm, a difficult question. I try not to plan too ahead for the future because I want to be open to opportunities outside those “goals”. If I were to put down an answer, I see myself living surrounded by nature and hopefully growing my own garden. I would love to continue developing my art practice and also give back to the community, no matter how big or small.

Rachel’s Beauty Picks

Oasis Skincare Organic Spice Facial Bar, SGD10
Avene Eau Thermale Thermal Spring Water Mist, SGD10.10
Kiehl’s Calendula Herbal-Extract Alcohol-Free Toner, SGD98
ANIA Argan Oil, SGD39
Aesop Resurrection Aromatique Hand Balm, SGD39
Everyday Humans Resting Beach Face SPF30 Sunscreen Serum, SGD39
La Roche-Posay Toleriane Ultra Moisturiser, SGD42.90
Rare Beauty Liquid Touch Brightening Concealer, SGD32

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