A Dubai-based health insurance executive teamed up with her former high school classmate to build a line of health and beauty products containing black seed oil which is said to be Cleopatra’s secret for ageless skin.
Gigi Moya, who has been working in Dubai for 17 years now, attests to the anti-aging and skin rejuvenation efficacy of black seed or black cumin oil. “Sometime in 2016, I saw a Dubai local resident buying boxes of oil. Intrigued, I asked the sales lady what it was, and she said it was black seed oil which the locals were taking every morning as a food supplement. I bought a box, tried it and found it effective,” she says in an interview in Quezon City.
“I take one teaspoon in the morning. It has the effect of making me energetic. It is also anti-oxidant. At night, I also take a teaspoon for good sleep. It is a food supplement and an ancient cure for many illnesses,” she says.
Moya, 46, also applied the oil as topical ointment on her face. “They called it ‘blessed oil’. In ancient Egypt, Cleopatra used it in her beauty regimen. It comes from black cumin or Nigella sativa plant which grows in the Middle East and South Asia. When I tried it, it helped my skin. After a few days, I referred it to my friends, and they had the same positive experience, like their pimples quickly disappeared,” says Moya, who looks younger than her age. She is a granddaughter of the late actress Chichay, or Amparo Robles Custodio in real life.
The Nigella sativa plant is known for its restorative powers. The oil is used in the Middle East as a remedy for various diseases. The active ingredients in black seed are reportedly rich with vitamins, calcium, potassium, magnesium, zinc and other trace elements.
When Moya returned to the Philippines to attend a high school reunion of Roosevelt College Marikina, she was reunited with Davis Pagayon, a son of inventor/entrepreneur Francisco ‘Popoy’ Pagayon and a board director of Filipino Inventors Society Producers Cooperative Inc.
“When I met Davis who is into invention, I asked him to take black seed oil which is good for health,” she says. Moya gave Pagayon a bottle of black seed oil and suggested the idea of using it as an active ingredient in soaps. “This is how Davis & G Blackseed Anti-Aging Collection was conceptualized,” she says.
Pagayon, whose group consists of inventors and entrepreneurs, asked CRD Herbal Products Inc., a toll manufacturer of natural beauty products, to make soap samples from what was left in the bottle of black seed oil given by Moya.
“We produced a dozen anti-aging bath soaps out of that bottle, which we also infused with other natural ingredients sourced locally. We asked the members and officers of FISPC to test it which also served as an initial consumer test. The feedback and testimonies were all positive. That’s how it started,” says Pagayon, who also serves as the operations manager of the family-owned Oral Educational Distributor.
“We are confident about the product because I use it personally,” says Moya, who avoids applying chemical products on her body.
Moya purchased more black seed oil and powder in Dubai and sent it to Pagayon to develop other products such as body scrub, lotion and shampoo.
“After the consumer test and good feedback, we applied for licenses with the Food and Drug Administration,” says Pagayon.
“We are the first in the Philippines to use black seed in cosmetics,” says Pagayon. “We also applied for patent [utility model] for black seed soap, black seed lotion and black seed shampoo with the Intellectual Property Office of the Philippines.”
“After complying with the regulation, we decided on commercial production in 2017. The products are now distributed by Oral Educational Distributor, our family business,” says Pagayon.
“We have a toll manufacturing contract with CRD Herbal of Mr. Bimbo Duran. We tapped the services of other members of FISPC for cooperation and techno pooling. We now have 10 products, and we are developing more,” says Pagayon.
Moya says while the black seed beauty products have skin whitening effect, they choose to focus the marketing campaign on the anti-aging and skin rejuvenation benefits.
“Black seed oil can tighten skin pores. Because of Dubai’s hot temperature, it can provide protection against the sun. That’s why we also developed a lotion with sunscreen [SPF 15],” says Moya.
The business partners also introduced coffee with black seed powder and date seeds. “The coffee, Arabica robusta, is from Kalinga province. It is a fusion of the Middle Eastern and Filipino ingredients. We just want to show that our natural ingredients in soap are also compatible with food and beverage,” Pagayon says.
Davis & G Blackseed products are available at OneStore hub, the one-stop shop of the Department of Science and Technology; FISPC Showroom in Quezon City; and online stores such as Beauty Manila and Shopee.
“The reviews have been positive. Some of our satisfied customers asked to become distributors. That’s how it spread online,” says Pagayon.
Davis & G Collection Blackseed shampoo with conditioner, which retails for P220 a bottle, was recognized as one of the 15 best hair products of 2017 by Beauty Manila, an online retailer of beauty products.
The products with black seed are said to be ideal to address skin conditions such as psoriasis, eczema, and acne.
Moya and Pagayon are now concentrating on expanding their distribution network and are in talks with major retail chains to carry their products.
Their participation in the recent Manila Fame trade show has caught the eye of several foreign businessmen during the business matching session. “We are now talking to an Australian businessman who loves our packaging,” says Pagayon.
Pagayon says while their products are more expensive than what is available in the mass market, their customers are assured of natural, safe and premium Filipino products that are considered world-class.
“Apart from black seed oil, we use high-quality essential oils and local ingredients such as coconut oil, ilang-ilang [cananga], gumamela [hibiscus] and avocado which are all natural,” says Pagayon.
The business partners hope that once the products penetrate the mainstream domestic market, they can also export the products to the Middle East and other regions.
“Hopefully, once our sales further pick up, I can return home for good,” says Moya.
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