Oyasumi Scents: The Scent of Home

Words by: Tanya Singh
Photo Credit: Thomas Ang (@thepeepingthomphotography)

A journey to recreate a fragrance that felt like home, Oyasumi Scents is a story about family, love, and lots of deliciously fragrant candles.

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The story of Oyasumi Scents begins with founder, Jacqueline Kwong, and her daughter. Jacqueline had dabbled in candle-making as a hobby and as a method for stress relief. She loved combining scents to craft bespoke fragrances for friends and family. But when she created candles for her daughter, she was surprised to hear her daughter say none smelled like "home". This sparked a journey to create non-toxic candles that were reminiscent of homes in Asia. Today, the brand prides itself on providing a range of unique scents in hand-poured, non-toxic, soy candles.

Oyasumi Scents_02Jacqueline and her daughter

Tell us the Oyasumi Scents story from the beginning.

"It all started when I quit my super stressful job to take care of my daughter. She wasn't keeping too well at the time and had developed bad allergies and asthma. We couldn't give her an inhaler at such a young age so, we turned to essential oils for relief. She eventually improved, and we discontinued the treatment, but I continued to diffuse the blends because my daughter enjoyed them.

But, one day, she said, "Mummy, this place doesn't smell like home." I was confused and asked, "What do you mean? It smells like lavender. It's amazing." She replied that it smelt like a spa, and at first, I didn't quite grasp how that was a bad thing. Eventually, I realized she was trying to tell me – in her little four-year-old way – that the scents didn't make her feel at home. So, I asked her what smelt like home. She immediately pointed to the pandan chiffon cake on our kitchen counter and said, "That smells like home!".

That was when it all came together for me! I realized how right she was. It's very common for candles and home scents to have spa-like fragrances, but they don't really smell like home. Home should smell familiar, comforting, and nostalgic, like a warm hug or pandan chiffon cake, not like some foreign, spa resort.

This revelation sparked a journey to create scents that smelled like home. Once my daughter's health had improved and I could go back to work, I realized I didn't really want to. Spending time with her made me realize I didn't want a job that made me unhappy. That was when I started thinking about going out on my own with my home fragrances, so I could do something I would be proud of. I hoped by doing so, I would set a positive example for my daughter, and inspire her to follow her dreams."

Why the name 'Oyasumi Scents'?

"We lived in Japan for a while, which is where we learned the word "oyasumi" – goodnight in Japanese. But we felt the word "oyasumi" meant so much more than a statement uttered at bedtime. Think about what people want to feel before bedtime. They want to be comfortable and cozy in their blankets, surrounded by loved ones. And the only way to truly experience that is to be surrounded by familiar scents, like chocolates, spices, and teas.

That is why we chose the name Oyasumi Scents – to symbolize our dedication to creating scents that will bring comfort and warmth to a home. But we understand each home is different, which is why we have a wide range of scents – from lavender to fragrances specific to the Southeast Asia, like pandan and lemongrass."

Oyasumi Scents_03Snapshots from the Oyasumi Scents process

Could you talk a little bit about the materials you use to make your candles?

"I customize all my scents mainly for two reasons. The first is because few fragrance makers make the out-of-the-box scents I want (or that my daughter comes up with!). The second is for safety reasons, which many people might not be aware of. While essential oils seem rather harmless, they are very concentrated extracts of plants and flowers, which makes them almost as potent as Chinese herbal medicines! And if you use these essential oils incorrectly, adverse reactions may occur. For example, orange, lemon, and eucalyptus make a very toxic blend, which my sister and I learnt the hard way. We made a candle with this blend and had migraines for an entire week. In hindsight, the experience was important because it pushed us to study essential oils in depth. We realized essential oils tend to have low flash points – the melting point where they combust and chemically change. Specifically, citrus and eucalyptus essential oils have very low flash points and become toxic when burned. This is why I have fragrance makers stabilize essential oils to prevent toxic fumes from being emitted.

There are some essential oils I use commercial versions of, like lemongrass, because those have a very high flash point. However, I always ensure I buy from trusted, verified suppliers, not just for my business' sake, but for my family too. I don't want to make anything that might harm them, and I definitely don't want to harm others!

The wax I use is commercially available but uncommon. I went through a vigorous testing process to find a hardier soy wax that would not melt at higher room temperatures, like Singapore's tropical climate. I finally settled on a supplier from Australia. Their soy wax is sturdy at higher temperatures and holds the fragrance really well."

Oyasumi Scents_04Candles by Oyasumi Scents: Pandan & Lemongrass, Grapefruit & Ginger, Orange & Chocolate, and White Tea & Lavender.

Is your daughter involved in the candle-making process?

"Yes! I rely on my daughter often to come up with the most eccentric and interesting ideas. She's a little foodie and has an incredible sense of smell. She also pushes me to make unique blends, which is always a welcome challenge!

The Pandan & Lemongrass Soy Candle was the first one she came up with. The second, is our White Tea & Lavender Soy Candle, which actually came about because my daughter does enjoy lavender. However, she thought lavender was too spa-like and wanted it to smell more like "home". She suggested we try blending lavender with a tea scent since she knows I like tea. We tested a number of fragrances before landing on white tea.

The ginger was an interesting one too. I really wanted a ginger-scented candle because my mother would make ginger tea for me when I was sick, which makes the root a source of comfort for me. Unfortunately, a lot of people don't like the smell of ginger. My daughter was the one who said we needed something sharp to cut through the scent of ginger (I know, strange coming from a four-year-old!). So, after a lot of experimentation, we decided on grapefruit, which is now our popular Grapefruit & Ginger Soy Candle.

The Lychee & Calamansi Soy Candle was completely hers too. She's allergic to lychee but loves the smell of the fruit. She begged me to make a lychee candle, but when we received the fragrance, we realized it was too sweet. Of course, my daughter came to the rescue with her young mind full of ideas!"

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Any advice for other women entrepreneurs out there?

"Something I realized when I first started Oyasumi Scents was that many people will expect you to fail, especially if you are a woman. I'm lucky that my daughter and husband support me completely, but there were close friends and even family members who didn't believe I could succeed.

However, I think this expectation to fail is an advantage since it means your bar is set at nothing. Yes, it may affect your confidence, but if you believe in yourself, the only way to go is forward and upwards. So, keep on believing, and shock everyone with your success!"