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Lia's Focus
The Perfect Complexion of SCO: Theresa Ma experiments with the botanicals of beauty

by Lia Chang
Arts & Entertainment Editor,

Skin Care Options (SCO) is the cutting edge skin care line created by Theresa Ma who opened her intimate beauty boutique in New York three years ago at 230 Mulberry St in Nolita.

Born in Hong Kong, Ma came to the United States at the age of six and grew up in Connecticut. Her passion for developing her own line of skin care resulted from her personal experiences as a child of dealing with severely dry skin and skin allergies. This led to her obsession for achieving the perfect complexion. Six years ago, with an excellent layman's knowledge of the ingredients used in skin care, she began collaborating with three cosmetic chemists to develop her unisex line of products that she could customize with special botanical infusions to address specific skin issues in any given season.


Theresa Ma, owner of SCO (Skin Care Options), "cooks" up my own facial "cocktail" using a pippetter to add bergamot, soy and three anti-oxidant vitamins A, C and E infusions to the SCO oil free face lotion.
Photo credit: Lia Chang

Theresa shares her SCO philosophy for designing the perfect skin care regimen.

“I don’t do a visual on someone’s complexion," says Ma. "The day I see you, may not be a good indication of what your skin really is like. I identify the products based on three questions."

  1. After you wash your face without putting anything on -- what does it feel like? If you tell me that it feels very comfortable, then I know that you are not extremely dry and you are not extremely dehydrated. 
  2. Can you walk out of the house without using a moisturizer?
  3. What issues do you want to address? Then I recommend the active ingredients for them.

Ma offers eighteen fragrance free products: purifying cleansers, facial tonics, an antioxidant booster, a clarifying complex, an oil free conditioning face lotion, conditioning face creams, an eye cream, a firming eye lift, several masks, an SPF 30 oil free face shield, body products and her new signature SCO scent.

The SCO Skin Care Line.
Photo credit: Lia Chang

"When I started this line I wanted all of the products to be effective on their own," relates Ma. "I told the chemists to include flower acid in all the products. Derived from the hibiscus flower, it works to retexturize the skin, conditions and acts as a skin softener. It functions very much like an alpha hydroxy except there is no stinging, no irritation, and no redness that you would experience with an alpha-beta hydroxy. Flower acid makes all of the products very effective on their own."

I loved the elegant texture of the oil free face lotion and the SPF 30 oil free face shield. Smooth and transparent, the face shield is a non-greasy formula which blocks against UVA and UVB rays and dries to a matte finish. Both are light enough to be worn under makeup.

In search of the perfect eye cream?

"If your issue is puffiness, I would put caffeine into the product." suggests Ma. "Caffeine is a great diuretic when applied topically. It depuffs and firms up the skin. If you told me your concern was dark circles, then I would do vitamin K. Whatever your concerns are we would choose the correct ingredient."

The refining face scrub is one of the most popular items in her line.

"It's intense -- it removes all the dirt and debris that sits on your face. It makes your skin very soft and yet it's very soft because the beads are made from pressed jojoba oil." Ma enthuses, "People love this product!"

Twenty-four pharmaceutical grade infusions of natural extracts are displayed in vials behind the counter. The menu includes algae, aloe vera, almond, bergamot, caffeine, calendula, chamomile, cucumber, ginkgo biloba, green tea, juniper berry, lavender, lemon, milk protein, mushroom, papaya, parsley, peppermint, rosemary, soy, vitamins A, C and E, vitamin K and willow bark. 

After assessing my particular skin care needs, she uses a pippetter to add bergamot (which acts as an antiseptic), soy (for hydrating and speeding cellular turnover), and three anti-oxidant vitamins A, C and E to the SCO oil free face lotion creating my facial “cocktail." Within five minutes, she hands me my custom blend in an amber colored bottle labeled with my name, the infusions and an expiration date.

Ma’s newest infusion is Song yi, a Korean mushroom that helps even out skin tone, gives a glowy look and lightens up hyper pigmentation. Samples of her products are available at the store and assessing your skin care needs from three key questions is a process that can easily take place over the phone.  In addition to her shop in Nolita, SCO products are available through mail order (1-866-966-SCO8), the Internet at and Barney’s NY.

AsianConnections Arts & Entertainment editor Lia Chang appears as Nurse Lia on As The World Turns and One Life to Live. Based in New York, she works as an actor, a photographer, a multi-media journalist and designs greeting cards. Contact Lia at Lia's website is

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