“The current model of beauty is broken.”
Impressive job titles are one thing, but what about people who have carved out their own niche and created a job specifically for them? Rather than landing that covetable LinkedIn byline, working for yourself presents a whole new way to choose your own adventure. That said, it’s not always about exploring the road less travelled – sometimes it can mean forging your own entirely untrodden path.
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It’s a tough slog, but if being your own boss is your own personal dream, How I Do It is the column for you. We’ll talk to established freelancers and friends of FJ who’ve been at this long enough to have the benefit of hindsight, and they might be able to help you figure out how exactly they ‘do’ what they do.
This week, we hear from New Zealander Emma Lewisham, who started her own skincare brand after realising there was nothing on the market that was natural, science-led and met her expectations on sustainability. Here’s how she does it.
Your background before Emma Lewisham wasn’t in the skincare or beauty industry. What inspired you to make that change in your career path?
When I was pregnant I was told to stop using a product called hydroquinone as it was toxic and questionable for people’s health, and it put me on a path to natural skincare. I was used to using high-tech, luxury skincare and when I went to the market looking for a natural alternative with the same science what struck me was, of course, I couldn’t find it, but also that there was a compromise that existed in natural skincare. It also dawned on me just how unbeautiful the beauty model actually was. The current model of beauty is broken and how it works at the moment is a linear one: we take from the earth, we create something, then consumers throw it away.
This model of beauty is responsible for 120 billion units of packaging being produced annually and what I could see was that almost all beauty packaging was ending up in landfill, oceans or being burned. I also found that packaging is the largest contributor of carbon emissions in the beauty industry. I could see really clearly that the whole model needed to be flipped on its head and if we had a circular model where we were reducing packaging and reusing the packaging we already put into the world, the whole beauty system would get cleaner and better. So for me, why I did this was to help create a better world.
One of your key goals is to prove that scientifically backed and natural skincare can go hand-in-hand and be successful together. Why is that so important to you?
I think it came from that original product that I was using where there was a compromise and links to it having an impact on human health. I think once you think about what we eat and consume, then it’s only natural that we think about what we put on our skin, it being a sponge. I believe that natural products are the most compatible for our health and also have the most powerful ingredients. Natural is harder to formulate and more expensive, it’s not less powerful. I feel that we’ve been conditioned to think that it needs to be synthetic to work. What we’re proving is that natural is more powerful.
Once you had the idea and you decided that this was what you wanted to do, what was the process of getting from idea to real-life product like?
There were lots of little steps along the way, from a product perspective. Once we had the vision it was finding the very best scientists that would work with us to develop our products, so that alone took research and required a process to make sure that people we were going to work with were the right people and believed in what we believed in. Truly, five years ago when we started the journey of Emma Lewisham – we’ve only been on the market for two years, it took us three years to come to market – there wasn’t any brand to look to.
Then in addition to that, to create a blueprint for a completely different model for beauty, a paradigm shift in beauty from one that’s linear to a circular model, where we keep everything in circulation and we’re reducing, reusing, recycling. We came to market with only three products because of just how long three products alone took us to create, it was years and years of trial and error and iteration after iteration and I am such a perfectionist, I wouldn’t give up. I wouldn’t give up until those products were perfect.