[7 MINUTE READ]
Happy Friday and welcome to this week’s Friday Founder interview! As Spring is officially upon us, we are looking forward to warmer days and a ‘less is more’ attitude to our beauty and skincare routines.
Who better to chat to this week about that very subject than Isabel Ramos, Co-Founder of Ayuna, a skincare brand that advocates ‘less is beauty’?
Just grab yourself your morning coffee, get into a comfy spot and keep on reading for some weekend inspo…
"We had a desire to provide the cosmetic sector with a new vision because we believed that many of the common approaches and practices needed to evolve."
Morning Isabel! Thanks so much for joining us. Please could you start by telling me a bit about your childhood and how you feel it has influenced you today?
Good morning! Thank you for having me. When I was young I loved to look at nature books, even before I knew how to read. I was amazed by magnificent sequoias and the richness of the sea. I also loved to play "create" with pieces of clay or clothes and teach my dolls. Because of this, I think it is unsurprising that I found my way into this role at Ayuna.
Nowadays, I create cosmetics, taking into consideration the nature of the skin and the environment. I also share Ayuna’s vision in order to educate others about new ways of making cosmetics.
I can definitely see how you ended up in the beauty industry! So, how did you get your foot in the door, so to speak?
By chance! I was about to finish my doctorate in organic chemistry and was thinking about joining the pharmaceutical industry to create molecules for health when an offer came my way that I could not refuse. I thought the project would only be for a few short years, but this industry hooked me and I have now been working in beauty for almost 24 years.
Wow! That’s brilliant. So when did you decide to start up Ayuna and why?
We had the idea a few years prior, but the big moment came in 2015. We had a desire to provide the cosmetic sector with a new vision because we believed that many of the common approaches and practices needed to evolve.
So the timing is key then?
Absolutely! The timing meant that we had accumulated experience from our careers, the new scientific knowledge from areas such as psychodermatology, epigenetics and green chemistry, and the evolution of society that was demanding cleaner, more sustainable and respectful products.
It sounds like you really jumped on that opportunity. Speaking of respectful products, how does Ayuna consider issues relating to sensitive skin/allergies?
For us, it is essential that our products are suitable for all skin types, especially the most sensitive ones. This is why our formulas based on skin fasting avoid overstimulating and saturating the skin, following our motto 'less is beauty'.
Within our formulation principles, all ingredients carrying impurities or suspected of causing toxicity and allergenicity to the skin are discarded; only substances necessary for the formulation, in their proper measure, are used. We take care of all aspects of production and formulation, especially the preservatives, which are usually the most conflictive elements for the skin and its microbiota. So, we put a lot of effort into making them dermo-tolerated and microbiota-friendly preservatives.
Thanks for explaining that. The science is fascinating! How does sustainability factor into Ayuna?
It is a key element in our process, from design to ingredient selection, packaging materials, production and supply processes. Within the possibilities available - because even today the options need to improve further in terms of packaging - we seek a minimal carbon footprint, water footprint and impact on the environment. Examples of the efforts we are making include our plant cell cultures, which save more than 99% soil and water when compared to conventional crops, and our TERRA development, which is the most sustainable packaging element of the moment as it is 100% ceramic.
That is great to hear! Do you think people are more conscious of the ingredients in their beauty and skincare products nowadays? If so, why?
Totally! There are groups of consumers who are more aware of what they buy and how it impacts the health of their skin and the environment.
And what were your biggest challenges in starting up Ayuna?
Being an indie brand, everything was a challenge! However, the biggest challenge has been creating sustainable and clean products since the solutions in the industry for this type of product are still few and far between. To give you an idea, approximately 10% of the commonly used ingredients available meet our criteria to formulate Ayuna products, and at the packaging level, there are still no solutions for all existing needs.
I am really impressed that you are making it work despite those challenges. What strategies do you think have been key to the success of Ayuna?
For Ayuna, it has been essential to provide an innovative product with a new discourse. Our eco-luxury positioning is completely in line with the current demands of society. Plus, our commercial strategy to make Ayuna known in the appropriate circles, such as the launch at IBE and the entry into prestigious retailers, such as Neiman Marcus, has helped.
"In 2019, we received the Fuera de Serie, an award from an important Spanish newspaper, Expansión, for the most innovative product in beauty."
It seems as though Ayuna is a very harmonious and well thought-out brand. What is your favourite thing about your job?
The cosmetic sector is very dynamic. You have to continuously update things and acquire new knowledge about mechanisms of action, physiological functioning, interaction and impact on the environment. I love constantly learning!
I do too! Could you describe what an average day looks like for you?
I love the wide variety of tasks and environments I move between; we are a small company so each of us deals with many areas of the business. I might go from a scientific meeting discussing a very specialised aspect of an essay, to verifying a factory production process, to doing scientific-technical training for a commercial team or making a business presentation.
That is so cool! Do you think you have a work/life balance currently?
My work/life balance is a bit of a work in progress. Building a company requires a lot of energy and your personal life can suffer as a result. I trust that I will be able to balance it more and more as time goes on.
I’m sure you will! So if you had to pick, which is your favourite product that you’ve ever created?
It is difficult to choose just one. Each one has its own history and represents the obstacles we have overcome as a business. At Ayuna, we impose strict criteria on ourselves; it is the most complicated challenge I have ever tackled professionally. For example, to create CREAM II, we developed 99 prototypes.
Whoa, that is a huge undertaking! What do you think makes Ayuna stand out?
The extraordinary sensorial experience and effectiveness of the products, coupled with our respect for the skin and the environment.
That is certainly what drew us to Ayuna! Could you describe your biggest “pinch-me” moment since starting the brand?
There have been several; the past four years have been fantastic and exceeded our expectations. I would highlight the recognition we received at IBE LA 2017, just as Ayuna launched, indicating the product was loved. In 2019, we received the Fuera de Serie, an award from an important Spanish newspaper, Expansión, for the most innovative product in beauty. The fact that Ayuna was recognised amidst so much excellence was really incredible!
Congratulations! That is so exciting. What inspires you?
My partner Begoña Sanjuan is a source of inspiration in many ways: her strategic vision, her nonconformity, and she always motivates me to go further. The beauty of nature inspires me too: walking in the forest, watching a sunset or the imperturbable mountains.
How lovely! What words do you live by?
‘Respect’ ‘Collaboration’ and ‘Be the best possible version of yourself.’
Simple yet inspiring. What’s next Ayuna?
We have some really exciting new products and concepts on the way!