[10 MINUTE READ]
Happy Friday all! We hope you’ve been enjoying the snow this week (if you live in England) or other little pockets of joy as and when you find them. It is important that we look for these moments more and more as we continue to spend time at home!
This week we bring you an interview with Emma Lewisham, the Founder and CEO of the eponymous brand. Emma Lewisham is a natural skincare brand that aims to bring scientifically backed results to sustainable and luxurious beauty products.
This week we were thrilled to have a virtual chat with Emma where she shared some insight on how the brand began, what she aims to achieve through it and her pearls of wisdom for creating a successful business.
So, make yourself a morning brew, take a short break from your to-do list and nestle into this week’s interview, we promise you’ll be happy you did...
"I was taught that to get ahead in life you had to work hard and never give up. Perhaps most crucially, I was taught that being a woman was not a limitation."
Good morning Emma! Thanks so much for joining us. Could you please start by telling me a bit about your childhood and how you feel it has influenced you today?
Morning! Thank you for having me! Well, nature played a very big role in my day-to-day life growing up. My family owned farms and were very passionate about treating the environment, the people who worked with them, and the animals with the highest respect. In reality, this really shaped the way Emma Lewisham operates.
Before regenerative farming became a known term, my father and grandfather were working in this way on their farms. I also had very strong female role models in my life; my grandmother was one of the very first female CEOs in New Zealand and my mother ran her own business. I was taught that to get ahead in life you had to work hard and never give up. Perhaps most crucially, I was taught that being a woman was not a limitation. Growing up in such close contact with nature taught me that it is the simple things in life that truly bring the most pleasure; an idea my dad always reinforced to us.
That sounds like a unique and exciting childhood. So, how did you get started in the beauty industry?
My journey into the beauty industry truly started when I learnt that a product I had been applying for hyperpigmentation contained a known carcinogen. Further research led me to uncover how unregulated the beauty industry is. The last major changes were close to 100 years ago; despite credible research proving the impact skincare can have on our health is enormous.
I went looking to replace the product I had been using with a natural alternative that didn’t compromise scientific-backed results, only to find it didn't exist. I was used to investing in high-performing, luxurious creams and serums that were scientifically validated, so I went looking in skin clinics and leading beauty stores; asking for natural products with evidence-based results. I was hoping to find the La Mer of natural skincare, but what I realised was that it simply didn't exist yet.
So, I decided to be the change I wanted to see in the beauty industry. I took on the challenge to redefine standards for the beauty industry. I wanted to prove it was possible to produce natural skincare with scientifically validated results and to set a new sustainable standard at every step of the way. Today, Emma Lewisham proudly rivals the most recognised luxury beauty brands in the world, while being a global leader in a circular beauty movement.
Your story is so inspiring! Particularly because, at CAROLINAGMX, we are all about the crossover between sustainability and luxury. When did you decide to start up Emma Lewisham and why? Was the timing important?
I decided to start developing Emma Lewisham in 2018 when I found that the 100% natural, scientific backed skincare that I wanted to use didn’t exist. I was (and still am) incredibly passionate about climate change and I saw how billions of units of products were going into landfills and oceans and consequently, carbon emissions through the beauty industry’s linear ‘take-make-dispose of’ model. I could see that there was a need for the Emma Lewisham brand, a brand that would come in and offer really impressive natural skincare products, whilst creating a circular beauty movement.
That's awesome! Could you talk a bit more about the circular beauty movement and how sustainability factors into Emma Lewisham?
Half of total greenhouse gas emissions and more than 90% of biodiversity loss and water stress come from resource extraction and processing. We believe we need to reuse what we have already brought into the world and that brands must take ownership of what they create. We believe it is no longer acceptable for the beauty industry to operate using such a disruptive model when we are facing a climate emergency.
From the beginning, we set out to redefine beauty: to prove that natural and high-performance products, as well as a sustainability strategy and luxury feel, can coexist. We are passionate about the circular beauty movement, disrupting the current ‘take-make-dispose of’ model which is so damaging for the planet, and paving a new sustainable way forward for other brands to follow.
Our sustainability efforts speak to this. We are walking the talk by taking ownership of our material at the end of its life through our recycling and refill programmes. In turn, we are determined to move the beauty industry to a circular model.
Furthermore, when selecting ingredients for our formulations, we don’t just select them for their wealth of skin benefits, but based on strict criteria that we use to review every ingredient we use in our products.
Exactly! Do you think people are more conscious of the ingredients in their beauty and skincare products nowadays?
Definitely! Consumers want to engage with brands that apply sustainable manufacturing practices and exercise ethical business standards. Consumers also value openness about where brands need to improve and what they are actively doing to reach their goals.
Many consumers, including myself, expect products that are sold to us to be safe and free from any ingredients that are potentially hazardous or harmful to our health.
I did some of my own research and what I learned about the regulations of the skincare industry has been a revelation to me. The primary responsibility of cosmetic regulation in New Zealand and Australia falls on importers and manufacturers. This is important for consumers to know, so they realise that they need to take ownership for the products they buy and use as there’s no governing body looking at what is in their moisturiser or foundation.
Wow! That is so interesting. How has this affected the way Emma Lewisham products are made?
Emma Lewisham products are naturally derived and free from anything harmful or suspicious, but what really sets us apart is our scientific validation and results.
Despite eliminating 1,400 ingredients, we haven’t compromised on results. In fact, we outperform or rival traditional luxury and cosmeceutical brands and benchmark our products against these to ensure we perform as well, if not better. We believe that independent objective measurements speak the loudest.
Achieving a product that is naturally derived, luxurious as well as highly efficacious, is the absolute pinnacle of skincare. Our green chemists have worked very hard so that we don’t compromise on anything in our formulation, which is a real selling point for Emma Lewisham.
That is so reassuring to hear! What were your biggest challenges in starting up Emma Lewisham?
Emma Lewisham is a challenging brand by its very nature. To give you natural, luxurious and scientifically validated skincare that is sustainably thought out, is regarded throughout the industry as the hardest standard to meet.
I can imagine! What strategies do you think have been key to the success of Emma Lewisham?
I think tenacity is probably the biggest learning. When you launch a business - and in the years prior to launch - you really need to go with your gut and stick to your vision. We challenged our suppliers on everything; from ingredient transparency to insisting we develop a 100% post-consumer recycled (PCR) plastic. The latter hadn’t been done before, but we knew that taking plastic already in circulation and diverting it from landfill would have a quantifiable positive impact on the environment. Challenging the status quo is never easy! You need to pick your partners carefully and find ones that truly share your vision and values.
Absolutely! And personally, what is your favourite thing about your job?
Problem-solving around our sustainability goals is truly my favourite part. In particular, the work we are doing to make Emma Lewisham the first 100% circular beauty business.
"Skin Reset was actually our very first product, and it was born out of my frustration at not being able to find a safe, natural solution for my hyperpigmentation."
And which is your favourite product that you’ve ever created?
It’s hard to say, but one of my favourite products is our award-winning Skin Reset Even Skin Tone serum. This is a treatment for repairing lacklustre skin, hyperpigmentation, and delivering the most radiant, glowing and even-toned complexion. This serum also plumps and tightens, reduces the look of fine lines and wrinkles and creates more resilience and elasticity. Its performance stems from five years of meticulous scientific research, to discover the most synergistic and powerful combination and concentration of 24 natural active ingredients from around the globe.
Skin Reset was actually our very first product, and it was born out of my frustration at not being able to find a safe, natural solution for my hyperpigmentation.
So, in a sense Skin Reset is a personal success story as well as a professional one! Could you describe your biggest “pinch-me” moment since starting Emma Lewisham?
Definitely the feedback we have received! Hearing how celebrities and key opinion leaders have seen dramatic improvements to hyperpigmentation and their overall complexions from continuous use of our products has been incredible.
And much-deserved! Could you describe what an average day looks like for you?
I often get up very early because I have a 21-month-old daughter called Milla. We spend some time together over breakfast. In terms of my job, no day is ever the same. Sometimes, I am out with the scientists at the laboratory discussing new formulations, sometimes I spend a significant amount of time in the sustainability and supply chain of our business. I also put aside some time every day to personally answer customer questions and feedback as I like to stay connected with our customers. Then, I make sure I spend some quality time with my daughter in the evening.
That’s lovely! Would you say that you have a work/life balance?
My first year of Emma Lewisham was incredibly intense and I found it very hard to have a work/life balance. That was tough because it is really important to me to spend time with my wonderful daughter and amazing husband. By growing our team with very talented people who support our growth and customer base, I feel as though I have been able to get some balance back. The balance makes me so much more productive, motivated and fresh thinking.
What words do you live by?
“Be kind, you never know what somebody might be going through” and “nothing is impossible, there is always a way.”
I love those! What’s next for Emma Lewisham beauty?
We’re going to continue innovating and challenging the status quo, particularly in the area of sustainability. We’re really excited about being a 100% circular brand, a goal we plan to achieve by March 2021.
We are also incredibly excited to be completely carbon-free across all our products in 2021. Product-wise, we have recently unveiled our highly-anticipated Illuminating Cleanser range, and we have some very exciting new products slated for 2021 as we continue to extend our 100% natural and sustainable line-up.