What were your guiding principles in founding Emma Lewisham?
When I founded Emma Lewisham, it was with a single purpose: to make a meaningful difference in the beauty industry. For us, achieving a meaningful difference means setting a new standard in skincare: proving that luxurious, high performing skincare doesn’t have to come at a trade-off to women’s health or the planet.
Our guiding principles centre on: being uncompromisingly 100% clean, natural and non-toxic; delivering evidence-backed and proven results; and embedding sustainability through our supply chain.
From the outset, we’ve challenged skincare conventions. We are pioneers in 100% natural and efficacious skincare. Emma Lewisham products are truly 100% clean and natural, but what really sets us apart is our outstanding results. Despite eliminating 1,400 ingredients (some brands only eliminate up to six ingredients, whereas we eliminate all ingredients deemed questionable by the leading authority the EWG) we haven’t compromised results – and in fact, outperform or rival traditional luxury brands. To us, achieving a product that is 100% clean and highly efficacious is the absolute pinnacle in skincare and rarely have both been achieved at the same time.
We approach clean and natural skincare differently, instead of using 2-3 hero ingredients we used up to 24 high performing natural ingredients at the highest levels of concentrations. We use no fillers, so every inch of the product is working to ensure we are delivering more results than ever before. We invest in highly innovative, high-tech ingredients such as plant stem cells and neuropeptide technology that naturally stimulates collagen. Where most mega-brands look to pull back manufacturing costs, we focus on quality and efficacy first, and cost last.
“Clean beauty” takes into account not only the use of safe ingredients, but a fair and sustainable supply chain. It encompasses good manufacturing practices, the fair treatment of people and, the best possible packaging solutions for the environment. Once we’d cracked being able to offer our customers truly clean and effective products, we were faced with the issue of how flawed the beauty industry’s packaging problem is. Currently, the global cosmetic industry produces 120 billion units of packaging every year, and few are accepted by kerbside recycling programmes. Many of the design elements that enable beauty products to be so usable and marketable, such as push pumps and coloured plastics, make them difficult to recycle. Many products that line bathroom shelves are made from plastic, and just because it states on the packaging it’s recyclable, doesn’t mean it will be recycled.
While we were proud to be the first beauty brand in the world to produce a sunscreen tube made from 100% PCR (post-consumer recycled) plastic, this just isn’t enough. At Emma Lewisham, we subscribe to the belief that brands are no longer in the business of simply “selling products,” they are stewards of their products for their full lifecycles. This means accountability for the ingredients and materials within the supply chain right through to end-of-life management.
We take back for free our material from our customers and through a partnership with TerraCycle ensure they are recycled and kept in circularity!
What particular roadblocks were you finding in beauty products that made you want to create your own line?
Within a very short time frame, I lost my mother to cancer and became pregnant with my first child. It was a pivotal time in my life and put me on a path of thinking deeply about my lifestyle and the things I did every day. My doctor reinforced this by telling me that in one of the products I was using – for my uneven skin tone from hyperpigmentation – one of the ingredients in it included a known carcinogen.
I did some research, and once I learned what ingredients to avoid, I realised that even products that are labelled “natural” weren’t free of harmful ingredients and weren’t always completely natural. So I felt there was even in a natural skincare, a compromise. For instance, some brands may say they’re natural and clean, but they use a preservative called phenoxyethanol which is linked to skin allergies and health issues, in order to make a “paraben-free” claim.
I started to change the way I ate and replaced my personal care products with 100% natural and clean alternatives. I’d always used luxury skincare lines formulated to deliver real results, and when I went looking for a natural and clean versions that offered the same science, I couldn’t find it. I was used to buying very high performance, premium crèmes and serums. Suddenly I found myself at organic health shops trying to find a natural equivalent. Nothing was going to deliver the results I was used to – I stared at products with 100% argan oil and shea butter and thought, “this is not going to give me the results I need.”
So it was this lack of natural and clean options which truly delivered results and were also deficient in having the luxurious feel that traditional high-end products have, and also the complete lack of transparency in ingredients and labeling – these were the roadblocks I kept coming up against when I was buying beauty products.
It was all these factors that inspired me to set a new standard in skincare – products that were truly 100% clean that delivered truly visible results. I knew if I wanted these products, then other women would too. I’m determined that we will be a brand that takes ownership and accountability for our products and have transparency of ingredients and sustainability. I don’t want other women to feel the shock that I did, on discovering that the product which was giving me results for my hyperpigmentation, was actually toxic, in fact carcinogenic, and was used to clean sewers. And I was putting this on my face!
Why was it important for you to develop a sunscreen, and what research went into the process?
The products we have are products that stem from my own needs. Our Skin Reset serum for evening skin tone, for example, was borne out of my frustration at not being able to find and safe, clean and natural solution for my hyperpigmentation. Growing up in New Zealand, I spent a lot of time in the sun without understanding the impact it could have on my skin later in life, and the consequences of not wearing sunscreen. By my mid-twenties I had brown patches on my face (hyperpigmentation) and was trying everything I could to get rid of it. There were no natural, clean, safe solutions so I created one for myself.
The sunscreen development came organically out of this same skin issue of hyperpigmentation. I learned that UV rays in sunlight are the number one cause of skin aging and a trigger for hyperpigmentation. The best weapon in preventing these is wearing sunscreen. However, I didn’t want to use a sunscreen with chemical screens in it, because they are endocrine disruptors and by that I mean, chemicals that interfere with our hormones. But I couldn’t find any sunscreen I liked that was clean and natural. All-natural sunscreens with titanium dioxide and zinc oxide screens aren’t great to wear. They are heavy, whitening and sticky. I wanted something natural but still gave the luxurious feel you get from traditional luxury brands (incidentally, that smooth, light feeling in traditional brands you get from ingredients like silicones).
In terms of research, our green chemists spent months going through iteration after iteration until we found a light and luxurious sunscreen formulation that I believed women would want to wear everyday to protect their skin health. But we didn’t stop there – 95% clean, natural and non-toxic was not good enough for me – I wanted the real deal. We are uncompromising in our position of being 100% clean and spent 6 months alone cracking the natural preservative code as we would not settle for the synthetic one used in the industry. This means we truly have a 100% clean and natural sunscreen.
When did you first become aware of sun safety as a component of health and beauty?
Not until my late twenties, which I feel is way too late. I want to educate people and change this. I want to see girls taught very early on about the important of wearing sun protection daily. I’m very passionate about this issue, as New Zealand has one of the highest rates of melanoma in the world.
What’s next for your company?
Off the back of our Emma Lewisham Beauty Circle recycling launch, we are going to be expanding our refill programme as part of the truly circular, closed loop and zero waste lifecycle of our products.
We also have the launch of some highly anticipated products coming soon. It takes us longer than typical products to get to market due to the research, testing and scrutiny of the supply chain we go through, so the products we have coming out have been years in the making. One is a luxurious high-tech night crème enriched with next generation, stable vitamin A and 72-hour moisture technology. Another is a lovely rich night oil packed with powerhouse botanicals to rejuvenate the skin. These are products our customers have been asking us for and we’re excited to be able to share them soon.
For more about Emma, go here.