BD chats to Emma Lewisham

It's the New Zealand skincare brand taking the industry by storm. With super fans such as Gemma Watts and Beck Wadworth, Emma Lewisham is not only quickly gaining traction, but also setting an example for sustainability standards, with an exciting first in NZ.

BD spoke with Lewisham about the gap she wanted to fill in the market, how the comapny aims to redefine beauty, meticulously engineered formulations and how her brand plans on creating meaningful change in the industry.

For those that don't know about the brand, can you take us through your ethos and why you decided to create Emma Lewisham skincare?

The seeds of Emma Lewisham were actually sown when I uncovered an ugly truth, a product I had been applying for a personal skin issue (hyperpigmentation) contained a known carcinogen. One of the ingredients was actually used to clean sewer pipes, which was a shock to learn. The product worked, but at what cost. Further research into this product led me to uncover how unregulated the beauty industry is and that the last major changes were close to 100 years ago, despite credible research proving the impacts skincare can have on our health. 

I went looking to replace my skincare with truly natural and safe alternatives, with efficacious and evidence-backed results – only to find this didn't exist. I was used to investing in high-performance, premium cremes and serums. Suddenly I found myself at organic health shops trying to find a natural equivalent, and I had the realisation that these products were not going to deliver the results I was used to.

It became clear to me that natural, non-harmful ingredients came at a compromise to efficacy and evidenced-based results. This was a compromise we were forced to make.  In addition to this, trying to find clean and efficacious skincare was hard in itself, but also finding brands that were truly focused on moving towards a circular model was also challenging.

I decided to be the change I wanted to see in the beauty industry. I wanted to prove it was possible to produce 100% clean, naturally-derived and safe products that would be as effective, if not more so, than high-end cosmeceuticals. I wanted to prove to women they didn't have to compromise their health or the health of the planet, for beauty. 

Can you take us through the product range and highlight any noteworthy ingredients/formulations?

Our products are meticulously engineered with the most advanced green-tech on the market and each bottle contains years of research to deliver the most powerful performance. They are all 100% clean and naturally derived.

Our currently product line-up includes our award-winning Skin Reset even skin tone serum, which is proven to general repair and prevent hyperpigmentation, such as sun damage, uneven skin tone and dark spots, hormonal pigmentation, spots and acne scarring. 

We also have two SPF products- Skin Shield Daily Face SPF 30 moisturiser and Skin Shield Body/Face UVA/UVB SPF 30 sunscreen. These overcome the typical flaws of truly 100% natural mineral sunscreens, which are often heavy, greasy and sit on the skin like paint.  They meet international testing standards and are light and sheer on the skin. 

Supernatural night range includes Supernatural Anti-Ageing Peptide 72-Hour Crème, which is scientifically proven to outperform traditional luxury brands such as La Mer in boosting fibroblast production, which promotes the production of collagen and elastin. It contains a next generation powerhouse Hyaluronic Acid (called Pentavitin), which delivers a proven moisture reservoir effect that replenishes and restores moisture for 72 hours, so skin is well hydrated and plump. 

Our Supernatural Triple Vitamin A+ Face Oil has award-winning self-regenerative plant stem cell technology, from Swertia chirata extract, that thickens the epidermis, and promotes collagen creation which is something our skin starts to lose in its thirties. It also contains three sources of Vitamin A with next generation stability, including Bakuchiol. Bakuchiol has been scientifically proven to be as powerful as synthetic forms of retinol, but remarkably doesn't come with the compromise and known side-effects of retinol (such as redness, dryness and irritation).

The brand is receiving a lot of love, specifically gaining fast traction on IG and with media journalists and consumers alike. What do you think it is that's resonating so well with customers?

I think our purpose of uncompromising beauty and 100% clean, natural product that rival any of the traditional premium brands (backed up by scientific testing) has resonated with the market. Many of our customers said they wanted all natural products but didn’t want to compromise results for it, which is what we set out to create from the start.

We also are very transparent and open in the way we operate as a company and are challenging the status quo in the sustainability space in the beauty industry.

Has the success surprised you in any way?

The feedback on our products from customers has been so gratifying (after 3 years of hard work to launch our brand) and the growth of our business within our first year has been phenomenal – it has come as a surprise. We are doing sales we expected to do in year 3!

Congratulations on launching New Zealand's first facial beauty sustainability initiative. Can you take us through the Beauty Circle Refill Program – how does it work and who can take part?

Currently, the global cosmetics 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 useable and marketable, such as push pumps and coloured plastics, make them difficult to recycle. Subsequently, only 9% of plastics produced are recycled and 12% are burned into our atmosphere. All remaining plastic waste ends up in landfill or scattered through the environment.

Most of the products that line bathroom shelves are made from plastic, and just because the packaging states it’s recyclable, doesn’t mean it will be recycled. Complex, branded packaging is harder to collect, separate and as a result, recycle. It’s more economically viable to simply send branded packaging to landfill, than to put forward the resources to recover it.

I was extremely surprised when I learnt this – like everyone else, I’d been dutifully rinsing out my skincare vessels and placing them in my recycling, little realising that much of it probably ended up in landfill. I thought this wasn’t good enough and that brands must do better to take ownership of what happens to our products at their end-of-life, and offer consumers options around this. 

All Emma Lewisham products are designed to be either recyclable, refillable, or compostable our product packaging is made of fully biodegradable 100% recycled paper boxes, so no harmful substances leech into the soil and they are diverted from landfill).

The Emma Lewisham Beauty Circle is our response to this issue of beauty waste. It’s about rethinking the entire process of a beauty product’s lifespan. It moves us away from a linear model, to a circular beauty model.

The Emma Lewisham Beauty Circle is a free, incentive-based recycling programme to ensure all New Zealand and Australian facial beauty products are given a second life. You simply send 4 products at a time for recycling. 

In New Zealand, all beauty brands’ facial products will be accepted and you receive a $15.00 Emma Lewisham voucher in return for your efforts. We need to work together to minimise waste and the issue is bigger than us, and this is why we accept other brands’ packaging waste for recycling. In Australia, we currently accept 4 Emma Lewisham vessels for recycling at a time, and we are working on expanding this to include all brands’ facial skincare packaging.

We’ve set up the Beauty Circle in this way so it’s no-cost to the consumer (we pay for the programme as this is part of us taking ownership for our products throughout their entire lifecycle and end-of-life). It also recognises waste as a precious resource that has a value and is worth recycling and reusing, instead of going to landfill.

Why was this an important element to add within the brand?

From the beginning we set out to redefine beauty, to lead beauty into a new age: one that prioritises product efficacy without compromising people or the planet for it. At the heart of our brand, we believe in no compromises, being transparent, and taking ownership for what we produce.

Our sustainability efforts speak to this. We are walking the talk by taking ownership for our material at the end of its life through our recycling and refill programmes. When selecting ingredients for our formulations, we don’t just select them for their wealth of skin benefits, but based on a strict criteria that we use to review every ingredient that is in our products, including animal welfare, environmental management, responsible water use, working conditions and waste management. 

If we can’t get certainty on these points, we will not use the ingredient in our product, even if it is the most luxurious and high performing ingredient.

How do you think the beauty industry as a whole needs to adapt and change in regards to sustainability?

A major area is in finding more sustainable options for packaging waste, in terms of compostability, recyclability, and refillability. As I’ve mentioned, this is what motivated us to launch the Emma Lewisham Beauty Circle. I believe that the solution to the sustainability crisis in the beauty industry is a collective effort. All brands need to move away from a take-make-dispose linear model of beauty towards a zero-waste, closed-loop model.

I am on a mission to bring about meaningful change in the beauty industry and moving our packaging to 100% refillable packaging options is just one of the actions we are taking to do so. You can read about our sustainability framework on our website.

What's coming up next for the brand?

We have a couple of new products launching next month. These are products that many of our customers have been asking for, and we can’t wait to reveal them very soon.

Click here to learn more about Emma Lewisham.