A few months back I introduced LIHA , a pioneering skincare brand that is all about natural beauty formulations made with rare ingredients. I caught up with the founders Abi and Liha to find out a bit more about the brand and their new product offering.
Please introduce yourself, and tell us a bit about your backgrounds, where you are based and what has inspired your interest in natural skin care?
ABI: Liha and I met at University in London nearly 18 years ago. After university I became a professional athlete, competing in 2 Olympic Games. Liha moved back to her hometown of Cheltenham and set up an art publishing business whilst raising her daughter.
Liha is a total beauty junky; she got into aromatherapy at a young age as her mum is an English aromatherapist. At university, we were always exchanging beauty and skincare recipes and as we got older and our knowledge grew it our hobby became somewhat of a passion.
Liha: In Yoruba culture, learning to make your own cosmetics at a young age is a traditional skill. We saw a gap in the natural beauty industry for African beauty staples like Shea butter, as so many people just didn’t know what it was. As we grow we can’t wait to introduce more rare and unusual ingredients for natural beauty to the market.
LIHA was founded on a holistic approach to skincare involving raiding the kitchen cupboard for natural ingredients. And alongside your products, you also offer Kitchen Beauty Workshops for participants looking to make their own. This highlights a growing consumer interest towards natural skin care products based on homemade recipes why do you think this is the case?
Consumers are definitely much savvier and educated about skincare ingredients than they have ever been in the past. Much like what’s gone on in the food sector, people are reading and scrutinizing ingredient lists and realizing there are insane toxins and chemicals that should never go on their skin. Hence consumers are going back to basics and wanting both transparency and clarity from skincare brands. An extension of this is learning more about making their own products and looking further into aromatherapy and traditional recipes. We are really happy to be able to help facilitate this, even if it’s just at a basic introductory level at first.
LIHA products are small batch produced what does this mean and why is this important?
Our products are handcrafted in small batches in our studio Cheltenham. It is important to us that our customers know that we are in charge of the making process and know exactly what ingredients go into the products – they aren’t just mass produced in some faceless factory. As scaling up is inevitable we won’t be able to make them ourselves forever, but they will continue to be handmade in small batches in England.
African skin care secrets form the basis of your formulations. Many of these skin care secrets are rooted in ancient wisdom and have benefits that world is just starting to recognize. What are some of the natural ingredients and their benefits that you are looking to introduce to the global natural beauty world?
LIHA is about blending traditional English aromatherapy and folk remedies with the rich botanical life of West Africa. We know there are vast pools of untapped beauty ingredients yet to be introduced to the Western world and we are really want to be the beauty brand that bridges that gap.
Raw Shea butter seems very obvious but there are still so many people who are not really sure how to use it. Known as Woman’s Gold in West Africa due to all the women it has helped into independence through cooperatives, and because they use the Vitamin A and E rich balm for absolutely everything from baby’s bums to stretch marks to eczema.
In our product range, we have also used so-called ‘political crops’, for example, our Ose Gidi black soap contains Moringa Powder, which can help to end malnutrition and Molasses, whose bi-product of Bagasse can be used as a biofuel. We hope that by including these as we grow, we can also have a small positive effect on the socioeconomics and environment in Africa.
Speaking of formulations you are launching a new facial range on Kickstarter. Can you tell us a bit about the range, what inspired it and why you have chosen to crowdfund it?
We are initially launching our facial cleansing mask called Oju Omi, which literally means face water in Yoruba on Kickstarter the 14th of November. This will be the staple of our facial range and we are aiming to introduce a facial toner and moisturizer, which will be coming out in 2018. We are inspired by Nigerian medicinal plants and English hedgerow medicine for the range, adding more detail to our usual mix of African and English.
Oju Omi is a super gentle everyday cleanser, but that could also go on as a mask when you feel a breakout emerging or dabbed on those annoying individual spots.
We decided to crowdfund our new cleanser as we felt it would be a great way to gain customer feedback and engagement as well as introduce the brand to an international market.
When you started LIHA you began by showcasing your products at local festivals, how important was this for creating brand awareness and getting stockists and what are the key lessons that you have learned from turning a hobby into a business?
We would say it is tremendously important, especially starting as a tiny new skincare company with some product ingredients that most people have never heard of, it was vital that we went to where our potential customers were. Hosting our kitchen beauty workshops at these events was a great way to introduce our Ivory and Gold Shea butter and then our overall product line.
It’s been a huge learning curve taking something from a hobby to a business. We would definitely recommend having a business plan and road map of markers you want to achieve. However, we would say not to be rooted in those plans, you have to be flexible and open to pivot as things will change – things won’t necessarily go as you’ve planned them but having guidance with a clear vision of where you want to go is key. It’s a journey – try and enjoy the ride and focus on the positives as much as possible!
To support the LIHA Kickstarter campaign visit the website where you can sign up for notifications and find out more about the new range.
– Tapiwa Matsinde
To find out more about LIHA, view the full product range or to book a Kitchen Beauty Workshop visit: www.lihabeauty.co.uk
[Image credits: The images shown are sourced from/belong to LIHA. If downloaded and used elsewhere please credit accordingly.]