Meet Emma Lewisham: The Founder of the Skincare Brand Everyone is Talking About

Considering what Emma Lewisham has already achieved with her eponymous skincare line, it’s hard to believe the brand only came into existence about six months ago. Although Lewisham initially studied chemistry at university, she ended up veering towards the economics and international business that she was taking as part of her degree. But after eight years in a successful corporate career heading up strategy for a Japanese tech company’s marketing team, Lewisham came to a fork in the road. “I just realised it wasn’t something I was super passionate about,” she admits.

Loss and grief often prime us to pause and ruminate on life’s meaning and after losing her mum to cancer, Lewisham began to reflect on her own life and health. It was also around the same time that the beauty entrepreneur started thinking about raising a family of her own. A conversation with her doctor to discuss the pathway to motherhood took an interesting turn when he brought up her skincare routine. “He urged me to stop using a particular product for pigmentation as it was toxic and carcinogenic and actually banned in many countries,” Lewisham recalls.

But rather than just binning her go-to pigmentation skincare, Lewisham took things a step further. “Soon I was researching ingredients in all of my skincare products and it was really like an atomic bomb of ingredients.” Anyone who has ever tried cleaning their skincare routine of potentially toxic ingredients will know it’s no easy task, as Lewisham quickly discovered. Lewisham says she was shocked to discover just how lax and unregulated the beauty industry really is in New Zealand.

“I think we assume that things on the shelf that we are being sold are just going to be safe,” she says. “But there’s been a lot of research done and there’s proof that certain ingredients do impact on our health.” Lewisham says that while toxic ingredients are often only used in small amounts by many beauty brands, it’s impossible to deny that we are using more products on our skin than ever before. “I think the average is 13 products before we leave home,” Lewisham says.

She says that the one thing that she quickly learnt, after a lot of research and spending time with skincare scientists, is that small trace amounts of toxic ingredients can build up over time and cause issues. “Even tiny amounts can impact on our health,” she says. But things didn’t get a whole lot easier for Lewisham once she had worked out which ingredients she needed to avoid. “I went to replace my skincare products, particularly those I was using for uneven skin tone, with highly efficacious, evidence- and natural-based clean alternatives only to find they didn’t exist,” she says.

Lewisham recalls standing in a health shop staring at products formulated with the likes of argan oil and shea butter and realising nothing was going to deliver the results she had become so accustomed to. “There seemed to be this compromise,” she says. “Either you compromise your health, or you compromise results. And I thought, why do we have to compromise? Why can’t we have high-performing natural skincare that’s 100 per cent clean?”

It was at that moment that Lewisham decided on the change she wanted to see in the beauty industry: “I took on the challenge to build a brand that was as effective, if not more effective than high-end skincare brands.” The first step in developing her brand was research, and lots of it. Fortunately, there was no shortage of innovative laboratories pioneering game-changing natural skincare ingredients. “One, in particular, we sourced from a farm in Switzerland. They spent five years researching alpine plants that they believed would stop the production of melanin,” she says.

After researching 100 plants, they managed to whittle them down to seven that would shut down the melanin-producing pathway in the skin that leads to pigmentation and uneven skin tone. “They combined the seven of these plants into one extract, and that’s one of the ingredients we utilise in our Skin Reset serum,” Lewisham says. But that’s just one of the innovative approaches that Lewisham takes to skincare. Since the skincare line’s inception, she says it has been important to ensure that the concentrations of ingredients used are actually high enough to deliver noticeable results. “We took the approach of more high-quality ingredients in high-quality concentrations to deliver better results,” she explains. “We flipped the industry standard on its head.” Whereas a traditional skincare brand might harness two to three active ingredients in its formulations, Lewisham opts for 30. “Our concentrations are up to four times higher and all 100 per cent natural ingredients.”

For Lewisham, a problem solver by nature, clean ingredients were just one part of the puzzle: she was determined to prove that luxury and sustainability can coexist. “The planet shouldn’t be compromised for beauty because to me, that’s not beauty,” she says. Although the traditional beauty model is very linear – you buy a product, use it and then it ends up in the bin – Lewisham was convinced things didn’t have to be this way.

“The reality of beauty products is, despite our best efforts to recycle them, often they don’t go anywhere but the landfill. When I found out that would be the journey of our products, I couldn’t turn a blind eye to it.” To reduce the impact that her brand has on the planet, Lewisham launched a reuse and refill model for her glass bottles. “Our goal is to be a circular model and we have this belief that refill is the future of beauty. The current model is broken.”

Any beauty fanatic will know and cherish the sheer joy that can come from purchasing a new product, which is why Lewisham decided that simply sending out a refill sachet wouldn’t work for her customers. “They were missing out on that feeling of getting a bottle,” she says. Instead, Lewisham uses a model that she says is similar to the glass milk bottle system of the ’80s. Consumers send back their empty bottles, which are then sterilised and refilled at the lab. “They still get that bottle and still experience having something new, that feeling beauty gives.”

But it wasn’t time for Lewisham to rest on her laurels. The second step towards her circular beauty model involves a recent partnership with recycling giant TerraCycle. She says after realising that plastic tubes are very hard to refill and that some people simply don’t want a refill, she had to come up with another solution to ensure her product didn’t just end up in a landfill. “I called TerraCycle and asked if we could create a partnership,” she says. Soon the Emma Lewisham Beauty Circle was born.

To participate, beauty lovers create an account on the TerraCycle website. Once activated, they can download a free shipping label to post beauty products directly to TerraCycle for recycling. Users need to send a minimum of four products at a time, and regardless of brands sent in, everyone who participates will receive at $15 Emma Lewisham voucher in return. “I quickly jumped to wanting to do it for all brands, because I felt really passionate about it and raising awareness and creating a bigger shift in the industry,” says Lewisham. “What will happen is that it will be reused for more Emma Lewisham products or used for things like playgrounds or park benches.”

As well as the new game-changing recycling initiative, Lewisham launched two new products in late July. “It’s a night range with a night cream and night oil. One is a natural form of retinol that doesn’t have any of the toxicity or drawbacks of traditional retinol,” she explains. Lewisham says many of her customers are in the same position she was when the idea for Emma Lewisham skincare first popped into her head – they’re pregnant or trying to get pregnant and they’re very conscious about what they put on their skin.

Although she has just launched two new products – the Supernatural Night Créme and Face Oil, – Lewisham says there’s no cookie-cutter approach. Instead, it’s all about intensive research, testing and, of course, listening to the consumer. Although some would say it’s audacious to leave the world of international business to put your own name on a skincare brand, Lewisham says she’s done that for her customers. “I’m at the heart of the brand and it really comes back to having a personal connection with the customers. They’re talking to a person, not just a brand. We design our products for who our customer is and what they need. We ask them what they want us to develop. You don’t have to compromise health for beauty, that’s our goal.”

Click here to find out more and shop the Emma Lewisham range. 

Twiggy Was ‘Too Shy’ to Say She Didn’t Want Her Iconic Pixie Cut

Twiggy says she was “too shy” to protest when her hair was cut into a pixie crop.

The British model admits she wasn’t initially sure about the iconic androgynous hairstyle, which led her to become one of the world’s first supermodels. Twiggy, then aged 17, had long brown hair before stepping into the London salon where stylist Leonard Lewis decided to try out a different style.

“I went in to have it shampooed and set and Leonard saw me and he said, ‘Let me do my new haircut on you,'” Twiggy revealed while appearing on Jessie Ware’s Table Manners podcast.

“I’d been growing my hair. For a moment I kind of went, ‘I don’t know whether I want my hair cut.’ But I was in this very posh salon in Mayfair so I was a bit too shy to say I don’t want it done, and I kind of nodded.

“I went back the next day and I was in there for seven hours, where he cut it and then I went out and had it coloured and then re-cut. Oh, it was mad.”

Twiggy’s slight frame, short blonde hair and huge blue eyes catapulted her to worldwide fame. The hair transformation saw her career take off after hairdresser Lewis asked British fashion photographer Barry Lategan to take pictures of her striking new blonde crop. The black-and-white snaps launched her modelling career and she became an icon of the 60s.

“When that haircut started, when that photograph was taken, that was the pivotal moment,” she recalled.

Twiggy, real name Lesley Hornby, travelled all over the world to model and had a host of famous friends. The 70-year-old has recalled attending one star-studded party thrown by Sonny and Cher where she turned down a Hollywood heartthrob.

“One of the biggest film stars was Steve McQueen – he was gorgeous,” she smiled. “I was 17 and I was with my boyfriend and Steve McQueen turned up on his motorbike. We got introduced and he asked me to dance – and I said no.”


Credit: Brian Aris/Smart Energy GB/Cover Images