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Discover Snowberry: the Kiwi Skincare Brand Leading the way in Sustainability & Science

Discover Snowberry: the Kiwi Skincare Brand Leading the way in Sustainability & Science

We take a look behind the scenes of Snowberry, the New Zealand skincare company leading the way in sustainability, science and biodiscovery.

Discover Snowberry: the Kiwi Skincare Brand Leading the way in Sustainability & Science

Few skincare brands can claim to have it all. These days there’s a tug of war between natural and synthetic skincare, with consumers becoming confused as to which will treat their skin concerns. But Snowberry offers the best of both worlds, while also being kind to the environment. If it sounds too good to be true, a trip to Snowberry Gardens would assure you it’s possible to create perfectly balanced skincare.

I had the pleasure of visiting the 22-hectare site in Wellsford, Auckland’s northern-most town, where many of the brand’s botanical ingredients are grown. A tour of the picturesque, sun-drenched gardens on a stunning summer’s day gave me insight into how the company creates effective skincare without compromise, as we encountered the native flora that forms the backbone of Snowberry’s products.

While discovering the gardens offered an understanding of the brand’s values, so did meeting the husband-and-wife duo behind Snowberry: founder Soraya Hendesi and co-founder and operating manager Mark Henderson. Hendesi and Henderson are incredibly warm and welcoming people. Their kindness is reflected in their skincare brand: caring for their customers’ skin by creating products with ‘no nasties’, and caring for the planet, is of utmost importance to them. When it comes to the environment, they walk the walk: Snowberry is carboNZero™ certified for every single product. “Other brands may be carbon-zero for the whole organisation but being carbon-zero for every single product sitting on any shelf in the world is a huge undertaking,” says Hendesi.

Snowberry has been carboNZero™ certified on every product since 2008, a time when concern over climate change was in its infancy. “In those days it wasn’t depicted as an emergency, but we were thinking in the back of our minds that it will be an emergency if people don’t act,” says Henderson. Snowberry won an award for Excellence at the Enviro-Mark Solutions Awards last year for reducing the carbon footprint of its products by 79 per cent from its base year (2012/2013); Henderson proudly says they’ve recently learnt Snowberry has reduced its emissions even further, by 84 per cent. It’s impressive that while they have worked hard to reduce emissions, they’ve also managed to develop products to the highest standards.

The Snowberry Gardens where Snowberry sources many of its ingredients

Snowberry prides itself on being made by nature, boosted by science. As a child growing up in Persia, Hendesi loved nothing better than to scour her fragrant garden for ingredients to concoct a beauty potion to give to her mother and grandmother. “This is where I appreciated the gifts that nature had to offer,” she says. “As I grew older and wiser I realised my ideal skincare did not exist.” She found products with 100 per cent natural ingredients weren’t effective enough, and synthetic skincare relied too heavily on nasty chemicals. “So after many, many years of research and trial and error, we achieved the perfect balance of nature and science.”

Land of discovery

Achieving this balance was made possible with the purchase and cultivation of the land that became Snowberry Gardens, a biodiscovery site where plant properties can be analysed for their potential as skincare ingredients. Hendesi and Henderson bought the land in 2006, intending to make the most of native flora for their skincare. “We were essentially looking for a property where we could apply a biodiscovery effort,” says Henderson. “We wanted a brand that was able to be vertically integrated. We wanted to be able to cultivate our own plants, to create our own ingredients to put into our own skincare and be in control of all of that, because that’s the only way you can create authenticity.”

They chose what to plant based on research in conjunction with universities, as well as being informed by traditional Māori healing. “We were able to identify a number of potential bioactive compounds out of New Zealand native flora, and that led to the planting up to date of about 9,000 plants,” says Henderson. They’ve had a number of eureka moments when experimenting with native flora. “We put puka in [the Gardens] primarily for the gum,” says Henderson. “While we were looking at that we realised puka produced a really amazing berry and they go black, and when berries go black that determines a potential in antioxidants.”

Kanuka honey is another frequently used ingredient in Snowberry products, found in the likes of the New Radiance Face Serum and the Gentle Cleanse and Tone Soft Foaming Cleanser. The honey is produced by worker bees at the Gardens, and is used for its arabinogalactans – proteins that have powerful anti-inflammatory properties. Henderson explains that it’s difficult to put honey into skincare due to its stickiness. “What we’ve done is create our own proprietary method of extracting the key components of honey and removing the sticky saccharides that are in it without denaturing the proteins that are beneficial.” It’s a process that requires specialised equipment and expertise, made possible by Snowberry’s in-house capability as well as collaboration with research institutes.

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Bees are part of the process at beautiful the Snowberry Gardens

Snowberry uses harakeke, also known as New Zealand flax, to create harakeke seed oil, an ingredient in various products including the Youth Renewing Face Serum and the Renew Body Oil. “It’s a truly special oil, it’s our liquid gold here,” says Henderson. The oil has numerous anti-ageing ingredients including vitamin E, phytosterols, antioxidants, and omega fatty acids. Another crucial ingredient in Snowberry formulations comes from the heartwood of totara: totarol, which makes the wood resistant to decay thanks to its antimicrobial and potent antioxidant properties. “We use totarol in the likes of our Youth Renewing Face Serum and any of the creams that require preservation, not only to provide the antioxidant functionality in the product but also to naturally preserve it,” says Henderson.

Nature produces the ingredients; the rest is up to the Snowberry research and development facility, located in the Gardens. It’s where you’ll find Snowberry chief scientist Dr Travis Badenhorst. He began working at Snowberry after a chance meeting with Hendesi and Henderson at the University of Auckland. “They were looking for a solution and I was sitting around where they were talking and I was like, ‘Hi, what are you guys talking about? I overheard you talking about skincare,’” he says. “They said, ‘We need a delivery system, we need a way to get peptides into the skin’, and so that’s how we started talking.”

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Left to right: Snowberry Youth Renewing Face Serum with eProlex ($110); Instant Deep Cleansing Oil ($50); Soothing Eye Serum ($69).

Dr Badenhorst worked with the University of Auckland and Callaghan Innovation to develop this delivery system, which allows anti-ageing peptides to penetrate the deeper layers of the skin. Snowberry’s world-first delivery systems called CuPEP™ and eProlex™ carry the skin-remodelling copper peptides into the dermis, where they are able to boost collagen production, plump and smooth the skin. The effectiveness of Snowberry’s serums using the delivery systems have been proven by independent gold-standard clinical trial, with the New Radiance Face Serum found to reduce wrinkles by 25.6 per cent. The results were then published in the Journal of Aging Science, and Snowberry was the only brand invited to present at the 23rd World Congress of Dermatology.

Experiencing Snowberry Gardens leaves you with a feeling of admiration for the dream team of Hendesi, Henderson and Badenhorst. Snowberry was founded by genuine people working towards honourable goals: which is why the brand’s authenticity comes so naturally.

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