Emma Lewisham is the founder of her namesake luxury beauty brand. A women of sustainable vision, Emma recently collaborated with TerraCycle® to launch New Zealand's first sustainable beauty initiative for all brands of facial skincare products.
We spoke to Emma about her journey into clean beauty, how she stays organised running a fast growing business, the one Emma Lewisham product everyone should have in their beauty regime and how the Emma Lewisham Beauty Circle initiative is changing the face of the beauty industry as we know it.
What inspired you to start the Emma Lewisham brand?
Within a very short timeframe, 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 a compromise even in natural skincare. And 95% natural and clean wasn’t good enough for me.
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 version 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.
It was this that inspired me to start the Emma Lewisham brand and set a new standard in skincare – products that were truly 100% clean that delivered truly visible results. I knew if I wanted products that were truly 100% clean, that still delivered the highest levels of performance, then other women would too.
What was your background before this?
My first entry level job was working for the New Zealand Business Roundtable, a private think tank for economic policy in New Zealand. I loved this job and worked with incredibly inspiring women managers who I learnt and soaked up so much from. It was a fascinating look into politics and the importance of hard work and relationships.
From there I went to a multinational technology company. I started in an entry marketing/product manager role, and worked my way up to being a senior executive, sitting on the board and holding global roles. I was one of the very few female senior executives globally. I was very proud of what I achieved as it was a lot of hard work and tenacity often coming up against the prejudice of being a woman. I had to work twice as hard as my male counterparts and take on more responsibility to get to the same position, but I don’t begrudge that, I’m grateful for it, it shaped me and gave me the skills to launch my own business.
What are the must have steps in your everyday skincare routine?
I absolutely, always wear sunscreen everyday. It’s my number one skincare tip. I was surprised to learn that 80% of skin ageing is caused by UV rays, so it’s really important to wear sunscreen to prevent the development of fine lines and wrinkles, textural imperfections and the degrading of collagen.
If you could recommend one product everyone must try from the Emma Lewisham range what would it be & why?
I’d recommend our internationally award-winning Skin Reset concentrated even skin tone serum. * Beck our An Organised Life Founder is obsessed with this product too *
It is an industry first 100% clean, natural and non-toxic serum which is clinically proven to prevent and reverse the signs of hyperpigmentation, dullness, age spots, and generally uneven skin tone, to restore a bright and even toned look. Skin Reset uses a triple-action approach: it helps to inhibit the passage of melanin to the surface; it boosts the skin’s natural ability to minimise discoloration, and it visibly fades the look of existing dark spots. But it doesn’t stop there. This serum also plumps and tightens, reduces the look of fine lines and wrinkles and creates more resilience and elasticity.
I’m particularly proud of Skin Reset because it was the first product we developed, and it really proved that my vision of delivering clean, natural skincare that didn’t compromise high performance and a luxury feel, was possible. It is the result of 5 years of research. It has been clinically tested and proven to outperform traditional luxury brands with synthetic ingredients, and it was the only product which not only inhibited hyperpigmentation, but didn’t harm the growth and health of ‘good cells’.
What does self care mean to you?
Self care for me is a daily routine of meditation 20 minutes twice a day, plant-based food and 30 minutes of exercise – it’s the things that we do every day that are important. It means strict boundaries around work and phone time, so I can be in the present moment and connect with myself and the people around you. I try not to look at my phone before 8:30pm and after 6pm and switch off work on the weekends! It’s hard of course, but that’s why setting those clear boundaries are so important.
The best career advice you have received? Or the advice you would give your younger self?
I love the expression: always go the extra mile, it’s never crowded. I believe that when you go the extra mile that’s where you find magic in your work. We have already achieved many things that have never been achieved in the skincare space before, and this is because we are prepared to never give up and always go the extra mile.
What are your must have desk essentials?
I am never without my notebook which has notes from all my meetings, my ever-important To Do List and general thoughts I’ve jotted down as they occur. I like a lamp with good lighting for working late at night or early in the morning. Background music is a must, which helps me to focus while I’m working.
The top 3 ways you organise your life?
I use a physical daily planner to keep track of all my meetings – I do love old fashioned pen and paper! But I also use Todoist, which is a great app that helps you keep track of jobs and deadlines within our team.
Lastly, I’m big on taking the time to think something through before just doing it, busy doesn’t always mean productive! Ask yourself “what is the outcome of what I am doing?” If you don’t know, it’s a sure sign you should move on.
Tell us about the Emma Lewisham Beauty Circle?
We’ve partnered with TerraCycle® to launch New Zealand's first sustainable beauty initiative for all brands of facial skincare products, called the Emma Lewisham Beauty Circle. It’s a free, incentive-based recycling programme to ensure beauty products are kept in circularity – it is intended to move us away from a linear model, to a circular beauty model. We have set an ambitious goal to be a zero-waste, 100% circular brand. Sustainability as the ultimate luxury.
The Emma Lewisham Beauty Circle offers returns, rewards and recycling for not only our own facial products’ packaging, but for all brands. People simply hold onto a minimum of four products at a time, return these for recycling via Terracycle, and they’ll receive a $15.00 Emma Lewisham voucher for their efforts. And the recycled packaging will be turned into items of use, such as picnic tables for the community.
This initiative is also about creating more awareness and creating a movement of brands taking ownership for their products end of life. That’s why we don’t just take Emma Lewisham products back for recycling. We recognise this issue is bigger than us, it’s a limitation within our industry that we all need to work on taking collective ownership for.
Why is sustainability so important to you?
Once we’d cracked being able to offer our customers truly clean and effective products, we then uncovered 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 useable 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. 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 don’t think many consumers, myself included, realise this! Many of us dutifully put our plastic pumps and frosted glass in the recycling, not realising that it ends up in landfill. It was a total surprise to me and really woke me up to the magnitude of the problem and how much environmental damage we’re responsible for as an industry.
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. I believe the future of beauty is a circular, never-ending closed loop system. I want Emma Lewisham to be a force for change to set a new benchmark in the beauty industry here. We will always take ownership for what we bring into this world. We have a vision of no beauty brands’ packaging ending up in landfill and the industry moving away from disposability.
What are you most looking forward to in the next 12 months for Emma Lewisham?
We have some new products that we’re launching and I’m really looking forward to hearing how people find them! 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.