The world of clean beauty is, ironically, rather murky.
That’s because the term has never been legally defined. Buzzwords like “natural”, “green”, “honest” and “non-toxic” are mostly unregulated, which means brands can use them at their own discretion. But if there’s one thing that everyone can agree on, it’s that clean beauty is on the rise, and the market is well on its way to reach US$22 billion by 2024.
Riding the tide is Liht Organics, a two-year-old Singaporean beauty label that has attracted the Royal Family of Bahrain, resulting in a partnership that entails marketing, investment and branding. As such, Liht Organics has landed in the UAE’s beauty aisles, making it the first organic makeup brand to launch in the region. Short for “Living In Her Time”, the award-winning brand is the brainchild of Nerissa Low, who started her own line of organic makeup after seeing how natural skincare cleared her skin.
Calling Liht Organics as simply “makeup” downplays its efficacies. Its range of high-performing products for the face, lips, cheeks and eyes are formulated with 100% natural ingredients, of which up to 90% are certified organic (read: no nano-particles or harmful chemicals). They are also vegan and cruelty-free. This means that they are not only safe for your skin and the environment, but also beneficial with regular use. “My vision for Liht is […] to inspire women to make conscious choices in health and beauty – and thus contribute to the movement of making the world a better place, one woman at a time”, says Low.
Arguably its most praised product is the Youth Elixir Liquid Foundation, which comes in 10 shades, smells like freshly baked cupcakes, lasts all day and is infused with aloe barbadensis and rosemary extract to restore and rejuvenate skin. To take your base makeup up a notch, Liht recently released its Flawless Face Concealer, which contains vitamin E, cocoa seed butter, organic coconut, castor seed and jojoba seed oil to treat blemishes while nourishing the skin, as well as the Prime Time Color Corrector to perk up tired eyes.
Ahead, Low shares her startup journey, how the brand captured the heart of the Royal Family of Bahrain, and her hopes for Liht.
How did the brand get started?
It all started with me looking for a safe and permanent solution to my own skin problems in my twenties. Having been plagued with a severe acne outbreak, I had to take daily oral medication and monthly steroid injections into my pimples to curb the problem, both of which had severe side effects on organ health. After a few years of this endless cycle, I realised that the treatments merely repressed the condition instead of curing it, and so I decided to research a permanent solution for myself. That was when I learned that the harmful chemicals found in our daily skincare products had been causing hormonal disruptions, sensitive skin and clogged pores which contributed to my outbreak.
So I cleaned up my skincare routine by replacing it with organic alternatives, which helped to clear up my skin. However, while there were a lot of organic skincare options available in the market, I had difficulty finding authentic organic makeup that was high performing and fit my strict criteria of what I considered clean beauty. That was when I decided to create my own line so that women never had to compromise on safety for beauty, and that’s how Liht was born.
Liht Organics was launched in 2019 with 25 SKUs across a comprehensive range of products like Liquid Foundation, Liquid Lipstick and Eyeliner. We have currently expanded to 42, and have another 42 in the pipeline!
Tell us more about the overall concept of Liht Organics and how it avoids greenwashing.
We pride ourselves in providing transparency when it comes to our formulations. Every ingredient that is used in our makeup is declared on the box (instead of naming just the key ingredients), so our consumers can make informed decisions.
This is coupled with our mission to ensure that our customers get authentic and true value with what they are paying for. Our products are chock full of nutrient-rich organic ingredients! We are made with up to 90% USDA-certified organic ingredients as opposed to just a small amount of organic content.
We also take it a step further by ensuring that every single ingredient has been carefully researched and we fully understand its purpose in the formulation. We also insist on having our products free of synthetic chemicals and fragrances, and made with zero nanoparticles so nothing gets into your bloodstream. And because we love animals as much as we care for our customers, we also make sure that we are cruelty-free, vegan and even gluten-free!
Your website states that Liht products are “safe for the planet”. Can you share with us your environmentally-conscious practices?
The term “organic” shows that our ingredients are farmed and harvested with no human intervention (i.e. pesticides, chemical fertilisers, over farming of the land). Therefore, we let the earth produce what she can at her own pace, and work our formulas around that; looking after the conditions of the environment in that way.
Our pressed products — concealers, colour correctors, blush and our upcoming pressed foundations and eyeshadow palettes — are packaged with a refillable concept to reduce wastage. Customers can now reuse their containers and be able to choose only the colours they will use as opposed to buying a whole palette and wasting most of it. We have also launched a recycling program in the Middle East where customers can return their used bottles for recycling.
We also make it a point to engage in charity to a planet-related cause every year, donating proceeds from our sales to foundations such as the Marine Conservation Institute and Rain Forest Trust.
What were some of the major setbacks you faced?
As a startup in an extremely competitive industry, it certainly hasn’t been an easy journey. It was especially tough when we were hit by the Covid-19 pandemic right after we launched 27 stores in the Middle East, with offline retail having to shut down for months.
However, whenever I look back, I don’t consider the difficult moments or rejections we have gone through as setbacks. Sure, they are obstacles, but they were there for a reason and I see how everything we do is a step forward towards our greater goal, even if it seemed like a barrier at that time.
If you go back in time, is there anything you’ll redo in your business?
I have asked myself this question many times, but the answer was always no. As a brand we have always been solutions-driven and we keep looking forward. I have trust in my team’s ability to adapt to any given situation, and the fact that we survived the pandemic last year, even though we are in a highly competitive and capital-intensive industry, is testament to the potential of the company.
It has been a seriously crazy journey and as much as I have had some bad experiences, I always realise later that they were there for a reason, and without them we wouldn’t have gotten to this point today.
Can you tell us about your partnership with the Royal Family of Bahrain? How did it come about?
Her Excellency Sheikha Emanuela Al Khalifa was introduced by a mutual contact and we hit it off on our first official call. The Private Office of Sheikh Abdulaziz Bin Duaij Bin Khalifa Al Khalifa shares the same values and mission to support companies that are dedicated towards the good of the planet, and Her Excellency really loved our products and our ethos. Within three weeks of our first official engagement, the contract was sent.
Since then we have been working with their consulting firm to open new distribution channels in the Middle East, and we have been invited to speak in The Royal Investment Summit organised by The Sheikh Office, where we will be featured in two sessions, “Women in Leadership” and “Top Innovation Ideas”. Liht is very honoured to have been invited to this prestigious platform to network with such an esteemed crowd.
I know it’s difficult, but can you name a favourite product, and why?
It is difficult! My personal favourite is the Youth Elixir Liquid Foundation, as my skin appears less radiant and feels rougher when I am not using it.
During the circuit breaker last year, I stopped using makeup since I was home all day and I felt my skin texture deteriorated. Since that realisation, I have been using my liquid foundation even when I’m working from home. The texture of it is so nourishing yet lightweight, you can barely feel like you’re wearing any makeup, but, oh, what a difference it makes!
What are you trying to do better in your business?
It is always a race against time because I constantly want to build every aspect of the business bigger, better and faster. I view the business like a jigsaw puzzle, and if there are any pieces missing, no matter how small, it will render my picture incomplete.
Through my years of running the brand, I firmly believe that the foundation to a strong business is having a great team. So for me, it is always a priority to ensure that I am constantly growing my team and developing each team member. The goal is to build an A-team of dedicated members who are loyal to the brand and share the same vision and mission.
What is your beauty ritual?
I have combination skin so I double up on my serums and set with Liht Organics’ lightweight liquid foundation in the day. I apply a face mask every night and moisturise a lot. I also moisturise my whole body right after a warm shower as your skin absorbs 10 times more with its pores open.
We are focused on the Middle East and China for the next 12 months but as we speak, we are already working on opening new markets with new partners in other regions. As much as we pride ourselves in moving fast, it is also all about making calculated and best decisions to ensure longevity and sustainability. We are also working on rolling out new product lines to give our customers more options to safer alternatives when it comes to their makeup. Stay tuned!
(All images: Liht Organics)