Noella Gabriel certainly has an interesting backstory.
Her journey to wellness began at 20 years old when she opened a health food shop with her sister, after her parents had passed on within months of each other. Decades later, with a career in aromatherapy and beauty therapy under her belt, she launched Elemis. The wellness-focused brand combines high-performance formulations with powerful and gentle ingredients befitting its origins as luxury spa products.
With Elemis coming to Singapore (at ION Orchard, on its own e-commerce platform and Lazada), we speak to Noella on how her brand has stayed at the forefront of the wellness-meets-skincare movement.
How did you get started in the beauty industry?
As a trained beauty therapist and aromatherapist, I have always believed in treating the skin with a total approach. The method I took – of treating the skin from the inside out – was way ahead of its time. With this philosophy, I co-founded Elemis in 1990. My entrepreneurial roots run deep. Years before Elemis, I opened the first health food store in my hometown in Ireland. Later, I served as the manager of the Beauty Spa at Harvey Nichols, a top high-end London department store. It was these experiences which helped me identify wellness as a whitespace into which we could expand the Elemis brand.
How did Elemis begin?
Elemis was founded in London by entrepreneur and investor Linda Steiner. Linda’s vision was to create a skincare range as close to nature as possible. She was joined by the co-founding trio Sean Harrington, Oriele Frank and myself, each with a different specialty, who evolved the brand to where it is today and remain actively involved.
How do you stay at the forefront of skincare trends and movements?
We don’t follow trends, we create them. Wellness is not a bandwagon we’ve jumped on. We launched this idea 30 years ago. We feel as though people have grown into the brand, instead of shaping around trends. From superfoods to skin and gut health, we are setting trends and educating our clients all the time. We live and breathe this idea that your skin is tomorrow is a reflection of the lifestyle choices you make today.
How have your customers changed over the years?
Our approach to skincare has always been holistic. It’s not about vanity. We’re no longer having a conversation about age. We’re now seeing younger and younger people come to us with skin concerns. Millennials and Gen Z are extremely educated about skincare so they are starting their skin wellness journey long before previous generations.
Look, once a customer tries Elemis, they’re hooked. The ingredients are not only outstanding and performance-grade, but the formulations give you real results. The consumer is a very educated one these days. It’s not enough to have a pot in a pretty package. The product must work, must deliver on its promise. For me, converting the customer has always been one of the most exciting parts of the business, and we continue to do that day after day.
Describe some challenges you overcame when the brand was first founded.
Work-life balance is never easy. I’m not superhuman, and I don’t want to be. For me, life doesn’t begin and end at the office. When I was pregnant with my daughter, I cut back to three days a week. Elemis is a part of my soul, so I never really unplug from it 100%. But when I’m away from the office, I exercise, breathe deeply, play guitar or walk across the London Bridge. Simple things make me happy, like talking to my daughter or people watching. Believe me, I’m ambitious – no doubt! But I think it’s balanced by my extraordinary love of the ordinary.
What is your personal routine?
My approach to skincare has always been holistic. My daily skincare routine is very simple – I double cleanse with an oil-based cleanser and then a treatment cleanser, I replenish my skin with a lightweight facial oil, I moisturise with a hydrating, nutrient-rich cream and I always apply SPF, even on those cloudy London days!
What’s a problem in the beauty industry that Elemis addresses/wishes to address?
At Elemis, we have always believed that wellness is a huge component of one’s lifestyle, and the trends and the other brands are finally catching on to this idea. While stress is not new, the vices of life have changed dramatically. We used to worry about a few simple things – the effects of our daily glass of wine or a lone cigarette – but now, we are so much more aware and educated about the effects of modern day living: pollution, blue light, harmful chemicals and unnatural ingredients.
New skin concerns are growing out of lifestyle and the stress of modern life. People are on their phones 157 times a day, and there is good evidence to show that this may need to negative effects to your skin. We’ve been in the treatment sector for many, many years and it’s a real area of expertise for us. We touch six million faces per year. So, we know first-hand what people’s skincare needs are. I think that gives us a unique advantage.
Beauty is more than skin deep, it’s a lifestyle choice. Elemis was championing the idea of wellness before it became a hashtag through its use of natural ingredients, luxurious textures and layering rituals.
Recommend products for Singapore consumers.
Pro-Collagen Cleansing Balm is a must-have in everyone’s daily skincare routine. Perfect for all skin types, the unique, transformative texture dissolves every last bit of my makeup and daily impurities to leave my skin looking clean, soft and beautifully glowing.
What’s next for you and the brand?
I want to shake things up a bit. Internally we always talk about how to be disruptive. I want to make skincare more fun. I don’t mean cute packaging. I want our client to enjoy skincare and try different products in the way that they already do with colour cosmetics. A different lipstick for a different mood. Your skin also needs to be excited with textures and different benefits. The brand DNA is there, and it will remain the same, but our approach changes, because we have ongoing conversations with our customers. We listen longer.
We may be seeing more growth than ever before, but we have – and always will – remain true to who we are. At our core, we are just a brand that is incredibly passionate about skin and wellness, and that is what we are continuing to promote.