New Zealanders are spoiled for choice in skincare. As well as plenty of imported products there is a strong skincare sector here and it seems new ranges are launched every other week. Many of these are bound to fall by the wayside, and many are far less original than their promoters like to think, but some are noteworthy.
You may have to seek these interesting baby brands out - it takes nous and clout to get good positioning in pharmacies and department stores, explaining why many newcomers start as online businesses with hopes to expand into retail.
Budget-willing, it is actually not so hard to launch a skincare range. Rock up to a pharmaceutical manufacturing company and you're away. Choose from a menu of ingredients and you too can have "your" own tailor-made range. Add pretty packaging, preferred perfume and a back story - usually about being inspired to action by one's own or a family member's skin sensitivities - and away you go, ready to launch.
A common feature of many of the boutique brands is that the products claim to be free of the so-called "nasties", a number of which are no longer routinely used in many mainstream product lines anyway. These claims tap into the growing market niche for natural products as do the hand-crafted, kitchen table-type ranges which appeal to women who may be turned off by the globalised "big beauty" industry.
I've sat through dozens of pitches for new brands and often find on close scrutiny of ingredient lists that the products are pretty stock-standard. The originators, while almost invariably sincere and enthusiastic, are often short on specifics. (That said, I've also sat through power-point presentations aplenty from mainstream brands whose heavily hyped marketing and similar vagueness makes me want to pull the plug.)
Here are a few of the more distinctive products that you may come across in the New Year which have caught my eye over the past few months. They follow the ambitious launch earlier last year by fashion designer-turned herbalist Megan Douglas of World Organic and River Veda, featuring Indian plant extracts. Before that another well researched local launch was the growing Sans skin and hair line by Auckland hairdresser Lucy Vincent Marr. These are examples of credible brands that add to consumer choice. Among the newcomers are other contenders.
1. Moreish Salvation Balm $24.99
Argan oil is all the rage for hair and increasingly skincare and Moreish taps into this with a skincare range developed for pharmacy sale by API Consumer Brands in New Zealand. The nourishing oil from a Moroccan fruit is at the heart of the range of 15 facial products. Berber women benefit from the fair trade harvesting of the argan which Moreish supports. This balm is a multi-tasker for dry skin, including lips and cuticles or try it on split ends. (From Amcal, Unichem, Life and Radius pharmacies and Care Chemist.)
2. Savar Advanced Hand Repair $36
Artist Vicky Woolford launched her online only natural skincare business just in time for her products to be among those showcased at several Rugby World Cup VIP functions. The 99 per cent plant-based products, include this avocado-rich well-absorbed hand cream in recyclable packaging. Savar includes options for men and an introductory or travel set for $69. Ten per cent of Savar's profits go to charities.
3. Kimi Revitalising Face Wash $29
Aucklander Kim Girbin launched her small Kimi Organic range to satisfy her desire for affordable, toxin-free plant-based ingredients. As well as this face wash there is a body version, plus face and hand creams, with a rose and peppermint fragrance. The products are vegan registered and Kimi backs a scheme for planting in the Brazilian rainforest.
4. Vede & Crede Soothing Facial Serum $77
Auckland woman Chrissy Fletcher had her introduction to vitamin-rich argan oil at source, during a trip to Morocco in 2009. She liked the results on her skin so much she returned home to embark on a steep learning curve developing her own natural, sensual serums. The fragranced imported oil is housed in protective glass and sold under the Latin moniker Vede & Crede, meaning See and Believe. A sample mini pack of her three serum choices (soothing, nourishing and replenishing) and a facial cleansing tonic is also available for $65.
5. Qsilica Revive Nutrient Boost Face & Neck Moisturiser $24.95
Silica in colloidal form is more familiar as a dietary supplement to boost skin, hair and nail health than in skincare. This Australian range does offer capsules, but also uses the colloidal silica skincare dispersed in a cross-section of sensible skincare. A plant oil is the latest addition to the range, but the Revive item will appeal more to those who prefer a cream moisturiser. Despite the rather unexciting packaging this sells strongly in the pharmacy department in Harrods. (From health stores and selected pharmacies.)
6. Obiqo Gentle Face Scrub $45
This online operation based in Wellington is drawing on some European skincare favourites without the premium price tag. Imported marine ingredients, such as anti-oxidant rich French organic sea lavender, and nutrients harvested from New Zealand kelp are at the heart of Obiqo's distinctive offering. This scrub also contains jojoba beads and plant oils.
7. Comvita Olive White Brightening Facial Serum $79
Skin clarity is a particular concern in Asia where Comvita exports, but with sun-damage and resultant pigmentation also a problem for New Zealand skin the new Comvita Olive White launch taps into a growing market for brightening ranges of which there are few others in the natural skincare sector. The key actives are anti-oxidant rich olive leaf extract with plant polyphenols included for their skin brightening potential and manuka honey compounds as used in other Comvita skincare. There are nine Olive White products priced from $39, including this serum, a dark spot essence and moisturising lotions. (Selected pharmacies and health stores)
8. Linden Leaves Regenerating Elixir $49.99
Known mostly for its gift items, Christchurch-based Linden Leaves is expanding its skincare offering. This serum with organic white tea, kiwifruit extract and rosehip oil is a good example of its appealing botanically based approach.
9. Scarlett & Greene Zit Zapper $30.99
An addition in tune with the needs of its target market from a range for young skin launched just over a year ago by two Auckland mothers. Contains oil-absorbing sulphur and pore-unclogging salicylic acid, zinc oxide and tea tree. Free of the usual "nasty" suspects.
10. Geoskincare Hydrating Vitamin Masque $41.98
In little more than a year, Geoskincare has picked up a number of pharmacy outlets on top of its online operation and extended its organic range. Its point of difference is natural minerals (like potassium, calcium and magnesium) from geothermal regions combined with essential oils and plant extracts. This mask adds jojoba and avocado oil and honey to replenishing effect.