Meet TWYG, The New Eco-Luxe Skincare Brand That Was 100 Million Years In The Making

By Ashleigh Cometti
TWYG highlights antioxidant-rich Bioactive Totarol, a concentrated extract derived from the tōtara tree.

Harnessing the power of a unique-to-New Zealand extract comes three new products from the new label TWYG, to rejuvenate and protect skin.

It takes a special kind of relationship to withstand the pressures of working and living together, but for Steph and Ryan Davies, it just works.

Together, the husband-and-wife

It was partly inspired by Steph’s familial connection to Hyperganic Biogroup, which sources, extracts and distributes Bioactive Totarol globally in myriad forms. This led to a conversation with a local chemist around the antioxidant and antibacterial properties of this super ingredient.

It ignited a desire to formulate it into skincare in high doses — the first time Bioactive Totarol has ever been utilised in this way. And so, the seed for TWYG was planted.

There’s a natural ease that emerges as Steph and Ryan speak about the intersectionality between their work and home life, a finely tuned skill that was tested no doubt after first meeting in their jobs in the advertising industry more than a decade ago.

“It’s obviously intrinsically part of us — our work and home life are intertwined. We are very likeminded, we complement each other well,” Steph says.

Ryan chimes in: “We both come from families that have launched other businesses — and Steph’s family have been involved with this from the beginning,” he says.

“It’s been great to see your partner take control of something and get good at it. You’re there to see that growth period. We’re in a good space.”

Ryan and Steph Davies hope to connect New Zealanders with nature through their new skincare brand, TWYG.
Ryan and Steph Davies hope to connect New Zealanders with nature through their new skincare brand, TWYG.

Most nights, you’ll find them parked up on the couch with their laptops open, signing off on artwork or liaising with the manufacturing team while their 7-year-old daughter sleeps.

“The challenge for us is to be able to actually switch off when you’re running a small business and launching a brand, because there’s always something to do,” Steph says. “We have to be conscious of the rituals in our life that lend themselves to family time and connection.”

But while the hustle doesn’t stop, Steph and Ryan agree that while it can be “pretty full on” at times, the overwhelmingly positive feedback they’ve had so far keeps them motivated.

“We’ve really tried to create something that people can fall in love with,” Steph says.

And not fall out of love in the process, of course.

The pair says it’s not often that they disagree on decisions to do with TWYG and have each brought a different perspective to the table throughout the formulation and manufacturing process.

“Ryan’s only just getting into skincare, whereas I’ve been doing it for years. For him, it’s a learning process, which I’m really loving seeing him embrace. There are some things that Ryan is super instinctual on — for example, working with our amazing packaging designers to push for something even better,” Steph says.

“Whereas there are attributes I have that he doesn’t want to know about really, like digital analytics. We complement each other in that way — he’s bigger picture and I’m a little bit more detail.”

It took a year longer than originally planned to launch TWYG on the market, but it was a case of perfection over punctuality for the duo — especially through the lens of a skincare range that’s never been created with such high concentrations of Bioactive Totarol before.

“You can’t rush them because they just don’t exist,” Steph says. “We had ambitious plans to launch last year, but we wanted to have it 100 per cent perfect in our minds. It required multiple rounds to get there.”

Trusting life’s perfect timing, Steph and Ryan agree that a shift in consumer perception around synthetic ingredients has made their eventual launch even more relevant today.

As the preference for natural skincare continues to grow, the duo aim to take this opportunity to educate consumers on the benefits of high-dose Bioactive Totarol when applied to skin topically.

TWYG launches tomorrow, November 15, with three potent products, including its Renewing Antioxidant Facial Oil, $135, Revive and Brighten Antioxidant Facial Serum, $140, and Restorative Hydration Cream, $140 (the latter of which will launch later this month), which contain high concentrations of Bioactive Totarol — harnessing its antioxidant benefits to protect and rejuvenate skin.

“We know that Totarol, with its powerhouse of antioxidant abilities, is doing something very specific around helping to mitigate the risks of environmental damage,” Steph says.

“But we wanted to make sure the other ingredients were doing the job as well. We have between 9 and 11 active ingredients in each, which protect and rejuvenate skin and are designed to work harmoniously with other skincare products in your routine.”

She’s referring to the likes of Kakadu plum oil, bakuchiol and tomato seed oil, which are bona fide skin protectors in their own right.

One such product that contains a multitude of powerhouse ingredients is the Revive and Brighten Antioxidant Facial Serum, said to minimise the appearance of wrinkles, reduce hyperpigmentation and fend off environmental damage by virtue of the sun, UV rays and pollution.

Fend off harmful free radicals while nourishing and hydrating skin with the Renewing Antioxidant Facial Oil.
Fend off harmful free radicals while nourishing and hydrating skin with the Renewing Antioxidant Facial Oil.

The time-honoured legacy of tōtara as a material speaks volumes about its ability to promote longevity in the skin — case in point, many trees predate New Zealand’s formation as a landmass.

“It’s quite a remarkable material not only in terms of timber but also as a bio-material, when it was discovered for its antibacterial and antimicrobial properties which protected the tree,” Ryan says.

“When you see forests which have been under environmental attack, quite often the tōtara will be the only one of its kind left. A few months ago, we toured through a tōtara forest in the central North Island — it was a moving experience. The trees were a couple of thousands of years old and astronomical in size. It was so clear that there’s something in Totarol that helps preserve, protect and nourish the tree. We capture that in its organic and pure form and put it in a bottle. It’s really taking that essence of protection and putting that onto someone’s face to do the same job.”

Traditionally, products with an antioxidant bent are lumped into the anti-ageing category, but Ryan and Steph say that their aim with TWYG was to be preventative with their approach.

Citing what Steph calls “society’s toxic obsession with youth”, TWYG is positioned to enhance natural beauty — rather than render someone unrecognisable in the process.

“I loathe the word anti-ageing. All of these formulations are working synergistically to reduce and minimise the signs of premature ageing. We’re all about looking at the tōtara tree to see what it’s doing naturally — avoiding those signs of ageing in the first place rather than always trying to reverse it,” Steph says.

The formulation process motivated Steph herself to carve out space to approach the skincare ritual more holistically — a mindful moment in time for herself without distraction.

Steph encourages others to do the same when using TWYG. “What we’ve designed is a little forest of skincare, one which is derived from and connects you back to nature by way of Totarol,” she says.

From left to right: Renewing Antioxidant Facial Oil, Revive and Brighten Antioxidant Facial Serum and Restorative Hydration Cream.
From left to right: Renewing Antioxidant Facial Oil, Revive and Brighten Antioxidant Facial Serum and Restorative Hydration Cream.

In case you were wondering how fallen tōtara trees are found — no, they don’t have their very own Lorax out there sourcing them. Hyperganic Biogroup employs Ministry of Primary Industries certified workers to help with the sourcing process, who can only collect a certain quantity of fallen trees per annum.

The regimented process has to be this strict due to tōtara being native. Each tree is used in its entirety to create floorboards, table tops, window frames, before offcuts are chipped, mulched and sent off for processing.

In its natural form, the sticky, toffee apple-esque goo is notoriously tricky to work with and is processed by a specialised facility based in Nelson. But when the factory goes to process Totarol (which takes roughly a week), Ryan says they have to shut down their existing production lines because of how hard it is to handle.

The goo is spread onto trays, before it’s freeze-dried and milled into a fine powder, which is a bright yellowy-orange hue in colour.

Hyperganic Biogroup manufactures this powder for 18 different distributors around the world, alongside a handful that are based in Aotearoa. “We’re fortunate because we are the only producer of this compound on the planet, and since we make it, we can create the highest dosage which hasn’t ever been done before,” Ryan says.

It’s another way to frame green waste, Ryan says, explaining that the offcuts processed into Bioactive Totarol for TWYG would’ve otherwise been turfed. “The whole circular economy is unbelievable. We take something that otherwise would have been used for nothing and we transform it into a compound which can be used for human and animal health,” he says.

“The idea being for every time you use a TWYG product, you know you’re utilising something that would have been green waste,” he says.

Drench skin in moisture with this luxurious, twice-daily hydrating cream, which firms and brightens while it protects.
Drench skin in moisture with this luxurious, twice-daily hydrating cream, which firms and brightens while it protects.

Despite not cutting down trees, for the equivalent of every full-sized 200-year-old tōtara tree, TWYG plants 500 in its place to help regenerate forests over time.

Moving forward, there’ll be no shortage of nights with laptops open for the pair, who explain that while they’re excited to be launching in Aotearoa, their ultimate goal is to take TWYG global.

“We think there’s an overseas audience that would find this 100-million-year-old tree species has been used in a really sustainable way to produce this phenomenal skincare range,” Ryan says, adding they hope to take the brand overseas within the next five years.

“We tried really hard to build this connection to Mother Nature,” Steph adds, saying that while the term green science feels overused these days, it adequately represents the brand.

“We are so passionate about the story, and we feel so pleased that we’ve been given the keys to unlock this wonderful ingredient that the world should know about. The fact we’re doing that through TWYG is fantastic.”

TWYG is available from November 15 from with new products set to join the range in early 2024.

With sustainability at its core, TWYG refill options will soon be available. Products that aren’t able to be recycled or refilled can be returned back to TWYG via TerraCycle’s Zero Waste Box, which breaks down components of the packaging and sees them crafted into new products. A Take Back Collective is also on the horizon stay tuned for updates.

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