Beauty; it may lie in the eye of the beholder, but however you determine the concept of ‘beauty’, there is a product to support it, within the vast and ever-expanding realm of the world’s beauty industry. This isn’t just about the Kylie cosmetics or Huda Beauty products, it’s much more than makeup – we are talking skincare, cosmetics, fragrances, hair care, and the whole personal care package when we refer to this global industry that generates $500 billion in sales a year. So we have this thriving industry, an industry that has survived many a recession, an industry that is forever innovating and evolving from the notion of the outward aesthetic. ‘Even before the pandemic, the definition of “beauty” was becoming more global, expansive, and intertwined with individuals’ sense of wellbeing’ – McKinsey & Company. Wellbeing, self-care, and healthy living are just a few of the trending terms of the moment, as we find ourselves in these unprecedented times, looking for ways to de-stress, shake off anxiety, and just feel a little pampered, as we do a DIY job on our home skincare routines, and our nail and hair treatments – seeking online options, resulting in a massive surge in ecommerce operations across the board. The ‘self-care’ movement is very much a thing, although I sometimes think that perhaps the focus should not only be self-care, but also a little more self aware. Are we aware of what’s actually in our favourite skincare products and shampoos? Do they contain chemicals that could be harmful to us, to our kids, to the environment? This lockdown situation has certainly given us all time to think, to think about our consumption, our priorities, our life choices. The topic of conscious consumerism is something we should all be thinking about right now, and with my own career background in ecommerce, it has certainly got me thinking more about how I shop.
Then I came across Hoiisa, a new sustainable beauty brand here in Dubai, and I wanted to find out more, so I caught up with Mouna Azirar, Founder and managing partner to hear the story behind her company. Mouna’s natural interest in clean beauty started when she was expecting her first child; making a complete switch to sustainable and clean beauty products whilst pregnant, she gradually transitioned to a more sustainable and healthier way of life. She says, “I’ve always been an avid advocate in living a healthy lifestyle. After my first trip to California a decade ago, I wanted to launch a wellness business. My move to Dubai has inspired me to focus on a better beauty world in the Middle East by creating something pioneering that would educate the region on sustainable beauty and clean living. My aim is to connect green-based products to clean-conscious consumers.” Since studying organic skincare, Mouna’s hope is to help people see the positive changes that clean beauty can do for their health, wellbeing and the environment with eco-friendly products.
Mouna is joined by business partner, Hershey Gargash, who has worked as a beauty, fashion and lifestyle editor since 2003 and has spent years reviewing and writing about beauty products. Over the years, her beauty industry knowledge and her certifications as a Reiki healer and yoga teacher, led her to expand her interests to mindfulness, health, wellness, sustainability and conscious consumerism. In 2020, she joined Mouna to launch Hoiisa. Hershey says, “I didn’t feel like there was anything quite like Mouna’s vision for Hoiisa in the Middle East. It’s a brand offering products and educating people on clean and sustainable beauty with thoughtful ethical practices in making them. I love that Hoiisa fuses natural and organic beauty with high-tech and high-performance products. As an ethical platform it works with brands associated with Fairtrade and local charities.”
Imprint: Where does the name Hoiisa come from?
Hoiisa: Hoiisa is an interpretation of the word hōlisa meaning “nurture” in Sesotho, spoken in South Africa. Our hope is to educate and nurture on the benefits of clean beauty and sustainable and ethical practices. Collectively we can impact the world for the better.
Imprint: Describe the meaning behind Hoiisa in 5 words.
Hoiisa: Mouna dedicated considerable time at the outset to think through the brand values of the business, and to come up with a name and logo that suitably captured those values. Some of the key values include: Sustainable, educational, effective, safe, inclusive, nurturing, and honest.
Imprint: Tell us a bit about Hoiisa’s conscious consumerism efforts and ethical business practices.
Hoiisa: Life works in cycles with cause and effect. We’re all connected by many aspects and the environment is a big one to consider. How we go about consuming products is so important. Considering the chain effect, how products are made is so interesting. What goes into making products and how can they benefit our health? How are products cultivated and nurtured? Can they cause harm to the environment or the planet? Who helps make these products and where are they made? Can producing these products benefit the livelihoods of the local communities where the ingredients are sourced? Then once the products are made, how do we as consumers do our part to help climate change and the environment? How do we help the planet with our waste? Can we recycle or reuse? Can we buy products that are biodegradable? If you think about all the skincare and beauty products that we use in a year it can all add up and help, or destroy, the environment and communities. These are all very important questions to think about.
Imprint: How do you source these natural ingredients and choose the brands you are working with?
Hoiisa: Hoiisa follows a rigorous process when reviewing and selecting brands to be on the platform, with various criteria needing to be met. Every brand has to have clean ingredients. Also, all of our brands care about sustainability. They use sustainable packaging and have thought about their impact on the environment. Other bonuses are that they have to follow ethical business practices and be locally made with organic ingredients. Our products are predominantly natural, but in some instances may include safe human-made, high-performance formulas. All the products have to be non-toxic and not have any harmful or known toxins to cause ill health effects, including synthetic fragrances.
Imprint: Generally speaking, what are the main skincare issues people have come to you with?
Hoiisa: We have a lot of pregnant clients. We also have customers searching for the best clean, organic beauty brand for their newborns. Erbaviva is a very popular choice for pregnant mums and babies; their stretch mark oil and baby wash, amongst other bestsellers, are very popular. Not only do all the products smell delicious, but all the ingredients are USDA certified organic. We have mums looking for products for their teenage daughters who have acne prone skin and we can recommend Grown Alchemist.
Imprint: I have noticed changes to my skin during lockdown. We are spending so much time indoors, maybe feeling more stressed/ anxious – how can these factors affect our skin?
Hoiisa: Staying indoors for long periods of time can have negative effects on your skin. The environment and your hormones affect your skin. If you think about it, dry air, stress, disturbed sleep and anxiousness can cause skin to go out of whack. Your home also needs regular cleaning because dust and indoor pollutants can affect skin with dullness or breakouts. Dust settles on sofas and beds so make sure you steam clean occasionally. Air conditioning can also cause your skin to turn dry. The body needs fresh air to rejuvenate and flush out toxins. Stress increases cortisol production from the adrenal glands which increases sebaceous gland activity. This produces more oil and sebum which can lead to spots. Stress can also cause inflammation in the body which can lead to eczema, rosacea and psoriasis. Hoiisa has an array of products that help all types of skin. Make sure you shop by skin concern when you buy Hoiisa products. What makes us different is that you can shop by ethos (for example: what’s plant-based, recyclable, gluten-free, coral reef safe, locally made etc.) and you can shop by skin concern.
Imprint: What are some of the effects of mainstream cosmetics that we can avoid by using natural products instead?
Hoiisa: Not all clean beauty products are natural; some products can contain human-made ingredients and not be harmful for the body or skin. The main focus is that they don’t have toxic ingredients that are known to cause ill health effects when used over very long periods of time. For instance, according to the International Agency for Research on Cancer, talc is possibly carcinogenic to humans. It’s a naturally occurring mineral that can contain trace amounts of asbestos. Over decades, trapped asbestos fibres can cause inflammation, scarring and eventually genetic damage to the body’s cells. There are in fact several toxic and harmful ingredients that are used in the market today. Key ingredients include sulfates used as cleansing agents to remove dirt and oil. They are responsible for creating lather in shampoos and soaps. Parabens should also be avoided – they are chemicals that have been used since the 1950s to prevent bacteria. Parabens act as a preservative in deodorants, lotions, lipsticks, shampoos and scrubs, to name a few. Formaldehydes are another nasty chemical group, which are found in nail hardeners, eyelash glues, hair gels, soaps and make-up, amongst other products. Also avoid phthalates, which are used in make-up, hairspray and nail varnish.
Imprint: Key beauty products that you can’t live without?
Hoiisa: Mouna loves to use Salt & Stone Sunscreen SPF 30. It’s organic, natural, free of aluminium and has a lovely smell. Hershey just had a baby four months ago and has been using Erbaviva Stretch Mark Oil to avoid her getting any stretch marks on her belly.
Imprint: What is one thing that you hope people will learn/ experience by using sustainable skincare?
Hoiisa: We hope for consumers to be more aware and conscious. It’s important to be mindful with our health, ethical business practices and the environment. At the end of the day it’s about being kind. Clean and sustainable beauty means that the products are safe for people and the planet. Sustainable products provide environmental, social and economic benefits while protecting public health and the environment over their whole life cycle, from the extraction of raw materials until the final disposal.
To learn more about Hoiisa and their sustainability story, and to shop their range of clean beauty products visit https://hoiisa.com/.