A mindful beauty journey with Emma Lewisham


Emma Lewisham is shaking up the billion-dollar global beauty industry with her no-compromise ethical, clean and natural skincare brand.

At a year old, brand Emma Lewisham is not only forging an uncharted path, but the beauty label also rounds out 2020 celebrating becoming the youngest New Zealand range to launch in David Jones stores throughout Australasia. This achievement is an ode to Lewisham’s belief that nothing is impossible. Commercial success, however, is not the entrepreneur’s motivation – she isn’t buoyed by “existing simply to make money”. She’s instead driven by the prospect of leading an industry entrenched in outdated practices towards substantial, ethical change.

In her quest to develop premium clean and natural skincare, the self-confessed eternal optimist was propelled by her epiphany that true luxury is products that care for people and the planet.

“We set out to be the most mindfully made luxury beauty brand in the world,” she enthuses, “because I believe that ‘sustainable’, ‘clean and natural’, ‘luxury’ and ‘efficacy’ can go hand in hand. We wanted to be the clean and natural equivalent of La Mer. And we’ve shown it’s possible – we benchmark our products against skincare products at this level and are independently proven to outperform them.”

To optimise the performance of its skincare formulations, Lewisham’s team did an atypical three years of research prior to launch, which Lewisham reminds us, “is a long time in skincare”.

“Three scientists put their heads together to work out a very challenging chemical equation to get luxury and efficacy together in one product while being 100 per cent natural and clean.

“We tapped into the world’s most innovative scientists and used that advanced knowledge to formulate our skincare.”

Lewisham adds that cost was never a factor in the drive towards achieving excellence.

“We’ve always been about performance first and cost last. Our focus is about producing the best skincare products on the market,” she adds.

“We pored over the research to choose our ingredients, then it was about the synergy of the ingredients and the percentage of each.

We use percentages that align with scientific recommendations, so our concentrations are very high, using ingredients that are proven to get phenomenal results. We also use up to 30 natural actives where other brands use two or three hero ingredients, and we don’t add any fillers.”

The Aucklander, who manufactures 10 minutes from her office, is adamant that clean and natural skincare is better for health, and she is determined to spread the message.

“Most women use on average 12 different products on their skin before they leave the house. Traditional brands argue that their industrial chemical ingredients are low dose, but not even low doses are proven to be safe, and it accumulates in our system to be a high dose.

“I challenge those brands that say that it’s not going to impact people’s health when it’s been proven to do exactly that.”

During her research, Lewisham discovered the “ugly truth” about more than 80,000 ingredients used in cosmetics, which fuelled her to put the unregulated New Zealand beauty industry on notice. The brand is currently advocating for the New Zealand Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) to outlaw ingredients known to contain carcinogens, pesticides and hormone disruptors.

“New Zealand hasn’t kept up with ingredients banned in places like Europe. There are 25 ingredients that I’m determined to have banned in New Zealand. We’ve engaged with the EPA and I’m holding them to a date in early 2021 to start reviewing the list,” she says.

The ingredients include parabens, formaldehydes, phthalates, and polyfluoroalkyl substances and their salts that are banned in other countries like Australia and Europe, but not in New Zealand.

Emma Lewisham itself adheres to the world’s strictest clean beauty guidelines established by the Environmental Working Group (EWG). Lewisham says our country’s apathetic acceptance of greenwashing means that many of the 2700 ingredients banned by the EU are included in New Zealand natural skincare, which she warns poses a threat to our country’s image.

“We trade on our clean, green image and should be leaders in this area. Our lagging behind progressive countries is doing a disservice to our people but also New Zealand’s global reputation.”

The brand’s holistic, ethical ethos extends into traceability of its ingredients, working with farms who are farming in a way that actively regenerates our soil and ecosystems, and ensuring, from source to manufacture, that people and the planet are treated with reverence.

Emma Lewisham has invested heavily to ensure its supply chain is world-leading, including using compostable, biodegradable and recycled packaging, low water consumption, renewable energy, excluding single-use plastics, and carbon emission-offset policies.

“There are 120 billion units of plastic produced each year in the beauty industry and 95 per cent is not recyclable,” Lewisham laments. “The rest ends up in our oceans or landfill and that’s the planet our children will inherit.”

“Although our packaging is recyclable we know that recycling rates of beauty packaging are unacceptably low so to ensure we take responsibility for the packaging we put into
the world we created the Emma Lewisham Beauty Circle free recycling programme in partnership with TerraCycle. It means that customers can return their empty packaging (of any beauty brand) and help us on our mission to make the beauty industry circular.”

“We are at the tipping point. It’s a climate crisis and it’s no longer business as usual. We need to change the way we live. We’re going to prove it’s possible to be viable and still be
a luxury brand while doing all those things.”

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