Kahina Giving Beauty is a 100% natural and organic indie beauty brand that celebrates the traditional beauty secrets from Morocco and impacts directly the life of Berber women in the area. Today, we speak with Katharine L’Heureux, the green soul behind a project that rescues the secrets of the hammam while empowering women.
In this interview,Katharine and I discuss the new trends in green and natural cosmetics, the preservatives used in natural formulas, what’s the hype behind argan oil, and how choosing green cosmetics and a slow lifestyle can positively impact the planet and many communities around the world.
Katharine is a treasure trove of information about traditional hammam rituals, and knows Morocco extremely well. Working with local communities to offer stable and well-paid jobs, one can’t help but wonder if names aren’t a symbol of what life might become. As her surname “l’ heureux” means “the happy one” in French, I for one am not surprised of the positive energy she puts forward by using beauty as a means to spread joy in two continents.
For more information about the products themselves, I suggest you read my full review about Kahina’s Beldi Soap and the Prickly Pear Face Oil. If you are looking for true Moroccan beauty products of the highest quality, you will love the brand!
New York For Beginners: When did you start Kahina?
Katharine L’ Heureux: Kahina Giving Beauty was founded in 2008 after a vacation in Morocco the previous fall when I discovered argan oil and fell in love with the country. We’re coming up on our ten year anniversary! Yay!
NYFB: What gave you the idea to create a niche green beauty brand?
KLH: I have always loved skincare, but it has to work and I want the packaging to be beautiful. In 2007, I was looking for simple, effective and organic skincare but there was very little on the market. When I discovered the powers of argan oil, I decided to create the products that I had been searching for: natural, effective, and beautifully packaged.
NYFB: Why is argan oil so popular in the new wave of skincare remedies?
KLH: First of all, argan oil is extremely compatible with our own skin. It is easily absorbed, which makes it easy for those people who might be afraid of using an oil on their face to incorporate into their skincare routine. Most importantly, it is extremely rich in reparative vitamin E, essential fatty acids and phytosterols. It is effective at reducing signs of aging, combating acne and balancing sebum production, making it a great choice for all skin types.
NYFB: How do you extract it and how does it give back to the Berber community?
KLH: Kahina’s argan oil is carefully produced with strict quality controls from the gathering of the nuts to the finished product. First the nuts are carefully harvested to ensure only the best raw materials are used. Then the nuts are cracked by hand using centuries old techniques passed down through generations of Berber women. The oil is then cold-pressed by machine to ensure the that there is no bacterial contamination. Our production center is located in the heart of the Anti-Atlas Mountains in southern Morocco so as to be integrated with the lives of the Berber women who do the work of harvesting and cracking the nuts. The women are paid a fair wage for their labor and a percentage of the purchase price of the oil goes toward initiatives that improve their lives. In addition, we donate a percentage of our revenue to support educational and environmental programs in Morocco.
NYFB: What are your favorite Kahina products?
KLH: That is such a difficult question! I use and love all of the products as part of a cohesive skincare regimen. But the one product I can’t go without EVER is an oil. I love our Prickly Pear Seed Oil, Argan Oil and Serum and alternate them according to what my skin is needing and my mood that day. Of those, because Argan Oil is the heart of the line, my first discovery and most connected to the Berber women of Morocco, I would have to choose that.
NYFB: Do you have any novelties in the works that you can share with us?
KLH: We’ve always got something cooking at Kahina, which keeps things interesting. But this holiday, we will be releasing a very special scented candle in collaboration with Ulili Morocccan Scents, a perfumer and candle formulator based in Morocco. Together, we have developed a beautiful scented candle to mark the beginning of our 10 year anniversary.
NYFB: Your products are completely natural and certified by Ecocert. How can consumers looking for green options understand whether a product is really natural or just another attempt at greenwashing?
KLH: With complicated ingredient lists and misleading labeling, it is so hard for consumers to know whether or not their products are truly natural or not. I think a third party validation, by a certifying body such as Ecocert/COSMOS, is the only way that a customer can be absolutely sure of what is in their products. It shows an extra level of effort by the brand to make sure all the ingredients in the formula are truly clean, something the ingredient supplier may not disclose, which allows for a measure of trust between the consumer and the brand. Customers should always feel free to email brands directly with their questions. We are often fielding questions from customers about our ingredients. It’s a nice way to engage with consumers and to understand their concerns.
NYFB: What is going to be, in your opinion, the next big trend in green beauty?
KLH: I am seeing a shift towards incorporating creams as part of a clean beauty routine. The focus has been on oils and balms for a while now, but people are realizing that the addition of an emulsion into their routine, by either layering or mixing with oils, can increase efficacy and offer great results. Emulsions, which require the addition of a water base, can be tricky to produce without the use of traditional preservatives, but we have some beautiful ones in our line, KAHINA™ FACE CREAM, KAHINA™ FACIAL LOTION and KAHINA™ MOISTURE MASK. Our preservative protocols are all-natural and approved by ECOCERT.
NYFB: How can choosing green skincare make a positive difference in the world?
KLH: Obviously, using nontoxic ingredients are better for your health as anything that goes on your skin can be absorbed into your system. Using organic ingredients in skincare formulations is better for the environment by eliminating the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides. It is also important to keep in mind that these are farmed ingredients, typically from small family farms and women’s cooperatives in remote parts of the world. The work of farming and extracting these ingredients can raise people out of subsistence level farming and extreme poverty. We carefully source our ingredients not only for quality, but also with an eye toward impact on the communities who provide them for us.
NYFB: Finally, what does Kahina, your trade name, mean?
KLH: KAHINA is the name of a Berber queen and prophetess who reigned in North Africa in the 8th Century. I chose the name in homage to the Berber women who do the work of harvesting and cracking the nuts for our Argan Oil.
Disclaimer level 0: The author received NO compensation to write this article. All the links included are informational in nature and not a part of a marketing program.