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.
These products sound fabulous! I adore the Moroccan oils and rituals too… I went to Marrakech and brought some of the oils back home with me, they were amazing!
Hola! I've been reading your website for some time now and finally got the bravery to go ahead and give you a shout out from Dallas Texas!Just wanted to say keep up the fantastic work!
Hi, hi! Thank you very much for your kindness and your continued support! If there is anything you'd like me to write about, please feel free to leave a comment. Big hugs from NYC xoxo
Kahina is NOT certified organic by Ecocert, upon checking with Ecocert, you will find this out, They have not been Certified Organic for a number of years.
Hi Maleeka, thank you very much for reading us! Do you care to elaborate how you checked with Ecocert? Sometimes brands can bear the Ecocert seal if their suppliers are certified Ecocert (for example, if they are working with a white label laboratory, which might be the case of Kahina.) In any case, I will reach out to the brand to clarify this information. Thank you for reading us!
Dear Maleeka, Kahina Giving Beauty is certified by Ecocert under our corporate name, Giving Beauty. We are very proud of the fact that we take the added step and expense of being certified to ensure our customers of our safety and sustainability. I advise you to go directly to brands should you have questions like this in the future. We are fully transparent and can provide you with all of the details.
Hi Maleeka! I have actually checked with Ecocert and Giving Beauty does have a valid Ecocert certificate for the products advertised as such (plus they have a valid Ecocert certificate that verifies and guarantees their products are natural and organic for most of their line, except for two products that are simply natural.) I appreciate your concerns of keeping tabs with brands that claim to be natural, but in this case, Kahina Giving Beauty is NOT misrepresenting their products. Kahina is actually one of the few brands that can actually prove they have gone the extra mile with an Ecocert certificate. I hope this helps. Thank you for reading and commenting!
Hi Kathleen, Thank you for your comments, but they do not appear to be accurate. Giving Beauty is not Ecocert after further inquires. If you can send a direct link, it would put my mind to rest as it will with all others who are equally concerned about certified organic claims.
Would you mind sharing what proof do you have to substantiate your claims? I feel you might be checking Ecocert’s certified operators list, which is in essence a list of labs and white label suppliers for the industry, and is in no way a complete representation of all of the companies certified by Ecocert. What I can tell you is that if you check the Trademark Infringement list, you will see that Giving Beauty is not there.
While I share your concerns for transparency in the beauty industry, I personally would like to know where you are getting your information.
I am just someone who wants the best for my skin, but this is getting interesting now!
Please send me the Ecocert link you have seen as proof, (which is also, as you seem to know is public domain,) because checking with Ecocert on all Ecocert lists, this company is NOT listed. Because Giving Beauty is NOT on the transparency list you mention does this simply mean they have not as yet mean caught out !
It is indeed getting interesting, since I have personally seen a copy of the brand’s Ecocert certification and it is current and valid. So what I wonder at this point is where you are getting your information from to support your accusations. May I ask for the link where you are checking all the brands that bear the Ecocert seal? Because, as I said, the search tool for fair trade points to manufacturers and white label providers, so at this point I am curious about how you do your research and reach your conclusions. Also, if what you are using is the “View Certificates” function, you will see that it only applies to the food industry (specifically, to agriculture and meat production, so you won’t find any cosmetics brands listed there.)
I believe that Kahina has also answered your comment sending you the link you demand. You will find they are listed on page 54 since Giving Beauty is an LLC based in the USA, not Morocco. I hope this helps.
Maleeka, Here is the list of certified companies from Ecocert, including brands and operators – http://www.ecocert.com/sites/default/files/u3/Listing-Cosmetiques-Juillet.en_.pdf – Giving Beauty LLC is clearly listed. If you would like to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org I would be happy to share our certificate with you.
Hello, this is not a comment is a question, I know Kahina Products and are amazing!! But… where can I find the necklace that appears in the photos? Thank you!
Hi Modmai! I got this necklace a few years ago from Satya jewelry in New York City. They used to offer a DIY option in which you could choose your pendant and stone combination. I cannot say whether they still carry this exact model, but I hope it helps!