A lifetime believer in the potential of beauty rituals to delight and empower, Kahina Giving Beauty founder Katharine L’Heureux discovered argan oil on the first of many journeys to Morocco. Recognizing a need in the marketplace for beautifully packaged, effective organic skin care that nourishes skin and spirit, Katharine conceived of a niche beauty brand that would give back. To realize her vision to connect women across the world through beauty, Katharine developed and produced the Kahina product line and brand, infusing it with her minimalist esthetic and philanthropic spirit (the company donates 25 percent of its profits to the indigenous Berber women who extract the oil at the heart of the line). She personally sources the argan that goes into Kahina products to ensure the highest quality oil and fair compensation for the women who extract it.
I had a chance to ask Katharine about her inspirations, how she balances business with personal life, and her own beauty philosophy. (And I’m super excited to share the new products she’s working on!)
FF: What inspired you to start Kahina Giving Beauty?
KLH: I had been searching for a natural skincare line that was truly effective. In 2007 the choices were limited.When I discovered argan oil on vacation in Morocco that year, I realized I had finally found the skincare ingredient I had been searching for. When I learned more about the women who work to extract the oil and about the argan forest, I realized I could create a company that could have a positive impact both socially and environmentally, while providing high-performance, results-driven skincare.
FF: What does a typical day look like for you?
KLH: My day starts at 6:45 when I wake up to get my kids breakfast and off to school. Luckily, my youngest goes to school close to our apartment in Manhattan so we can take it a little easy until 8:30. I usually get some emails done over morning coffee. When I’m not travelling, I’m at my office, which happens to be my dining room table. We’re a small company, just myself and one employee, so we both have to wear many hats.I spend most of my time managing the sales team, developing new products, working with Moroccan suppliers, and overseeing production, but I can also be found packing boxes for shipping or affixing tags to our limited edition gift sets. The good thing about working from home is that I can be there when my kids return from school. In between the travel, the work, and the kids, I try to fit in some sort of exercise routine, whether it’s a yoga class, some time spent on the treadmill, or a walk along the Hudson River. I’m at home for family dinner and helping my kids with their homework most nights.
FF: Where do you draw inspiration?
KLH: My father for his sense of humour in the face of life’s challenges and his integrity. The Berber women for their strength, their spirit, and their ability to create beauty from the simplest of materials. Morocco inspires me for the complete sensory experience it provides—vivid colours, exotic smells, and the beautiful sounds of music and the daily call to prayer. Finally, Donna Karan for her minimalist but accessible aesthetic and for creating Urban Zen, a company and foundation based on the principle of helping others.
FF: Can you tell me a little bit about your ingredients and how you select them?
KLH: First and foremost, our ingredients need to be effective, whether they’re the actives that contribute to skin health or the preservatives that support shelf-life and stability. Our products are certified by Ecocert, so the ingredients and their processing methods must pass Ecocert’s rigid standards for environmental protection and consumer safety. Finally, we source ingredients ethically, from small family farms and certified fair trade whenever possible.
FF: What sets Kahina apart from other brands?
KLH: Kahina was one of the first brands to bring argan oil to the U.S. In 2007, there were a handful of brands using it in their formulations, but we were the first to create a complete natural and organic skincare line based on its amazing properties. We use very high concentrations of the best, selectively-sourced argan oil, something that can’t be said for most brands piggy-backing on the argan oil trend. Kahina is also one of the pioneers of the “luxury organic” category, bringing luxury packaging and efficacy to the natural market. But what really makes us stand out, I think, is our dedication to sustainability from the ground up, beginning with our sourcing the best organic ingredients, to our recycled and recyclable packaging, and finally to our support of the women who extract the oil at the heart of our line.
FF: Can you share your personal beauty philosophy?
KLH: I hate to sound cliché, but beauty really does come from feeling good about yourself. When a woman is confident and happy, she is beautiful. As for my own routine, I keep it simple. I believe in eating well, getting plenty of sleep, staying hydrated, using natural products on my skin, and trying to minimize stress. If I lapse in any of these areas it tends to show up on my skin. I am very no-frills about hair and makeup, so having a good skin and hair maintenance program is important.
FF: How do you balance running a business with family and other priorities?
KLH: It’s a bit of a juggling act.But the advantage of running my own company is that I can be somewhat in control of my time. My family always comes first, but they know that I am running a business and respect my need to work most evenings and on weekends. I’ve learned not to stress about the things that aren’t that important at home and at work—if it means we’re eating scrambled eggs for dinner, or the beds don’t get made sometimes, so be it. Exercise at least four times a week helps me stay sane and I try to get at least eight to nine hours of sleep every night. I also couldn’t do it without an amazing support system—my husband and my incredible, but small, team.
FF: Your argan oil has become a bit of a cult favourite among Fresh Faced customers. Can you tell me what new products you’re working on?
KLH: We are very careful about adding new products to our line as we intentionally want to keep the line tight and simple. After two years in development and testing, we are excited to be launching two new products this fall and winter—a wonderfully restorative night cream and a beautifully scented body oil. That’s all I can give away now!