Tag Archives | Berber Women

Beauty Heroes Q&A with Katharine L’Heureux

This month, Kahina is proud to partner with Beauty Heroes to celebrate the naming of Kahina Eye Serum as an Expert Selection. Beauty Heroes is a subscription box that gives you full-sized items that have been vetted by their team of spa & beauty experts. Interested? Subscribe before September 15, 2015 to get a full-size Kahina Eye Serum plus a deluxe travel size (1 oz.) of our Facial Lotion for just $39.

See the original posting of the Q&A here.

Katharine at Agadir Beach

The recent update to our identity, now Beauty Heroes, could not have happened at a more appropriate time as we announce our September selection from Kahina Giving Beauty. Katharine L’Heureux, the founder of Kahina has taken her process of developing an ingredient driven, effective and beautifully packaged skincare line and turned it into a heroic venture that contributes substantially to the lives of women in Morocco. Deeply invested in their wellbeing, she travels to personally oversee how Kahina Giving Beauty can optimally direct resources, and ‘give beauty’ back to these women. I recently spent some time with Katharine in New York and got to see first hand how she balances the success of an iconic beauty brand with a mission to support communities of women making her a defining Beauty Hero. I hope you enjoy this glimpse behind Kahina Giving Beauty and take time to explore more of the line when you consider beauty products that benefit your skin while transforming the lives of women.

What inspired you to create Kahina Giving Beauty? Had you always wanted to formulate natural and organic skincare?
Following the birth of my third child 11 years ago, I was searching for safe and effective all-natural skincare products that, at the time, were hard to find. While on a trip to Morocco in 2007 I discovered argan oil – which is rich in Vitamin E, essential fatty acids and antioxidants. I began by importing the argan oil, then worked with an experienced chemist to formulate the line I was yearning for – simple, effective, organic skincare products, using high quality ingredients from around the world that are ethically produced and beautifully packaged with this amazing ingredient at their core.

What inspired the name Kahina Giving Beauty?
My aim was to honor the Berber women who extract the argan oil in Morocco. Kahina is the name of a Berber queen and prophetess who reigned in North Africa in 700 CE. Giving Beauty, our company name, refers to our policy of giving back to these women – by paying them a fair wage and donating to programs that support them and their families. It also acknowledges the generations of traditional remedies and healing techniques that they’ve been kind enough to share with us.

Katharine L'Heureux in Morocco

What’s your workspace like?
My space is very important to me. I’m very fortunate to work out of my loft in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan with my superstar employee, Mairin Cipolla, where we enjoy great views of the Empire State and Chrysler Buildings. Working at home allows me to be flexible with my time, which is necessary with my kids coming and going.

When it’s time to create a new product, how do you begin?
I’ve created each of my products based on what I personally need and would want to use. Usually, we’ll have internal discussions beginning with objectives for the product, outlining the benefits we’d like to achieve and how and when we’d use it.

What IS your process? Do you begin with an ingredient or an objective?
Once we’ve decided on the product we’d like to make, we’ll research ingredients that would work well. This is the fun part! We’re certified by Ecocert, so we search for certified organic and natural ingredients that comply with their standards. The list of proven effective natural ingredients continues to grow and evolve in exciting ways and this most definitely informs the products we produce. We discuss efficacy, scent profile, consistency, texture, and packaging options, and then my chemist gets to work. We’ll go through a number of rounds before we get to a point where we feel satisfied with the precise formula. Once approved, products have to withstand rigorous challenge and stability testing, so our chemist’s knowledge and experience is invaluable in creating products that will stand up over time and in a range of environments.

How often do you make a new product? How long does that process take?
We try to keep the line simple and meaningful, so we introduce a new product just once or twice a year. The entire process, from idea to finished product takes at least 18 months. With testing, certification, production and packaging, there’s no room to be impetuous.

What’s been the biggest discovery for you lately in terms of the creative process – or in creating a specific new product?
I have come to realize that much of the creative process is a result of having an open mind, letting go and trusting in forces beyond my control. If I envision a thing one way, but things happen to make it work out differently, often it will turn out better than originally planned. The most engaging works of art are often dialogues between the creator and the environment. It’s why I enjoy gardening, wine and creating natural cosmetics.

Is it safe to assume that Argan Oil is your favorite superpower ingredient? What specifically do you love about it?
Argan oil is certainly my first love. It’s a multi-purpose ingredient, with high concentrations of vitamin E and essential fatty acids, and works well on most skin types and for a myriad of skin concerns – from addressing signs of aging to acne. It also has uses for hair, nails and body. What’s not to love?

Since starting Kahina, I’ve discovered so many amazing new ingredients that we combine with the argan oil in our formulations, including sea buckthorn seed oil, carrot seed oil, and my latest love, Prickly Pear Seed Oil, which is sourced from the same women who supply our argan oil in Morocco.

Women cracking argan nuts photo credit Kahina Giving Beauty

How about a favorite product in the collection?
It’s so hard to choose only one, as they’re meant to be used together for the best results. Each product assists the next in achieving optimal, glowing, healthy skin. I do have a soft spot for the eye serum, though. It’s resolved issues of under-eye puffiness many mornings when I didn’t look as bright and awake as I would’ve wished!

How often do you visit Morocco? How long do you stay when you go? Any favorite places you’d like to tell us about?
I visit Morocco at least once or twice a year for at least 10 days each time. There is a lot of ground to cover on my trips, usually from Casablanca to Marrakesh, then Essaouira, Agadir and Taroudant in the South. This usually means a couple of hours a day are spent driving, but it’s a great way to experience Morocco and witness the rural way of life there. One of my favorite drives is from Essaouira to Agadir, through the argan forest and along the beautiful unspoiled Atlantic coastline, passing through some typical small villages along the way. My two favorite places to stay in all of Morocco are Riad Laaroussa in Fez and the Atlas Kasbah Ecolodge in Agadir – both of which are meticulously restored historic structures run by friendly and charming couples with an eye toward authenticity and cultural preservation.

You recently visited Morocco and the cooperatives where you source your ingredients? Can you share a glimpse into your trip?
Visiting the women who extract the oil for Kahina is always a touchstone for me, renewing my passion and excitement for the work I do. These women live in a remote village high in the Anti-Atlas Mountains in Southern Morocco. They are extremely poor, with no electricity or running water. They work hard just to survive, but they are truly aligned with nature in their daily rhythms, which connects them to the earth and to each other in a joyful way. It’s very rewarding for me to see how their work for Kahina benefits them, and to discover other ways in which we can help. In the last six months, we were able to build a bathroom with clean running water for a Middle School to help increase girls’ attendance. We also donated clothing and supplies to a village devastated by flooding last Fall.

Children outside schoolhouse

Do you have a personal mantra that inspires you?
One very simple, but helpful one I picked up in Morocco, “give time to time,” meaning be patient and let events unfold as they will. Also, thank you, God.

Where might I run into you on a Sunday morning?
That depends on where I am and the time of year. Right now, weekends are spent at our home in the Hudson Valley working in the garden followed by lunch with my husband and whichever kids are home. Fall and Winter weekends find my family and I in Manhattan where my husband and I like to take walks along the Hudson River and then we shop for lunch at Chelsea Market.

How do you relax?
Nothing makes me lose track of time like working in the garden. I love that it stretches me physically while also offering a time of contemplation and a creative outlet. There are also so many philosophical aspects to working in the garden: You can learn so much from observing plants, their power to heal and delight, to attract and repel in order to survive.

Just back from Morocco

I just returned from another trip to Morocco, visiting our cooperative, artisans, the High Atlas Foundation, and several cities.

Here, a few snapshots from my visit. More details soon!

xx
Katharine

Moroccan school children with new bathroom at schoolhouse Moroccan school children, with a new bathroom at their schoolhouse, thanks to Kahina contributions to High Atlas Foundation and local community support

Essaouira Archway Beachy, blue Essaouira

Prickly Pear Cactus by Katharine L'Heureux Prickly Pear Cacti are in full bloom this time of year

Katharine smiling in red shawl in Morocco Soaking up the late afternoon Moroccan sun

Buy Sheep for Year of the Sheep!

Kahina Giving Beauty Raising Money to Buy Sheep

Happy Lunar New Year! To usher in the year of the sheep, we’re committing to buying some. For every bottle of argan oil purchased on givingbeauty.com from February 19th to March 18th, 2015, we’ll be donating 100% of sales to the purchase of sheep for the Berber women of our argan cooperative.

Why sheep?

  • their wool can be used to weave rugs for use at home or to sell at market
  • their milk provides food for families
  • if bred, offspring can be sold at market for a profit

Kahina did this initiative back in 2012 (above is Katharine with some of her donated sheep). Our goal this year is 15 sheep impacting 15 women.

Did you know? The Year of the Sheep is associated with goodwill and giving back. From a recent Well & Good article: “[The sheep] is considered to be the good Samaritan of the zodiac. Potentially, there will be more attention to the environment, and people will be more inclined to give back,” Wendell says. “[Sheep] are good-natured and sensitive to beauty and balance.”

Support our efforts. Shop Argan Oil now.

Kind Eye’s Interview with Katharine

Kahina Giving Beauty on Kind Eye

A Kind Brand: Meet Kahina Giving Beauty
by Rachel Murray, founder of Kind Eye

You hear about finding beneficial ingredients from the rainforest, or the ocean but what about the desert? Kahina Giving Beauty prides themselves on offering a truly effective line of skin care, with organic argan oil from Morocco at its core. All products are certified by ECOCERT, which provides a rigorous process for ensuring sustainable agricultural practices. Founder and CEO Katharine L’Heureux graciously shared information about her company, their processes and more. Kahina Giving Beauty’s eye serum is part of our Spring Skin Discovery Kit Giveaway, open until March 8!

What is your company’s philosophy?
At Kahina, we believe: The best skincare ingredients are found in nature. Luxurious and effective skincare can go hand in hand with care for the environment. Companies can do well while doing good.

Is there anything your customers may not know about your company that you want to share?
In addition to providing economic activity for the Berber women who do the work of extracting our oil by purchasing Fair Trade Argan Oil, we donate additional funds to programs that help the women and their families.

What charities do you support (if any)?
As part of our initiative to help these women, Kahina supports Education For All, Morocco, providing free room and board so that girls can continue their education past elementary school.

The High Atlas Foundation, run by former Peace Corps volunteers, funds a number of programs in remote villages, including providing clean drinking water, and planting community run nurseries.

We also provide direct monetary assistance to the Berber women. Most recently, we provided clothing for victims of this winter’s flooding in the Anti-Atlas Mountains.

How do you decide what products to create?
I created Kahina for myself, out of my own desire for a simple line of truly effective natural skincare. I still strive to keep the line simple, and work to create products that I feel a personal need for, and with aesthetics that are pleasing to me. I often am inspired by ideas from our customers who can be very creative in coming up with new uses for argan oil.

What’s the number one misconception that people you meet have about ‘natural’ products and how do you answer it?
The number one misconception about natural products is that they aren’t as effective as traditional skincare. I argue that they are more effective as they don’t use unnecessary fillers and harmful ingredients. Plants have amazing defenses against all kinds of environmental stressors and contain the nutrients and fatty acids that our skin needs to be healthy and glowing. With advanced extraction technologies, we are able to tap into these extraordinary powers and use them in creating products that are safe and that really work.

What’s your top tip for health and well-being?
I believe in finding balance. We need to exercise, eat right (whatever that means for you), and get plenty of sleep, but we also need to make time for reflection, creativity, and for finding things that bring us joy. Finally, we need to be grateful for the ability to do all those things and forgive ourselves if we’re not always perfect at them.

How do you like to start your morning?
During the week, my alarm goes off at 7 and I’ll lie in bed and meditate for a few minutes to set positive intentions for the day. The first thing I do after brushing my teeth is perform my Kahina skincare ritual: Cleanse and Tone, then massage Brightening Serum, Oil, and then Lotion into my face. The scents make me happy, and the facial massage stimulates circulation while smoothing away any creases left from my pillow.

Then I spend some time with my husband and 10 year old son while he eats breakfast. I’ll have hot water with lemon, my multivitamin and probiotics, maybe I’ll fry an egg. Then I’ll spend a few minutes at my computer and throw a load of laundry in the machine before we’re out the door to get to school on time.

Thanks for the interview opportunity! Find the original post here.

About Kind Eye: Kind Eye is an informational website, aimed to help consumers make easy and conscious shopping choices about personal care products without running all over town or the internet.

The Power of an Image

girls with photo

In this age of the ever-present selfie, it is hard to imagine a world where many people have never even seen a photograph of themselves. This is often the case in the remote villages of rural Morocco. Sharing my photos with the women and children on my visits has been a great source of entertainment for all of us, especially seeing the young girls and boys striking poses and racing back to me to look immediately in the view finder, then demanding more while jockeying for a prominent position in the group photo. Seeing the young women carefully analyze their photos is fascinating to me. I can’t imagine being so unfamiliar with my own image, but with mirrors and glass windows a rarity, these girls rarely even see a reflective surface. Far from disliking their photos because of an unflattering angle, as we are so ready to do, these girls typically respond with peals of laughter.

I recently had the honor of an introduction to Heather Binns, a talented photographer volunteering for an organization called Prints for Prints. Prints for Prints reminds me of the value of the family photograph. From the Prints for Prints website:

A family photograph is a precious thing to many of us, and especially to people who live in rural areas and often do not have a record of their children or elders. Prints for Prints creates makeshift studios in rural villages, working with local student photographers when possible, for the purpose of donating prints to those who do not have photographs of their loved ones.

Heather will be traveling to Morocco in February. It gives me great pleasure to sponsor her work with Kahina’s charitable partners, the High Atlas Foundation and Education for All, Morocco, where she will document their work and donate prints to families and the girls in the boarding home to send home to their loved ones. I hope you will join us in following Heather on her journey via instragram @heathre. We look forward to sharing some of her photos here.

women with photos

Get Girls Back to School

Moroccan girls go to schoolGirls on their way into school

This September, 100% of every purchase of Kahina Argan Oil on givingbeauty.com goes to funding girls’ education so they can go BACK TO SCHOOL.

WHO: Girls in rural Morocco who otherwise would not be able to go to school past 3rd grade
WHY: Girls from rural areas of Morocco must travel to larger cities for access to education beyond basic elementary school. They need to be boarded, an expense that most families cannot afford – and conditions in government run housing are poor and unsafe. Education For All Morocco provides free, safe boarding homes for girls so they can continue their education. The organization, which was founded in 2007, has recently opened its fifth boarding home in the High Atlas region of Morocco. It costs approx. $2,000 to provide free food and board to each girl for one year. The organization is providing housing for approximately 100 girls.
HOW: We are donating 100% of sales (that’s $36 for 30 ml argan oil and $82 for the larger 100 ml size) of Kahina Argan Oil purchased on givingbeauty.com to Education for All Morocco.
WHEN: The entire month of September, 2014.
FOR MORE INFORMATION: Please visit Education for All Morocco’s website HERE.

This is Kahina’s fourth year supporting EFAM and we could not be more thrilled to continue with your help this year.

Kahina throw rugs hand-loomed by the women of Kahina in Morocco


presenting the rug edited

In May of 2011, on a trip to visit my argan supplier in a remote village high in the Mid-Atlas Mountains, I was shown the weaving cooperative in the village, where the women who crack the nuts for our argan oil were learning to weave rugs as a way to make extra money. The following year, Kahina donated money to buy sheep in order that the women would have wool to use for their weaving. In 2013, on a return trip to the village, I was presented with a beautiful hand-loomed rug decorated with the Kahina circle and star graphic. My rug has lived beside my bed warming my feet and heart ever since.

Kahina Berber Rug

 

Earlier this year, I asked the women to weave me more rugs exactly like the one they presented to me three years ago. I am thrilled to now offer these exclusively on givingbeauty.com. SHOP NOW.

Each 2’ x 4’ rug is hand-loomed using virgin sheep’s wool and natural dyes by the Berber women of the weaving cooperatives who also do the work of cracking the nuts for our argan oil.

Prickly Pear Seed Oil NEW from the women of Kahina Giving Beauty

Prickly Pear cactus photo edited for blog

Prickly pear seed oil came onto my radar shortly after I discovered argan oil in Morocco in 2007. Numerous suppliers in Morocco were touting the anti-aging effects of the hard-to-obtain oil, which was taking off in Europe at the time. I tried many samples from different producers and, while I was becoming convinced of the skin claims, the scent was something that I – not to mention my husband – couldn’t exactly embrace as part of my nightly ritual (something akin to grassy cat urine).

Then, four years ago, my argan supplier in the Mid-Atlas mountains began a Prickly Pear Seed planting project to provide additional economic activity for the women inhabitants. The work of extracting the prickly pear seed oil is even more labor intensive than for argan oil, requiring approximately four days to collect and dry the tiny seeds for one liter of oil. Since that time, I have witnessed the growth of the cactus plants on my annual visits, including watching them survive one severe drought that practically demolished every other harvest (and which took its toll on the extremely resilient argan trees).

The same attention to every harvesting and production detail that has resulted in our superior argan oil, has produced a superb outcome in our new Prickly Pear Seed oil. Richer in weight than pure argan oil, the Kahina Prickly Pear Seed oil goes on velvety smooth without leaving skin greasy and has a unique odor reminiscent of fresh hay (to me, at least).

While we love our argan oil for its multi-tasking prowess, particularly its ability to control sebum production, prickly pear seed oil is finding a place in my anti-aging arsenal for its high concentration of tocopherols, betalains (powerful antioxidants) and Vitamin K. And, like argan oil, it is loaded with essential fatty acids to smooth and plump fine lines and wrinkles.

Prickly pear seed oil is an excellent source of essential fatty acids (approximately 83%), especially linoleic acid (63%), tocopherols (1000 mg), betalaines, Vitamin K, amino acids and trace elements. Ideal for mature, dry skin, prickly pear seed oil moisturizes and softens skin while restoring skin’s elasticity, protecting against free radicals, and brightening under-eye circles.

Our pure cold-pressed Prickly Pear Seed oil is bottled at the source, including the Berber women in even more of the value chain.

Available only on givingbeauty.com.

Prickly Pear Seed Oil bottle cropped

 

FIT presents MADE IN AFRICA

Made in Africa Invite

Mark your calendars: Katharine L’Heureux, Kahina founder, will be speaking on a panel at EcoSessions: Made in Africa hosted by Magnifeco at FIT.

EcoSessions have two goals – one to build community and share stories within the design industry and the other to educate consumers through storytelling. For this event, 12 panelists will talk about the benefits and challenges of producing (sustainably) in Africa in three arenas: beauty, accessories and fashion. Hear Katharine representing Kahina Giving Beauty on the beauty panel with The Body Shop, Tiossan and Rain Africa as they discuss the hows and why they love making beauty products with ingredients from African countries.

EcoSessions are free and open to all; we hope to see you there!  Register here.

DATE: Monday, June 2, 2014
WHEN: 4:30 to 8:30 PM
WHERE: Great Hall at FIT, New York, NY
RSVP: sign up for free admission

Destiny, the beginnings of Kahina

moroccan-desert

Originally published July 3, 2009

In the Fall of 2007 I had the chance to travel to Morocco for the first time. Moroccans are strong believers in destiny and I have come to believe that it was my destiny to discover argan oil on that trip.

On my way to Morocco, my expensive face cream with a major luxury brand name was confiscated at the airport.  I bought something changing planes at Heathrow, but left that behind in the hotel after my first night in Casablanca.  I journeyed to Fes in one of the few times in my life without any lotion on my face and by the time I got to the desert I was desperate. In Marrakech, I asked my guide what the local women use on their skin and he told me about argan oil.  This was before argan oil had become known in the US and I had never heard of it before, nor was I in the practice of using pure oil on my face.  At that point, I still believed in the superiority of the technology of developed countries, even in the area of skin care.  But my 5th Ave skin care resources don’t exist in Morocco, so I asked him to take me somewhere where I could purchase some oil.

I was delivered to an apothecary in the heart of the medina where the owner served sweet mint tea and expounded on every spice and medicinal treatment on the shelves, from arthritis, to impotency and rheumatism before he finally got around to selling me the argan oil.

I bought the argan oil and brought it home.  It wasn’t long before I was hooked.  My skin was radiant and glowing and I loved how light it felt on my skin in contrast to the rich creams I’d been using.  This was an epiphany for me — that a pure oil, used for centuries by women in a country across the world could be more effective than anything I could find at home.  It was then that I decided to create the skin care line I had been searching for.  One based on simple, good ingredients that work.

Stay tuned for more…

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