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Esse Skincare is driven by a new understanding of the skin microbiome and probiotics. The products deliver live probiotics that complement the microbial ecology on skin to favour a diverse ecosystem that is healthy enough to protect you from pathogens and slow the rate of inflammation-related ageing.
Esse also feeds with prebiotic nutrients to select for microbes that improve the microbial ecology on the skin.
Using probiotics coupled with biotech actives, Esse is committed to showing an alternative to conventional skincare. The range is certified organic by Ecocert, carbon-neutral and vegan. The packaging is guided by Cradle to Cradle standards and constantly strives toward bettering its carbon footprint.
What inspired you to start your business?
As an organic chemist, I was asked to consult on a skincare formulation involving an extract of Kigelia africana. The formulation presented to me was so full of synthetic ingredients and it got me wondering how it could be better considered for human skin. I formulated 3 organic moisturisers which slowly evolved into Esse.
What were some roadblocks/issues that you have faced? How have you prevailed?
When I first started back in 2002, organic standards for personal care were still in flux. The goalposts moved and other brands were claiming organic on conventional products. This diluted our efforts at educating our clients. Over the years, as Esse has shifted toward probiotic skincare and similar challenges have surfaced in that there are currently no standards outlining probiotic claims, making it difficult to stand out as innovative in the field when any brand that wants to ride the probiotic wave is making claims. A probiotic is defined as a live microbe that has a beneficial effect on a human. There are very few brands using live microbes.
What is one of your favourite products? Can you tell us more about this product?
I think that at the time of its launch, the Probiotic Serum was way ahead of its time. It is still Esse’s highlight product and it continues to win innovation and efficacy awards. With millions of live, viable probiotic microbes per application, this product uses a system that allows us to deliver stable probiotics to skin with a surprisingly long shelf life. The microbes are held in a dormant state, in a suspension free from preservatives. On application, water in the skin activates them and they are able to multiply and shift the skin’s microbiome in a meaningful way.
What are your favourite ingredients and why?
I would have to say that I am driven by research into the skin microbiome. I feel that the future of skincare will have to ensure that it protects the skin through microbiome support and probiotics and prebiotics are most effective routes. There are many impressive plant extracts that all have the power to improve skin condition and structure but without a healthy microbiome, inflammation and a compromised skin barrier will render any ingredient ineffective in the long term.
Share your brand ethos and how you demonstrate credibility as it relates to your formulation and ingredients
In short, Esse Skincare aims to deliver more effective skincare, responsibly. We don’t make promises we can’t keep and we subscribe to external audits to retain credibility and trust from our clients. All our certifications are verified in partnership with credible and reliable organisations and require that we source responsibly and consider every input.
What are some myths in the clean/green beauty sector that should be debunked?
There is a shortage of hard research on efficacy in the organic space. Clients want products that work and organic has not delivered in the past. We’re working hard to change that.
Also, don’t believe organic claims without substantiation – If it’s not certified organic, it’s not organic.
What does your day to day life look like as a founder and company owner?
Esse is based in the rolling green hills of Richmond, KZN, South Africa. I live in a small farmhouse with my wife Dee and some of our 7, extremely individual, kids – most of them have left home but there are always a few around. I love to find time for surfing, Ultimate Frisbee, yoga and squash. Loads of family time in our quiet neck of the woods. The lab is where I can bring to life the concepts that excite me though.
Thank you Trevor Steyn for sharing your powerful story behind Esse Skincare Your dedication for creating top quality products that are kind to the earth and kind to people is absolutely inspiring!