Madeline Nwokeji founded Lala Skin Essentials to fill the void she was experiencing in the skincare market.
She couldn’t find effective natural skincare that worked for her sensitive skin that was also affordable. She began formulating her own products, and when she started getting great feedback from friends and family, she decided the start her own company. Today, Lala Skin Essentials offers a line of high-quality organic skincare that provides options for all skin types. All products feature natural ingredients with nutrients that help your skin look and feel amazing.
We talked to Nwokeji about what it was like to start her own skincare line, how she sources her natural ingredients and the ways in which Lala Skin Essentials helps Black communities and women around the world.
What inspired you to start Lala Skin Essentials?
I was inspired to start Lala Skin Essential in 2014. The inspiration came from a lack of skincare options for my very sensitive skin. At the time, the mainstream options I was using were filled with chemicals that would further irritate my skin. So, in mid-2014, I started researching how pure natural ingredients could have great benefits for the skin conditions I had. Through my research, I discovered some incredible ingredients and the process then led to the idea that I could create my own skincare.
How did Lala Skin Essentials grow from a solution to your own problem into a skincare brand?
When I started, I didn’t intend to start a business, it was a personal need. This is why I think the company has been so successful. I started in my kitchen, mixing and mastering until I got the perfect batch. Of course, as the business grew I had to register, get testing done at labs and ensure all ingredients were compliant with the standard. Fast forward to now, we produce a range of almost 40 products from cleansers and toners to body care and men’s products.
How does Lala Skin Essential support the planet, Black communities and women around the world?
We believe that nature gives us everything we need for healthy skin. We source some of our ingredients from Nigeria, West Africa. It’s sustainably sourced through fair trade partnerships. Through this partnership, we source shea butter, cocoa butter and black soap, which are three products that are commonly used in some of our products. The partnership we have there is really incredible and it helps support thriving communities. It means a lot to us because we’re helping the women who work for us there while at the same time getting really pure ingredients for our brand. Another way we support women and Black communities is through our brand ambassador program where we have a group of women globally called the Lala Tribe.
What do you think is the biggest problem in the skincare industry right now?
I would say there’s a lack of transparency for many brands. when I started in 2014, there was a clear gap in the availability of clean beauty products, and now even major mainstream brands that have been known to use harmful chemicals in their products use the language “organic.” I think for consumers it can be a little confusing as to what organic actually means. Transparency is really important right now and being clear about the labelling of ingredients so people can read and understand what their putting on their skin. Some brands might say “organic” but only be 50 per cent organic and there might be some ingredients that can irritate your skin. So, getting to know the brand and understand the product is very important.
What advice do you have for customers who don’t know where to start with their skincare?
It can be overwhelming, give yourself permission to learn and take the process one product and one ingredient at a time. Next time you find yourself running low on your favourite products, maybe start exploring their ingredients and discovering which are the healthiest and the safest. I think it’s also important to understand that skincare’s a journey and it takes time and effort.
How does Lala Skin Essentials also work to empower women?
I’m a woman and woman of colour, so in my journey and in my career it’s very important to have support. With Lala, we saw an opportunity to help propel women forward. We do this in different ways: through our brand ambassador program and by emphasizing the importance of self-care through our daily work. I always say skincare is self-care. Working on yourself and your skin definitely helps boost your overall confidence. We also feel that with our affordable skincare options we’ve helped a wider range of women get this small piece of self-kindness and self-care into their daily lives.
Can you talk a little bit about your decision to venture into men’s skincare?
The idea came from women who were saying their husband or boyfriend uses [our products] and he loves it. We also had a few men ask if we had men’s products and that’s how the men’s line was born. But beyond that, skincare is genderless. Everyone has to take care of their skin and everyone wants to look incredible and feel good. Just as women struggle with clear skin, so do men. We quickly realized there was a big market for this. Beyond the body care products we did for men and unisex cleansers, we also expanded into a beard line with butters and oils which do very well.
What are some of your favourite products?
Our perfect skin serum is one of my favourites. I love this serum because it’s deeply nourishing, and it’s one of our original products and really seems to be standing the test of time. It has over 10 specialty oils including rosehip, moringa, tea tree. It really helps keep the skin clear and hydrated and keeps your complexion radiant. Another product I really like is the black soap cleanser. Black soap is actually a traditional African beauty ritual and staple so it really helps to gently exfoliate and maintain skin moisture. Best of all, it’s purely natural.
What’s one of your newer products?
The newest addition is our rose water mist. It’s become a favourite for helping to prevent maskne. It tones skin, prevents and repairs breakouts and leaves your skin smelling like roses. That’s now a staple I use every day as well.
What message do you want to share this Black History Month?
As we celebrate Black History Month, I’m inspired by the leaders who came before us, paved the way and fought to make a difference. I believe we still have a long way to go as a society to be equal and to treat everyone fairly. We all have to work together collectively to reduce the injustices that are faced by the Black community.
It’s very important to support not just during Black History Month but all year round. Keep in mind the challenges the black community faces, the systemic challenges, and keep having those important and difficult conversations about how we can move forward together. If something happens and there’s any way you can support, contribute or have conversations about it, I think it’s important that we all do that together. I think it’s also important to support Black-owned businesses, we do have a lot of struggles and challenges and not the same opportunities.