The Next Beauty Capital Is...New Zealand?!

We know France to be a beauty motherland, steeped in skin-care traditions. South Korea is famous for producing some of the most innovative cosmetics (BB cream, anyone?). But, when it comes to the best organic and natural skin care, New Zealand is quietly emerging as the world's leader. Seems kind of random, right? After all, we don’t hear much about the country or its culture aside from its sweeping landscape and the setting of Peter Jackson’s epic fantasy films.
But, consider this: New Zealand has a diverse and harsh climate that runs from subtropical to subantarctic. Its people require very protective and hydrating skin care and its culture is so geographically isolated that it innovates using what grows locally. What's more, Kiwis are ethically averse to greenwashing. That may explain why the country is kicking out some of the most quality-driven and ecologically friendly natural skin-care lines in the world. We spoke with the founders of a few of our favorite natural beauty lines from the region. Is this remote country becoming the new queen of green? Read on, and let us know your thoughts.
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Does the idea of global warming make your head spin? The climates in New Zealand are even more baffling. “We face tough environmental conditions in New Zealand; extreme and bright sunlight, torrential rain and hurricanes — often four seasons in one day,” says Elizabeth Barbalich, founder of the skin-care line Antipodes. Such harsh environmental conditions require locals to use a moisturizer that’s both light and rich (like the line’s Vanilla Pod Hydrating Day Cream) and products that protect and hydrate without being irritating, as New Zealand Celtic skin is fine and sensitive.

But just as the environment ravages skin, it also protects it. The landscape is rich with healing bioactive ingredients – like the antioxidant rich Vinanza Grape (which helps fight free radicals and hydrates), Mamaku black fern (which helps spur healthy cell renewal), and mineral-loaded Wiawera water – all of which are used in the line’s Hosanna H2O Intensive Skin-Plumping Serum.

Barbalich estimates that more than 80% of the line’s ingredients come from the Antipodes (New Zealand and Australia, a word that literally means the diametrically opposite ends of the earth).
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New Zealand’s rich natural environment and physical detachment from a fast-paced northern hemisphere makes the concept of “organic” as a product category kind of a funny one. After all, says Kati Kasza, founder of the carbon-neutral Evolu skin-care line, “It’s part of our daily ritual. We go to the sea, we take hot mud baths, we go to the bush — it’s just there. We drink water from our taps because it’s pure spring water. We see the cows eating grass. It’s all organic. We live and breathe these rituals naturally.” So it’s with this sensibility Kasza guides her skin-care range, which is built on 100% essential oils, artesian spring water sourced from one of the dozens of volcanoes (there are 14 in Auckland alone), and botanicals like Kawakawa, something that centuries of New Zealanders have used in bath soaks to treat itchy skin.

The leaves of another native plant, Kumerahou, is used as a natural foaming agent (rather than harsh sulfates) in the line’s luxurious-feeling Regulating Gel Cleanser, along with Manuka honey, known for its antibacterial properties (and used in hospitals around the globe in dressing wounds). In fact, Kasza’s very nature to create products from natural ingredients is organic in and of itself (she was raised by a winemaker and a botanist/herbalist), leaving no need to expensively package her products or even label them organic. Of both her country and her line, she says, “Everything around us is such high quality, there’s no need for embellishment.”
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Lipstick-maker Karen Murrell’s eco line of lipsticks may leave a light carbon footprint, (the corn resin-based bullets biodegrade within 100 days, packaging is 100% recyclable, and the line is greenhouse-gas neutral) but it's the nourishing blends that make a lasting impression on lips. The line was formulated to both brighten the lips with natural pigments and to hydrate kissers exposed to extreme weather in the southern hemisphere — thanks to ingredients like avocado, candelilla and Evening Primrose oils.

Like many in her cohort, Murrell draws inspiration from New Zealand’s landscape (Red Shimmer was created to mimic the bright flowers of the native Pohutakawa trees), something she attributes to being geographically distanced from the rest of the world (It’s at least 5000 miles to the Americas). “Because of our isolation to the rest of the world, we have had to, out of necessity, nurture our island and cultivate what was around us to survive. It is only through this that we have become creative and developed a major industry along the way,” Murrell says.
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According to Sans [ceuticals] founder, Lucy Marr, “...overly made up beauty rituals and looks are not part of the psyche of New Zealander women. It’s about not wasting time. Beauty rituals are kept to a minimum.” Which isn’t to say beauty isn’t important to New Zealander women — they simply demand products with quality, workhorse ingredients that help a woman get out from behind the mirror and outside into nature.

In a nod to simplifying a beauty routine without skimping on quality, the range’s multitasking Activator 7 Body + Hair + Face Oil serves as an all-in-one, hair-to-toe natural nourisher that’s pumped with baobab phyto lipids, omega 3, 6, and 9, Vitamin E, and a big hit of Vitamin A —all of which helps to minimize enlarged pores, treat sun damage and scars, stimulate cell repair, increase collagen production, help thicken skin — and, phew — moisturize brittle strands when used as a hair serum. That it’s made to treat sun-ravaged skin and smells incredible to boot? Well, that makes it one serious contender for a desert-island beauty pick.

Sans Ceuticals Activator 7 Body + Hair + Face Oil, available at Anthropologie stores.
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Transparency International, a global organisation that serves as a watchdog for civil society, ranks New Zealand as the least corrupt country in the world. How does this translate to beauty? “People who are involved in our industry are very genuine in their search for products that really make a difference, rather than products that simply maximise profits,” says Snowberry Founder, Soraya Hendesi .

In fact, many New Zealand-based skin-care lines do the opposite of greenwashing — and they’re actually more natural than are advertised. Not mentioned on Snowberry’s product packaging, for example, is Snowberry Gardens, a sort of kitchen for bio discovery that is stocked with indigenous plants used by the native Maori people for medicine and cosmetics. It produces the omega-acid-rich Harakeke seed oil used by the Maori for healing wounds. The oil is also captured in the line’s Bright Defence Moisturizing Creams along herbal emollients like rosehip, grapeseed, passion flower, and macadamia to comprise a super- hydrating, bio active-brimming skin food that doesn’t feel heavy or oily.
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