Glow is the new lift. – This is ORVEDA’s science.
«The Science of tomorrow is as kind to the skin as possible. It will not change the skin’s pH, strip it of its natural oils or impact on its microflora. Bacteria, yeast and enzymes – made possible through the power of biotechnology – are beauty’s new factories and its future.» – Sue Y. Nabi
Recently, I had the chance to meet one of the most inspiring persons I have ever interviewed at SPITZENHAUS in Zurich: Sue Y. Nabi, who created ORVEDA together with Nicolas Vu, a hip-hop producer and a champion in many sport disciplines.
Sue Y. Nabi with me at Spitzenhaus in Zurich
Looking back to an amazing career, Sue Y. Nabi was the CEO of both L’Oréal and Lancôme for 20 years, she launched the vegan and highly concentrated beauty brand ORVEDA. Her vision is a healthy, glowing skin because it is before anything a stronger skin.
Sue, first of all what does ORVEDA mean?
«Or» means at the «Origin of» and «Veda» because it is inspired by the Ayurvedic philosophy and science that states that the skin has the power to heal by itself.
What were your first career steps? What is your background?
I was born in North Africa, in Algiers, and raised there until 16 years old. From an early age, without even knowing what the term meant, I was obsessed with biotechnology. Don’t ask me why. I just loved it and studied bio chemistry and environmental science. When I finished my engineering studies, I was feeling that I am not ready to work. I was obsessed with fashion and wanted to do something with it. I met with Yves Saint Laurent who was still alive at that time. I had a connection and he put me in contact with somebody working for him who warned me not to go into the fashion world that was at that time much smaller than today. He suggested to work in a big company and learn how to do marketing. Therefore I entered L’Oréal at the age of 25, after having done an MBA at Paris Business School. This was step one. I did 20 years at L’Oréal and for the last ten years, I was the CEO of Lancôme and L’Oréal.
Sue Y. Nabi changed the world of beauty advertising by championing diversity in age or skin colors.
What was your game changer?
One of the biggest changes that I initiated was how we see advertising. It didn’t make sense for me to have a 25-year-old model being the face of a campaign for women suffering from menopausal skin conditions.
On a Sunday, I had a magic moment in my apartment watching TV. I saw Jane Fonda presenting her book and I loved her skin that was even at a certain age glowing and full of life. The day after, I called around to get a meeting with her before she left Paris. Three days after, we had a coffee and six months after, she was shooting our advertising. Nicole Garcia, who is a famous French actress and filmmaker, made the first campaign for «Age Perfect» and it became a huge success. This tiny line of L’Oréal became the best-selling line of the brand thanks to Jane Fonda.
It opened other doors, I decided to be more diverse and inclusive which is a big thing today. At that time, brands went for Western models like Claudia Schiffer for example. I decided to book Penélope Cruz, the first brunette. Rachida Brakni, the first Arabic ambassador, Gong Li from China and South African actresses. Also men were important. I signed Pierce Brosnan who was 60 years old at that time, Matthew Fox, and Patrick Dempsey. That was new as well. When people were looking at Hollywood, I was looking at TV shows. Also something that is huge today. Those were my years with L’Oréal – the brand did 10% of growth during 4 years. We took it to new heights.
Created under Sue Y. Nabi, La vie best belle has become one of the bestselling fragrances.
Why did you leave L’Oréal for Lancôme?
In 2009, I was feeling very comfortable with my job. The CEO came and told me that they need me for another brand that was not in good shape and this brand was Lancôme. So I used the same recipe. I looked for the face of the brand and tried to create amazing products. I was in Shanghai for my first trip for Lancôme when I received a phone call from Julia Robert‘s agent telling me that she is waiting for me tomorrow in Malibu. So I immediately hoped on the plane and met with her. That was the start of an amazing relationship. She became the face of the campaign. Furthermore, I created many bestsellers, including Visionnaire and Génifique eye serums and La vie est belle fragrance, that is today the number one perfume ahead of Chanel and Dior which was a big bet. People told me to stay away from scents as other brands were so much stronger in this sector. I worked for three years with Oliver Polge, Dominique Ropion, and Anne Filipo to create the best scent possible. It is 10 times more expensive than others in the mass market. When the success happened, I was 44 and I said to myself, I have two options, I finish my life at L’Oréal for the next twenty years or I try to do something different.
Sue Y. Nabi and Nicholas Vu
How did you get started? What is your vision behind ORVEDA?
Nicolas and I started working on Orveda in 2014 with a simple, shared vision: to do things in a better way. Thanks to my business travels through Asia, mainly South Korea and Japan, I heard a lot of things about skin care, what people were complaining about, what they didn’t trust any more and what they were looking for.
Therefore Nicholas Vu and I started to create a skincare line that ticks all the boxes that people were complaining about. We created the probably most concentrated skincare line in the world. Some products go up to 40% of active ingredients. In big companies, they work on nice textures for around two years and they put a hint of active ingredients in it because textures is the way you sell products over the counter, it has to be quick and easy. They don’t care about the longterm results as much as we do. We did it the other way. I asked the laboratory I was working with in France to build the texture around the products with 30% to 40% of active ingredients which was of course a challenge and very importantly we tested them on sensitive skin.
The second thing was that people were fed up with the term «anti-aging». It is not about aging, it is about looking your best at the stages in your life. If somebody is 50, they can look 40 if they take care of their skin. Anti-aging makes you feel guilty. It creates stress which produces cortisol which is the hormone of aging. People said they want to look healthy, rested, refreshed, glowy, just the best version of themselves. All words were not linked to age. Therefore I decided to study the science of glow which is more comprehensive than the science of aging. The latter is about wrinkles and firmness.
If you want to have a glowy skin, you need to work on hydration, on nutrition, on skin texture and evenness, transparency, the way the light travels your skin, you need to work on the size of the pores, on the fine lines, on the architecture of the skin, you need to work in fact on more than 10 skin parameters. This fact was a surprise for me who had worked for such a long time in the industry. It motivated me to come up with a line that caters to glowy skin because this is something we love at every age.
First step to boost your hydration and increase rosiness: The Healing Sap has to be applied not later than 3 minutes after cleaning your skin as the pores are then still open.
At ORVEDA, our glow rivals make-up. This didn’t come from a marketing idea, it derived from a real life happening. When we tested one of our star products, called «The Healing Sap», we gave it to 25 women to do a clinical testing for one month. After the testing was over, the clinic called me and told me, that many of the women called asking to keep the product. All these ladies were heavy foundation users, after four weeks of using our product, they stopped wearing foundation. Therefore we say, glow that rivals make-up.
You can test all the products at SPITZENHAUS in clear bottles to see the texture and colors.
How does it work?
Inspired by ancient Ayurvedic, Naturopathic and Taoist principles, ORVEDA works with skin, not against it. Understanding the skin as a «me-cosystem», it actually works on 3 levels:
On level 1: The skin’s natural moisture barriers. Our unique formula combines a marine enzyme and natural prebiotic to help heal the skin’s natural moisture barriers and helps to promote healthy skin microflora.
On level 2: It literally acts as «make-up from within», thanks to bio-fermented Kombucha black tea. Skin luminosity, skin transparency, superficial skin tones and visible skin texture are all visually improved. Kombucha colors your collagen pink. When you are young, the collagen is pink and blue, the older you are getting the more yellow and green it turns. It is visible from outside. Kombucha is also loved by plastic surgeons as it has a filling effect so that the light is better reflected.
On level 3: Depending on the SKU, it will help to correct all the visible flaws visible in your skin, including the appearance of fine lines, unevenness, visible pores, excess shine, superficial redness, the feel of dryness, rough skin, the appearance of contour definition and more…
What else is inside?
Our signature mix is made of: natural prebiotics that come from fermented potatoes and that, just like taking prebiotics for your gut, are designed to feed the good bacteria on your skin.
Bio-fermented marine enzymes, that come from deep inside the volcanic waters off the Californian coast, that, able to survive in such high temperatures, are designed to boost the healing of the moisture barrier of the skin. And as mentioned before, bio-fermented Kombucha black tea, that is known in Asia, for centuries, as «the long life beverage». On top of these 3 signature ingredients, you will also find the best, state-of-the-art cosmetic actives depending on each product.
Important is always go from water (serum) to oil and to put the cream (which is water and oil) in the middle.
What makes ORVEDA unique?
All our products are highly concentrated with up to 88% of the actives having a bio-fermented origin. They work with immediate effect, with your skin, not against it. Our products have cleaner formulations, we got rid of all the nasty stuff: they do not contain parabens, nor phenoxyethanol, no artificial colorants (the colour of our products is the natural colour of its ingredients or we use natural colourants), no alcohol that dries out the skin.
We have replaced mineral oils with botanical oils. And in all our cleansers, we have replaced sulfates with botanical cleansing agents that are not drying. Our formulations are VEGAN which means that they do not contain animal extracts and are not tested on animals (like the law in Europe requires).
Finally all Orveda packaging is made of Pure Glass that better protects our active formulations and we use less than 5% plastic.
What is the difference between «probiotic» and «prebiotic»?
«Probiotic» is the scientific name for bacteria. «Prebiotic» can be considered a kind of food for our good bacteria strains. All ORVEDA products contain only prebiotics. These are made from fermented potato fibers that are clinically proven to feed the good bacteria that live on our skin. By feeding the good bacteria that live on our skin with these fibers (in the same way that we feed the good bacteria in our gut with fibers from fruits and vegetables), we can strengthen our good bacteria and therefore can better protect our skin. ORVEDA does not use probiotics (i.e. ‘live’ bacteria) in any of our products owing to the fact that these cannot stay alive in formulations.
A truly amazing product: The Prebiotic Emulsion is designed to preserve skin’s moisture and to help prevent natural moisture loss. Augmented by a reusable cosmetic silicone mask, to be washed after each use. Important is always go from water to oil, put the cream in the middle.
Why don’t you sell night creams?
We do not sell night creams because we feel that night creams are just a greasier version of day creams… We recommend using our highly concentrated overnight masques. If you prefer, you can also use our day cream at night, since it is also suitable for night usage i.e. AM + PM.
The scent is beautiful. Can you please tell me a little bit more about it?
Our scent is made of Galbanum and is more expensive than traditional skincare fragrances. This rare plant that has a very unique scent that makes you feel like you are in a green forest… It has been used for centuries for its relaxing and soothing powers. It was created by a master Parisian perfumer exclusively for us.
With Christof Hoerler of SPITZENHAUS, who is also a huge fan of ORVEDA.
Is ORVEDA for women only?
No, it is actually a genderless line which means that all our products can be used either by women (they are made for women) or men (they are strong enough for men’s skin).
You can actually share your products with your husband/companion/son, which is also a way to «invest» smartly in ORVEDA .
Thank you, Sue, for your time and all these amazing insights!
After having tested the range, I can highly recommend some amazing products, such as The Healing Sap, the Eye Make-up Remover & Lash Serum that leaves a coat of lash serum while removing your eye make-up and the Ironing Effect Masque.
If you are interested, I recommend a visit to SPITZENHAUS for a complete personalized introduction to the brand.
Photos: Courtesy of Orveda, Spitzenhaus, L’Oréal, Lancôme and © Sandra Bauknecht