I have so many fond memories growing up in Nigeria. We have such a rich and diverse culture. My mum is a mix of Igbo/Ghanian and my dad Yoruba/Sierra Leonean so I was surrounded by a mix of cultures.
I remember learning about traditional Yoruba beauty recipes using oils, butters and other local ingredients. We all used the traditional black soap and my grandmother had recipes for almost every ailment.
I was super excited to come across Liha Beauty which is inspired by Yoruba beauty traditions and founded by best friends Abi Oyepitan & Liha Okunniwa.
Their products are natural, 100% vegan, cruelty free, free from parabens, SLS and chemicals and handmade in small batches in Cheltenham and Hackney.
I reached out to Abi and Liha to find out more about their brand and products.
Tell us a bit about yourself.
Liha and I met at University in 2001, we bonded over the fact we were both into natural skincare and making our own products from whatever we could find in the kitchen cupboard. Liha is a total beauty junkie and she got into aromatherapy at a young age as her mum is an English aromatherapist.
We were always exchanging beauty and skincare recipes, and when I travelled the world as a Great British athlete Liha would always get me to bring back those much coveted products she couldn’t get her hands on in the UK.
What inspired you to start LIHA Beauty?
Launching LIHA Beauty was really an organic process. The products we were making in our kitchens became really popular amongst our friends and family, and when the whole natural cosmetics movement started to really gain traction we thought maybe we should give it a go.
So we decided to do a little trial at Port Eliot festival in Somerset and see how people reacted to our branding, and to the workshops where we showed people how to make their own natural cosmetics with Shea butter. The workshops were a raving success, not only was our workshop jam packed and oversubscribed, we sold all of all our products. That’s actually how LIHA Beauty was borne – it happened much quicker than we had anticipated!
Why is natural beauty important to you?
I think there is a misconception that they will not work as well as more established brands that people are more used to, which use things like paraffin or petroleum jelly.
In fact, those ingredients work in the short term, but the build up of toxins over time will often lead to an allergic reaction or excessive dry skin. Also 80% of what we put on our skin is absorbed directly into the bloodstream, so if you eat clean you should use clean products too!
What has been the most challenging part of starting your own brand?
Everything… haha! We are two women who had this wild idea to start a beauty brand without the background in the field. Everything we’ve done has been through instinct and just sheer hard work so I would say everything is a beautiful challenge. Learning as you go certainly has its benefits!
As a fellow Yoruba girl, I know all about Yoruba traditional recipes. Tell our readers a bit more about how they inspire your recipes.
When we first started we wanted to introduce the market to West African traditional beauty staples that were reworked and merge English fragrances and tinctures.
As we evolved we want to be at the forefront of discovering new and innovative ingredients that vastly reside in West Africa that have been used for centuries but as yet been untapped by the Western market. There are a vast array of flora and medicinal ingredients that have yet to be introduced to the western beauty world.
What makes LIHA Beauty products unique?
The merging of African and English is certainly a unique feature, and also the fact that they all take some time. There is a ritual to waiting for Idan oil to melt, or to working Shea butter in or mixing it at home yourself to make your own creation, we believe that element of self care and time out is essential.
Tell us about your product range.
We are currently launching our Cleansing mud mask, OJU OMI via kickstarter.
A 3-in-1 facial cleanser that can be used as a traditional cleanser, a mask or spot treatment. Leaving your skin cleansed but still feeling nourished and moisturised as well as minimizing visible pores. It’s really unique and gives an amazing glow.
Idan Oil– Idan is the Yoruba word for magic, which the only word to describe our sublime moisturising oil. Made with natural, cold pressed coconut oil into which a Tuberose flower has been immersed, ensuring the wonderful scent of this night blooming flower is absorbed naturally into the oil by a traditional African process of Enfleurage.
Shea butter is the ultimate African beauty secret. Used for centuries by women to protect and regenerate the skin, its potency lies in its naturally high concentration of Vitamin A and E.
A multi-purpose moisturiser for all skin types, it can be used on dry areas, stretch marks, scars, as a nappy balm, or as a base for making your own natural cosmetics.
Ivory Shea is from Ghana and has a light crumbly texture and is slightly lighter in colour. It has a natural nutty, vanilla honey –like fragrance.
Our Nigerian Gold Shea is waxy in texture, with a little more moisturising power than the Ivory. This is a favourite among our customers who suffer with eczema. The natural fragrance is more earthy and has notes of clean soil.
Ose Gidi is a luxurious black soap with exfoliating and deep cleansing properties without leaving you skin feeling stripped. This vegan formulation of organic Shea butter, Coconut and Hemp oils form a superior moisturising base and roasted Plantain skins offers an natural alternative to lye. The antioxidants in Moringa makes skin look revitalised, improving the appearance and radiance of skin.
The nourishing and skin softening nutrients of Blackstrap molasses – Lactic Acid helps improve acne. Fragranced with English Rose and African Palmarosa essential oils, Ose Gidi is a true skin treat.
Our candle is made from a clean burning coconut wax blend and has a wooden wick and base notes of Geranium and Frankincense. Top notes of Lavender and hibiscus invoke the fragrance of soft African Moss. Our inspiration was the famous Yoruba Queen Idia, a symbol of female empowerment and proof of ancient matriarchal societies.
The myth tells of two medicine-filled incisions on her forehead that were the source of her metaphysical power.
If you had to pick a favourite product from your range, what would it be?
My favourite product is the soap and our new cleanser, I literally can’t live without them and I can’t chose between the two!
I love DIY beauty. Tell us more about the Kitchen Beauty Workshops you host.
Our kitchen beauty workshops are an education in natural beauty and self-care using healing powers of Shea butter and plant essences. We are all about slow-living and taking time out for yourself, which is what we try and convey in our workshops.
It’s an interactive workshop where participants focus on basic skin-food recipes and with that education we hope they gain confidence and thirst to take it further by experimenting with their own concoctions.
We want our customers to be empowered and educated about their skincare and this is a great first step.
Who has inspired you most in your life?
We are both inspired a lot by our mothers. Super strong independent women who take everything in their stride!
It’s cheesy but we also inspire each other! Abi went from growing up in a rough council estate in North West London to going to two Olympic games and becoming an Olympic finalist and that drive helps push us forward. We are both inspired everyday by what we can achieve with LIHA Beauty.
What’s next for Liha Beauty? Are there any products we can look forward to?
After the launch of OJU OMI cleanser, we will start the formulation of few other facial products which is really exciting. And our main focus is growing the business to take it to the next level!
Many thanks to Abi and Liha for taking time out to chat with us. I look forward to trying out the products.
You can find out more and support their Kickstarter project here