Interview with Aly Rahimtoola, Founder, Herbal Essentials

We love skincare, and we love skincare backed up by science. Raised in a family specialising in pharmaceuticals, Aly Rahimtoola discovered and incorporated the invigorating qualities of Himalayan water in skincare products. The Libas Now team interviews the founder and CEO of Herbal Essentials, Aly Rahimtoola.    

How does a Wall Street Investment Banker find his way into skincare? 

Great question and something I often ask myself. Ultimately, I am a Consumer – like everyone else. I had a long career in Shipping and was eager to look for new ideas. In that way whilst I might have a very traditional background, I’ve been quite entrepreneurial in my outlook in life. It’s better to have tried something and not get there then stay in your comfort zone and not challenge yourself. You grow as a person if you challenge yourself and I challenge myself on a daily basis. Specifically turning to skincare, when I decided to found Herbal Essentials I saw so many brands from much larger companies spinning the truth just to sell products that might not be best suited for the consumer and that irritated me. I wanted to create a brand that is authentic in everything it does and stands for. That is affordable and has great efficacy. If we don’t have a problem for your skin concern then we can recommend another brand or product because ultimately we know that good skin is good health and wellness and I feel brands need to be genuine in everything they do and support the consumer.

What does “Good Skin” mean to you?  

 “Good Skin” to me, means a strong skin barrier. If your skin is healthy, hydrated & resilient it will be able to take differing weather conditions, pollution from cities, different chemicals found in cosmetics & pretty much anything you throw at it and it won’t freak out. If you’re experiencing sensitivity or a random breakout, chances are there is something going on within your skins dermis not on top of it. So fixing this the source of the problem (within the epidermis) is a longer term solution that your skin will thank you for in the future. Also if your Skin is Good then chances are you will feel confident and happy and that is what life is all about.

What percentage of “Good Skin”, in your opinion, is genetics vs what you can change? 

 Good genes are lovely to have but environmental and lifestyle factors do affect our skin. Ironically my next entrepreneurial venture uses your DNA to help you identify what skin concerns you are likely to suffer from – recent Genomics studies in the US suggest that environment and lifestyle factors have a 60% influence on your skin whereas genetics is 40% so it’s a bit of both !

What, in your opinion, is the brand’s star product?  

I think I’d have to say our Photo-Finish Face Veil skin primer. Its been referred to as a “dupe” for an iconic make-up primer which retailers at 3x the price of ours, not to mention its also been nominated by Vogue UK as the “best primer for under £16” two years in a row. 

Himalayan Spring Water is at the core of your brand’s DNA. What makes this ingredient so special? 

It contains 3 essential minerals; Magnesium, Potassium & Calcium. Magnesium = Supports the skin barrier and helps calm the skin from redness & irritation. Potassium = Boosts antioxidant production and supports skin’s ability to lock in moisture. Calcium = Boosts skin cell, renewal and supports production of antioxidants. In short, it’s a super-hero ingredient, so we decided to put it in every skincare product we sell but it’s how we formulate it with natural plant actives that have been carefully selected. Take our Night Cream – we specifically use Sugar Maple as a milder AHA to avoid a harsher stripping effect.

Your products contain Ayurvedic inspired botanical ingredients. Do these natural ingredients really have the same power as the chemical-powered formulas that customers are used to?  

It’s a abit of both. As a brand we appreciate the power of Nature but we also recognise that environmental stressors have an impact on the skin and pollution has never been worse than it is now so we have worked with our French lab partners and supercharged these botanical ingredients. The blend of a high natural origin content with modern day actives gives the brand a balanced approach to maintaining good skin health -like everything in life it is a balance.

What is the optimal age to start getting into a daily skincare routine with your products?  

After you turn 25 the epidermal cell renewal slows down quite rapidly in your skin which leads to ageing, this is where our Himalayan Active Water comes into its own, slowing down this process as compared to other water used in skincare products. However, looking after your skin should start from when you hit puberty. Your skin’s hormonal levels change (obviously) but not only that the pH of your skin will fluctuate causing breakouts, blemishes & acne. Our purifying range is perfect for early-starters in their skincare journey, containing gentle ingredients that will help to balance & purify the skin to ward off these confidence-killing breakouts. We are also launching Serums next year for the older age profile!

What have you learned while getting your line stocked at Sephora and other leading retailers? 

The consumer is SO switched on to ingredients and what their skin concerns are, brands can no longer hide behind clever marketing campaigns or big-name ambassadors. Consumers want to see and hear clinically proven results, before & after images which is why we put a lot of energy and focus on getting these for them which is in many ways what I wanted to do when I started. Brands need to be authentic and I think Retail Partners across the globe see that in how we conduct ourselves.

Are there notable differences in customer preferences in the different regions where you stock?  

Yes there really are – our best sellers differ a lot by region. I think its got a lot to do with the trends that those markets see, skincare trends are not as global as you’d think. Also different environments call for different needs and it’s been an amazing learning experience for us being able to view the products that our consumers are wanting in different parts of the world.

Talk us through your own skincare routine. 

Without fail, I use our Purifying Face Wash and Hydra Active Gel every day. Hydra Active gel doubles up as an amazing, cooling post-shave balm – it’s in my travel kit bag! I also use two other products that I can’t yet disclose as my NPD team will kill me – but watch this space, and oh yeah, we are launching a natural Men’s Grooming and Skincare line next year.

Living or dead, who would you have lunch with to talk about their skincare/beauty/wellness secrets? 

 Great question! I think Audrey Hepburn embodied something that as a brand we strive to be, which is “timeless elegance” so it would be an interesting lunch – or perhaps we’d meet for Breakfast at Tiffany’s!

When are you launching in Pakistan?

 In early 2023 which is not long to go! In Karachi, we are stocked at MINT Beauty Solutions which is the top salon there in 3 locations as we offer Himalayan Facials. We are currently trying to identify the right retail partner for a nationwide launch and are in discussions with a few candidates.

Artist, critic and a self proclaimed historian. I write about the this and thats, odds and ends, and etceteras of the art world.

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