Kahina Giving Beauty – Do-Good Skincare from Morocco

Goodlifer: Kahina Giving Beauty

The beauty ritual is something inherently connective; women all over the world bond over creams, lotions and potions. Recently, at an organic trunkshow, I met Katharine L’Heureux, whose company Kahina Giving Beauty is all about “women helping women through shared beauty rituals.” 25% of profits are donated to the women in Morocco who harvest the argan oil that is the core ingredient of all the products.

The hard work of extracting this oil from the nut of the argan tree is done by the Berber women, the indigenous people of North Africa who reside among the argan forests. The majority of these women live in poverty; their work in the argan cooperatives gives them chance at economic and social freedom. Many are learning to read and write for the first time, some cannot even write their name but have distinct marks that becomes their signatures. The packaging features some of these marks as design elements. L’Heureux also conducted interviews with some of the women (which proved quite difficult since they only speak Berber), and their stories can be found on the site.

Berber women are able to support themselves and take a first step toward independence by working in cooperatives.

Berber women are able to support themselves and take a first step toward independence by working in cooperatives.

As a person that has experienced more than my fair share of skin issues, I would never have dreamed of putting an oil on my face, but Katharine L’Heureux assured me that I would be pleasantly surprised. I was. It made my skin feel soft and glowy and absorbed quickly without any greasiness at all. Especially during these cold winter months, it seems like the perfect way to keep skin hydrated. L’Heureux discovered argan oil by chance, when forgetting to bring any type of skin cream while traveling in Morocco. She asked around and found that this essential oil was what the locals used.

The beautiful packaging uses the signature of some of the working Berber women as design elements.

The beautiful packaging uses the signature of some of the working Berber women as design elements.

The New York Times has dubbed argan oil “the latest miracle ingredient,” it contains high concentrations of nutrients that are the building blocks of healthy skin, and is highly potent in antioxidants. It also neutralizes free radicals (the second biggest cause of aging after sun exposure), reduces inflammation, minimizes the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles and protects the skin from harsh environmental factors.

The full Kahina Giving Beauty product line.

The full Kahina Giving Beauty product line.

I love the whole aesthetic of your company, but am curious, where does the name Kahina come from?
Kahina is the name of a Berber queen and prophetess who reigned in the South of Morocco in 700 AD. She is a heroine to Berber women and represents empowerment and vision for women everywhere. There is a shrine in her honor near Ourzazate.

Argan oil is made from the nuts of the Argan trees, which grows only in the Southwest of Morocco.

Argan oil is made from the nuts of argan trees, which grow only in the Southwest of Morocco.

Wow, I love the name even more now! How many women are employed as a result of your business?
In Morocco, I source my oil from a number of distributors who work with different small cooperatives throughout the argan region. The organic certifying body for the oil requires that at least 200 women are employed in the extraction of the oil, so each of these employs at least that many women. My staff here is very small (one very talented young woman who is my assistant ) as we are a startup, and there are a small number of amazingly talented women consultants who I have relied on to start this business.

Morocco's indigenous Berber women are the only ones allowed to harvest the oil from the argan trees.

Morocco’s indigenous Berber women are the only ones allowed to harvest the oil from the argan trees.

So what did you do before starting the company?
I worked in marketing and public relations and co-founded a public relations firm in San Francisco where I represented clients including Bare Escentuals, Odwalla, and The French Laundry – all companies producing amazing products based on high-quality, sustainable ingredients. Prior to Kahina, for the past few years I have been focused on raising three children and participating in my family’s grape growing and cabernet production business in Napa.

What was the biggest challenge you faced?
Starting a business is hard, especially when you’re trying to create a new mind set in a competitive space in an economic downturn. But I have always believed in what I was doing and have a strong vision and determination that have helped me overcome the obstacles.

Founder Katharine L'Heureux in Morocco.

Founder Katharine L’Heureux in Morocco.

Do you have any advice for people who want to start their own socially responsible business?
Most important is to be passionate about what you are doing. It cannot just be a marketing angle, you have to believe it and it must be part of your core mission. You will convey this passion to others if you really believe in your mission, and it will help you to overcome the obstacles you will inevitably face when starting a new business.

Second, you need to listen. Whatever your cause is, don’t assume you know all the answers. We often impose our own ideas of assistance and goodwill on others without being sensitive to the real needs of the recipients.

Third, network. Meet as many like-minded people as you can. They will provide valuable support and be your missionaries. A great place to start is The Social Venture Network.

Such great advice. Thank you. So, where do people find your products?
People can buy our products on our website, and at select retailers and spas around the country including Fred Segal in Santa Monica and ABC Home in Manhattan.

About author
A designer by trade, Johanna has always had a passion for storytelling. Born and raised in Sweden, she's lived and worked in Miami, Brooklyn and, currently, Ojai, CA. She started Goodlifer in 2008 to offer a positive outlook for the future and share great stories, discoveries, thoughts, tips and reflections around her idea of the Good Life. Johanna loves kale, wishes she had a greener thumb, and thinks everything is just a tad bit better with champagne (or green juice).
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