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Interview
Portrait of Sue Y Nabi

Meet Sue Y Nabi: Founder of Orveda

BWB spoke with Sue to see how her skincare philosophies extend from Orveda and into the environment as a whole.

After twenty years of climbing the executive ladder of two of the biggest international beauty brands in the world, L’Oréal and Lancôme, Sue Y Nabi knew she wanted to do something new and original for the world of skincare and wellness. When she founded Orveda in 2014, she built her brand with a philosophy that outlawed gender labels, animal testing, harmful preservatives and harsh acids. The result? A cruelty-free line that can give you an eternal glow inside and out– without a guilty conscience.

With prebiotics, healing enzymes, and kombucha tea– yes, you can now use your favorite fermented beverage to strengthen the lining of your stomach AND your external skin barrier– Orveda strives to use the cleanest and most environmentally-conscious ingredients as possible while still producing luminous results. BWB spoke with Sue to discover the inspiration behind her vegan skincare brand, as well as her own personal environmental outlook & lifestyle.

Tell us your motive behind building your own vegan brand.

When I was the CEO of Lancôme, I was clearly seeing a white space in skincare for an investment skincare range that would be — simultaneously — more efficient, more concentrated, powered by actives and not by marketing, yet also greener, cleaner, and vegan. This skincare would make the skin stronger, activating the self-healing powers of the skins’ barriers instead of weakening these via acids, and, in a way, empowering skin to do what it does best: offering protection from aggressions and premature aging. I started thinking about formulations that are designed to work with your skin, not against it, so people could see a result in the mirror every single day, like a very visible glow coming from inside.

Orveda has been created to be clearly on the healthy side of the market, working so comprehensively that it activates skin glow by boosting multiple skin parameters.

Orveda has been created to be clearly on the healthy side of the market, working so comprehensively that it activates skin glow by boosting multiple skin parameters: deep hydration, barrier-strengthening, erasing fine lines and visible pores, evening skin tone, boosting rosy tones, boosting skin luminosity, and firming skin architecture. Glow is a very serious thing: it can look like a makeup trick but, in reality, a true healthy glow is the most difficult thing to achieve in skincare and is the best sign of healthy skin. To activate glow, I knew Orveda needed to act on each and every skin beauty parameter: skin texture, skin tone, skin hydration, skin renewal, and skin energy. The best proof that we have succeeded in creating a range of Orveda Glow Activators is that our glow activation is so visible women can skip foundation. You can now glow with or without makeup.

The best proof that we have succeeded in creating a range of Orveda Glow Activators is that our glow activation is so visible women can skip foundation.

It is also vegan, as it is no longer necessary to use animal-origin actives to create highly efficient skincare formulations that work. There are vegan alternatives to everything. As proven and pioneered by Orveda, ‘vegan’ can be a highly luxurious, scientific-led, results-driven experience, too.

What are some of your favorite products that you developed with L’Oréal and Lancôme?

La Vie Est Belle fragrance at Lancôme and, at L’Oréal, True Match foundations.

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How do you care for the environment in your own lifestyle and beauty routine?

In my beauty routine, from an environmental perspective, I only use Orveda, as the range has been designed to dramatically lower levels of plastic. Made with pure glass that better preserves our uber-concentrated formulations (and is, of course, fully recyclable), Orveda uses less than 5% plastic across the line. I have always struggled to find brands, even high-end brands, that use low levels of plastic. Beauty is unfortunately a plastic world…

Orveda uses less than 5% plastic across the line.

Orveda formulations are also vegan, so are not tested on animals, nor do they contain any animal-origin actives. It is also cleaner, as we do not use mineral oils, sulfates, alcohol, or any other nasties, and our actives are derived from bio-fermentation processes, which are the greenest and most sustainable way to produce natural-origin actives, such as our bio-fermented Kombucha black tea, our natural prebiotics or our organic hyaluronic acids.

In my own lifestyle, I no longer have a car. I travel mainly via subways in cities and, of course, all my waste is properly prepared to be recycled.

Bio-fermentation is a huge part of Orveda’s product development. What are some of your go-to restaurants and foods for incorporating fermentation into your diet?

In terms of restaurants, I’m always drawn to Asian cuisines, such as Korean, that traditionally feature fermented foods in many dishes. To maintain a healthy gut, it’s ideal to incorporate, where possible, something cultured, pickled and fermented in one’s diet — such as kefir, sauerkraut, or kimchi, as well as Kombucha. Wolfdown in LA and Atomix in NYC are on my hit list of places to visit, and, in terms of local restaurants in London, I enjoy vegetarian restaurants such as Farmacy in Notting Hill and Ceremony in NW5.

Your ultimate philosophy in life…

“What does not take time is not respected by time.” It took us three years to create Orveda’s uber-active formulations.

Your daily skincare routine and must-have products…

I use The Healing Sap, AM and PM, every day on my face/neck/décolettage/hands, followed by our Visibly Brightening & Skin Perfecting Masque — painted with our professional flat brush all over my face to fade dark spots. I then apply The Prebiotic Emulsion if the weather is warm, or our Firm Brew Botanical Cream if the weather is colder. As a last step, I apply our new Eye Unveiler 422, which is the most concentrated eye cream in the world, I believe! It has tons of essential skin lipids mixed with prebiotics and hyaluronic acid. The result is immediate and it even works on brows by fortifying them on a daily basis.

At night, I do a deep double-cleanse to remove makeup and pollution by using our Deep Cleansing Botanical & Enzymatic Oil, and then our Clay Mud Cleansing Powder. I then paint my face once again with our Visibly Brightening & Skin Perfecting Masque and add another layer on top of our Overnight Skin Recovery Masque, which is a magical product that helps skin to fight dehydration and recover. Finally, I apply Eye Unveiler 422. Both can be used post-procedure for those who do peels, lasers or have a compromised skin.

Your sustainability tips…

Less is more when it comes to plastic and disposables. We have created an almost “bin-free” counter that you can visit at Saks’ flagship store in NYC and, soon, in Beverly Hills. We wash, rather than use, anything that is made for single use — such as all the plastic tools that beauty brands use on counters and end up, daily, in bins and perhaps in oceans…

Your sources of inspiration…

Medical research, ancient wisdoms such as Ayurvedic science, sci-fi, and fashion (I have many friends who are designers that share their visions with me, which is precious). Orveda was the official “Make-Under” brand for Giambattista Valli’s Haute Couture show at PFW18. We prepared the models’ skin before makeup application, and then gently removed all makeup and healed their skin post-show to help them to recover a fresh, healthy glow.

Your self-care ritual…

I drink a lot of water, as this is the best way to hydrate your skin. I eat foods rich in fibers (fruits and vegetables) to ensure a prebiotic-rich intake to balance my gut. I never go into the sun, nor smoke or drink any alcohol. I look after my skin on daily basis with a luxurious, self-healing routine. I love to light our Orveda candles at night, which transport you into the forest, and escape into a great sci-fi book. I also constantly try to remember my goals in life to avoid feeling overwhelmed by daily issues… And the only thing I’d say is missing from my self-care routine is to make more time to do more exercise than I currently do!

Teresa Deely

Teresa Deely is a junior at Columbia University majoring in English and Creative Writing. As President of the Columbia University Glee Club, she loves to sing, make music, and celebrate multiple modes of artistic expression. She believes that one’s skin is yet another canvas and vehicle for art, and has loved styling her hair and applying makeup from a young age. While she has spent most of her time in educating youth and leading enrichment programs for children, she is highly motivated in discovering new ways to care for herself and sharing them with others.

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