By SGN | 28 Oct 2021
Born into a family of entrepreneurs in a small town outside Johannesburg, South Africa, Jené Roestorf enjoyed many childhood adventures in nature and the African bush.
After studying nanotechnology and biotechnology in Australia, she spent ten years conducting laboratory research and leading clinical trials in oncology and dermatology. When it came time to follow in her family’s footsteps and embark on an entrepreneurial path, her inspiration was a distinctive blend of her accumulated life experiences.
“I wanted to give back to the land that I loved so much with the skills I had gained in my corporate career,” Jené says. She knew she wanted to create a beauty brand connected to nature yet built on science, but it would take several years before she figured out exactly how to do it.
Science Meets Nature
With her extensive clinical background, Jené was comfortable diving deep into research, reviewing scientific papers and painstakingly looking for proof of the most potent ingredients found in nature, especially those originating from her homeland, Africa.
That’s how she came to identify the key ingredients to incorporate in her products. These include marula oil from Kenya – rich in omega-9 fatty acids and used by Maasai women to keep their skin supple in spite of hours of sun exposure – and Kigelia extract from Malawi, famed for its antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties, and used by African healers to cure all sorts of skin ailments.
A Budding Industry
Back when Jené was starting to formulate LUXE Botanics, the green beauty market was still at a nascent stage. “Indie brands didn’t have huge marketing budgets to get the word out, and there were only a handful of retailers that specialised in organic or ethical beauty,” she says.
However, she did find Singapore – her country of residence at the time – to be an ideal locale for her new company. “Singapore was the perfect base to start the business,” she recalls.
Through mutual friends, she met Rachel Chan, a Briton with Singaporean roots, and engaged her as a branding and marketing consultant. Rachel was deeply inspired by Jené’s vision from the beginning. The passing of a dear childhood friend had rocked and reset her outlook on life, drawing her towards principles of sustainability and holistic wellbeing.
The pair hit it off, and a year or so later, Rachel officially became a co-owner and business partner, shortly after LUXE Botanics launched its products in March 2017.
The Fight Against Greenwashing
The hardest aspect of their business, Jené and Rachel say, has been education. Because while terms like ‘green’, ‘clean’, ‘natural’ and ‘organic’ are bandied about carelessly and misleadingly in skincare marketing, the two of them are serious about science and careful to explain their terminology.
“Greenwashing in marketing is everywhere, be it claims about formulations, packaging or sustainability credentials,” Jené explains. “It takes time to educate the customer about what’s fact or fiction, and why we’re not like every other green brand out there.”
According to the business partners, one of the myths propagated by greenwashing is the claim that anything ‘natural’ is good and anything ‘synthetic’ is bad, when the truth is that natural ingredients may be sourced unethically, and labs can produce ingredients that are more targeted and sustainable.
The company is all for what they term ‘ethical synthetics’ – that is, naturally derived, lab-produced substances that are proven to be safe, better for the environment, and just as efficacious. For instance, the moisturising compound squalane may be derived from abundant plant sources like olives or sugarcane rather than shark livers. Likewise, peptides (the building blocks of collagen) can be synthesised rather than extracted by environmentally damaging palm and coconut plantations.
“The industry is rife with greenwashing and scaremongering which we don’t buy into,” Jené says. “We always follow the science.”
Compassion for People and the Planet
Ethical sourcing also involves ensuring that harvesters are provided with fair wages and safe working conditions. Such efforts enable locals to send their children to school – including undereducated girls – and invest in microbusinesses, which creates jobs for others, producing a ripple effect.
In addition, LUXE Botanics partners Buy1Give1, channelling proceeds from every purchase to initiatives that benefit the lives of women and children in various African communities.
As for product packaging, the company opts for sustainable materials and white or clear plastic components for ease of recycling, and eschews the production of single-use sachet samples.
Greener Days Ahead
To date, Jené and Rachel have introduced their beauty brand into 12 markets across Asia, Australia, Europe and North America, with plans to expand into China, Israel, and the United Arab Emirates. They are launching collaborations with spa properties later this year, and exploring refillables and other product innovations in 2022.
Although the pair converse daily, their partnership has largely been a long-distance one complicated by COVID-era travel restrictions, since Rachel is located in Singapore and Jené has been based in Portugal for the past five years. After two and a half years of not seeing each other, they recently reunited on a trip to London, and hope to do so more often once global travel picks up again.
They foresee LUXE Botanics growing and thriving as green beauty continues to gain awareness and momentum. “Organic and natural skincare is driving growth in the beauty industry,” Jené observes, “and premium brands that are science- and doctor-led are leading the market as customers put a greater emphasis on efficacy and results.
“Now, in the wake of the pandemic, customers are much more climate-conscious. They are curious about ingredients and whether brands stand up to the claims that they make.”
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About Jené & Rachel
Jené is the founder of LUXE Botanics, an eco-luxury skincare company that believes in sustainable sourcing and making a positive impact on local harvesting communities. She has a background in biotechnology and spent 10 years in oncology and dermatology clinical research. Connect with her here.
Rachel is Jené’s business partner and the Chief of Relationships at LUXE Botanics. She was formerly Diageo’s Head of Communications in APAC and a freelance PR consultant to clients such as World Gourmet Summit, Seed Heritage, Xeitgeist and WEIJENBERG. Connect with her here.