Anyone who knows me, knows I am passionate about two things: design and beauty. When I find opportunities to merge the two (there are plenty), I know I’m at the start of something exciting. Alaya—a green beauty brand that I started with my sister—merges the two.
While Alaya provides a break from day-to-day design consulting, it also informs how I work at Moment. As a designer, I am an avid believer that sometimes the best ideas comes from outside your industry. If you ask my colleagues, they’ll tell you how often I refer to the beauty industry as an inspiration for the different challenges and complexities we tackle in our client work.
My fascination with beauty is the result of my culture and upbringing. I grew up in Lebanon—a country that values feminine beauty—where makeup and skincare played a big role in my upbringing. Starting from a young age, my sister, Liza, and I would sneak into our mother’s bedroom and secretly experiment with her collection of lipstick, mascara, and eyeshadow. By the time we were in our 20s (and actually allowed to wear makeup) we had already become enthusiasts, sharing tips and tricks on latest products, looks, and trends.
In 2013, our conversation about beauty shifted. Liza was expecting her first child and had become hypersensitive to what would go on—and into—her skin. Researching and reading through the labels on her beauty products, she started to learn about all the toxic ingredients they contained: parabens, silicones, synthetic colors, and fragrances to name a few. We both became increasingly disappointed by the conventional brands we had come to love and were eager to replace them with safer alternatives that were equally effective.
Our search for safer alternatives had began. My sister noticed a gap in the existing natural beauty products in the Middle Eastern market—she had to search abroad for truly non-toxic and effective products. By 2015, I had moved to the US where the green beauty movement was further along compared to the Middle East. I was able to get my hands on a wider range of beauty products to try out. However, with all the new “natural” products rushing to market and the greenwashing claims (brands spinning their products as environmentally friendly when they’re not), finding truly organic and natural products in the US proved to be difficult.
Did you know that US has banned just 11 toxic ingredients, versus the 1,300 ingredients banned by the EU? (via Huffpost)
After months of research, evaluation, testing, reading labels, and checking EWG scores and reviews, we were armed with a range of non-toxic products we loved and used daily. That wasn’t enough though. We wanted our friends and family to be aware that the personal care industry is wildly unregulated and that there are safe and effective alternatives. That’s when we decided to create Alaya, an online boutique that partners with 100% clean, non-toxic, and ethically sourced beauty brands to provide women in the Middle East with products they can feel good about, without sacrificing their health.
“Alaya translates to ‘exalted and elevated’ in Arabic, which is how we believe women deserve to feel all day, every day.”
While my sister Liza is the true face of the Alaya—she runs it full-time, handling everything from logistics, purchasing, and business development—in my free time, I act as a consumer advocate and the brand’s designer, helping to create the aesthetic, experience, and story. Because we’re two sisters with complementary skills and a shared passion, Alaya helps us maintain our connection and an open dialogue around green beauty while thousands of miles apart. Together, our goal is to help convert women into avid green beauty users. It’s important to prove to skeptics that non-toxic, natural beauty products can be as—if not more—effective than conventional products. We want to make sure everyone can feel good about what’s going on their body and the planet it comes from.
Though it’s been just a few months since we’ve launched, we already provide five natural brands in makeup and skincare to a growing number of green beauty enthusiasts and influencers. We’ll continue to grow our repertoire of natural, non-toxic beauty brands. (Remember, a product that says it’s natural and organic doesn’t necessarily mean it is non-toxic.) We also aim to bring more awareness about the toxic ingredients in conventional products, all while partnering with green beauty advocates who will propel our mission.
What is means to be Alaya certified
Because Alaya’s core business model focuses on partnering with beauty brands, we knew we had to evaluate our products based on three criteria, before deeming it “Alaya certified.” It was important for us to do this research and selection ourselves so our clients wouldn’t have to.
Alaya products needed to be:
- Super clean – formulated with only the cleanest, non-toxic ingredients. Products need to be organic or have natural ingredients. They must be paraben-free, petrochemical-free, mineral oil-free, fragrance-free, and silicone-free.
- Truly effective – they do exactly what they are supposed to. If it says “it’s ideal for sensitive skin, we make sure by testing it ourselves.
- Environmentally ethical – they’re sourced from eco-friendly and sustainable ingredients.