Interview with African Botanics' Founders Craig and Julia Noik

A thoroughly modern, all-natural range inspired by old African beauty rituals, {African Botanics} harnesses the skin-replenishing properties of Marula oil – the world’s most antioxidant-rich oil. Founded by Craig and Julia Noik – both originally from South Africa – the couple came across Marula on their travels through their native country, and Julia – having recently given birth – was amazed by the speed with which the oil repaired her ‘stretched’, post-pregnancy skin. We caught up with them about the brand's beginnings, their inspirations and their skin care must-haves...

{Cult Beauty} Hello hello Craig and Julia. Firstly, could you please share a little bit about your backgrounds and what prompted you to create your own range?

{Craig Noik} We both have a creative background - Julia is a graphic designer and I'm a copywriter, from the good old days of creative advertising. We've been living in Santa Monica since the mid-90s, but are originally from South Africa - we've been together for 21 years, and have worked with each other for almost 15 of them...

For many years, we owned a graphic design studio which doubled as a small ad agency, and it was during this time that we started to think about developing a product that would showcase Africa's floral heritage, incredible indigenous ingredients and cultural diversity - as well as the beauty rituals that have been practised there for centuries. Our mission, was to create modern products inspired by old African beauty rituals - harnessing the rich, rare raw materials, minerals and unique plants that are sustainably harvested and artfully formulated in South Africa - using modern, green technology.

{CB} How did you alight upon Marula oil, and what convinced you to make it the cornerstone of African Botanics?

{Julia Noik} In 2007 we were travelling around South Africa and came across Marula oil - we were instantly impressed by its incredible healing, moisturising and rejuvenating qualities. My skin had lost a lot of tone following my pregnancies, and having tried innumerable products (which did nothing), I discovered that Marula helped my skin return to normal within a remarkably short period of time - recovering its former elasticity and firmness.

Back then, there was very little known about Marula and we had to analyse it - collaborating with a university laboratory in South Africa. What we discovered was exciting - Marula has a phenomenally potent antioxidant stability - unlike many other antioxidant-rich oils - and is incredibly rich in vitamins C and E, which combine to boost collagen synthesis. Omega 9 accounts for 78%, which makes the oil brilliantly skin-compatible and readily absorbed. The traditional stories and cultural buzz that surrounded this impressive ingredient - as well as the people behind it - were a great source of inspiration for both of us.

African Botanics Pure Marula Oil

{CB} Natural beauty is shrugging off its ‘earthy’ connotations, and more and more of us are shying away from synthetics on the quest for healthy, glowing skin. Why do you think so many of us are now ‘going organic’?

{CN & JN} We think many people are becoming more conscious of what they put in - and on - their bodies, and are realising that synthetics in skin care - like highly processed food - are equally (and negatively) impactful.

If you have a balanced diet rich in nutrients and vitamins, why not apply it to skin care? Skin care can be very like taking a supplement - through topical application, we are feeding the skin with nutrient-dense formulas, rich in antioxidants, vitamins and omegas.

Going organic - or 'clean' - is not just good for the skin but also for our planet. You wouldn't eat a plastic apple, so the same principles should hold true for your skin - why risk sacrificing your wellbeing with factory-made chemicals, when you can benefit from the pure, natural goodness of the earth? With today's pioneering science - which we have a huge amount of respect for - chemists are working to prove what nature already knows, so now we can have the perfect combination of cutting-edge technology and nature's touch.

{CB} ‘Organic’ is quite an ambiguous term – it’s a bit of an ‘umbrella’ word, which means markedly different things in different contexts (and countries). What does ‘organic’ mean to you?

{CN & JN} The term 'organic' has been misused in the food and cosmetics industry, in order to entice consumers to purchase products based purely on marketing spiel. This is why we encourage our customers to look at the ingredient lists and see for themselves what the product contains.

Organic to us, means that a plant has never been exposed to any harmful chemicals or pesticides, and has been grown according to strict guidelines - certified organic ingredients are always our priority. Most of the ingredients we use are from wild-growing plants that are free from commercial farming.

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{CB} There are also a gazillion terms which are synonymous with the natural beauty industry – phrases like ‘cold-pressed’, ‘wild-grown’, ‘non-GMO’... Could you demystify some of these ‘natural’ adjectives, for those who’re new (or just confused) by ‘natural’.

{CN & JN} There is very little regulation in the cosmetics industry and so many brands use the above terms (naughtily), mainly for marketing purposes.

Cold-pressed: this means never using heat, solvents or chemicals when pressing seeds, nuts or kernels to extract their precious oils.

Wild-grown: means that the ingredient comes from it’s natural, wild habitat and is not farmed in any way.

Non-GMO: means non-genetically modified. GMOs are novel organisms created in a lab using genetic modification/engineering techniques.

Sustainably sourced: sourcing ingredients sustainably is very important to us - it means crops are re-planted when harvested, so supplies aren't depleted and the ecology stays stable.

Fair Trade: we believe that 'Fair Trade' contributes to sustainable development and a sustainable future. By sourcing our ingredients from many small 'Fair Trade' communities in South Africa, we are supporting local people and helping them invest in the preservation of their lands for generations to follow and enjoy. 

When people think of 'Fair Trade', they might think of fair prices for producers, better labour standards, or maybe even safer working conditions – but what people often forget about is that 'Fair Trade' is equally invested in protecting the environment. 'Fair Trade' not only helps improve living and working conditions, but also helps many people in rural communities become better stewards of their land.

African Botanics Marula Shimmering Gold Oil

{CB} Your {Pure Marula Oil} is brimming with skin-essential nutrients, antioxidants and fatty acids. For whom would you recommend it, and do you have any weird or wonderful recommendations for use (we love an unexpected beauty tip)?

{CN & JN} Our {Pure Marula Oil} is suitable for all skin types - its light texture and non-greasy finish mean it's perfect for naturally oily skin but it's hydrating qualities mean that it's a dream for dry skin too. We recommend {Pure Marula Oil} for dry, dehydrated, mature and sensitive skin while our {Neroli Infused Marula Oil} would be ideal for blemished, combination and oily skin types that require a balancing, calming and brightening effect.

And a quick beauty tip? You can add 1 drop of oil to your moisturiser or foundation for an extra boost of radiance, then tap another drop along your cheekbones for the ultimate glow factor.

{CB} And do you have a favourite African Botanics product? If you were only allowed one (sorry!) what would you choose?

{JN} My must-have product would be {Neroli Infused Marula Oil} which is perfect for my combination/oily skin. I can use this one product for everything - my face and body, and even my hair (nails, cuticles... you name it)!

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