-Skincare for a cause
It wasn’t until I fell down the rabbit hole that is ethical fashion that I soon after discovered the importance of not only living sustainably but being aware of the products that you put on your body. On top of this though I realised that the products you invest in can cost the same as those on the market currently, be better for you and do better for not just the planet but the people within it. Akhal is another brand that does just that.
I’m assuming you, like myself, have never heard of the word Akhal (pronounced A-khal) so let me quickly digress to explain the meaning behind it. Akhal is an indigenous Moroccan word that means Earth, and it was chosen for that reason primarily. It honors the origins and makers of the products Akhal beauty creates, and it also communicates the business's commitment to an eco-friendly, zero waste and cruelty-free skincare range. Did I mention it’s also certified organic? Another win.
In a nutshell, Akhal is a for-purpose organisation. Meaning that they use Moroccan skincare as a tool to help ‘promote women’s development and children’s education in Morocco’s rural south.
Why choose education in Morocco as a place of focus? Turns out “over 30% of Moroccan children never make it to high school.” They miss out on an education primarily due to the absence of transportation in rural areas as most of the secondary schools in Morocco are built close to urban areas. Akhal uses a model much like Toms shoes, where you buy one and they fund one. For every bottle purchased, $1 is given to charity. The charity they chose is called education For All and it is their dream to see allow as many girls as possible to graduate from high school.
I’ve spent over a year using Akhal’s oils and they are hands down one of my favourite skincare brands to date. If I’m not using the Argan Oil or Prickly Pear Oil, I’m using the facemask.
For me, Akhal’s products last a tonne longer than others I’ve used and a little goes a long way. Not only is it better for the environment, but helps to impact the lives of someone else.
It’s a win-win in my opinion and it’s definitely a brand I’ll be going back to time and time again.
Behind the Brand:
An interview with Myriam, the founder of Akhal Beauty.
What made you start Akhal Beauty?
On a trip to the South of Morocco in 2016, I ventured into the Argan forest and was very surprised to find a lot of dead Argan trees and plastic rubbish wedged between branches. After talking to a few villagers who took part in the Argan harvest and seeing the way they lived, it became obvious to me that the people we owe this beautiful oil to did not benefit from it. It was a problem I could do something about and that was the impetus to create Akhal Beauty.
What is something other's wouldn't know about Organic Beauty that you think they should?
There are two components to making high performance organic skin care sustainably I wish there was more information on. The first one is the farming process itself. Unlike conventional skincare, organic beauty uses mostly plants. Some of these natural ingredients require a lot of irrigation water. In today’s environmentally challenged world, it is a waste to use freshwater to irrigate plants for skin care products when perfectly suitable alternatives with a lesser water footprint are available.
The second issue which is also rarely tackled is freshness. Truly organic beauty is quite close to food and as such, it has a life cycle that begins with production rather than when you open the bottle. At the beginning of that lifecycle, its nutrients and other bio-active elements are usually at their peak and they naturally decline over time. Even if that is a process that can’t be eliminated, it can be contained subject to a good processing, handling, and storage policy. A skincare product can be 100% certified organic and have 0% nutritional value for your skin if it has been sitting on a shelf under a hot lamp. That is why I recommend going past the labels and knowing how a company works behind the scenes. If you are paying a premium for an organic beauty product, you ought to get your money’s worth.
What has been the most challenging thing you have uncovered since the beginning?
What I have found most challenging is getting Akhal Beauty’s name out there. It is very difficult to compete with established companies that have big advertising budgets. Luckily, we have been able to attract a steady stream of customers who love our products and are now regulars as well as our best ambassadors.
Within the ethical fashion community, there's a big question we ask which is 'Who made my clothes?'. In the scope of Akhal, who made your products? Can you tell us a bit about them?
Our plant-based skincare products are all made by indigenous women from the South of Morocco, most of whom are part of a network of independent women’s cooperatives. Many of the women involved in the cooperatives did not have a job prior to joining it. By harvesting Argan nuts, Prickly pears and Rose blossoms and transforming them into beautiful all-organic skincare products for our customers, they earn a steady income that opens opportunities for them and their family. In fact, a joint study between the University of California and the National School of Agriculture in Meknes has shown that girls from households that included a family member who worked in the Argan oil industry were significantly more likely to make the transition from primary to secondary school than girls from other households. This is the kind of positive impact that we work so hard to foster and promote.
Best piece of advice you have ever received?
Keep good company. I have found this to be very sound advice! Surrounding myself with loving and supportive people has given me the strength to go after my dreams.
One tip you'd give to others who are wanting to start their own business?
Don’t underestimate yourself. I have made a lot of mistakes along the way and one of them was to rely on so-called experts for many things that I could have done myself. One example of that is the Akhal Beauty website, when I first started, I had hired a developer to set it all up for me and the result reflected his vision rather than mine and had a few too many bugs. After a few months, I made the painful decision to go back to square one and do it myself. I scoured developer forums to understand how to write code and watched a few how-to videos. Whilst the website is still not perfect, it reflects who I am and I am comfortable updating it myself which I did not think was possible when I first started.
Where do you envision Akhal in the future?
I feel very lucky to have met so many interesting people since I started this journey, whether it is the women we work with in Morocco, our customers, or other brands in the wellness space. I am looking forward to continuing the conversation we started about ethical beauty and highlighting how our decisions here in Australia have an impact elsewhere and it is in our power to make them actions for good.
What or who inspires you to what you do on a daily basis?
The list is quite long but in the difficult moments, it is my grandmother that comes to my mind. She was married off to an older man at age 13, became a widow very young and had to care for 11 children despite not being able to read or write. Life threw her many curveballs, yet she is the most optimistic and generous person I have ever encountered. She was also the driving force that pushed all her to children to get a high school education so they can have a say in their future. At that time, in Morocco, that was visionary.
Do you have a morning routine? If so, what is it you do to set yourself up for the day ahead?
When I am in Sydney, I usually go for a run at a park near my place, I do my stretches, have a quick shower, and then eat a light breakfast. I have also made it a habit to take 20 minutes to drink my homemade antioxidant herbal tea and catch up on the news. Another thing, I have been doing for the past 6 months which has helped me a great deal is to make a list every evening of the things I want to accomplish the following day. That means that as soon as I turn on my computer in the morning I can hit the ground running and that has helped me stay focused.
One book everyone should read? Why?
Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari. It’s an enlightening account of how our species has developed over the last 150,000 years. He also discusses why Homo Sapiens has managed to dominate the Earth unlike other species such the Neanderthals. Harari’s argument is that Sapiens flourished thanks to their ability to believe in things beyond imagination and work together on a large scale. That translated in the creation of political, economic, and legal institutions that formed the basis of a peaceful society.