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KYALLI SKIN FOUNDER, CHARIS UDEH DISCUSSES SKINCARE MYTHS, THE POWER OF NATURE & OVERCOMING IMPOSTER SYNDROME

As with thousands of entrepreneurs, Charis Udeh wasn’t satisfied with the products available to her skin type – rich products heavy with silicones, parabens and synthetic ingredients. She started mixing up her own skincare products using natural raw ingredients and essential oils and her skin was all the better for it. She soon began sharing her concoctions with her friends and family, and when they reported an improved texture to their skin and their acne scars healing, Charis began to seriously consider launching her own skincare range – one that harnesses the power of nature to create a range of products with the best ingredients from around the world. KYALLI SKIN was born. 

In an exclusive sit-down interview, Charis delves deeper into her brand philosophy, the importance of proper skincare and how Imposter Syndrome affects women.

What inspired you to create KYALLI?

I’m from a heritage of formulators; my maternal grandmother and great-aunts all formulated using potent local African herbs. Although the older generations from that side of the family formulated professionally, the younger women choose ‘trendier’ career paths in Banking, Consulting, Law, Private Equity, etc. My cosmetic destiny doesn’t stop there; my surname from my paternal heritage – Udeh – literally translated to ‘Pomade’ – to anoint one’s self with a cosmetic preparation for the purpose of beautification; to attain a radiance and glow.

For 10 years, I created products for personal use and shared with friends and family with no motivation to start a brand. My family always encouraged me to start a company but I ignored them; I had a flourishing career in the City of London, and I just didn’t see the need. Until everything changed; the demand kept increasing and the situation on the market was exactly the same. Now my attention was gotten, I finally saw that I was on to something – it was absolutely serendipitous! I saw the gap in the market and I knew I had outstanding formulas.

I did not want to make a product for the sake of it, neither did I want to create something that already existed. So, I invested a lot of time, resources and effort teaming up with experts to create something that solves real problems and is easily available – KYALLI just does that.

Why did you choose the brand name? 

At KYALLI, pronounced /KEY-AH-LEE/, we explore the world for its beauty secrets. We search across continents to harness the earth’s richest phytoactives, in order to create the highest quality skin enhancing formulas. We believe that it is what you put in that drives what you get out, not the other way around. When it comes to skin products, too many brands are more concerned with texture and will compromise ingredients to achieve it, but we look at it a different way. We’re all about what you radiate from inside and a big part of that comes from what you absorb into your skin.

Starting out as a business owner, what were some of the challenges you didn’t realise you’d have to face?

I’ve worked in some of the most challenging roles at world-leading organisations, including Ernst & Young, Barclays Bank Plc, Boston Consulting Group etc. None of these truly prepared me for the perseverance, stick-ability and work ethic required to build a company. Twenty-four hours in the day is just not enough time to complete the daily to-do list. Coupled with the time factor, I decided to lay the foundational parts of my business during a global pandemic – a time when the world literally stood still. This came with its blessings and challenges.

The great thing is the blessings far outweighed the challenges. Some of our blessings included the fact that we could pull on a lot of human capital from people who now work from home due to the pandemic, wherein an ideal world would have been unresponsive due to other commitments at work. We were also allowed to be quiet within, make more intuitive yet decisive decisions for the business that have greatly worked in our favour.

What I must say is, we are definitely part of the lucky few that have intercepted with the right people from a very early stage in the business, who are instrumental in taking the business as far as it’s gone in so little time. Sometimes, I forget that we only launched on the 31st of August!

Your brand philosophy includes a desire to educate through the power of nature. How do you achieve that?

Indeed, when I first stumbled on the power of nature, I was a little sceptical. I thought people had to supplement their routines with other things to look and feel luminous. Even more, I wondered how natural products will match the few products I knew worked. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Our skin is living and active, just like every other organ within our body, it needs adequate nourishment to function optimally. The only difference between our skin and most other organs is that it’s on the outside. Think about it this way, when you’re sourcing food to improve your health and well-being, you get the best on the market – in most cases, this will be fresh, natural and organic produce. It’s the same for skin and body care.

Most luxury brands formulate with over 90% naturally derived ingredients; they just don’t position their marketing in this way, because people have not been educated to understand the true power of nature. The luxury market understands that with true luxury, nature cannot be cheated. For long term holistic health, it is much safer to use natural, yet potent, products on the skin instead of synthetic ‘feel-good’ chemicals that do more harm than good.

How has the KYALLI brand evolved since inception?

The fundamentals of the brand remain the same. At KYALLI, we create pure, natural products without unnecessary additives that nourish and rejuvenate skin so that it glows in the way that nature intended. That’s our statement of intent and everything that we do is based on it. We are however not tied to a process, we are a forward-thinking, agile and very much a lean company. The company is built this way to ensure we are able to rapidly respond to feedback and other changes.

Let’s discuss the products. In what ways would you say your brand distinguishes itself from competitors’?

Our capsule collection includes five products – That Heavenly Glow (£85), On The Glow (£80), Ready Set Glow (£32), Good To Glow Rich Body Lotion (£70) and Good To Glow Creme Soufflé (£65). For all our products, we intentionally include a few ingredients that I grew up using and are unique to Africa. These ingredients have been used by people on the continent for centuries and the results remain unchanged and unchallenged, which is a testament of the purity and efficacy of the ingredients.

We were diligent in sourcing some of the purest forms of now popular ingredients such as the Marula Oil known as “the Elixir of Youth” (from South Africa) and Yakuwa “Botox” Plant (from Ghana), Geranium (from Egypt) etc – these can be found across all our products.

In your opinion, what are 3 important skincare habits everyone needs to develop?

A great skincare routine should focus on building skin’s health and 3 simple things to incorporate into your routine are:

  1. Understanding the ingredients in your products: We must moisturise, hydrate and protect our skin. Reading the products’ label is a must to get what we need to maintain our skin’s health. Everyone’s skin is different and so are the needs of our skin. What is important is that across all skin types is maintaining healthy levels of hydration and moisture.
  1. A balanced diet: Our skin is not only impacted by what we put on the skin but what we put into our bodies. We don’t have to rely solely on topical applications to boost our skin’s health. A nutritional and balanced diet which includes foods with fatty acids, vitamins A, B, C, E & K, Omega 3/6/7/9, linoleic acids, oleic acids, zinc, magnesium, potassium etc. are great to strengthen our skin’s barriers. The healthier you are generally, the better your skin will be. When you eat well, everything eventually goes to the surface of the skin.
  1. Don’t stress! Exercise and sleep! Stress is proven to slow down the skin healing process, including the skin’s barrier recovery.  Daily stress or poor stress management can leave the skin barrier in a permanently weakened state. You can manage stress effectively by incorporating exercise into your daily routine. Exercises such as meditation, running and tennis have some great stress-busting benefits.

How are you looking to expand your brand in the coming years?

We are expanding our product lines to include hand and body cleaners, hand treatments, body treatments and a few more products specific to skincare. These products will be available online, in various stockists and at your favourite luxury hotels and resorts. We are working hard to make our products easily accessible across countries in Europe, North America, the Middle East, Africa, Asia and Australia. Finally, we would love to have a KYALLI Baby & Kids line and a potential men’s line.

Do you have any advice for other women looking to become entrepreneurs?

Women suffer from imposter syndrome – fancy words for fear and low self-esteem. We embrace fear and doubt in ways that men will not; we over analyse things, romanticise failure and overestimate our flaws. All these don’t work in our favour. Building a business or even a successful career is hard work and the rules apply for both sexes. First things first, you must have faith in yourself and your idea. Understand that you will work extremely hard and you will need to be your biggest cheerleader.

Finally, for those who are yet to start their business – just start! An idea is not a business; Rome was not built in one day. You need to lay foundations gradually to get to where you want to be. The founders of the greatest companies had one day when they decided to action their ideas and those actions have created great companies – and the world is a much better place because they did.

Learn more about the brand.

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