Growing up with an English and an Arab grandmother must have been exciting, but for Zahara Nedou, it shaped her career and made her a social entrepreneur.
But the turning point in her life, was when she met a 17 year-old diagnosed with lupus, an auto immune disorder.
That’s when her resolve to start an organic, natural skin care brand deepened and she started Zahara Skincare, launching a line of skincare products with zero chemicals, no animal testing and organically grown and harvested ingredients.
“My grandmothers were my biggest cultural influences, they never used any chemicals in their beauty products. They even made their own shampoos. As I grew older I started exploring the natural beauty treatments in each of the four countries I lived in,” says Zahara.
“But it was when I met that little girl that I decided to make my own products to give people the option to choose chemical-free, green and organic beauty treatments.”
Her products are available both online, including on Amazon, as well as on supermarket shelves in Dubai and in India. She is all set to launch her products in New York and in Oman in the next few months.
“I decided to take traditional, natural Kashmiri and Arab regimens and modernize them and there is a lot of similarity between both beauty traditions.Fortunately I had farms in Kashmir, which were already growing a lot of my ingredients – almonds, apricots, walnuts and saffron. This helped me because I had control over the quality.”
One of her bestsellers across the world, she says, is her diamond face-pack, tailor-made for brides with saffron, honey, turmeric, lemon and indigenous Kashmiri herbs.
“It helps remove pigmentation, it lightens, brightens and gives a natural glow and the change is immediate. As you use it over a couple of weeks, it eliminates even acne scars.”
The other bestseller is a silk-worm cocoon scrub made from discarded silkworm cocoons (after the caterpillar is out).
“This has been used across generations in Kashmir and is a wonderful, organic exfoliant that removes blackheads. It also offers a natural botox-like treatment with its protein and amino acid content. It makes your skin plump and baby soft and leaves your skin glowing.”
The preservatives in her face packs, scrubs and creams are usually honey-based or beeswax-based and can last longer. Those products that do not have these ingredients are usually made by order.
“The response to my produces has been eye-opening. I felt people needed a little more awareness when it came to using organic products but I realize that most people are now aware of the difference. Also, many of my products are pocket-friendly.”
She found the Indian stores were hardest to convince in displaying her products because she was a beginner.
“I had to convince them that though I had priced my products a little lower than the established luxury Ayurveda brands, their quality was above par. I had to tell them I already had an established database of customers despite being a start-up. Eventually I convinced them with my persistence and I had the conviction that I was selling products that had been time-tested for thousands of years.”
Part of the proceeds from sales are also channelized towards the community from which the regime originated.
“If you , for instance, buy a product that comes from Kashmir, part of the proceeds will go towards education, housing or healthcare for the underprivileged in the valley. The idea is to make the world a better place than it is now. Most of our packaging is also eco-friendly.”
Zahara’s vision is to create a holistic community based on clean and green living and a healthy lifestyle which is accessible to anyone.
“In our country, unfortunately, organic products are considered expensive or unattainable. I want to break that perception and make my products affordable. I also want to launch India’s first organic makeup brand, which is as versatile and large-scale as any other mainstream makeup line.”