We met Nausheen Qureshi last December and from the very first moment, she was a hurricane of energy, passion, knowledge, intelligence and smiles. We couldn’t forget about her nor her skincare products after spending a month trying them out. We met her again in Milan to talk about the philosophy behind Elequra, what were the most difficult aspects of launching a new innovative brand, and how gratitude and courage led her to where she is.
But what is innovation? Innovation is creating something from scratch, innovation is changing something that already exists, innovation is also changing the mindset of people through transparent communication while bringing to the table the proofs of what you are saying and doing.
Nausheen, a brilliant biochemist, perfectly embodies innovation just like her 10-years-old skincare brand Elequra.
And we also talked about her (miraculous) products like the Radiance Accelerator Serum or the Rose Quartz Sculpting Tool and about how she came to the foundation of this brand and how she is trying to change the landscape of the skincare industry, from a big-budget driven world to a more transparent and truthful one.
Now, if you’ve never heard of Elequra, it’s time to find out everything about Nausheen and the brand. And, if you have never tried its Bio-Designed products, you have to start now because it’s a mix of science, courage, dreams and brilliant ideas that lead us to say that in this brand you can find some of the best products on the market. And you know we are serious when it comes to skincare.
What’s your first beauty memory?
My first beauty memory is trying on my mother’s lipsticks in the mirror and pretending I could visualize myself as a grown woman, investing in the care of my appearance. It was very special, but it was also a bit strange because you are a young child with so many colors on your face: it was just fun to start playing with textures, applications and figuring out what everything is. As a young child looking at a mascara, you don’t know what to do, so it was quite nice to experiment.
What was your first beauty product obsession?
Cleanses. And they continue to be my obsession. Essentially, skincare is meant to care for the health of the skin and cleansing is the very essence and the very first step about this. I just love how many different textures there are, how many different types of cleanser there are as an experience for me is also really fun to cleanse versus any other type of application, is more fun to cleanse, and you feel very nice after.
The one thing that people don’t realize is that cleansing is not something you do ten seconds, you should spend one or two minutes massaging it in. It’s really important also for circulation.
When and how did you decide to develop Elequra?
I decided about 10 years ago, it was born because my passion was always in developing medicinal products and I knew I was very good at it. I deliberately decided to study biochemistry because I wanted to enter the cosmetic arena in terms of making products and I don’t believe you can change, modernize or innovate in beauty without having a scientific background. A lot of the things that I’ve innovated have come from ideas from different areas of science which you would never believe have anything to do with skincare.
All the greatest scientific achievements happened by chance because someone had tried something unique that they read about in another industry and they tried to apply it to their own industry and it worked. I still think that you have to look at scientific history and see how you can apply it to today because people are spending quite a few Euros on products; nowadays it’s really important to have transparency and honesty behind it, I think real transparency is lacking. It would be really important to me to have a very clear communication channel with my consumer and to show them that I’m a real woman and the things that I’m developing I use myself.
All we want is to look good for our age, radiant for our age, glowing for our age. And more than that, I never speak to an older woman who tells me “I want to look young”, she always tells me “I want to look glowing” and it’s important to make products that help her to achieve that without causing any danger.
“All we want is to look good for our age,
radiant for our age,
glowing for our age.”
What’s Bio-Designed Skincare?
Bio-Designed is born out of the belief that natural is more effective than anything synthetic. Our bodies have evolved to recognize the plants that we eat and recognized the environment around us which is how our species as humans evolved. Our skin cells and our skin cell receptors are much more likely to react well to something natural but, unfortunately, when you put on something like papaya or a pineapple onto your face, it’s not going to do anything. The reality is that there are 20 or 30 nanometers between each of your skin cells and the ingredient that you are putting on your skin is just sitting on the surface, they don’t deliver. And so, Bio-Designed is creating a delivery mechanism onto a natural to allow it to properly target the skin cells receptors. When we engineer a natural in many cases, we add something to it or we strip it of the things that make it too big and bulky so that they can essentially be delivered to where they are needed and this targeted kind of skincare is what allows us to achieve our clinical results and this is how we became the brand with 100% results in clinical trials which was why it took me 10 years.
What was, in the process of the creation of Elequra, the most difficult and challenging part? And how did you overcome it?
I think there were 3 challenges for me: one was the minimum quantities to produce a brand. They are so high so I had to struggle with my suppliers and I had to tell them my ideas and make them understand the passion that I had for them to even say, “okay, we don’t make 20000 for you, we make 5000,” which again still is very big because you don’t know if you are even going to sell them. And the landscape 10 years ago was only geared to big companies, and since then I’ve created so many relationships with my suppliers and now I’m able to create products for other people with really low minimum quantities, thus now I can offer my clients a nice way to come to market for 5000 units. This is how you create innovation: it always comes from the people, who’ve had a good idea, and who just need to bring their products to the market and they don’t want to be shut out by a high minimum order quantity. I believe I’m not the only person who’s been innovative but I’m helping others in being innovative, to come to market and you look at all the innovations in beauty and they’ve all been from small brands.
The second part has been marketing because obviously as a small brand you don’t have the budget that Estée Lauder, L’Oréal and other big companies have, and they have sent a different message than the one I’m trying to send. Trying to make my voice heard in this industry that’s full of giants with huge budgets is challenging.
And the third one is the emotional toll that it takes on you because at the beginning, especially making a product, all of your capital expenditure is upfront: you have to spend on the bottles, the ingredients, the manufacturing, you spend on everything and then you sell the products. So, in the beginning, I had a lot of anxiety because I had spent my savings creating my brand. If you really believe in it, you should spend your own savings on it. I worked for a long time so that I could afford to do that and then I thought “oh my God, I’ve just spent all my money on this brand” and I was having trouble sleeping and that’s when I started to reintroduce the practice of gratitude: I started being really grateful for the simple things in my life that I had overlooked. Bringing yourself back to basics, realigning yourself with actually what is like to be a human. It removes all the pain of having spent it because you know why you did it, and it’s okay, you have to believe in something, nothing bad can happen from this.
“…you have to believe in something, nothing bad can happen from this.”
What was the most rewarding reaction or comment on your products?
Aside from yours? Because yours was pretty cool. [laugh]
This industry has been quite challenging in many ways: a lot of the people I went to university with, ended up taking careers in more kind of acceptable scientific parts like cancer research where you are literally changing somebody’s life and whenever I told them that I was in beauty they would always be like “Uh, you guys aren’t changing people’s life” but you know what? You are. Because you are helping someone to care for themselves in a way that when they look at themselves in the mirror, they like what they see, and it’s a big deal. When you wake up in the morning and you say, “I actually look quite nice,” you feel ready to face the day. And I’m not talking about it in a materialistic way, it really does go deep into your psyche. If you see someone who’s not happy with how they look, a lot of the times it affects their emotional outlook on life and that can end up in you not enjoying your life when you are meant to.
If you could use just one sentence to describe Elequra, to all the people out there, what would it be?
I’d probably say “modernize skincare” because it really is taking something that has been around for years and putting a spin on every product to take it into a new dimension of what we know about products today.
How do you see the beauty industry in the future or how would you love to see it?
I would love to see it as more diverse because I think right now it’s still lacking in diversity even terms of products, there is not that much diversity in products. For example, you have Vitamin C serum but made by so many different brands.
“…you are helping someone to care for themselves in a way that when they look at themselves in the mirror, they like what they see, and it’s a big deal.”
For instance, if someone is talking about avocado one day, the next everyone is talking about avocado masks and everything else. And it all sounds so superficial, and they end up copying each other and that’s crazy. They did it even with Vitamin C because there was a boom with Vitamin C serum last year. I’m a beauty addicted…
I know I can tell. [laugh]
…but I’ve never bought one because I couldn’t believe anyone.
Vitamin C works but I would never make a product in my range that everyone else has. I always want to make my own twist on something because things like you could never mix Vitamin C with everything but in my Radiance Accelerator Serum, I mixed encapsulated retinol with 2 types of Vitamin C with a brightening ingredient in the form of a periwinkle extract which I researched for 3 years before that, to create a brightening concept because I was understanding the process of melanogenesis and how pigment is created in the skin. And I took it to a beauty editor and she said “you are crazy, why would you mix retinol and 2 types of Vitamin C? Why would you do that?” Even an investor who wanted to invest in my brand said to me, “I hate the idea of your brand because you are doing things differently, but you don’t need to because people are already buying the Vitamin C serums.”
So, you know now that when you are told that, it’s actually a good idea.
You are what we call a girlboss, a self-made woman. Who are the women who have inspired and keep inspiring you?
I would start with my own mother because, in a generation where hardly anyone was working, she found her own way, she was running a business together with my father in a time where people didn’t think that Indian women should run a business. This was a long time ago when most Indian women were housewives, at home with the children, but I saw the sacrifice that she made to be able to provide for us as children and the thoughts that she made and the fact that she invested in her own education and stuff like that. That’s empowering.
And then you have people like this amazing Kenyan woman, Wangari Muta Maathai, who grew trees and so she started to really believe in the power of growing trees and she ended up winning the Nobel Peace Prize. She really believed in it and she ended up doing such a big revival of the trees that were being cut down. But it ended up being a blueprint for everyone else, and people started thinking about planting trees and you have all these companies with initiatives and I think that’s amazing. And the fact that she spent so much trying to make everything greener when people were trying to industrialize the cities, especially in Kenya, it’s like you are going against everyone, all the big developers and so on to me is quite empowering.
What’s your favorite facial at home?
As you know I have my peel and I really love doing a cleanser and leaving that peel on for 25 minutes. I do this once a week and it’s my favorite thing to do because it feels like you’ve completely cleansed your week away. And then you also have that feeling of minimized pores, and you feel at your best. But then I really spend time massaging in the product with the tool; it really helps and for some reason when you tell someone to massage with their fingers, they won’t spend as long as they are miraculously given a tool. [laugh]
Massaging your face is such an important step of a routine as you said. What can you tell us about your Rose Quartz Sculpting Tool? And do you have any tips for us?
I do have tips actually.
We believe that giving someone a tool is the best way to encourage them to massage the face. And especially when you use quite heavy pressure but not too heavy because you need to activate the microcapillaries on the surface of the face.
Then the tips that I would give are to spend 5 to 10 minutes when you are watching TV because usually, you are just watching TV anyways, so it’s not like you are standing at the sink, waiting to go to bed and you are going to rush it. And that allows you to spend the amount of time you need to use it. There is a little booklet that comes with the tool that shows you how to use it, but essentially you want to go towards where all the fluids drain lymphatically so you go across your cheeks – when you talk every day, their muscles become very tight so you really want to get in there with the corners of it and start to massage them out, otherwise your mouth kind of gets cramped. Around your eyes is really good for the fluid drainage; also, when you have a cold, you can use it for your sinuses to remove the congestion.
It has a stacked hexagonal crystal structure that holds on to temperature for longer. You can put it in the fridge and take it out whenever you need to use it and it’s such a nice feeling. Plus, it depuffs the face: press it on the eye for like 10 seconds and you will look at your eye and you’ll be like “wow,” suddenly a brightened depuffed look!
We want to talk about your “skincare miracle” aka your Radiance Accelerator Serum, it’s a true miracle for the skin. What’s the secret behind it?
As I briefly said before, it’s retinol and 2 types of Vitamin C. And the point behind the 2 types of Vitamin C is that they are both esters of Vitamin C that become Vitamin C: so why use 2 types? One will become Vitamin C about 6 hours after you use it and the second one 12 hours after you use it. It’s a product that keeps working, especially because you are putting on retinol at night and the Vitamin C has the antioxidant to help protect your skin from the radiation during the day, although you still need a SPF and the periwinkle extract helps with the anti-melanogenesis pigmentation. What I never talk about the Radiance Accelerator Serum which I should keep talking about, is the base of the serum which is a gel-matrix I completely designed from scratch: it’s got a combination of glycogen and hyaluronic acid. Glycogen is an ingredient that I think is going to be quite big in skincare; it’s essentially the cell’s energy and that’s quite cool because it’s also very powerful hydrator, it’s got really good clinicals behind it, together they become the ultimate powerhouse of hydrating the skin.
You are constantly innovating. What’s the next product you are dreaming of developing?
I’m thinking of creating two products: one is an oil polymer, so it’s an oil that melts onto the skin, on contact, and it doesn’t use any wax or synthetic waxes. To me, this is a big deal because people want the feeling of an oil in a less messy way. Because waxes actually don’t help the skin, they make it break out more and they are not nice in hot weather or even before you sleep, you just feel a bit sticky.
And secondly, I have my copper toner that I’m looking to bring out. I’m always looking for new ways to innovate in this industry. The toner is kind of serum-y and the reason why I’m bringing these things out is always for good skin health and things that can help prevent inflammation without damaging the skin. I’m very anti-acids because I think they should be used when they need to be used but not every day and the problem is once one helps their spots by using an acid, they now think they have to use it every day so they are never going to have a spot and this where the problem comes because you use it every day and it makes the problem worse when you are 60 or 70 because then you can’t deal with the things you get on your face. How do you deal with women who have so many sunspots now? They can’t get rid of them because the damage has already been done.
“Glycogen is an ingredient that I think is going to be quite big in skincare; it’s essentially the cell’s energy and that’s quite cool because it’s also very powerful hydrator.”
What’s your skincare routine?
I only obviously use my own products plus my fridge is really funny because, in it, I have all the products that I make. I start every day by washing my face only with water, and this is important because you don’t need a cleanser when you have just woken up. You should have washed your face properly the night before anyway and there is very little that can happen to you at night, and yes, you’ve got your actives from the night before, but it shouldn’t really affect anything that you can’t wash off with water. The problem when you use the cleanser in the morning is that it’s drying out your face when you don’t need to dry out your face; so keep the pH of the skin relatively stable by only washing with water in the morning and then I use my Mist to wake me up because it has quite an invigorating scent but it’s also hydrating. And lastly I use my Deep Nourishing Cream because I suffer from dry skin as well. And I put on a balm that I’ve made myself from beeswax if I get really dry during the winter, I use this and it’s important actually to use the beeswax from the country that you are from, so in London, I use the London beeswax because it helps me to deal with allergies because the bee carries the allergies from that city. So if you have one in Milan, then you buy Milanese beeswax. I just use the tiniest amount and I put it on dry areas and it helps the makeup to stay on and not settle and then I use a sunscreen SPF 30 because anything more is pointless; and finally I put my makeup on. Whereas at night I use my cleanser, and then my Radiance Accelerator Serum.
If you could choose only three products to go on a desert island, what would you choose?
I would choose my cleanser because it’s my favorite product actually; then the Radiance Accelerator Serum and the Deep Nourishing Cream.
The rest are nice to have but they are not everyday jungle products. [laugh]
“…my cleanser it’s my favorite product actually.”
Skincare first but, in a few words, what’s your go-to makeup look?
I really like a heavy eye. It’s very hard for me to keep it natural but I like to have a radiant and glowing look, whereas I don’t like matte makeup because it removes from the look of the skincare; it makes you look like you have unnatural skin. For me, my go-to look is a lot of mascara and a kind of graduated heavy eye, and I like messing around with colors, but I keep it simple: I like browns and purples.
What’s the product that you’re sure to need in your purse?
I always put in the Boosting pH Mist because it’s so nice for when you go anywhere, especially if it’s hot because it’s also an antibacterial. I usually carry it around with me in the summer and when I go on the train I just spray myself and it’s just a nice scent because it’s got the tea tree in it but it makes you feel when the wind hits it is cold and it’s also a hydrator so when I get dry during the day.
What’s beauty for you, in general?
Beauty for me is how you treat other people and how you communicate with the world; it’s knowing that you can connect with someone and knowing that you have beauty in your connections because the one thing that we have in this world is the connection with ourselves and with others. And beauty is an expression of that; it’s an expression of the communication, what you do for yourself.
Beauty is an expression of love in every form.
What’s your Rêve for Elequra?
My dream for Elequra is obviously to have more people understand what it stands for. To be able to carve a path for other people to see that it is possible to develop something that’s meaningful, that has backing behind it.
I’m trying to redefine what it means to be successful, to show people that success is not just following a path that’s been walked many times before. It’s by believing in your own power and your own dream. To be able to have the strength to walk your own path. And that to me is what I want to prove for Elequra.
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