Founders Series - Yuval Selik of L'uvalla
I read that it was a spiritual teacher who first merged your names Yuval and Alla to make Yuvalla. Could you explain this and where your idea for an organic skincare line sparked from?
When Alla and I first met we took a yoga class together, a ten-week class just to learn about spirituality, the yogas, etc. We didn’t realize our names merged together to make Yuvalla, our teacher actually pointed that out to us. Back then, we wanted to create a wellness center in a sense, which would house a spa and would have a skincare line. But not to confuse anyone, L’uvalla is the skincare company, and that is what came to be out of it.
Alla has been an actress for 20 years in Hollywood. One of the things that Alla and I were very dedicated to in the beginning was a healthy lifestyle, so we started eating organic foods and shopping at Whole Foods. We were really focusing on not only bettering the planet by introducing sustainability and all kinds of different events into our life, but also eating a well-balanced healthy organic menu. Back then Alla was still using skincare that she was purchasing at the department store, not realizing that there are any chemicals or toxins to the skin, not realizing that the skin absorbs 70 percent of what you put on, that the FDA doesn’t regulate skincare, and that there are 10,500 ingredients that are used by companies and only 11 percent have ever been tested for safety. We didn’t know that, and so one day she struck up conversation with a Whole Foods employee, and they asked her what she used. She told them, and they were kind of shocked. They knew we were eating organic, so they were shocked she was using this type of product on her skin. And this is the start of when we realized that there was something missing in the market.
Could you explain L’uvalla’s philosophy? What is the skincare line’s main goal?
Our mission is of wanting to make a difference not only for us and others, but also to better the planet and help be part of increasing the consciousness of the world. That’s a good explanation of what we thought in the beginning and what we strive to accomplish today. And the way we came up with the name, because our name is Yuvalla, we wanted to hold significance of our union together, but we didn’t want to name it after ourselves. So it does have the bound of Yuvalla., but the L’ is an homage to being French like L’Oreal, so it makes L’uvalla. The way it sounds is a tribute to our union. And the name actually, Alla means divine spirit and if you look at 'l-u-v', a lot of people spell love that way, so it literally it would mean 'love the divine spirit within all things'. That is what we aspire to achieve.
Alla is an actress, what about you? Did you start out in skincare or come into it later? What sparked that transition?
My background is not in skincare, neither is hers. She’s an actress, I was in the finance or banking field. We both have an entrepreneurial spirit between us. What happened was, when she was using those products, her skin wasn’t looking as great as it could. Add all the products they use on set that are just horrible products and the skin started showing signs of abuse in a sense. So after talking to this person at Whole Foods, Alla came back to me and said by the way do you realize that the products we have in our house are harmful. I didn’t know about it, but I’m a research type of guy, so I did some research. And I really started figuring out, I mean study after study and website after website, started to really expose the industry. So I told Alla, you know what, let's throw everything out because we do care about your health and we don’t want to spend another day putting anything on that is harmful. Let’s go purchase products that would be good for you.
She tried a couple of brands and even though some of these brands were authentic and had a good cleanliness about them, we couldn’t find a brand that had the luxury feel and texture that a French line would have in Saks, let's say. What we found at that time, this was about five years ago, was that there were two types of skincare lines out there – and that even still holds true today. One of them is a luxury line that smells great, absorbs well, has a great texture, and shows some results. However, it has lots of chemicals, preservatives and toxins. The other kind of lines out there are natural organic lines that are very granola and clean but they are missing that luxury, that texture, the way it absorbs in the skin, etc. And so what we decided to do along with our partner and CEO, Jeanna Bonds, was come up with something that did.
I read that you conducted an extensive global search for a place that met your needs, could you explain this process?
We got together and said we should do this if we have the passion to want to help others, because we had always wanted to live a life of servitude, of making sure to educate and give others what we know. It was a big priority in our lives. Another priority was to keep a healthy lifestyle, so that was more of a selfish act, wanting a product that didn’t exist for ourselves, but also sharing it with others. So we took our business skill sets and our passions and searched the world over to find a skincare manufacturing facility that could take our vision and create it for us.
This wasn't like a private label, where you go someplace and say I like your product and put a label on it. What we actually did is we worked at it like building a home. If I want to build a home, I can figure out what I want the home to look like, I can even draw it. I can say I want it to be a five bedroom, I want it to be blue or whatever. I’m not an architect or a builder I just have a vision of it. So if I want to build the best home possible, I would have to contract the best contractor with the best builder. So that’s what we did.
We searched the world over for a factory that would be our builder and architect the project. And the way we started was we did a good amount of searching all over the world for the best ingredients that are used for beauty in different parts of the world. We basically searched in Rome, Italy, in Morocco, in Egypt, all kinds of places where beauty was real for many many centuries. We looked at the ingredients that they’ve been using over and over again or recommending for thousands of years. The whole point of our line is that it is not made in the lab, it is completely natural and completely pure. What happens in a lab is they test for a year and come to a conclusion. But what about after 10 years, and after 20 years? Does it actually work well after the initial onset on the skin? I never was very comfortable with that. For me if somebody was using something for 2000 years, I know the product works because they wouldn’t be using it generation after generation if it didn’t. Therefore we put together the ingredients we wanted to put together and worked with the factory to create our line.
The way we approached it was a two pronged approach – a kind of one, two punch. We knew we needed a lot of ingredients that had the most concentrated and potent vitamins, because the skin requires vitamins to be healthy just like the rest of the body. It requires vitamin A, C, K, and all kinds of vitamins and minerals to really help the skin nurture and nourish itself. And then we were also looking for ingredients with really high antioxidants. We found an amazing amount in lotus flower extract. We were so impressed with that ingredient that we made it our signature ingredient. It really is a high antioxidant anti-inflammatory and it's also healing in so many respects. It has been used in Ayurvedic medicine for 3,000 years.
The two punch is the regenerating oils, such as wheatgerm oil or argan oil or hazel seed oil. They basically regenerate the skin, help the skin look dewy, or help with fine lines. Then there are plant extracts that are healing. So basically what we are trying to do is give the right nutrients to skin cells to make them thrive and then by giving them the regenerating oils and the vitamins, hopefully the cells regenerate better than they were before. That’s the purpose behind our product line, getting the right ingredients to make your skin look the best it can look. We are not promising miracles, we aren’t saying that if you are 80 and you have deep wrinkles, if you use our cream we can make you look 20 again. We are going to say that if you use our product it can look the best that it can look.
Where in France did you find the product you were looking for? And what exactly were they creating there that you were impressed with?
We found what we were looking for in the south of France in a town called Cahors, near Toulouse. It was serendipity really, the way it happened. Our main goal was to find a factory that could produce a product that was 100 percent natural with no preservatives or chemicals. We really searched the world over to find a factory and we couldn’t find what we were looking for. We were having trouble because we couldn’t find a place that had the right ingredients or they couldn’t get the certification or the luxury aspect. There was something always missing. But then we found this factory through a friend who came to France. The factory creates their own drugstore and spa brand in France that is well known in the area. It is a great clean line made from a small producer. When our friend figured that out and knew we were looking, she recommended it to us.
This factory has 40 years of experience. They had never done anything like this before but they loved our mission and they said you know we’ll take our experience and our lab technicians and doctors and herbalists and aromatherapists and we’ll help you put together a line with our experience and your desires. And it took a long time to find this factory, but it is the only company to be endorsed by the French Ministry of Health, which is like the FDA. It is the only company to be endorsed by them, which says a lot.
What was the process like in making your own line come to fruition? How long did that take?
The whole process took about 2 years. You know it's like if you want to create a car, and you go to Mercedes to their engineers and say that you want to create a car. They’ll give you the basics and whatever you need to make the best car. You can say you want to make it look this way, go this fast, but there are basics to follow. And that’s basically what we did, we got their basics and added to it. We didn’t want to reinvent, but wanted to create something new and special and different.
The brand has an Eco-Cert COSMEBIO label. What does that entail?
We had a chance to create a line that was certified by the most stringent certification in the world, COSMEBIO. That seal is specifically targeted for cosmetics, it doesn’t certify food or anything else. They are very up in the game and they know exactly what to look for. Our certification is a seed-to-shelf certification, so from sourcing the ingredients to making sure they are animal cruelty free, that if it says fair trade that it is fair trade, or if it says organic that it is only housed or transported with other organic ingredients, and that the way the machines are cleaned are only with citrus and vinegar based substances, not with chlorine and ammonia (which is the standard is in the business). It is recyclable, the ink is soy-based ink. So from packaging from seed to shelf, in everything we do, we try to match up to the meaning of our name. Love the spirit within all things. Love the skin. Love the Earth.
In order to be certified you have to be at least 95 to 100 percent natural. We exceeded that, we are 100 percent natural. For the organic certification part, in order to be certified, you have to be 95 percent certified organic in all the plants you use. We meet that, we are 95 to 99 percent certified organic in all plants we use. There are certifications out there that do not include the water, the minerals, and the salts in their formulation, which could show up as a very high percentage of organic ingredients but have less than 1 percent because the water, the minerals, the salts and whatever else that is included in there is not counted. So for us, in total, we have to count our water and minerals and salts and emulsifiers and anything that is just not organic, not because it's not clean, but because there are some ingredients that are just not certified organic. We have to include that in there, and the minimum you can have including the water, which is not organic, is ten percent. And for certain products ten percent is very high. For instance our toners are ten percent, but we use such potent essential oils that if you didn’t water it down it would be harmful to the skin.
What makes L’uvalla different from other organic brands?
It’s tough to talk about differentiation because by us saying we are different than others, that implies we are better than others. I struggle with that a little because I think there’s a place for every product. If people are interested in knowing about each and every product it is really their duty to investigate them. They shouldn’t take us for our word. And that’s why the certification is so important to us, we didn’t want to just come out and say, we are the best and trust us, because I think the consumer deserves more. A consumer deserves a good third party.
Basically the way we look at it is 'what do we have to offer that can be great for the consumer'. And what we have to offer is no synthetic preservatives. Our products are preserved with specific packaging that is trade secreted to us, which keeps the product safe from light and oxygen (which destroy formulas). And because we use only therapeutic pharmaceutical grade oils, the oils are what preserve the product. Number two, the process of creating the product from seed to shelf is monitored to be as pure as possible, without creating any reactions or using any processes that are harmful in any way. If we make an ingredient in the lab, we only use natural extractions in the factory. That’s important because people don’t know if companies use chemicals extractions to get the final product because it's not mandated to disclose that. We make sure we are extremely clean and safe, even in the way we clean the machines. Not many people ask, by the way can you tell me how the company cleans the machines. If it’s cleaned with ammonia, there is residue. Another stand out feature is the rare ingredients. We use bilberry extract, argan oil, horsetail, all these amazing ingredients shown throughout time to work so well on healing the skin. And we've created an affordable luxury, these products are a mid-range price, but for what you are getting, it is an amazing array of ingredients for a very reasonable price. Our products last a long time, they are a 3 month supply. So it’s a very good deal for an organic product.
If you had to pick one product to introduce someone to your line who is not already familiar with it, which one would you pick?
Our milk cleanser is absolutely amazing. We have gotten tremendous amount of press and feedback from that product. It is extremely healing because it has wild chamomile, passion flower, ginseng, lotus flower extract, all of which are extremely healing and hydrating to the skin. If you have a condition such as rosacea and eczema, we have clients that have seen amazing results just by using the milk cleanser because of the calming and anti-inflammatory ingredients.
We also have an amazing line of toners. Our toners don’t have any alcohol, and they are just very refreshing. They do what a toner is supposed to do. Our orange toner got some great reviews and our eucalyptus toner is great for breakouts. We are really one of the true aromatherapy lines out there, meaning that the oils that we use are therapeutic grade oils and are actually designed to reduce stress, anxiety and sleeplessness. We are known for our scent, the first thing people notice is the scent. They love it so much, but they return because of the results.
What is your favorite L’uvalla Product?
I personally love the balancing cream for the summer since it’s very light and nourishing, and it’s got a great scent to it that I just love. That along with the milk cleanser would be my favorites.
What is in your bathroom cabinet right now aside from L’uvalla products?
Mostly the products that we buy are more the shampoos, body products and hair products. Especially being in the business, we want to try what’s out there. I personally use Lamas shampoo and conditioner. One of the body cleansers I use is Healing Seed, it’s a wonderful line. There are a lot of great lines out there, there’s plenty for everyone. Evan Healy is a great brand, too. They are walking their talk and doing a great job and I give them credit.
Are there any new lines or products coming out soon for L’uvalla?
We are working for next year in coming out with an argan oil serum which would be our star product, it's that good. And we are going to increase our line, and start including some body products. So we are looking to grow next year and build the line up.
Now that you’ve been in the organic business, what ingredients raise red flags for you in cosmetics right away? What do you refuse to incorporate into L’uvalla products?
It all depends. When we did our research, we only looked at ingredients that we could use, we didn’t look at what we couldn’t use. There isn’t an ingredient offhand that I can come up with except for phenoxyethanol. It is a preservative that has been used in the industry and we felt that that ingredient was not up to our standards. We try to use as little preservatives as possible and we refuse to use any synthetic ones. Our products are preserved via our packaging which does not allow contact with air or light. The preservative that we use is our essential oils. By using the highest grade first cold press or steam distilled oils, we can protect our products and gain an aromatherapy healing as well.