founder of Snowberry

Soraya Hendesi founded Snowberry, a natural skincare brand based in New Zealand, after searching for “an uncomplicated system of natural beauty care that worked.” Among her products is Marta’s go-to sunscreen, the Every Day SPF15 Broad Spectrum Sun Protection, with its unusual UV-blocking actives. But there’s much more to this brand. Read on.

Why did you get involved in skincare?

Like most women, I think about skincare. I trained as a cosmetician and was frustrated – and still am – by the weird and, at times, nonsensical information provided by some skincare brands to us as consumers. I am horrified that some skincare products can actually do more damage than good. It always seemed to me that I should be able to completely trust any skincare product – but, in my view, that is not possible. There are too many ingredients used because they are cheap or because they feel good that have no functional benefits and can actually cause skin irritancy. This is not right. So I became determined to create something better. I got involved in skincare because I felt I had no alternative.

Essentially, I believe every woman should be able to trust her skincare. That means that she should be able to apply it every single day for a lifetime, and know it will do only good. It also means that she should be able to see a visible difference.

Tell us about how you developed the Snowberry line.

I established Snowberry seven years ago. I started with cleansing and toning because it was those products that disturbed me the most. Unfortunately, I suspect that many women don’t attach enough importance to their cleansing regime and regard it almost as the “necessary evil” before they apply creams and serums. Many skincare companies have responded cynically (I think) by creating products full of very cheap, but aggressive ingredients. I wanted cleansers and toners that were effective yet extremely gentle.

Then my team focused on anti-aging creams and serums and our baseline was “no compromise.” This meant that we would combine the most beneficial ingredients we could find anywhere in the world and at levels that would really make a difference. They had to be full to the brim with the most effective anti-aging ingredients I could find; not one or two. Not as I found many brands to be – formulations based on a single mysterious “secret” ingredient – but a profusion of ingredients proven to be effective in countering free-radical damage, the cellular degradation caused by proteinases, glycation and so on.

Finally, I wanted to offer natural sunscreens that feel good, don’t make one look like a clown and that avoided the chemical actives used in all synthetic sunscreens. Strangely, perhaps, this was our biggest formulation challenge, but it has been worth the effort!

What sets your products apart from others that purport to have the same benefits?

As a cosmetician, I am aware that skin is complex – and so are the causes of skin aging. For this reason, I knew I needed many beneficial ingredients including peptides, antioxidants, emollients and humectants, and that I needed many of each kind. Of course I also discovered that the very luxuriant formulations that met my requirements were expensive and quite complex. That is why Snowberry contains 13 peptides, more than 20 antioxidants and super-fruit extracts, and nearly 30 natural emollients. I came to think of these formulations as being like food – nourishment for the skin. There are none of the typical petrochemicals, silicones, volatile alcohols, or parabens; and honey and cultured pearl are the only non-herbal ingredients.

What are other standout ingredients in your products?

In our Smoothing Eye Serum, we use the South American Cannon wood extract. This is one of the most highly effective compounds for reducing the depth of wrinkles and removing puffiness from around the eyes I have found. We also look for ingredients such as Neem, Lingonberry, Suma, Pejabaye and Goji because they offer so much in terms of hydration and nourishment, or White Peat Extract to support the skin’s barrier system with anti-inflammatory and immune regulatory functionality. Countering free-radical activity is a key objective and in this respect I like Retinol Vitamin A and Vitamin C, and Ubiquinone.

From New Zealand and specifically from our bio-discovery plantation, we harvest and prepare the extremely fine Harakeke seed oil. This is a beautiful emollient packed with phytosterols with anti-irritation and anti-inflammatory activity, and essential fatty acids that help to soothe acne-prone skin.

Tell us about the whimsical artwork on the Snowberry packaging.

I wanted my customers to know that Snowberry is different. I wanted to incorporate in our packaging something that was bright and vital and suggestive of almost a child-like innocence. Then I saw Rob Ryan’s paper cut art and thought it was perfect. We talked with Rob about our philosophy and our plans and he loved the idea so we commissioned the “Snowberry art.” It contains images of ideas and events that are very important to me. The lady holding the lantern, for example, which we use to represent our Cellular Regeneration Night Cream is my grandmother who was a dedicated humanitarian.

If you had to choose one, which product from the Snowberry line could you not be without and why?

Too hard! Snowberry is a very small, focused range. But you pressed, so I must say the Gentle Remineralising Toner. This is a misnomer, really, since it is the most superb morning cleanser and toner. Unlike many cleansers and toners that contain volatile alcohols and anionic surfactants, this product does not alter the skin’s natural pH or damage the acid mantle or the essential phospholipid barrier in the epidermis. Prolonged use of this toner will never result in skin irritation or inflammation. Women with sensitive skin love it and so do those prone to breakouts.

But from an anti-aging perspective, I would have to say the Snowberry Intensive Renewal Face Serum – as well as the eye serum and the night cream. All three are antioxidant and peptide rich but with different combinations and in conjunction with different natural oils and herbal extracts, each is doing a vital but complementary job.

Can you tell us about any new product developments?

This year is perhaps our most active new product year since we started. There are several reasons for this. First, there are gaps in our range and customers have been asking us to fill them! Consequently, we plan to introduce a hand cream, a lip balm, an eye cream and two facial masks later this year. Then, we are aware that there are consumers who love the Snowberry philosophy but find some of the range a little out of reach price-wise. For these customers, in particular, we are bringing in three new moisturising day creams, a night cream, a new serum, a cleanser and a toner. In fact the first three, the Starbright Moisturiser, the Simply Delicious Moisturiser and the New Radiance Face Serum, will launch this month. All of these products have very good anti-aging properties and they combine lovely ingredients, but they don’t have the range of peptides that the current range does. And finally, we have a very active research program and while I cannot say more at this stage, we are anticipating bringing a very special serum to the market, hopefully at the end of the year. I will keep you posted!