In Conversation with Natasha Dauncey Founder of Apothaka Skincare
Natasha brings a wealth of knowledge and personal experience to her multi award winning skincare brand Apothaka. I had been following and researching the brand and it’s philosophy and mission for some time before I reached out to Natasha. Her formulations are primarily focused on specific ingredients to treat key skin concerns, whilst maintains a healthy skin barrier function. Initially, Natasha created products to answer her own skin concerns she was exposed to in her 30s and was eventually encouraged by friends to expand her products for others to experience, and I am so glad she did!
At 30 years old, I was pregnant with my first child and was experiencing hormonal skin challenges. I think it’s such a myth that you only have skin challenges in your teen and 20s. Skin constantly evolves and changes due to a variety of factors such as lifestyle dynamics to genetic predisposition. So Natasha‘s philosophy of treating ones skin to help encourage renewal and hydration from her own personal experience really appealed to me.
Natasha strongly believes that less is more when it comes to a skincare routine and I agree. I always find my skin responds to its best when I use a small variety of products, consistently.
At the core of Natasha’s products is an important belief of addressing and maintaining a healthy skin barrier skin.
Read on to find out how Natasha’s journey flourished, what key ingredients to look out for when choosing skincare and how she incorporates wellness and self-care into her daily routine.
Where does your passion for skin and skin treatment originate from? As with many brand founders my real interest in skincare started when I began to experience problems with my skin i.e. quite painful and persistent breakouts, quite late on - in my late thirties. Prior to that I had a skincare routine of sorts and I was lucky to have pretty clear skin most of my life so to start having issues when I was older was a bit of a shock. Most products designed to tackle breakouts were harsh and dried my skin out which seemed to make things even worse.
I started wearing heavier make up to mask the spots and resulting pigmentation which made my skin breakout even more. I didn't have acne and I felt that my skin didn't warrant a trip to the GP so I started researching ingredients to improve my skin and discovered oils. I bought a number of different oils and started making my own basic blends. It all went from there.
My skin responded well to oils so I bought a wider selection to experiment further, and I also undertook a couple of courses in product formulation, essential oil use in skincare and then cosmetic regulation.
I started making things for friends and family and they liked my blends enough that they wanted me to make more and offered to pay me! I played around with all sorts of combinations of ingredients and different types of products and amassed several formulations in the process (some of which are part of my existing range!). A couple of people suggested I made a business out of it so I decided to give it a go and Apothaka was launched nearly 3 years ago. Apothaka’s concept is based upon delivering a combination of nutrient-rich, plant based formulations and synthetic ingredients that help support a healthy skin barrier. Which key ingredients should we be looking for when choosing a skincare product to perform this? My focus on is on plant-based and synthetic ingredients that can support a healthy skin barrier. Whilst I love many plant-based ingredients, I also recognise that there are a number of synthetic ingredients that are hugely beneficial in skincare. It feels like brands (and consumers) fall into 2 groups - those that feel natural is best, and those that prefer synthetic ingredients. However, I don't see why you can't take the best of both worlds and fuse them together to create formulations that genuinely improve and maintain skin health.
Key ingredients that I feel are important in this respect are niacinamide, which has a multitude of skin benefits on top of its ability to support the skin barrier; ceramides, pro-ceramides and cholesterol (all of which are in my barrier support serum!) which help to replenish a deficient skin barrier, and plant oils, especially those that are rich in linoleic acid, which have also been shown to help restore a compromised skin barrier. For example, sunflower, jojoba and borage oil have been reported to have barrier repairing properties in clinical studies - and these oils feature in my range. I would add though, that it's not just about the right ingredients, but also about overall formulations. Part of that is about the amount of active ingredient, but also looking at the overall quality of the formulation i.e. is it safe and stable? Do the ingredients in a formulation play well together, and at a suitable pH? Is it adequately preserved?
Does it contain a lot of potentially sensitising ingredients?
Furthermore it's also about how we treat our skin overall. For example, daily sunscreen is a great way to support our skin barrier and protect it from free radical damage and photo ageing, yet its importance is often diminished, especially in the UK which is worrying because there is an increasing use of "anti-ageing" ingredients, many of which can make your skin photosensitive. Linked to this, getting the balance right with use of exfoliating products is crucial to maintaining healthy skin. We are seeing increasing numbers of people with sensitised skin and I'm convinced a lot of that is down to overuse of exfoliating treatments - whether that's using them too frequently, or using products that are too strong for an individuals skin.
The other area that's often underestimated is the importance of keeping the skin hydrated (and I'm not referring to how much water we should be drinking as the evidence suggests that this doesn't affect epidermal hydration!). Water is necessary for skin to function normally, and the skin needs to be sufficiently hydrated in order to naturally go through the process of desquamation i.e. when the skin sheds. An interruption to this process can result in dry, dull and flaky skin. We can keep up surface hydration levels through the use of humectant rich products (including ingredients like glycerin, hyaluronic acid and sodium PCA etc), but another way of ensuring the skin remains sufficiently hydrated is to avoid use of harsh cleansers that strip the skin of its natural oils as well as avoiding the use of very hot water on the skin. So overall, whilst there are key ingredients that you can look out for to support skin barrier health, I think it's also important to give thought to how you approach your whole skin routine with a healthy skin barrier in mind. That means avoiding things that will aggravate it or put unnecessary stress on it! Self Care and wellbeing are slowly becoming entwined with how we look after our skin. How do you turn your skincare routines into self-care rituals? I don't have a huge amount of time for skincare routines but one area where I do try to take my time is evening cleansing. For me, that feels like a moment of self care. I think cleansing can be often rushed but it's important to take time to do it properly so that your skin is clean and ready for product application. I use a cleansing oil so that I can massage my skin for at least a minute - it's a great way to "take the day off" as well as benefit from a bit of facial massage. I think the power of scent, especially from essential oils is often underestimated so it's nice to be able to tie that into a skincare routine, if your skin tolerates it that is. I sometimes use my lightly fragranced cleansing oil (with lavender, geranium and rosemary essential oils) as inhaling the scent relaxes and calms me, especially after a busy day. Now that I'm using prescription strength actives I have reduced the use of fragranced products in my skincare routine, but I'm more relaxed about a small amount of essential oils in a rinse off product! What was the last skin therapy treatment you received and what did it focus on? My skin doesn't always react well to new products, and I can't use any aggressive products (e.g. exfoliators) on my skin, so I rarely have "traditional" facials, but recently I tried out a Zone Face lift treatment which incorporates a variety of facial massage techniques to lift / sculpt the face over a course of treatments. I really enjoyed it and for me, that was a definite moment of self care in my hectic schedule! What is most important to you when choosing to invest in skincare products?
I'm fortunate that I don't need to buy many skincare products as I can make most things myself, but when I do, the most important factors to me personally are: texture, overall formulation, star ingredients, uniqueness and how a brand is marketed. As my skin can be problematic, I lean towards lightweight yet nourishing textures (which are surprisingly hard to find!). Whilst I look for key ingredients which have known benefits for the skin (I will always choose these over "trendy" ingredients that have little/no data to support them), as I mentioned before - the overall formulation is also important to me. So all the aspects I mentioned earlier - does the formulation look robust and stable, are the active ingredients used in optimal amounts, does it have an adequate preservative system, has the product gone through proper testing. I value unique products because I admire any brand that tries to do things differently in a world full of "dupes".
I value products which reduce the number of products / steps in a skincare routine. But perhaps one of the most important factors that influences my choice of skincare products (other than my own!), is the philosophy and marketing of a brand. I actively avoid brands that sell on the basis of fear mongering - so if I see claims like "paraben free, preservative free", if they use the phrases "non toxic or no nasties" or a long list of ingredients that the product claims to not include, then I give them a wide berth.
I think it's vital that brands don't sell in a way that instills fear in consumers as it simply perpetuates this "chemicals are bad for you" dialogue that we keep seeing. I would much rather see a focus on product benefits and the problems they can solve.
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