Recently, I was fortunate enough to be introduced to Nicola Connolly, Founder of Nunaïa, by a friend at a beauty industry event. I spoke to her a little then and was instantly intrigued. A few weeks later I got to properly sit down and hear more about the beautiful brand that she has created, her incredible Nourishing Radiance Serum, and her fascinating tales of adventure and wonder in South America. Now, we have just launched Nunaïa Nourishing Radiance Serum on The Clean Beauty Edit, and we are delighted to share it with you, along with the following Q&A that joyously had the opportunity to do with Nicola. Read it and be inspired!
A Q&A with Nicola Connolly, Founder of Nunaïa
- Have you always wanted to run your own business?
I set up my first micro-business when I was 11 and Nunaïa is my tenth business to date. I love the creation process and seeing a dream and passion come to life in a product or service. Nunaïa is the culmination of over 12 years passion, research and exploration and is completely driven by our values and ethos. It’s exciting to create such a gorgeous, ethical brand with a real heart that reflects everything the team and I believe in deeply.
- Your time in South America was fundamental to the creation of Nunaïa. Tell us more about your time there and how it shaped your product and ethos?
What started off as a month-long visit to South America turned into a fabulous 12-year adventure where I discovered a passion for sustainable development, herbalism and wellness.
I started out by working on one of the Galapagos Islands off the coast of Ecuador with local communities helping them to develop a new sustainable tourism model that allowed them a better standard of living. This was my first exposure to such a pristine, natural environment and I was blown away by the richness and magic of the nature that surrounded me.
I was then extremely privileged to work with incredible traditional communities in the Amazon Rainforest and Andes Mountains of Ecuador and Peru. Here, I gained a deep understanding of what it means to live in balance with ourselves and the earth around us and also how the choices we make in our daily lives have big impacts on other places around the world. This grew into a deep understanding on the importance of sustainability and ultimately led to the creation of Nunaïa.
- How did you go about creating your serum?
When I moved to the Andes Mountains in Peru, I was struck by two things 1. the incredible richness of their natural environment and the exotic plants they used to stay healthy and well and 2. their ancestral wisdom and their use of ritual in their daily lives to stay healthy and in balance in their lives. I became fascinated by these two elements and studied and researched with local healers and communities to understand more about the wellness techniques they use and how they work.
Each time I would return to Ireland and Europe, I was struck by the levels of stress I was seeing. So, I started thinking of ways I could share some of this incredible knowledge I was being gifted with.
I teamed up with a biologist and a cosmetic chemist and we went into the lab to analyse these incredible plant actives and to understand how and why they work. We started seeing incredible results and I guess this was the start of the creation process of developing our beautiful Nourishing Radiance Serum.
- Can you tell us more about the key ingredients in the serum?
What’s really exciting for us is that we have direct access to innovative, high-performance bio-active ingredients that are little known and just emerging from the Rainforest and Andes Mountains. They are of a quality incomparable found elsewhere and are amazing replacements for synthetic compounds like vitamin C or pro-vitamin A and deliver proven targeted results to the skin.
Some of the key actives we’re most excited about in our serum include:
Sacha Inchi which is an incredible regenerating, firming and anti-oxidant plant rich in Pro-vitamin A and anti-oxidants that helps maintain natural skin cell regeneration, elasticity and suppleness.
Maracuja, a brightening, protecting and anti-oxidant plant that is extremely rich in vitamin C and ferulic acid and that helps to reduce pigmentation, regenerate and restore brightness.
Chia, a power-house seed that is packed with antioxidants and omega 3 & 6 in the ideal 3:1 ratio. It helps restore moisture, reduce redness and the appearance of fine lines.
- Why is clean and toxin-free so important to you?
I switched to a clean, natural lifestyle over 15 years ago when I started to realise the impact of my own lifestyle choices on the planet and also my own health. Unfortunately, many of the products we use are full of synthetic chemicals that are scientifically proven to be harmful to human health and also cause damage to the environment and our delicate eco systems.
This switch was a beautiful process of looking at all areas of my life and seeing how I could make better choices for myself, my family and on a global scale for communities around the world and the planet itself.
I think this is important because we are in a critical phase as a planet with more and more people experiencing health issues and the natural environment itself suffering massive degradation. Every day we have the option to make hundreds of little choices that have the power to help bring more balance back into our lives and the lives of others or to contribute to a more damaging paradigm. As much as possible, I choose clean and toxin-free in all areas of my life, as I know it helps me and the earth stay healthy and more in-balance.
- What do you love most about your serum? What sets it apart from other all-natural serums on the market?
I love that we have managed to create a high-performance, certified organic serum that delivers exceptional, clinically proven skin health results. The challenge when creating natural skincare is getting effective results plus gorgeous texture and feel without any synthetic chemicals and I think this is something we’ve really succeeded with in our gorgeous silk feel, non-greasy Nourishing Radiance Serum.
What sets us apart from other serums is that we have the highest organic certification at 99.5% in U.K & Ireland (not an easy task!), we use highly effective, innovative superfood ingredients sacha inchi, maracuja and chia that are ethically sourced and processed to ensure they are some of the highest quality, effective skincare ingredients on the market today.
I also love that our serum is not just an oil serum. It won’t just leave your skin glowing but will also bring greater calm and balance with the Nunaïa Wellness Ritual ® which is a key part of what we do at Nunaïa.
- Why is the Nunaïa Ritual a key part of the serum?
Ritual has been used for thousands of years to give people a greater sense of connection and meaning in their lives. Taking moments of quiet re-connection in our day to come back into balance and re-connect with ourselves and loved ones has powerful, scientifically proven well-being benefits.
The additional star ingredient in the serum is our proprietary Nunaïa Ritual ®. The ritual was developed through the ancestral wisdom I learnt in South America to bring more balance. It’s about super powering your skincare routine with the four simple Nunaïa Ritual ® steps to bring more mindfulness and calm to these moments of self-care. It actually allows us to get a better skin health result by applying the serum in a way that enhances the penetration and efficacy, and It allows us to re-set and re-connect at the end of the day and prepare for restful, restorative sleep. You have to try it to see how incredible the results are!
- Can you tell us more about the communities that you work with, and the Nunaïa Fund?
Nunaïa means ‘Soul Tribe’ in the Quechua language and was based around two Andean concepts. ‘Ayni’ which in its most basic form means reciprocity – ‘today for me, tomorrow for you’ and their concept of ‘ayllu’ or tribe. They have strong, bonded communities and look after each other really well, this was an element of their culture that really struck me and something I think we have lost in our more individualistic culture. These two concepts really inspired my vision for Nunaïa and the idea of creating a ‘soul tribe’ where different communities around the world benefit from each other’s wisdom and knowledge.
Over many years working with traditional communities I saw first-hand the importance of sourcing ethically and sustainably so working with local communities was a no-brainer when it came to developing Nunaïa. We source our vital actives directly from our fabulous communities in the Amazon Rainforest and Andes Mountains of Peru. These growers are typically small families with an acre or two of land that grow our botanicals and harvest them by hand with lots of love. They also grow other crops on the same plot so the bio-diversity of the land is protected and they are all certified organic growers.
The idea for the Nunaïa Community Fund came about one day, as I was reflecting on all of the incredible wisdom and beauty I had received during my time in South America and what we could do to say thanks, give something back and really embody our ‘soul tribe’ ethos.
In my development work with the communities, I had always been struck by the impact that helping a woman become financially independent had on her family and the wider community and by the fact that typically the boys in a family get the option to go on to secondary and third level education not the girls. The Nunaïa Community Fund is our way of saying thanks and supporting girls and women in our community of growers by funding education scholarships. A percentage of the profit on every serum sold goes to support this initiative.
- Have you any tips on reconnecting to nature and finding balance in our busy lives?
After spending the past decade studying wellness and what I call the art of living well, I think the most important first step towards finding greater balance is to recognise that our wellness and balance needs to be a top priority in our lives. If we are feeling calm, relaxed and joyful, everything in our lives seems easier and flows better. However, this is easier said than done as we are busier, more stressed and have more demands on us than ever before.
One technique I have found very helpful is to create rituals throughout my day that help me to re-set and re-connect even on my busiest of days! One thing I try to do every day, which I find has one of the most positive effects on my own well-being is to prime my day with 15 minutes of meditation and conscious breathing.
I find the morning is one of the best times to do this, before your head and the day gets busy. Take 10 or 15 minutes to sit in silence, somewhere you will be undisturbed and just check in with yourself. How does your body feel? Is there any stress or tension? How am I feeling emotionally? Then focus on taking slow, deep in-breaths through your nose and releasing through your mouth. I finish my ritual by positively visualising the day ahead and moving through it with calm and ease. The benefits of this are incredible and I really notice a difference if I miss a day.
- What are you most proud of?
I believe that life is short, so I want to make sure I am doing things I love with people I adore. So, I think I am probably most proud of following my own path and daring to live and follow my dreams despite the obstacles I faced along the way. I get such joy in exploring and creating and my life experiences and Nunaïa have allowed me meet incredible people, discover marvellous places and enjoy life-changing experiences so I’m proud I said yes too the ride! 😊
Also, I’m definitely proud of respecting and defending our ‘Soil to Skin’ ethos and spending so much time, resources and energy invested in ensuring we are as ethical, sustainable, clean and green as possible the whole way across our business. Not everyone understands the commitment, sacrifice and cost involved in holding this ethos, so It’s a real pleasure to launch with The Clean Beauty Edit and a gorgeous site like yours that truly ‘gets it’.
- Where do you hope to take Nunaïa next?
At Nunaïa, we create moments of connection in the day through our clean, green beauty rituals. We will continue to create more magic and connection across the globe with a gorgeous range of high-performance, superfood skincare that combines this ancestral wisdom and wellness ritual with the latest green beauty technology with incredible new plant botanicals sourced from our communities. Watch this space!