Myriam, the founder of Akhal Beauty, explains how her product not only perfects complexions, but also assists in restoring ancient Moroccan forests, supports indigenous communities and gives girls in rural villages better access to education.
1 What inspired you to establish Akhal Beauty?
The short answer is the precarious state in which I have found the Argan Forest and the people living in it during a trip to Morocco.
The Argan Forest is an incredible natural ecosystem that supports an entire indigenous community in the South of Morocco. During a visit in 2016, I was shocked to find the forest polluted with plastic bags and with so many dead trees. It looked nothing like the dense and healthy forest I had seen as a kid growing up in Morocco.
I spoke to nearby villagers to enquire about this situation and was confronted by another stark image, that of a family crammed into the same room without electricity and with outside toilets. Those villagers were Argan harvesters and yet it seemed their living conditions did not match up to the success of Argan oil, which can be found in so many of our personal care and skin care products today, and for which we pay top dollars.
2 What was your first product and how did you turn your inspiration into a reality?
Argan Kernel Oil because it is such a fantastic multipurpose skincare product and the source of livelihood for so many indigenous people in Morocco.
I wanted to work with independent women-only cooperatives that were just as concerned about protecting the Argan Forest as I was, and that could deliver top notch quality. It was more challenging than I expected to find such a group of women. It took me months of research, many trips and site visits to find our current partners, but I am glad that I was so uncompromising because the group of women we work with are simply incredible. Our process is streamlined and is traceable from the forest to the bottle our customer use.
3 Where do you source your ingredients?
All our ingredients are sourced in Morocco’s South. Whilst it is one of the country’s poorest regions, the Southern hinterland has an incredible biome with many healing herbs, plants, and flowers that indigenous Moroccans have used for centuries to treat all kinds of ailments.
4 Tell us about your work with Education For All. How does Akhal help girls get an education?
Education for All (EFA) is a non-governmental organisation (NGO) that was created to address girls’ low school enrolment rates in the High Atlas Mountains region of Morocco. Primary schooling is free and compulsory in Morocco, however attendance levels can be low in rural areas and the disparity between boys and girls is staggering.
What EFA discovered was that the schools, despite being free, were too far from the villages and parents were simply not comfortable letting their young girls walk or take a bus to the school alone as that was unsafe.
EFA’s answer to this problem was to create safe and supervised girls-only dormitories next to the schools where up to 200 girls are given free lodging and boarding. This eliminated all friction points parents from those villages might have had in allowing their daughters to finish their education. The program that EFA has established is thriving and the organisation has had many success stories.
EFA relies solely on donations to cover those expenses so our partnership is with them where we donate a portion of each sale to help them cover the expenses of running the dormitories help a little.
5 What key skincare products should we include in our routine as we enter autumn?
Autumn brings cool air and cold winds. We often move back and forth between a warm indoor environment and the cooler outdoors causing a bit of a shock to the outer layer of our skin. These weather factors can lead to a depleted lipid barrier commonly called skin dryness. Oils rich in essential fatty acids are a great skincare product because they help you build that lipid barrier that is under attack by the elements and that helps protect your skin.
I prefer dry oils like Argan Kernel Oil and Prickly Pear Seed Oil because they are quickly absorbed and can be used on a standalone basis or as a layering product with your other skincare products or make up. I also recommend investing in a gentle exfoliant because with dry skin comes slough dead skin that you should remove regularly to avoid it clogging up your pores. I recommend Rhassoul Clay which doubles up as a daily polish and deeply cleansing weekly facial mask.
Shop Akhal at www.akhal.com