2 weeks ago

The Irish Skincare Star That Beauty Buyers Have Gone Crazy For


Nunaia has gone from a tiny start-up to gracing our top beauty halls …

I met Nicola Connolly back in June 2018 when she first launched Nunaïa. A beautiful blend of oils sourced sustainably from Peru, where she lived for over a decade, her Nourishing Radiance Serum immediately rang true as a genuinely excellent product, both in terms of its effect on skin as well as the thought and ethos that lay behind it. Nunaïa is not just vegan and cruelty-free, but also sustainably sourced, supporting a community of growers that Connolly has lived and worked with. “My mum used to ship The Gloss to me every month up the Andes Mountains in Peru and it was always a real treat to receive it so far from home.”

At a time when words like sustainable and organic are endlessly flashed around to catch our attention, Connolly has gone the extra mile, achieving Ecocert Cosmos Organic certification – by no means a straightforward process and one that took many months. So organic is not just a label here, but a fact. As I have written before, the Nourishing Radiance Serum (€79) is easily as good as many of the highly feted face oils that sell for double the price. Designed as “superfood nutrition for your skin”, it is entirely natural but also results-driven, with protective antioxidants, vitamins, including natural retinol vitamin A, minerals and the most beautiful scent. I have been lucky enough to test out gallons of top-priced ones, from Vintner’s Daughter (beautiful) to Sisley’s Black Rose –but if I had to choose just two to spend money on, I’d invest in two from Irish companies run by women, Nunaïa, and Fiona Carr’s Bare Chic Skin face oil, Rose of the World. At a time when we’re looking for more home wellbeing rituals, as well as products with thought and meaning behind them, these oils manufactured right here on our doorstep are right on the zeitgeist.

Connolly’s second product, launched just before lockdown, is the Superfood Cleansing Balm (€59), inspired by the idea of creating an all-natural version of Eve Lom: a blend of sunflower seed oil, sweet almond, sacha inchi – a special oil used for skin healing in the Amazon – and a host of others, including geranium and rosemary leaf extract, this is a gently effective way to clean your skin. And yes, sixty quid is more than we’d normally pay for a cleanser – but you only need to use a tiny bit (pea-sized), and you’re paying for quality ingredients rather than cheap fillers. It’s unusual in that it’s entirely vegan, using a new-to-market almond alternative to create the cream-to-oil effect. I even use a bit as lip balm.

Also new is a range of hand sanitisers, which smell great (€9.95); I’m trying the lavender and tea tree one and it’s a joy, frankly, after all those industrial, skin-stripping ones. Like other small Irish companies (Waters + Wild, Cloon Keen), Nunaïa have been quick to pivot and meet demand, as well as donating to the community with each bottle sold via the Give a Hand project. And a percentage of every Nunaïa product sold goes to the brand’s own community fund, supporting educational programmes for girls and women in the communities where the ingredients are grown in Peru.

I love the lack of synthetics in all these products – no silicones, petroleum, added fragrance or mineral oils – and the transparency of the production. It was imperative to Connolly that the process from soil to skin was reduced and entirely visible throughout. Look out for a gift set launching in October and then a new care product early next year. “We spend a long time creating a new product, using actives as a starting point,” Connolly told us in a virtual press event, where we breathed in the oil while eating scones delivered to our desks by Avoca. In my original write-up two years ago, I predicted: “Expect to see Nunaïa snapped up by a savvy designer store before long…”. Nunaïa is available at Avoca, Seagreen and Arnotts, and has just launched into Brown Thomas. And it’s a real thrill to see a small, thoughtful, ethical Irish business run by a principled woman rise up and make waves – this is a brilliant way to buy Irish and support communities in hard-hit Peru, all while improving your skin. It’s what we want from beauty now, with the focus on ingredients, quality and care. Expect to see Nunaïa storming UK and US beauty stores very soon.



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