Toyin Oniru was born and raised in London. She practised Law briefly in the United Kingdom and headed back to Nigeria after marriage. She had always prepared her own natural skin care products and had been happy with the result.
Then the natural hair revolution arrives and the beard gang, leaving a big question mark on the available hair care lines. She must have seen different kinds of hair in her lifetime: the scantily-growing, the receding hairline, the frail-textured hair, the thick and difficult to manage and the discoloured hair type.
Yet, some women, despite their hair textures, want to join the natural hair revolution by all means to stay trendy. For the men, mentholated spirit might have helped to grow some beard but will not help to keep them healthy. Some good-looking men have nightmarish bumps at the back of their heads and have tried many chemical based solutions but still grapple with the bumps.
Then it struck her. She could just make enough organic products to sell and distribute. That is the story of Inner Beautee, the fast-growing organic cosmetic brand, founded in 2012 with a showroom inside Lekki Phase I. The brand has grown from being accessible online to actual physical interaction with the product maker.
This reporter visited the Lekki showroom recently where she caught up with Oniru who devoted some of her time between nursing her baby and attending to customers to talk about the essentials of sourcing for skin and hair care products from organic items.
“I want to live a natural lifestyle, eat organic food, grow my hair out of the perm chemicals,” she began. “I had my baby in 2009 and I wanted the right stuff. And there wasn’t much in the area of skin care that is organic. I wanted to make that for her. I started to make my own concoctions. I saw that more people could benefit from the mixtures. So I started this 100 per cent organic product line for older women, every day people, and people with natural hair who want healthy hair growth but don’t know how to maintain it. I began to do more research about it. And I put my research into practice and made the product to suit the people that they are designed for,” she revealed.
She thought a lot of people have associated beauty with what is far from our natural selves. That is why we have legions of women who have embraced skin bleaching and adopted foreign hair styles in the name of human hair. For Oniru, there is nothing like natural beauty.
“We believe that everyone is naturally beautiful in their own right. We started a company that advocates embracing natural beauty that will not bring about negative side effects. We use natural oil such as shea oil derived from shea butter and coconut oil, avocado oil, sweet almond oil and all these contain vitamin A, E and F with natural sunscreens for our hot climate.
“We make the products suitable for where we live and are also beneficial for global cosmetic brands. From nail polish to candles, we grew steadily, and we have expanded. We have the baby care range for nappy rash; maternity care such as the nipple balm and stretch marks for the pregnant belly. We have the men collection which is made up of the beard butter and beard oil for men. We have oils that can help men maintain healthy looking beard,” she declared.
The showroom is organically decorated with grass wall, wooden baskets with wood scrapings that house the hand-made scrubs. The scrubs are prepared to remove facial dirt and grease trapped in the skin pores and to get rid of dead skins.
“They smell so good you’d feel like eating them. Well, you can since they are organic products,” she said, smiling as she took this reporter round the displayed items with her baby strapped around her tall frame that was clad in champagne-coloured lace attire. As a businesswoman, she veered into gift packaging recently, offering customised souvenir items for birthday parties, bridal and baby showers. Her career choice was born out of passion and the need to have a work-life balance that being self-employed guarantees for most people.
For her, the feedback from customers had been quite gratifying although a few of them are still apprehensive about the skin lightening effect in some of the natural products. Oniru explained that her company has a no-bleaching policy that is non-negotiable. Instead, natural sunscreens are derived and used to help the costumers maintain a natural even tone.
“We have seen customers who have damaged their skin from the use of other products who come here for skin treatment and repair and they want us to help them. Some are no longer able to go out in the sun. They cannot use products without flaring up. We repair their skin. We have natural products that brighten up the skin in our black soap. We use lemon in our sugar scrubs,” she explained.
For those who complain that shea butter darkens their skin, Oniru’s response is that the fake ones are the culprits. Her organic items are authentic and the plus is that they have wonderful fragrances.
“Black is beautiful. If you are a naturally dark person, you only need to take care of your skin tone. You don’t have to buy into the mainstream ideology of being fair or dying to get that way. We have something for everybody. We even help to make the black soap smell good. We never compromise on our ethos. If someone brings a formula, and the ingredients are harmful to the skin, we would not do it,” she said, looking into the reporter’s face who sat comfortably on one of the treated wood logs at the centre table.
The irony of her brand is that the care is for outward appearance while the brand name is ‘Inner Beautee’. Oniru smiled at the thought but explained that looking good is closely related to feeling good because good looks breed self-confidence and a greater dosage of self-esteem. That is why she also recommends the Egyptian sponges for the skin nurturing.
“Our nail polishes are water-based,” she said, turning away from camera to breast feed her baby. “You need to have a daily regimen. Women used to be our biggest clients but with the beard trend, lots of men are using our products. And now, we have been invited to the African Cosmetics Exhibition in South Africa. I think Africa is our home.”
Her hand-made products are also tested in a laboratory at Ikeja. The business, as small as it appears creates jobs for graphic designers, printers, web content developer and sales representatives. Her short courses in beauty from UK and Abuja had also come in handy as she peddled a unique business model to promote pan-African beauty.
“When you do your own business, you are always thinking about it 24/7. You will think of how to improve it, meet client’s deadline and satisfaction and make future projections about the business. Of course when I was in legal practice, I specialised in family law.
“You’d think about the clients and the effect of the divorce on the entire household, especially the children. You think about how the properties would be shared between the couple. But in your own business, you want to excel. I still have to stay focused on my family, providing spiritually for them,” said Oniru, who is a devout Muslim.