Okoko Cosmétiques founder Oyeta Kokoroko is well known in green beauty circles for her uniquely high-performance luxury skin care products, and hardly a person (myself included) can encounter her without commenting on her radiant complexion and uncommon beauty. Yet what lingers after a conversation with Ms. Kokoroko is her passion for excellence, her desire to unite foes for good, and her drive to elevate green beauty to its highest performance yet. As our interview reveals, Ms. Kokoroko is ready to take part in the future of green beauty. Oyeta Kokoroko is a green beauty visionary on a mission.
I read that your interests in wellness and green beauty were inspired in part by your desire to heal health concerns you had when you were young. You educated yourself in naturopathic medicine including holistic nutrition and herbal medicine. What are the most important things you’ve learned about natural healing?
I view natural healing as involving a combination of inside and outside changes. When I first explored these issues, I had some health challenges that were linked to my lifestyle; when I began consciously improving my diet and paying attention to my lifestyle (by exercising, managing stress and taking time for relaxation), my problems went away. The changes I experienced were amazing, and I became very interested in ingredients found in my food. You know what they say: “Let food be thy medicine.’ The good stuff, the simple foods, the plants foods, the fruits, the nuts, and the vegetables are really what the body needs to heal itself and be healthy. If you are interested to know more, watch the documentary called “Hungry For Change.” It’s one of the best out there and it says it all.
We live in a highly toxic world and it’s important to take necessary measures to reduce the impact on your body, health, and environment. Try to reduce process foods, support your Farmer’s market, buy organic and fresh whenever possible, do a gentle cleanse from time to time and “clean your beauty routine” are a few steps in natural healing. As I said, the way I see it, healing is holistic. Take care of yourself inside and out. Eat clean, exercise regularly and do things that make you feel awesome. I also think that healing involves thinking about your own life story and working to be in a good place mentally. So yes your life story, state of mind, and thoughts really matter too.
Can you describe how and why your line brings together the best of botanical skincare and scientific skincare to produce such amazing results?
I studied natural organic skin care formulation, and most people don’t know this, but I also studied conventional skincare formulation as well. Mainstream products are still the bulk of products sold on the market, and even though I approach things from a perspective of green beauty, I want to be informed and educated about the industry as a whole.
I find it important to study the conventional market or try to stay abreast of the latest conventional actives. I spend my free time researching novel ingredients and reading clinical studies. I’m in touch with chemists, suppliers, and pharmaceutical companies. I’m passionate about natural and green, but I still want to work together with others with specialized knowledge. I learn from them, but at the same time, if they are a supplier, I don’t just take their word for it; I read the clinical studies and do my own digging. I am a researcher at heart. I like to understand what I’m buying and using—whether it’s food or beauty—really anything I’m using. I aim with my line to deliver ingredients of only the most extraordinary quality while doing good by supporting eco-driven suppliers and small cooperatives from around the world.
Can you tell us about your new mission and vision for Okoko Cosmétiques?
I want to bring together the good from modern science-based formulation with the best in green beauty, taking the valuable aspects of both and combining them. I took the time to listen to green skincare consumers, and what I what I learned is that they want green formulation with functional ingredients to amplify results. This feedback is really what inspired me to combine the best of natural skincare with safe, clinically tested actives. I am committed to innovation and ultimately I want to provide a top-level product line that includes bioferments, botanical extracts, functional actives, enzymes, etc. I want my green products to deliver results on par with conventional products. But I will not use low-quality, mass-produced ingredients or fillers in my products. If I say I can deliver something (with Okoko Cosmétiques), you can be sure I’ve done my homework on it.
At times, there’s a lot of hate between green beauty and mainstream beauty, but for me, it’s not about spreading fear; it’s about bringing something new and different to the table. Marie Veronique posted an article stating, “Natural skincare should be effective, not just safe,” and I agree completely. I think consumers have the right to expect more from their beauty products. Not just “safe” or “non-toxic,” it should go above that and help to improve your skin for the better. My goal is to bring green products up to the same level of results as conventional products.
What’s your process as a formulator?
I start with a need or a problem to solve and start imagining a product to do it. I asked myself, what would be the benefits? How would it feel on the skin, and what ingredients do I want? Then I will imagine and develop my dream product that would do exactly that. I LOVE the development phase because I get to experiment a lot and try different combinations, textures, scents which is an incredible experience for a beauty alchemist like me. I research ingredients and actives that can help solve the problem, and then I determine through more research which of these ingredients work well together. Then finally I formulate. Because of all the thorough researching, it takes a year even many years to formulate a product depending on its level of complexity.
What hurdles have you run into as a green beauty formulator?
I often hear people in the beauty community say things like “the chemical stuff just works better.” First off, what is the chemical stuff, lol? There are lots of amazing green beauty brands that have launched incredible products that perform as well or even better than their conventional counterparts. I realize that there is still lots of work to be done to promote natural alternatives. Many people still think that natural skin care doesn’t work or that they will not see the same results they were used to, which is completely false.
Another challenge is, as formulators, we have a responsibility to make products that are safe. For example, a lot of people right now are against having preservatives in their skincare, but without them, products can end up being truly dangerous. If [a product] goes bad, someone could be harmed; people have ended up blind. We have to ask ourselves, which is the bigger danger using a preservative or leaving it out? In the chemical industry today, there are more and more naturally-derived preservatives, so it’s possible to research carefully and choose a safe and natural one.
How do you use the products in the Okoko line?
The masks [Gentle Facial Treatment LA BOUE DE BEAUTÉ and Clay Face Mask LA D’TOX NOIRE] are great for relaxation and preparation. The masks also make the serums [L’ÉLIXIR DE CLARTÉ (The Radiance Elixir) and L’ÉLIXIR DE PURETÉ Sang du Dragon (The Dragon’s Blood)] more effective, enhancing results. After serum, I will follow with the Radiance Serum and Youth Oil LES 16 PRÉCIEUX (The Precious Oil) and then Sublime Balm. For a truly amazing glow, I’ll mix Sublime Balm and a few drops of The Precious Oil together and then apply. And my skin looks and feels amazing!
I know this may be somewhat akin to asking you to choose a favorite child, but which of your products are you most proud of creating?
Haha, that’s a good question. I will need to think about it because I truly love the entire Okoko line and I find that each Okoko product works in synergy and you will see better results by using them together. But if I had to choose, maybe The Sublime Balm or The Dragon’s Blood serum. . . .
When I created Sublime Balm, people would tell me they had never seen anything like it, and it was very appealing [with lycopene from tomato oil in a sumptuous blend that includes mango butter, cacao butter, carrot tissue oil (rich in beta carotene) astaxanthin, turmeric, and rosehip oil, all balanced with white clay, bisabolol, and calendula to soothe and repair].
The Dragon’s Blood, even the name is a head-turner. This formula is designed to address a number of challenges. It was inspired by a custom formula I initially created for customers who had problematic skin. We received incredible feedback and I decided to elevate its formula. One of the key ingredients, Dragon’s blood, is a resinous sap, a healing red latex harvested from Dragon’s blood trees which contain taspine, a remarkable tissue-healing agent. I love this serum so much because it promotes skin renewal and healing in such a special way. Cucumber is there to soothe and hydrate. Niacinamide at 10% powerfully addresses inflammation, discoloration, and signs of aging. This is a soothing serum, but it also provides gentle exfoliation with willow bark and pomegranate enzymes. I injured myself (with a curling iron), and I have used The Dragon’s Blood to heal my scar. I just put up Before and After pictures of my scar with no makeup [on Instagram] so that people can see for themselves how this serum performs.
[Oyeta reflects on this for a moment and smiles.]
I love the whole line. It’s me. I put my heart and soul into Okoko and I’m dedicated to creating and delivering safe, effective skincare products that can help you achieve optimal skin health and healing for real skin issues.
What do you most want your customers to get out of using your products?
I designed Okoko Cosmétiques to deliver a spa experience with true effectiveness. Okoko offers the opportunity to indulge and see results. There is everything you need to plump, nourish, repair and exude radiance.
To so many, you are a green beauty celebrity. Who are the people and what are brands you admire in the green beauty world?
Yuli Skincare: I love their philosophy and true commitment to deliver the best of nature and science. Yuli uses beautiful and intelligent formulations combining hydrating oils and powerful extracts. They are taking green beauty to a whole new level and I have immense respect for this brand.
Maryna Kracht and Mahalo Skincare: Mahalo has wonderful products, and Maryna works very hard. She had this beautiful vision and made it a reality. When I was getting ready to launch, seeing Mahalo’s success gave me faith that I could do the same with Okoko. I really want to tell Maryna she’s incredible and that I’m inspired by her work every day.
Supadra Geronimo and Siam Seas: I’m inspired by the way Siam Seas is using a lot of unusual Southeast Asian ingredients that are all new to us here, but true to her roots. I say, bravo! I respect Supadra very much, and she is certainly going to achieve great success. Plus, she has a beautiful soul and heart.
Bohemian Collection: Bohemian Collection is another wonderful indie beauty brand; actually, it’s a family business run by Dominique and her husband Syeed in which their 4 kids also take part as product testers, opinion givers, and aroma selectors. What initially caught my eyes were her beautiful pictures on Instagram. Each product is distinctive, the colors are gorgeous, the textures look amazing, and I have no doubt the scent must be equally enjoyable. I’m a huge fan of Dominique’s Bohemian Collection.
Sarita Coren: Everyone will agree here, Sarita is the Godmother of Green Beauty. I admire her dedication in the health and wellness and for opening minds, enlightening people about green beauty. She educates, entertains and starts “conscious conversations” (discussions on things that really matter). Unlike a lot of dubious online blogs, Sarita’s blog is a leading source of information. She inspires brands, formulators, and bloggers because of her knowledge, dedication and how incredibly active and committed she is. Plus, she is an extremely talented photographer.
May Lindstrom: May has been working for many years, she is a green beauty pioneer and did the incredible work of really opening up the green beauty market for all of us. She leads with kindness and gentleness (even in times of crisis) and I admire her for that.
Estee Lauder (not green beauty): I am referring here to the work of the founder Estee Lauder herself. I am inspired by her accomplishments, determination, and ingenuity. She started from a basic dream to becoming a business genius. This being said, I am not endorsing the Estee Lauder companies because some of their practices go against my values. I have huge respect for Estee Lauder (the woman) for her hard work and achievements.
Formula Botanica and Lorraine Dallmeier (the Director): I’m incredibly inspired by how she’s educating others to be knowledgeable. Formula Botanica provided me with the solid training needed to create gorgeous skincare products that people love. The course is very well structured, relevant to the whole industry, and developed to a standard that I haven’t found anywhere else. Formula Botanica helps formulators protect customers by being prepared and knowledgeable. I have witnessed Lorraine’s hard work and commitment to providing the best to her students and I admire her SO much. She is truly a skin guru!
What are some of the misconceptions people have and mistakes you see people making when it comes to skincare?
I see a lot of women with hundreds of products, especially bloggers. Many people tend to use way too many different products and actives at once without knowing how they will mix and without giving each product a systematic chance to work. I understand that bloggers work with brands and try new things, but with so many alternating products, how can you even begin to tell what’s working and what’s not?
Another mistake I see a lot is that people forget to keep their own needs and their skin type in mind and will use a product just because their best friend does despite differences in skin type. When the product disappoints, is it really that the product is bad or is it just a poor match for that person’s skin? Perhaps I didn’t see results because it was not formulated for my skin type.
Other common mistakes I see are:
- Not paying enough attention to ingredients
• Putting too much makeup on to cover up
• Not being consistent with your skincare routine
In this same vein, I would really like to see bloggers specify their skin type at the beginning of review articles so that readers can take the review in appropriate context. I also see a lot of bloggers and consumers not doing their own research to verify and back up their claims. If you want to blog for a living or be seen as a go-to reliable source, I suggest investing in a course or a book [on skincare ingredients and/or skin care formulation]. For example, Formula Botanica Diploma of Organic Skincare is a great course for beginners that will provide you a solid foundation on ingredients, formulation, and how to make products. Even if you don’t formulate skincare, you will understand how products are made and what makes them effective. This type of knowledge is a HUGE plus for a blogger. If you prefer a lesser investment, here are a few books that I recommend:
1) The Holistic Beauty Book (Star Khechara)
2) Carrier Oils for Aromatherapy & Massage (Len Price)
I prefer to work with bloggers who do their homework, and in general, I would like to see bloggers digging a little deeper. We have to continually challenge ourselves and dig. Even as a formulator, I continually invest in my education because I want to provide the best experience possible to my customers and show that I have done my homework.
What can you tell us about your upcoming podcast series, Real Beauty Talks?
I was hearing a lot of frustration and confusion and, as I mentioned, a lot of animosity between green beauty and mainstream beauty. For me it’s not about hating or spreading fear; I want to help have a discussion and provide information from reliable sources. We’ll bring specialists like scientists, formulators, aromatherapists and other brand founders, etc. and discuss issues like, “How important is the choice of ingredients when you are buying your products?” I want to create a place where people can learn, exchange and find some answers. We’re recording several episodes before we launch and are currently looking for guests who want to be on the show. If you are interested, please get in touch with me, and let’s chat!
What drives you?
I try to think, how can I be of service to people? That’s my mission. It’s a lot of work, and I’m trying to be consistent in order to: open minds, set a higher bar, deliver advanced high-performance products that rival the results from conventional beauty products. I want to start a conversation with other brands, rally others, and invite them to take part in the future of green beauty and make it kick ass.
What’s on the horizon for Okoko Cosmétiques?
I’m working on developing products that fill a need and bring something innovative to the table. We are launching our limited-edition Trésor, Summer Mist, to hydrate and protect, as a special summer indulgence. There are a lot of beautiful hydrating mists on the market, but I wanted mine to be different and highly functional. Not only is it hydrating, but it contains lycopene and will also provide UV protection due to a special key active, Venuceane. Venuceane is an active ingredient from algae ferment that provides UV protection as well as protection against infrared rays and is actually heat-activated such that when the sun is hitting you, the protection becomes stronger. So you’ve got a hydrating, antioxidant mist that will also provide protection in the sun. I’m so excited about introducing Trésor, Summer Mist this summer because the UV protection is unique and really answers a need. Please note though, that this product does not replace your sun protection, it complements it beautifully.
Next, I am working on a healing African product. Though I was largely raised in Canada, I am African, and I have wanted to create a special new product that will introduce people to the amazing ingredients from home. This will honor my roots and will bring something new and special to consumers. I plan to introduce this product hopefully in December of this year (2017). Watch out for Okoko Cosmétiques. We are not just about the glow, but we are here to go above that and bring something valuable to the table.
What do you love the most about what you do?
One of the things I love the most about what I do is the personal dialogues I have with my customers. Knowing what you like, what you need, and how I can help you with your skincare objectives. Every product is made with love and care, from my hands to yours.
Most of all, I want these products to feel amazing for you, to deliver results and to become part of your daily ritual. There is everything you need to plump, nourish and repair. Prepare to look amazing! Exude radiance.