Beauty Behind the Brand: Elements of Aliel
LaKeisha Entsuah, Founder, Elements of Aliel
This week of Beauty Behind the Brand we are going back to the basics --- of skincare that is -- with former pharmaceutical manufacturer turned beauty entrepreneur and Founder of Elements of Aliel, LaKeisha Entsuah.
As a self-described science geek and skincare minimalist, LaKeisha took to her own lab when frustrated with the dearth of options for a simple plant-based skincare routine that could fit into the lifestyle of a new mom. After 2 years of testing and retesting, Elements of Aliel eventually went from a cleanser to a collection of organic, vegan, and cruelty-free products grounded in simplicity, nature, and love.
While science-based, Elements of Aliel ingredients are far from the metals and chemicals found in the periodic table. Instead, Lakeisha’s formulas are charged with natural ingredients like Moroccan Red Clay, Hawaiian Kukui Oil, and African Black Soap. But for LaKeisha, nurturing the natural glow from within is more than just skincare, it’s self-care.
Whether she’s sharing wisdom on her podcast Gather and Glow or hosting virtual pamper party’s, the true beauty behind this brand is the giving spirit of LaKeisha and her passion for others to find their own beauty that lies within.
We got a chance to speak with LaKeisha where we talked about the purpose elements of her brand, the lessons that gave her 20/20 vision, exciting trends in the multicultural beauty industry, and her holistic approach to self-care.
S: What inspired the name Elements of Aliel?
L: I am a bit of a science geek, so the Elements part comes from my love of the Periodic Table of Elements and celebrating things in their most basic form. The Aliel part is my oldest daughter's name spelled backward, her name is Leila. It is a tribute to my journey to motherhood.
S: In what ways do your products specifically serve and protect black and brown skin?
L: The first and most important way is with education. My team and I work hard to educate people, especially black and brown people of the importance of having healthy skin. The second way is through partnerships.
S: I understand your background is in pharmacy and you pride yourself on being science-based, can you talk about the science that goes into your products?
L: I approach formulating similar to how a nutritionist would approach developing a dietary plan. I look for the most nutrient-dense ingredients that will provide the skin with exactly what it needs in as few steps as possible. I also look for ingredients that I can use in as close to their natural state as possible. Again, like many foods, the less you alter it, the more of the therapeutic properties you maintain.
S: We hear a lot about how harmful ingredients that may protect our skin but negatively affect our health. What can you tell our readers about the clean ingredients that can still protect our skin but possibly improve our health?
L: I am huge into the concept of food being medicine and I think that food also makes excellent skincare ingredients. When choosing ingredients, I often think, “Is this safe enough to eat?” When you look at things like green tea, avocado oil, and aloe vera, they are all great at nourishing and protecting our skin, but also at improving our health.
S: What side effects were you experiencing during pregnancy that pushed you to seek out alternative skin-care options?
L: My journey to pregnancy was not an easy one. I have a condition called Poly-cystic Ovarian syndrome which resulted in a 15-month journey through fertility treatment. During that process, I began making the lifestyle shift to natural alternatives for everything. I saw it as my way of creating the best possible environment for the treatments to work. Those lifestyle changes combined with my already sensitive skin are what led me to my journey with clean beauty.
LaKeisha with Daughter Leila
S: You’re passionate about skincare that can bring out our natural glow but also nurturing the glow that comes with complete health and wellness. What are your go-to wellness practices that aren’t part of a skincare routine?
L: I am big into smoothies and vegetable juices. I find it to be the easiest way for me to ‘eat the rainbow” and make sure I’m getting all of the essential nutrients. Another thing I love is yoga and meditation. As cliché as it sounds, the practice is really grounding for me and I can always tell when my practice has been lax. My body feels a little tenser and my thoughts not as clear.
S: Can you tell our readers more about your podcast, Gather and Grow? What message do you want your listeners to get through this platform?
L: As much as I love serving the wellness movement through skincare, I always felt it was not enough. I also began to feel that the conversation around “Self-care” had become very one-sided and a little superficial. The Gather & Glow podcast is my way of helping women understand first that self-care is not one size fits all. Our practice should be as unique as we are and highlight the importance of doing what works best for you. I hope that my listeners are inspired by the stories that I share, not to replicate but to discover for themselves.
S: There’s a perception, or rather, a lack of awareness, that minority female entrepreneurs don’t exist, why do you think that is?
L: I don’t know if the issue is that the perception is that we don’t exist as much as it is that we only exist in certain industries. That can be attributed in part to the way mainstream media covers entrepreneurship and the way that our presence in certain industries is viewed. I see the tech world as a great example of how minority women’s existence and contribution are grossly undervalued both by the industry itself and by the media outlets that cover it.
S: Getting funding is competitive for any entrepreneur but especially black women. How did you get the financial support needed and what advice do you have for other black women trying to do the same?
L: I have been fortunate enough to be able to self- fund, so much of the startup cost has come directly from my own pocket. I have also been fortunate enough to be able to reinvest 90% of our earnings back into the business. Unfortunately, I realize that many entrepreneurs cannot do this. The first thing I would say is to look for grants. There are many organizations that provide grants for small businesses, especially minority-owned ones. Another option that I have recently explored is pitch competitions. They are not only a great way to get funding for your business but they are also a great way for you to gain exposure and validate your idea.
S: Even though Blacks are active and demand eco-friendly products, the eco-consumerist movement isn’t including black voices or advertising to black audiences. Why do you think that is?
L: I believe in the idea that those who scream the loudest are not necessarily the majority. With that, I see a lot of black and brown owned brands and communities that are part of the movement, we just aren’t as visible. The real question should be why the lack of visibility and the easy answer is money. Advertising is expensive, and if we go back to the lack of funding for business lead by black and brown people, then we can start to see where the disconnect is. I also believe that just like with many other product categories our spending power is not fully appreciated and therefore, we become an afterthought in marketing.
S: They say hindsight gives you 20/20. What experience gave you 20/20 vision and what is it that you see clearer now?
L: Last year, I had the opportunity to participate in a special sale with FabFitFun. It was such a huge moment for me because it was an opportunity for me to prove to myself that I had the ability to “play with the big kids." It was the largest order I had ever done and just the fact that my team and I were able to get it done at a high level of quality was amazing to me. However, that experience also showed me that bigger isn’t always better. I realized that it was much better to be great at a few things (or products) than to be mediocre at a whole lot. Now, I have a clearer vision of how we will expand and grow in the future and what will be required for us to get there.
S: What misperceptions about black and brown skincare do you want to clear up here and now for our readers?
L: I love the old saying “black don’t crack”. It really gives me a sense of pride, especially as I look at the women in my family; many of whom seem to defy the aging process. The reality is though that black can and will crack, especially if we don’t give up some things we are used to. First, we MUST wear sunscreen. Melanoma does not discriminate.
S: Tell me about the product the Fresh Face Intense Moisture Balm. What is it? Why is it great?
L: Fresh Face is probably one of my favorite products. It is a multi-tasking solid oil that melts right into your skin. It can be used as a cleansing balm, makeup remover, or moisturizer. It really lends to the idea of using food on your skin that I alluded to earlier because every single ingredient is safe to eat. While I’m not suggesting you eat it, it wouldn’t taste very good, that does let you know how safe the ingredients are. I also love it because it is so nutrient-dense. There are so many vitamins and essential fatty acids that are the building blocks for healthy skin packed into these 5 simple ingredients.
S: In addition to Elements by Aliel products of course, what are some things that make you feel confident and beautiful?
L: For me, there is nothing better than a great pair of shoes. I am a shoe lover, probably to my husband’s dismay, but I love shoes. There is something about the right shoe that can totally change your attitude and your outlook. There are days when I may not be feeling like myself or I have been wearing leggings and a t-shirt for too many days in a row. Then, I will go into my closet and pull out a pair of shoes to wear around my room, and at that moment they serve as a reminder of my womanhood.
S: What exciting trends are you seeing in the multicultural beauty industry?
L: I love how far the beauty industry has come as it relates to serving women of color, especially in the realm of color cosmetics. I am excited to see the exploration of fun and bold colors for darker skin tones as well as finally being able to get a foundation that matches and is non-toxic. Another trend I am excited about is the rise of skincare for our men, which speaks to their unique needs; not just in beard care but the skin that’s underneath too. Not too many of our brothers will admit that they have been stealing their wife, mother, or girlfriends skincare products, so I’m glad to see the industry finally catering to their needs.
S: What business accomplishment are you most proud of and why?
L: I would have to go back to that FabFitFun experience. That was more than a lesson, it was a huge accomplishment too. It didn’t matter if we became instantly popular or not (we didn’t by the way) it was the simple fact that we were able to rise to the occasion.
S: What does success look like for you?
L: Time, and freedom. I will feel successful when I have the freedom to work on the parts of my business that I love and hand the rest off to someone else. That will, in turn, leave me more time to do what I really love and that’s spending time with my family. It will also be when I am able to hand the business to one or more of my children if they so desired. My goal was never to build for myself, this has always been about them and future generations of my family.
S: How does a virtual pamper party work?
L: The Virtual Pamper Party is a fun way to gather with those you love or want to spend time with from a safe distance. While it seems to fit perfectly with our new normal it was really the result of me trying to expand the in-person experience that I offered in my hometown of Philadelphia. For the virtual experience, each participant receives a complete facial kit mailed to their location. The host has the option to self-host the gathering or they may choose to have me facilitate the gathering. Either way, you get the benefits of girls spa day from the comfort of home.
S: What’s next for Elements of Aliel? Can we get a sneak-peak into any new product launches?
L: What’s next for Elements of Aliel is to continue to spread the clean beauty gospel in a way that resonates with women of color. I want us to really understand that beauty is about more than looking good. As far as new products we recently launched a new tool called the Love Brush. It is an ultrasonic facial cleansing device that gently exfoliates while giving your skin a deep clean. We are really excited about this product as it has the potential to change the look and feel of your skin in a way that is super simple. I can’t wait for more people to try it.
Now it's your turn to GLOW UP! Use code OMN15 for 15% off of your purchase. Be sure to follow both OMNoire and Elements of Aliel for your chance to win a giveaway box of the Rose-C Glow Duo. Winner will be announced Saturday, August 15th!