Meet clean beauty brand, USTAWI! USTAWI was founded by Natacha Paugam after becoming Miss Congo and pursuing a modeling career. She returned to Africa where she formulated USTAWI’s products using ingredients and beauty practices she learned growing up. USTAWI has been featured in Byrdie, Glossy, InStyle, Teen Vogue, Essence, Allure, Marie Claire, Vanity Fair, Elle & more. USTAWI is a brand that gives back by partnering with ChildFund International which supports children’s education in Africa. We can’t wait for you to learn all about USTAWI in this Q&A interview and for you to try their products!
What led you to start USTAWI?
The story of USTAWI traces my own journey. Balancing achievement while also trying to take care of my health and stressed skin, I returned to my homeland and its resources. In my journey of healing, I reconnected with old family recipes kept by my mother, combining local natural ingredients, and practices that enhance total wellbeing. Back in France, I was inspired to re-create some of the benefits I had experienced during my time in Africa – for myself and for others. I also discovered that Melanin, this extraordinary pigment that you can find in most organisms on Earth, is very sensitive to chemicals, environment, and hormones. Therefore, darker skin tones such as mine (usually classified as phototype 4, 5 or 6) are more likely to experience hyperpigmentation, dryness, inflammation, and scarring. So, I wanted to create a Melanin Expert Skincare line. I then surrounded myself with a team of experts (Board certified dermatologists, scientists and researchers, business executives) to bring my brand vision to life.
Can you tell us about the name of your brand, USTAWI?
Ustawi means « wellbeing » in Swahili, one of the numerous beautiful languages spoken in Africa. I was born in the Congo and so of course, the African culture has a strong influence on my life and my work. And the concept of “wellbeing” is very close to my heart. For me, beauty is all about balance, self-empowerment, and positivity.
What was important to you when formulating the products and how did you go about doing so?
First, I wanted to work with the best-in-class experts in beauty business, chemistry, and dermatology, people who all believed in my project of developing a Melanin expert skincare line. One of our objectives was to create formulations suitable for every skin tone. Melanin is extraordinary but very fragile and sensitive. Using incorrectly concentrated, single-ingredient formulations could throw off the balance of Melanin production and lead to hyperpigmentation and inflammation. This why I believe in creating innovative and gentle formulations with the perfect balance of powerful ingredients. External aggressions can also trigger dysfunctional Melanin production causing common skin issues that are experienced by all of us, not only dark skin tones. So we also developed some formulations with strong anti-pollution effects.
Will you share some of the beauty practices you took inspiration from while creating USTAWI?
Back at home in Africa, people grew up believing that plants are natural medicine. My mother always knew the proper remedies for treating my skin. For example, she would use the leaves of dandelions and guava root powder for my blackheads. For a natural glow, she would mix a lotion made of lemon, orange pulp, and pineapple zest with baobab fruit pulp, which is a magical vitamin C boost straight from nature’s hands. Because of this, I knew I wanted to use baobab in many of our formulas because of its high vitamin C concentration. My mom also loves licorice root, which we use in our products to target inflammation and reduce pigmentation. Thanks to the extraordinary team of scientists I work with, we were able to bring my motherland’s knowledge and love for natural remedies to the labs and make Ustawi come to life.
How is USTAWI different from other beauty brands?
We are a holistic brand that harnesses the power of natural ingredients, skillfully combined with a rigorous scientific approach for optimal efficacy. Our clean and vegan formulations are a powerful combination of ethically produced from naturally-derived ingredients (min of 93,8%) targeting every pigmentation mechanism (yes there are several!), but also helping with dryness, inflammation, and dullness issues – without ever using harsh or controversial ingredients. We also go against the flow of most beauty brands who have been exclusively testing their formulations on light skin tones (phototype 1,2,3) and without taking into consideration darker skin tone needs. We, on the contrary, have developed and tested our formulations on darker skin tones, and ensured that our products were suitable for all. As Melanin expert, Ustawi aims to protect and improve every skin tone.
What are you trying to accomplish with USTAWI?
We want to transmit all our knowledge and expertise about Melanin and its effects on our skin. Our goal is to offer safe, clean, products derived from natural ingredients that deliver high performing results for all – with the perfect combination of ingredients, scientific research, and the power of Mother Nature. We want our customers to feel good about their skin and celebrate their uniqueness every single day.
Tell us about the beautiful terracotta red color you chose for the packaging.
This colour reminds me about Africa and the beauty recipes we used there. It is pure, rich, and earthy.
What are some things and/or beauty tips you learned while becoming Miss Congo and during your time as a model?
Most of my beauty tips actually come from my mum. I remembered applying this red clay mask a few nights before the Miss Congo pageant and my skin was looking amazing…. maybe this was what made me win!! I took inspiration from this when developing our super powerful Red Clay Detoxifying Mask which will launch in Spring 2022. I even wanted to keep the natural red colour in the texture…Anyway, regarding my previous life in the pageantry and modelling worlds, what I learned the most important thing is to love every bit of myself and not to care about beauty standards anymore. And this is the message I wanted to convey with USTAWI. Love your skin, love your Melanin! Eventually, it is what makes all of us unique.
What are some of your favorite USTAWI products?
The Bamboo Water Protective Mist is the multifunctional product par excellence. Refreshing, it creates an invisible barrier on the skin that stops pollution. Its richness in antioxidant ingredients such as Myrtle leaf, vitamin C and hesperidin gives it a reinforced action against free radicals. Having issues with hyperpigmentation especially because of hormonal cycles, the Dark Spot Corrector has become a must-have of my daily routine. It is a versatile product, very pleasant to use, which will not only act on hyperpigmentation spots but also on the uniformity of my complexion and skin hydration.
What are some things your skin will experience after using USTAWI products?
The improvement is visible from the first week of use. Each of our products acts as a global response to skin issues more likely experienced by dark skin tones. So, using our products regularly will help reduce hyperpigmentation, dryness, dullness, and inflammation. Our Anti-pollution range will also help to protect the skin from some of the most common external aggressions such as free radicals. The skin is visibly more beautiful, more luminous, it is protected from the harmful effects of pollution.
Any advice you’d like to share with entrepreneurs?
First, just having the opportunity to share what I am passionate about is a big step for me and I am still adjusting to the idea of being a female entrepreneur. The only piece of advice I could give is to do what you love and constantly demonstrate patience and determination.
What’s next for you?
Continue expanding and developing the range of our products. We have so many innovative projects we are currently working on, and I hope to be able to share it with you soon.
Try USTAWI’s products:
Alison + Delia