(Courtesy of Niki Newd)

Fresh Faced

Kirsi Kaukonen co-founded fresh skin care brand Niki Newd using her family's 200-year-old facial masque recipe. She discusses skin care that is pure enough to eat, and the future of beauty

Radiant Life: How did Niki Newd come to fruition?

Kirsi Kaukonen: The kernel of inspiration for Niki Newd was planted over 16 years ago, when I taught my friend a facial masque recipe that has been passed down from mother to daughter in my family for at least 200 years.

The masque recipe is freshly blended just before use. When I was young, my mother mixed it for herself and me and my brothers just before we went to the sauna. We let it work on the skin in the sauna for a while. How wise our mothers have been! Now science can explain to us why the masque is so effective and why this recipe has been our “secret weapon” for at least 200 years. After the masque, we developed our oatmeal soap, which has become a very iconic product. It is a gentle product for cleansing the skin of makeup without drying. Dry skin was our problem before we developed our oatmeal soap, but not anymore. After the soap, we wanted to have our own cream, of course, and Skin Butter, one of our most popular products, was born.

Those 16 years have only strengthened my inspiration, and I feel that now the time seems to be mature enough for our product philosophy. Think of oat milk, which was consider odd a few years ago. But is it anymore? Over many years, Oatly pioneered its vegetable-based “dairy product” until it became part of our food culture. We are doing it now in skin care, little by little, by bringing out the idea that skin care products should be fresh, too, like the food we want.

The Niki Newd product line was launched five years ago. During the 10 years before the launch, we first developed skin care products for our own needs and for our friends. After that, we built our brand carefully and patiently. We test all products on our own skins, and we have a circle of friends who are always ready to test our products. After our long testing period, the product goes through an official external product safety assessment. After that, we launch the product.

After deciding to build this company pioneering fresh skin care, we haven’t had a single regret.  This is one of the things that make me smile every day.

Niki Newd Gourmet Collection. (Courtesy of Niki Newd)

Radiant Life: What exactly do you mean by “fresh skin care”?

Kirsi Kaukonen: Fresh skin care is freshly blended of 100% traceable, 100% natural ingredients without any additives, preservatives, or alcohol. And on top of that, we also focus on using food-grade ingredients instead of cosmetic-grade ones. These four principles are met in fresh cosmetics, unlike in “natural” cosmetics, where, at least for the time being, not all these criteria are met. In this way, we have taken natural skin care to a whole new level.

We believe that the principles applied to healthy food and nutrition should also be applied to skin care. So, when thinking of preparing a wholesome gourmet dinner, what kind of ingredients would you choose? The best ones, of course. And so would we!

Therefore, all our ingredients are of the highest quality: natural, fresh, and pure. In comparison, cosmetic-grade ingredients are no longer suitable for human nutrition. When designing new products, we start from the thought of how to complement the nutritional ensemble of our skin—just like healthy food. Also, in addition to favoring food-grade options, we always choose ingredients with scientific proof of supporting healthy skin.

Radiant Life: Let’s go over these principles one by one. What kind of a difference does it make?

Kirsi Kaukonen: Think of a glass of freshly pressed orange juice: delicious and high in nutrients—that is our goal. All our products are freshly blended using gentle, artisanal methods to protect the natural effectiveness and potency of the nutrients. We produce at least 12 batches of our products annually, and ship orders to our customers right after manufacturing. We produce our products in our own laboratory in Finland and ship globally to our customers within one or one and a half weeks from ordering. This is also a way how we want to respect and cherish valuable resources by producing our products according to demand; we minimize any leftover products and also avoid long periods of warehousing.

We choose food-grade ingredients, and you need to really deep-dive into the ingredients to find the best and unique ones to harness their characteristics for skin care products. And honestly, I think we have done it very well.

Freshness and food-grade was not enough for us. We wanted to really know what we put on our skin. Just like a top chef can describe the origin of the ingredients used in a gourmet dish, all our ingredients are 100% traceable.

We look for nutrient-rich ingredients from the best suppliers and manufacturers. We have carefully hand-picked the best ethical producers and small organic farms around the world. Over 50% of the ingredients come from Nordic countries, including Finland, which is famous for its pristine nature. We are not satisfied with mediocrity, and always seek the best.

And if you already use the best ingredients in the world, why add anything extra? We want to cherish the natural microbiome of our skin by saying “no” to additives, alcohol, synthetics, and preservatives.

All our products are made here in Finland, in Espoo, in our own laboratory. We do not use third parties and have not outsourced any of our products. This gives us flexibility and the quality we want to offer to our customers.

Radiant Life: Tell us about some of the specific ingredients you use. Where do they come from and how did you pick them?

Kirsi Kaukonen: The sea buckthorn oil we use comes from a family farm in northern Finland. The rugged natural conditions of the North and the “nightless nights” give the berries an exceptional amount of antioxidants and other nutrients. That’s what we want for our skin. Our sea buckthorn oil is cold-pressed from fresh whole berries and naturally provides abundant amounts of beta-carotene—a vitamin A precursor—E vitamins, omegas 7, 3, 9, and other nutrients. The color in the oil speaks of nutrients. The color of our oil is deep orange, and its taste is intensely berryish and rich in texture.

Italy has always been one of our family’s favorite destinations and it was natural that this is where our olive oil comes from. The olive grove where one of our olive oils comes from is near Naples. Our producer produces exquisite olive oil, pressed from a single variety of green olives, with the highest antioxidant content and the lowest acidity that comes from pressing within 24 hours of harvesting. Our olive oil, just like our sea buckthorn oil, is bursting with nutrients, promoting the well-being of our skin and slowing down premature aging. Naturally, using the best ingredients brings a very different cost structure to our products, instead of using cosmetic qualities that are much cheaper. It is like with fine dining: We pay more for the ingredients used in a gourmet dish than in a chain restaurant.

(Courtesy of Niki Newd)
Niki Newd facial cucumber. (Courtesy of Niki Newd)

Radiant Life: How long can fresh skin care last? Will this change skin care routines and habits?

Kirsi Kaukonen: We recommend using our creams, balm, and oil serum within 6 months. They could last longer, but they are at their best when used as recommended. Would you find an artisan baker who would say that the bread is still at its best after a few days? No, they want you to enjoy the texture, aroma, and taste of fresh bread.

The Skin Cream and Skin Mist we recommend being used in two months, to be able to enjoy the ultimate freshness of vitamin C and other antioxidants. Most of our products are stored at room temperature. Only two products, Skin Cream and Skin Mist, are stored in the fridge, like fresh food. The fridge is an excellent place to store these two products and keep their exceptional freshness and nutrients.

Radiant Life: Tell us a bit about your own skin care rituals.

Kirsi Kaukonen: My skin care ritual is very simple. I rinse my skin with cool water in the morning and usually apply a cream cocktail to my face. Usually, I want to boost vitamin C to my skin, so the morning cocktail of creams consists of our Skin Cream to which I add one or two other products to make a perfect mixture. My skin tells me which products it wants. If I work at home without makeup, I might add some balm to my cheeks and lips during the day. In the evenings, I always wash my face with our oatmeal soap and apply a cream cocktail. Mostly during the weekends, I regularly make a masque a few times a month. Basically, my skin care routine is very straightforward, as I can put the same products around the eyes, the décolleté area, and the rest of my face. My skin tells me which product to use when and where.

Radiant Life: What other healthy lifestyle rituals do you incorporate into your life?

Kirsi Kaukonen: I try to eat as healthy and simple as possible during the week, and during the weekends, I give myself freedom. I follow a gluten-free and dairy-free diet because I feel much better then. Sports have been a big part of my life. I competed in cross-country skiing until I was 16, and ever since, I have enjoyed sports. At this moment, I do reformer Pilates, take long walks, and swim. When my body is stressed or tired for some reason, I also do breathing exercises that help me focus and find a calm relaxed feeling.

Radiant Life: What other values or philosophy did your mother and grandmother pass on to you?

Kirsi Kaukonen: My mother and grandmother were very different in nature, but their values were very similar. I am sure that the experience of war and how to cope in wartime influenced their values and philosophy of life. I have been encouraged since childhood to try my best and believe that “I can,” and, in bad times, to be resilient and have trust that all things will work out. And perhaps the most important values that I am very grateful of are that both my mother and grandmother always emphasized the importance of taking other people into account, showing love and warmth, and the idea that we are all cared for.

Radiant Life: Please tell us more about yourself. What is your background? Where do you get your inspiration?

Kirsi Kaukonen: I hold a MSc in civil engineering and am a former photography model. I funded my studies with modeling, and I really enjoyed my profession because it allowed me to see unique places and meet a lot of interesting people. After graduating, when my daughters were young, I worked as a project director in the IT field, and during that time, Niki Newd was created little by little.

I started developing skin care products with my friend, who has a Ph.D. in microbiology. Making masques and creams during weekends with her was our own quality time and a way to relax. That prepared us for Niki Newd, and most importantly, the philosophy of fresh skin care was born during that time. When I was working in the IT sector, I never felt like it was my true passion, but now I am so grateful that Niki Newd is part of my life. I am feeling that I do what I have always wanted to do with all my heart and for the rest of my life.

I am very visual, and I like to create images and ideas. In addition, I am very curious, and follow a wide range of different events, and I exercise a lot in nature and outdoors. It’s wonderful and inspiring to create a unique concept, but I need to keep in mind to take breaks, take long weekends for recovery. It’s a way to keep your life in balance and the creativity and inspiration flowing.

Radiant Life: There has been a broader trend toward natural skin care. What are your concerns about the general skin care market when it comes to ingredients and quality, and most importantly, how they impact people’s skin?

Kirsi Kaukonen: I would love to answer this question by asking further questions. What would happen if all manufacturers of skin care products listed the ingredients of their products in the native language instead of Latin, and openly stated the percentages of water, preservatives, fillers, fragrances, and additives in their products? If we go beyond this line of thought, how many manufacturers could tell us about the traceability of their raw materials? And last but not least, how many manufacturers would be willing to state how fresh their products are? I am particularly proud and glad that we do not have to hide behind anything at Niki Newd. Instead, we can really answer every question mentioned above.

In conclusion, what worries me most is that most consumers are influenced by the mass market and mass-market players. It remains to be seen how we small players will make our voices heard and increase consumer awareness. It would probably require at least one big player to set an example for others.

Radiant Life: Your products can now also be found in some establishments here in Finland. Could you tell us more?

Kirsi Kaukonen: We have launched, for the spa and beauty sector, a “Nordic tasting menu for the skin” spa concept, which offers the customer a unique, holistic skin care experience. In the main roles are fresh skin care products, the special expertise of a beautician, and a relaxing treatment environment.

All products are made to order for the spas and for their needs. Treatments are customized to meet their and their customers’ desires. There is clearly a rising trend where users of select skin care products wish to switch to more natural alternatives for products and treatments without the need to sacrifice effectiveness. We meet this demand perfectly.

I hope users find products that feel wonderful, genuine, and caring on their skin, and that they also feel that they get a natural glow to their skin. And, of course, I hope to hear feedback that their skin has never looked so good.