Sans Ceuticals’ Auckland headquarters is governed by the same ethos as its pure-and-simple products.
It was frustration that lead Lucy Vincent to create the first product in her Sans Ceuticals hair and body range. A hairdresser and salon owner for many years, the unavailability of effective natural products that were sustainably minded and appealingly packaged saw her take matters into her own hands, and in 2007, she launched the brand with what remains its hero product, Activator 7 Body + Hair + Face Oil. Ten years on, the range has expanded to 15 carefully formulated products that use botanical ingredients and have a devoted following locally and, increasingly, internationally.
A guiding principal for Sans (French for ‘without’) is simplicity. For Lucy, this translates into crafting beauty products that don’t include unnecessary or harmful ingredients, and a desire to encourage us to reduce the number of products we own and use them up while the active ingredients are still effective.
The search for simplicity is also evident in the Sans Ceuticals workroom – a light, uncluttered loft on Auckland’s city fringe. In a heritage industrial building originally built as a Chinese laundry, the office has been kept open and raw. Every object serves a purpose, and work areas are delineated with minimal fuss by the placement of furniture and dividers set on castors.
Lucy, what sets Sans apart in the crowded beauty market? Cosmeceutical technology – where cosmetic and pharmaceutical technologies merge – was just starting to hit when I began developing the products; what was on offer were synthetic formulations and uninspired packaging. We discovered through research that some of the best key active ingredients were naturally derived, and dialled them up really high and suspended them in clean, botanical bases. The results were incredible – so much so that a local naturopath started recommending that his clients with chronic eczema and dermatitis use [them].
We’ve spent the past few years fine- tuning our formulations. We use facial-grade, high-performance ingredients that make most of our products multipurpose. Formulations naturally deteriorate over time, and as they do so can become less potent and cause inflammation and aggravate the skin. With a multi-functional approach, you use fewer products more frequently, meaning they stay fresh and retain their integrity.
I was chatting to a dermatologist the other day who said he sees a lot of inflammation and skin sensitivity from overly complicated skincare regimes. I think there’s an idea that more is better when it comes to anti-ageing, but using one product, not five, that contains scientifically sound ingredients can be more effective.
So tell us about your HQ. Being a working mother, my to-do list is endless, so to stay on top of it all and keep my head clear, I try to reduce as much clutter and noise around me as possible. I’d describe our space as natural, not too fussy and pared back – similar to the ethos behind the Sans brand. It’s minimalist and the colour palette is quite peaceful, thanks to my friend Katie Lockhart. The Hessian paint colour she designed for her store Everyday Needs makes our space feel so warm and soothing.
How many people work here and what do they do? I feel very grateful to work with the people I do. We’re a small team of two here in Auckland, just me and Jane Grant, who heads our operations. Until recently, we were three, with Yasmine Ganley, who ran our communications, but she’s just had a baby. Natalie Shukur, who oversees our communications and PR, is based in New York.
Do you have a typical daily routine in this space? The only consistent ritual we have is to kick-start the day with a massive herbal brew. Because we’re small, it’s all hands on deck. We get on so well, it’s very much like team sport.
Do you have anything new in the works? I recently finished a film project with a dear friend, film director Veronica Crockford-Pound; we created 15 videos showcasing tips, techniques and the science behind each Sans Ceuticals product. We wanted to create something more than just a body of information, so we reached out to our friends – real women – and asked them to go about their bathing rituals and demonstrate how to use our products in front of the camera. We had all ages on set, from six months to 50.
We’re passionate about treating the female form with a sense of realism and tenderness. I think a lot of people are over seeing highly sexualised images of women and sick of feeling crap when they see a tight body arching in a bikini.
Veronica also created a short film capturing the day with a Super 8 camera; the end result is cut straight from the roll to reinforce the lack of editing and idealising of a woman’s body. The film, A Quiet Observation, can be viewed on our website.