Going eco-friendly in Latvia
When it comes to beauty, three Latvian cosmetics innovators know that you can’t compete with Mother Nature.
Laura Kreišmane is the face of Dabba – a face that perfectly captures the spirit of this “back to nature” organic cosmetics brand. She has the look that many women yearn for their skin – that elusive quality called “glow.”
Besides glow, her face also bears an expression of steely determination. All Dabba products are fully natural, organic-certified, and produced in-house from high-quality local ingredients.
“We don’t compromise. At least 85 per cent of our ingredients are fully organic, which is four times the industry average,” Kreišmane says. “We also know which part of our orchard every specific extract comes from. That’s a level of traceability that few companies can match,” she declares.
Founded in 2011 as a family-owned floral water distillery, Dabba produces a steadily expanding range of skin and hair products distilled from northern flowers, leaves, roots, seeds, and barks.
“I know every inch of these fields.” – Laura Kreišmane
Kreišmane runs the company together with her partner Jānis Ķesa. The couple represents a growing tribe of creatives who are leaving the Riga rat race for a more laidback lifestyle in rural Latvia. In her former life, Kreišmane was a sociologist and Ķesa was a lawyer.
The decision to found Dabba took shape while the couple was backpacking. “Everyone is always looking for some kind of magic elixir in the Amazon, but some of the most potent plant-based ingredients are found right here in Latvia! We had to travel all around the world to discover the beauty of home,” she says.
Beauty with a beard
Ķesa left behind a budding legal career to start afresh in the medieval town of Cēsis in north-eastern Latvia. His legal skills nevertheless come in handy in his role as the founder of Bad Weather, a new line of organic skincare products dedicated to men and their needs.
“When we started Dabba, it was meant to be a unisex brand – the image isn’t ultra-feminine – but it is mostly women who hear our message. I wanted to find a way of reaching out to a male audience. Besides, men have different needs. We have generally thicker, tougher, and oilier skin than women, so we have different problems to address,” he explains.
“Men don’t really need a legion of serums to look and feel fresher. All it takes is one great product to take care of everything from puffy eyes to shaping your moustache,” he says.
“Bad weather has its upsides. It makes our plants potent.” – Jānis Ķesa
“Bad Weather” might seem an ironic name for products that draw their potency from the sun. “We have long winters and unique weather here in the North – terrible weather, quite frankly – but the lack of sunshine makes our plants tougher,” he explains.
“Bad Weather” also refers to the outdoorsy Latvian way of life. “Even when the weather is dreadful, Laura and I put on our raincoats and spend hours walking our Staffordshire Bullterriers in the forests and meadows. And we always come home feeling good and energised,” describes Ķesa.
Nature’s rocket science
“This plant is mugwort, Artemisia vulgaris. We use it in our deep moisture fluid,” says Lotte Tisenkopfa-Iltnere, lifting a purple-stemmed plant growing wild in a meadow next to the headquarters of MÁDARA, Latvia’s leading organic cosmetics brand. The meadow is the site of the factory’s forthcoming expansion.
Tisenkopfa-Iltnere co-founded the company 12 years ago, driven by a mission to “make rocket science out of the forest.” After developing an allergy to synthetic cosmetics, she began testing her own natural formulas based on ancient recipes. Teaming up with university researchers, she developed a range of 100 per cent natural “power products” that are revered by beauty bloggers all over the world.
“Latvians are second only to the Chinese in the use of ancient remedies. Instead of taking a painkiller, we drink meadowsweet tea. We have always used natural plants and herbs – and now science is proving our grandmothers were right,” she says, with a laugh.
“I am a forest girl, heart and soul.” – Lotte Tisenkopfa-Iltnere
“The 400 natural ingredients we use are based on ancient Latvian heritage. Using 21st-century tools, and working with universities, we are able to form a new understanding of why they so effective. It’s beautiful that we are able to use modern science to dig down into the mechanisms that trouble our skin,” she says.
Tisenkopfa-Iltnere is especially excited about the new sun protection range, which contains a rare blue flower, Nordic Dragonhead – or, to be precise, not the real flower, but stem cells grown in a bioreactor.
“I’m proud of the way our company combines ancient wisdom with cutting-edge science. It’s funny, really – I used to hate chemistry!”
Text Sijla Kudel
Photos Liisa Valonen