In honor of Lebanon's Independence Day, we chatted with one the founders of one of our local brands' RES Natural. Read below our full interview with Liliane Aouad and the principles behind her clean brand!
Liliane Aouad, RĒS
1. Tell us about RĒS and how you started the brand?
RĒS is a brand with a product range of 100 % natural, handmade candles and soaps - with therapeutic elements! RĒS’ soaps are made through a cold saponification process, using natural extracts, and are scented with essential oils. The soaps are made from extra virgin olive oil and are enriched with different precious essential oils, such as avocado oil, bay laurel oil, and shea butter, along with many other ingredients.
Our soaps are made using three key steps that take more than a month’s work of work - after which each individual soap is rigorously hand-molded and hand wrapped by our master soap makers. The result: unique and natural scented soaps without a trace of parabens, EDTA or chemicals.
The traditional method of “cold saponification” allows us to properly conserve and preserve the nutrients of the oils used and to make the most hydrating and high-performing soaps for the skin as possible. Our artisanal soaps are also natural are made from soy and beeswax, and are hand molded around a 100% cotton wick.
2. How did you get started in this field/domain?
Soap-making is something that runs in the family. We grew up with the lingering smells of olive oil and laurel/bay oil, and got used to homegrown and homemade products. A few years after I lost my father, thanks to my sister and her degree in Chemistry, we sisters decided to perfect our father’s soap recipe and to perpetuate our family heritage.
After our soaps started becoming highly in demand by our friends and family, we decided to pursue training in France become officially certified soap makers. We then launched RĒS in 2015 out of our small village in the Metn region of Lebanon, Kneisseh, known for its breathtaking pines and olive trees.
In 2016, our soaps received a European certification and became commercialized in Switzerland.We have also recently expanded our product range to include beeswax candles as well as marble bathroom accessories.
3. Please describe the “cold saponification" process
This process is known as one of the best methods to preserve the benefits of oils and their natural glycerins.The mixture of the different oils is done at a cold temperature whereas traditional and industrial soap making is done at high, warmer temperatures, which actually breaks down the oils.
This process allows us to leave extracts in the soaps that make them hydrating and very soft when they come in contact with the skin. These extracts which are made up of the different essential oils such as avocado, cacao, karité, olive, laurel/bay, wax), allows us to best take advantage of the antioxidants and the vitamins that are naturally present in the oils.
This process also allows us to preserve the natural glycerin whereas the more industrial soap making process makes the soaps lose their glycerin and instead replaced with petrochemical or animal glycerin.
It also allows us to perfume our soaps using pure essential oils that when in contact with fire, the molecular structures are altered and the therapeutic elements are affected.
4. Tell us about the way you find and source your ingredients
We do not use any preservative ingredients which forces us to use virgin oils during the entire year. For example, we make our own extra virgin olive oil and we work with certain Lebanese producers who know us and that match our rigorous selection criterions when it comes to the quality and the purity of the ingredients that we use (e.g. Testing the level of acidity and the level of peroxides, etc)
We prefer using local ingredients when we can make sure that they are certified natural, organic, and that we can trace their origin and make sure that they are certified natural/bio. If we are unable to do so, we bring ingredients from abroad that meet our standards.
5. Why are Lebanon and its heritage important to your brand?
Our hometown, Kneisseh, is well known for its pines and its forests filled with olive trees, from where we extract our extra virgin olive oil and other ingredients that we use in our soaps.
6.What can you tell us about/ share with us about your upcoming “soap for good” collection?
In 2019, we will be launching a socially responsible line of soaps, titled “soaps for good” where all of the profits will be put towards funding Lebanese children’s education.
7.What are your best sellers?
-The No.251 which is the goat Laurier (without HE) added, which is safe for pregnant women and babies that are at risk for allergies to HE, skin problems- with the added benefits of laurier berry oil and goat’s milk - it is a soap with antibacterial and soothing properties, which purifies, hydrates, and protects the skin against dryness. It is a creamy soap that works for all skin types, especially for skin types with several skincare issues.
-Le No.154 duo KARITÉ charcoal: a soap very rich in unsaponifiable and vitamins, the shea butter soothes, protects and regenerates the skin. Enriched with active coal, known for its purifying and exfoliating properties, and scented with essential oils of in antiseptic and energizing sylvan- Adapted for all skin types!
8. What are some of the difficulties/challenges you face being a company working in the field in Lebanon?
-The lack of certifications, regulations and organic labeling in Lebanon. This lack of transparency is what sometimes has us sourcing some of our ingredients from abroad. We refuse to use ingredients that are not certified, also knowing the fact that we test the efficiency and purity of the ingredients that we bring into our atelier. And because we do not use any conservation products or ingredients, it is why we are always looking for the purest and newest ingredients out there!
-the lack of protection of the consumer - checking the packaging, the misleading greenwashing statements seen in advertisements- unfortunately, many local brands use certain language to make it seem like their products are natural when in fact they are not, such as green packaging, flowers, and words such as “natural ingredients”. This can trick consumers whereas we as a brand - are 100% natural.
-The difficulty to convince Lebanese clients to pay more for the positive social and environmental impact of a product. To better push this idea, we have to educate consumers on how to consume responsibly, to understand how to read the labels of the skincare products that they are buying, to understand the nuances of product advertising - I advise clients to start off by cutting down on the number of cosmetic and skincare products they buy and use the few products they have in a most optimal way possible. This promotes an ethical method of consumption that also rejects the use of synthetic, toxic and problematic ingredients, such as EDTA, parabens, synthetic preservatives, endocrine disruptors, etc. The groundbreaking work that Lynn has taken on to guide consumers to make smarter, ecological, and more reasonable choices, is one of the many reasons that we chose to partner with her to distribute our products!
9. Are you thinking of expanding outside of Lebanon?
We are already represented in Switzerland and have been for the last two years. We intend on expanding to other European counties and certainly in Gulf countries in the coming years.
10. Use three words to describe your brand values and principles on which you are not ready to compromise on?
-100% natural soaps
-Commitment to quality
-Commitment to transparency and sustainable development
Discover our RES product range here!
*This interview was originally conducted in French.