IN CONVERSATION: Barbara Guesens

Barbara Guesens is a woman after my own heart with the shared ethos that in the skin care and beauty industry a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach does not work. With a background in personalised medicine as a bio-engineer, Barbara is the founder of Nomige, a DNA-based skin care brand that develops personalised products tailored to your unique genetic skin profile. I was so lucky to catch up with Barbara - yet another inspirational female entrepreneur – to chat more about the motivation behind Nomige, tips for skin health with her own daily skin care routines, and exactly what it is that make Nomige so innovative and unique.

First of all, can you tell us about your inspiration behind Nomige and how it all began for you?

The inspiration for Nomige developed through my own experience of dealing with unbalanced and acne-prone skin. I was always searching for products that would help. There was a lot of trial and error, conflicting advice and consumer frustration. As a scientist, I was a lab researcher at that time and I was seeing results on different types of skin from a very scientific point of view, realising that all skin types are individually very different, and recognising that the products out there didn’t cater for this. A one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t work.

I always thought I would be a professor and stay in academia, but at the same time I also felt the entrepreneur was always in me! I was curious to know what I could do with the knowledge I had accumulated, if I could translate it into something useful for consumers and pass on the medical and scientific research to people who shared the same frustrations. In total – from the conception of Nomige to knowing how to develop it, to correlate specific formulations for specific genetic skin types – the whole process took about ten years and Nomige was launched in 2017.

What can a client expect when they visit Nomige for the first time?

When you first place your order you’ll receive a DNA kit through the post that includes a DNA swab for you to use. This is registered with us with a code that’s unique and anonymous and then linked to your account. There’s also a questionnaire to fill in about lifestyle choices outside your DNA that may affect your skin. Once we receive all of this back, we send your DNA swab to the lab, we analyse it, we search for your genetic markers, and then we write a full DNA report. Once we have this we can start formulating products that are tailored specifically to your genetic skin type. The whole process takes about four to five weeks.

What would you say it is that gives Nomige the edge over other personalised skincare products?

Over the last ten years or so there has been a growing trend for personalised skin care. More and more brands and big corporate companies are doing what I call customisation, which is where they ask for your preferences and what you skin type is, and then they match ones that are suitable for your skin from their shelf products. What makes Nomige unique is that we take this one step further. By analysing your DNA and your bio markers we know exactly what your skin needs and so we can tailor products that are specifically unique to you and your skin type.

What are some of the more common skin issues women come to you with?

The beauty of personalised skin care is that we have all of the information – whether you’re male or female, your medical background, your lifestyle, whether you’re old or young and every aspect of  your skin’s needs – so we see all types of issues. For some it’s their wrinkles, others want firmer skin or less redness, and some struggle with acne. I always say that we can treat skin concerns but not skin disorders – such as when you need to see a dermatologist or need to take prescription medication – but we can help with the skin care and health. At the moment we’re seeing a lot of people with acne as a result of wearing face masks – but before that probably the most common issues people would come to us with would be dry skin and wrinkles. 

What advice you would give to women looking to further enhance their skin health alongside the creams and serums they already use?

For me it’s a combination of ‘inside and outside’. And on the inside there’s a lot – particularly our mental health, which isn’t always something we can control. People can be stressed or have some sort of trauma in their lives that will affect their skin, and this is something that can’t be solved with creams. Lifestyle choices are obviously very important – being healthy, a sensible diet, drinking lots of water, a good cleansing routine, using good makeup products, and also supplements. For example, collagen supplements are becoming more and more popular, as well as supplements for hair and nails. There’s so much more awareness now about how skin care, topical applications and supplements can be combined. It’s a very holistic approach.

Can you share your daily/nightly routines with us and some simple tips we can add to our skin care routines?

I’m always busy – with work and two young children – so I don’t have the time for a complicated skin care routine in the morning. I don’t use a morning cleanser – just warm water and making sure that it isn’t too hot, because this can affect your skin barrier and dry out the skin. I then apply my day serum and day cream, which is a tinted cream so that I don’t have to apply extra foundation. I rarely use makeup so the morning routine is really quick for me. My evening routine starts with cleansing my face with our two in one cleanser, followed by an exfoliating tonic - although I don’t exfoliate every day, maybe every other day to take away the dead skin cells. Then I apply my night cream and serums and that’s it – just two steps each morning and evening.

Some brands are so complex, with so many different steps, it just becomes frustrating with a lack of time, particularly on busy mornings; so I wanted to design a brand with this simple two-step routine – easy and quick so that there can be no excuses for lack of skin care! Also I would say that your night routine is the most important for skin regeneration.

What advice would you give to women who are beginning to feel invisible and less confident as they go into midlife and beyond?

Again, I think you have to take a holistic approach. Try and identify what it is that makes you feel this way – is it physical, mental or maybe hormonal? There can be so many different reasons, but understanding what it might be helps. Maybe introduce new things into your life. When we’re young, we explore and try so many different things, and then we make decisions and things become more narrowed down. Our life can become so much smaller with work, children and family and there’s not much room left for things outside that. So maybe start to explore once more. Open up your view again and find confidence in that.

Hardest challenge you’ve had to face?

There are so many! Life is one big challenge! Both professionally and personally there have been challenges for me, but the way I always see it is that you can look at the challenge as a mountain to climb that will take forever with a difficult path, or you can say, okay it’s a challenge and I have the curiosity to see how I can overcome it! Of course, sometimes life gives you things you can’t always overcome, and I’ve been there too, but I have learned to be a lot more optimistic.

Proudest achievement?

The fact that I’ve created Nomige – I jumped! I came from a very scientific background, with no idea how to launch a brand or to set up my own business, so I challenged myself constantly. If I didn’t have all of the answers, I would look for them. I did a lot of research and I just took the jump. That’s what I’m proud of – and that four years later there are consumers using my brand that love something I have created. And – of course – my children! It was a difficult procedure for us to have children so I’m super happy that in the end we became parents, that we didn’t give up, that we always kept believing and that as a couple we kept strong. I’m proud of that.

Top beauty ‘must have’ in your makeup bag?

I don’t really wear makeup, but I do wear red lipstick. That’s the one thing I put on and immediately feel glamourous!

And finally, do you have a favourite quote to live by?

“Everything happens for a reason.”

The people you meet, the things that happen to you – we often question why things happen – but then we look back and see all of the things that wouldn’t have happened as a result, or choices we would or wouldn’t have made, and we realise why.

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