The British Duo share how they went from swapping DIY beauty remedies to creating an African organic skin-care line that’s grown a cult following.
BY JOHANNA FERREIRA
When Liha Okunniwa and Abi Oyepitan decided to continue on the Nigerian tradition of making beauty oils, African soaps, and shea butters from the nuts, tree barks, and plants that grow in their families’ native country, they didn’t actually anticipate it becoming an organic skin-care line with a cult-following in London.
The British-duo, who both grew up in African households with roots tracing back to Nigeria, met in 1998 at the university in the U.K and bonded over culture and hair. The two learned about the magic behind shea butter when they were relatively young. In Nigeria, shea butter which is made from the karite tree native to West Africa, is considered women’s gold. It’s for this reason the shea butter in the Liha Beauty collection is called “Gold Shea Butter.” Some of Liha’s fondest childhood memories consist of being slathered from head to toe in shea butter, mixing oils in an abalone shell, and guessing essential oil fragrances on a rainy day in her English aromatherapist mom’s shop.
After taking note of the lack of products they could find for their textures and melanated skin, the best friends began to swap African natural beauty remedies. From there they started to create together their own concoctions, which are what we now know as the Liha Beauty collection. The brand is very much influenced and inspired by Yoruba culture and the diaspora. The image of Yoruba Queen India is even on some of the product packaging.
“We wanted to showcase the beauty of Yoruba culture and the wealth of natural ingredients from West Africa that we saw there [was] a huge knowledge gap about in the beauty industry,” Liha tells thirteen lune.
Get to Know – Liha and Abi
Do you have a beauty philosophy?
Never be ashy.
Where are you each from originally and where do you live now?
I’m from Cheltenham originally and I live there now. We both traveled around a lot but there is no place like home. Abi is from London and still lives there.
What inspires you most about the beauty landscape and industry today?
When I see my daughter, who is 16, shopping for beauty it makes me so happy compared to the experience I had. There are YouTube tutorials, communities, TEDtalks about self-love and shades and resources available for absolutely everyone. It’s wonderful to see her just take all that stuff for granted. Ultimately, I am always inspired by Nigeria and the wealth of new ingredients that we can bring to market.
What has been the biggest challenge in starting your business?
Cashflow! We started on just £6k so the hustle has been real.
I like to celebrate every tiny win, to ensure that I continue to live in gratitude and receive more blessings. It's about enjoying the journey every day and finding joy in the details.
What has been the biggest win thus far?
Going full time and employing people. Also, the small things like when people email or DM to say how much one of our products has changed their life/skin or how much enjoyment they get from it. That means the most to me.
What would you like to see more of in the beauty industry when it comes to diversity and inclusivity?
Less performative surface stuff. Less just using black models and more actual diversity at boardroom level.