Linda Gieskes-Mwamba was born in Kinshasa and grew up in Brussels, but Johannesburg, where she has lived for 25 years, is home. It is also where Suki Suki Naturals was launched 10 years ago and where the products are crafted. We chatted to Linda about the brand’s genesis and 10 year milestone.

By Ingrid Wood

The name Suki Suki draws inspiration from home and beyond the continent. In the DRC, suki means hair, in Hindi it means happiness and in Japanese it means ‘to be fond of’. “I loved the positive universal meanings of the word and couldn’t resist including it twice in our name,” says Linda.

How and why did Suki Suki Naturals come about?

I’ve always loved beauty. My mother raised my sister and I to take care of ourselves and from as early as five years old, the bathroom was my playground. I loved playing with cream and makeup, smelling perfume but I really had a passion for skin and hair. Suki Suki Naturals began before it even launched. In 2010, I decided to stop chemically relaxing my hair, but then I had to figure out how to actually take care of this curly hair that I didn’t understand. I had to unlearn the things that I had been taught and find out what my natural hair needed. I was frustrated by the lack of chemical-free and affordable options, so I started looking locally for natural ingredients to make my own solutions. Soon my family and friends were asking me to share what I was using on my hair. I did – and they kept coming back.

Hence the move from law to the beauty industry?

I didn’t envisage starting a beauty brand at all. I went natural while I was studying law, then started selling the first variation of what later became Miraculous Oil when I had just finished my studies. My mom said to me, “This product is really good, but you need to do a better job at branding it.” It was only in April 2014 that I launched three products with proper branding. I continued practicing law for another three years, before leaving in 2017 because I felt Suki Suki Naturals needed my full attention. 

Has anything changed from your original formulation?

Many things have changed since the first iteration of Miraculous Oil. It was a good formulation but as the business grew, I saw how I could refine it to find the perfect balance in a hair oil for all hair types. It’s still our bestseller today.

How did the skincare range come about?

I followed the same process when I launched skincare. I had been on Roaccutane multiple times and when I came back from the US my skin was really bad. I had learned enough about natural ingredients to know that there was another way and I wondered what a skincare version of Suki Suki would look like. We have such rich and underutilised botanicals in Africa. I launched with four products: Açaí Gentle Exfoliating Mask, Papaya Rose Hydrating Facial Mist, Rosehip Brightening Facial Oil and Prickly Pear Rejuvenating Oil. Prickly pear is an amazing ingredient thanks to its vitamin E and K content, as well as argan oil. Importantly, there is real science behind the ingredients.

Where do you source your ingredients from?

When I launched, I used to source my prickly pear from Morocco, but I’m proud to say that we now source from South Africa. We also source from Ghana, Namibia, Mozambique, Burkina Faso and our rosehip is from Lesotho. There is one exception with a hero ingredient and that is açaí, a superfruit native to Brazil, which is in the Açaí Gentle Exfoliating Mask.

What is your approach in terms of beauty regimen?

Because of my job, I need to try out different brands and products to see what’s out there but ultimately, I’m very minimalist and I don’t travel with a lot of products. I like products that do more than one thing. If my facial oil is also my day and night moisturiser, all the better and then I obviously wear SPF during the day.  I’m also absolutely addicted to hair oils but not all oils are made equally.

What’s your favourite product?

I’ve got 11 products and more that I want to create. I sometimes feel like my favourite product isn’t born yet. But the product I use the most – every day and night – and when I don’t use it, I see a difference is my Rosehip Brightening Facial Oil, and then of course for my hair, Miraculous Oil.

Where to from here for Suki Suki Naturals?

There are multiple new products in the pipeline and our revamped website will go live shortly. I am also planning on doing a lot of activations throughout the year because of our 10-year anniversary.

Suki Suki Naturals products are free from mineral oil, preservatives, parabens, sulfates, phthalates, formaldehyde, petroleum, paraffin, and animal testing. Order at https://sukisukinaturals.co.za/

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