We are all born equal but some of us in-adversely stand out-because of their looks, skills, their talent or their drive, their bravery in facing adversity or their charisma that just draws people in. For me, Ole Henriksen, a Danish skincare guru, is definitely one of those completely unique people.
I have been using Ole Henriksen’s skincare products for several years now, having bought it first in Sephora in Paris. His products have the magic ability to just draw you in-with their textures, smells, their bottle designs and the brightness that they add to your bathroom shelves. Several of my friends, who work in the beauty industry and who knew that I was going to meet up with Ole, said exactly the same thing upon hearing his name-‘wow, he is just so wonderful/amazing, there is no one like him’. In the industry that is highly competitive, such genuine compliments are almost unheard of.
A few weeks ago I learnt that Ole will be coming to London, as part of his European brand drive and I frantically had to organise and re-organise my schedule in order not to miss the chance to meet him in person-after all, an opportunity like that just doesn’t come along often.
On a cool autumn evening, with people dashing by, on their way home from work, I tentatively approached a boutique Duke’s Hotel in Mayfair, where the meeting was scheduled to take place. The receptionist kindly gave me directions and as I approached the meeting room, I could hear echos of laughter escaping from it and resonating in the relatively quite atmosphere of the hotel.
The room was brightly lit and Ole Henriksen got up to great me, smiling broadly. Wearing a black jacket, with a stripey, Etro like shirt picking out, he was graceful and kind, instantly putting me at ease and telling me how glad he was that I could make it. I just smiled back at him, floored by what he just said. This man, who created a phenomenal skincare brand and who has treated the ‘ Who is Who of Hollywood’, was thanking me for coming? His eyes sparkled with joy, his skin had a healthy glow and he offered me a glass of champagne and told me to join in the fun….
The room was quite intimate and everyone chatted easily to each other, other journalists/bloggers and Ole’s fantastic PR team. Once everyone arrived, Ole got up and graciously and slightly shyly, started addressing us.
He said that for him every day brings joy. He ‘isn’t daunted by getting older, instead he thinks we all should embrace the ageing process-after all, it is going to happen whether we like it or not-so one might as well greet it with grace & dignity. Look around, relax your upper body, take in the beauty of the world and the aromas from flowers or food. When you are in the privacy of your bathroom, enjoy those precious moments of tranquillity that are so rare in out times and live by the motto ‘ You should be No.1 ’-not in the egoistical kind of way, but with the thought that we all deserve love and care, and if you don’t love yourself, you can’t expect other people to do it for you. This benefits everyone and multiplies the energy that we all share and by which we are surrounded in every moment of our life. Ole believes in embracing newness. Case in point ? We had Pitbull playing in the background and Ole almost succeeded in not swinging his hips to the music-don’t forget, he used to be a professional dancer in his youth.
Ole said that he loves parties because they give anyone an opportunity to meet new, interesting people and make friends. Being in front of the computer might seem like a social activity-‘look, I have X number of Facebook friends’, but nothing will replace the joy and meaningfulness of a human contact. Be honest, being on the Internet might have brought the world closer together, but it doesn’t give you joy or intimacy or the sense of reality-only going outside will give you that!
Having started his first business in 1975, Ole still has immense joie de vivre- you have to be blind not to notice that he still has the passion and the drive for what he does. He thinks that everyone has their own place in the world, their own philosophy and we can and often do bring the best out of each other ( he never competes with anyone and doesn’t have a bad word to say about anyone-there is a lesson to be learnt here !). After all, each one of us is ‘a traveller on a journey of life and each journey is unique‘.
Ole Henriksen was born and raised in Denmark and while he was very much loved by his parents ( his mother was 18 when she gave birth to Ole, leaving school at the tender age of 13 to become a maid and earn money, while his father was a factory worker ), even though at times life was very hard. The family didn’t have a bathroom but what Ole remembers well is his mother’s singing to him and her nurturing soft touch when he was a baby-in part that’s where his dedication to the creation of wonderful aromas that envelope you when you open any of Ole Henriksen’s products stem from . The nurture and the beauty. The fundamental truth of life is that everyone wants to be loved and Ole considers his chosen field very special, as it allows him to spread love by helping people to care for their skin and to nurture it.
The first job that Ole got, aged ten, was delivering milk in the early hours of the morning and when he started earning the money, his first intention when it came to spending them, was to buy presents for his family. As a special treat for himself , he always longed for books ( he admits that he loves Tolstoy and anything to do with the tsars ) and reading was one of his favourite past-times, probably allowing him to escape from reality and travel the world through imagination.
At some stage his mother decided to enrol Ole at a dance school, not knowing that this would change his life and lead to amazing experiences. As Ole puts it now, he ‘loved shaking his booty’ and dancing really did propel him into another life. Having done classes and taken part in competitions, Ole became a show dancer and moved to Jakarta where he lived his life a little excessively ( drank too much and had a bit of an imbalance in his life ), so he developed really bad case of cystic acne-not a great condition to have, especially when one works in performing arts. Luckily for Ole he had many female friends ( one of them dressed Imelda Marcos, another, who was educated as an esthetician, started treating his acne once a week, telling him that if skin is treated correctly, the skin will heal itself and look transformed ). Ole was so impressed with the results and his friend’s work, he took the decision to move to London and enrolled for a beauty course in the College of Beauty ( which unfortunately no longer exists ) in Albemarle street.
There were 20 girls and only one boy ( Ole ), as unlike now, beauty wasn’t considered to be a viable career option for men. The training included doing all kinds of make-up and beauty treatments and students were ranked based on their appearance, hygiene and personal presentation. Ole says that it was drummed into them that in their profession, their main goal was to help people, women especially, to look and feel better.
By the time Ole was getting close to graduation, he already had three firm job offers, one of which came from Helena Rubinstein. But another vocation was calling Ole and it’s location you ask? Hollywood!
Ole braved America and went to Beverley Hills. Unfortunately, he was a man in the women’s world and no one wanted to hire him, his references and experience were of no help, so that left Ole with only one option-to start his own business. Looking back Ole smiles and says that ‘it is amazing what one can achieve on a shoestring’.
A place was founded and decorated with Indonesian furniture and fabrics, sophisticated equipment was purchased and Ole started mixing his own products by hand in his kitchen, his main aim-to help heal problematic skin, particularly one suffering from acne. Ole says that ‘people shouldn’t feel self-conscious, even though there is always room for improvement’.
Word spread about a wonderfully talented man and soon the likes of Barbara Streisand,Christy Turlington, Diana Ross, Linda Evangelista and even Sylvestre Stallone( yes, men care about how they look too ) started coming to Ole for treatments. Sylvestre Stallone actually reciprocated Ole’s treatments with telling him that ‘every man needs to do push-ups’ and took it upon himself to teach Ole how to do them properly ( to this day Ole remains sporty & skinny as a runner bean ).
I think one of Ole’s secrets lies in attracting the right kind of people-some of his staff have been with him for 10-15 years before spreading wings and flying. Ole respects others people’s talents and individuality, allowing them to be creative and to be personal-that is one of the secrets to keeping clients happy.
Next step was the opening of the Spa where pampering and luxurious face treatment also incorporated modality in body treatments ( Ole has been and remains to this day a big fan of natural ingredients and is always happy to dish natural recipes for masks, scrubs etc. -do check out his regularly update blog ) and one of his signature treatments was a very nurturing honey and milk treatment, so when E! Chanel did a one hour special on Ole and his Spa, he was mentally ready for it, having done hard graft for many years. One of Mr. Henriksen’s most endearing qualities is the fact that he is very down-to-earth and very approachable. In his view ‘success comes in many shapes and forms, so when you get recognition, never ever allow yourself to become stuck-up’. Seeing him in person, excited as a young boy who discovered something new about the world, it’s hard to believe that this is a grown-up man who is famous the world over. He not only says that ‘he loves every moment of my life’, he actually looks like he truly does.
In 1984 Ole was offered to write a book, which he did, typing away pages on the old fashioned type-writer, after doing a full day’s work at his Spa. He combined his recipes with lifestyle advice, trying to empower women and to help them look their best. Nastasja Kinski, a star actress at the time, wrote a foreword to the book and Ole was invited to make an appearance on Oprah ( he initially kept on nervously mispronouncing her name and was told off by the producer during the break, but after that little glitch, the interview went on smoothly ) and his book became a best-seller ( I sincerely hope that Ole will publish his book in English, as it is full of colour and great advice ).
Ole Henriksentalks about his products with paternal pride and says that each one of them is about a beautiful experience, wonderful textures and uplifting smells. He also miticulously combines proper concentration of ingredients, never cutting corners on quality or quantity.
One of Ole Henriksen’s best-sellers is a cream called ‘Truth Creme Advanced Hydration’ ( I am a huge fan of the serum that is part of the same line, called ‘Truth Serum Collagen Booster‘ ). It contains Advanced Hydration Complex, as well as Vitamin C and essential fatty acids, that go deep down into fibroblast levels of the skin and help to brighten and hydrate it, as well as fight environmental damage.
Mr Henriksen is still very hands on when it comes to his brand and does all of his research into ingredients. If the conclusion is that one should use, let’s say 3% hyaluronic acid, you can be assured that that’s exactly the amount that will go in, not more, not less.
We also got to talk about another of Ole Henriksen products, called ‘Lemon Strip Flash Peel’ and I have to say that it is awe inspiring that he managed to create a professional Spa grade product that you can use safely and efficiently in the privacy of your own bathroom ( Ole has omitted the harsh chemicals that are often used in other peel treatments ). The sensation of painting it on, with a soft, rounded brush that fits perfectly into your hand, feels like a very luxurious experience and gives great results with no redness or blemish in sight.
This product was, in a big part, developed thanks to Charlize Theron, who wanted a product that she can pack into her make-up travel bag when going on location shoots. It combines micro-dermabrasion and acid peel system with lactic, glycolic & fruit acids. It also boasts Liquorice ( responsible for boosting radiance along with AHAs ) and Algae Extract ( soothes and clams the skin ).
Another fairly recent innovation from the brand is called Power Peel Kit and it can be broken down into three easy and therapeutically enjoyable steps:
-you start with an almond polish scrub ( just smelling it makes me happy and that is even before the actual application ) that gently, but effectively takes away dull and excess skin cells off, giving way to a newer, more radiant complexion. It contains Oat Kernel flour, Bamboo Stem powder, honey and almonds.
-you then follow it with a lemon strip peel, that smells of fresh lemons, as if they were still hanging on the lemon tree. The clear gel is infused with fruit acids that help to refine you skin, as well as firm it, reduce fine lines and prevent breakouts.
-last, but not least, step three, a neutralising chamomile comfort mask that helps to calm any possible redness, soothes your skin ( as well as senses or frazzled nerves ) and hydrates it. Ingredients include Evening Primrose oil, Chamomile and Borage Seed oil. The final result never ceases to take me by surprise every time I use it ( once a week, on Sunday, my evening treat to myself ).
Ole is generous to a fault, sharing his advice & his life’s lessons. He said that he always remembered what Christy Turlington told him once, when he asked her how she manages to photograph so well and to always look so natural: ‘ Smile from the heart’. He did take that advice to heart and indeed, when he smiles at you, you know that this is the man who only smiles from the heart and it comes naturally to him.
We talked about acne, a subject still close to Ole’s heart, even though his skin looks absolutely healthy, with not a blemish in site during our meeting ( and he doesn’t wear the make-up, in case you are wondering ). He says that in Japan acne didn’t even exist, until the levels of stress started rising and the junk food started to become more mainstream.
When asked about sugar, he convincingly says that our body doesn’t really differentiate between good or bad sugars, white or brown varieties of it, or honey/maple syrup for that matter-it is still sugar and it does no favours to our skin or our hormones. That’s why he advises to start the day with oatmeal and complex carbohydrates. He also recommends eating wholemeal bread and introducing raw almonds into your diet too. Fats, in his view, are imperative to maintaining our body functions, as well as keeping our skin plump and our brains ticking. Ole doesn’t drink juices or sodas but does admit to enjoying an occasional ‘vodka on the rocks’.
Mr Henriksen also adds that one should never forget ‘that you are the master of your own ship’ when it comes to taking decisions concerning yourself, from what you eat to who do you choose to be friends with. You ‘should take ownership on what you can do in life’ was how he put it to us.
His secret to a relaxing bath that is beneficial to your skin? Warm water with 15 drops each of good quality tea tree oil, peppermint and lavender oils. Cold showers boost your circulations and are great for your skin in the morning. Dry skin brushing in the morning. Hanging upside down. Doing occasional detoxes. It all makes sense and you would think that it is such simple advice-and it is, but how many of us actually follow it instead of blaming our busy lives for all the things that we aren’t happy about ?
What if you develop a spot an hour before a party? Well, take an ice cube, wrap it in the handkerchief and put it against the spot. Then layer a concealer on or, if you are feeling adventurous, you can turn it into a beauty spot for the night.
Ole seems to be so full of life and vigour, it rubs on you within minutes of meeting him. He talked of celebrating beauty, in all shapes and sizes and sharing your life experiences with other people, because ‘if you isolate yourself, you lock yourself in a box’.
Even though his life has been far from easy in the beginning-‘a roller-coaster’- Ole says that it has been wonderful and he believes that we all can age naturally, as every year brings something new and wonderful, thus enriching our lives. ‘Lines aren’t a horrible thing’, they simply mean that you lived and laughed.
Before I left Ole gave me a warm hug and told me that he loved my jacket and that I had great skin, which mademe blush and hug him back, with gratitude not just for the compliment but for life lessons that he kindly and selflessly shared, believing that it will be helpful to us. That genuine compassion and honesty is priceless, in our day and age particularly. And now I completely understand why he is held in such a high esteem within the beauty industry. Ole Henriksen is a very talented beauty professional but most of all, he is a unique- a wonderfully touching and genuine man.
You can purchase Ole Henriksen skincare products from Harvey Nichols, Selfridges, John Lewis or online from Lookfantastic.com, Feelunique.com and Bathandunwind.com
p.s a big thank you to Ole Henriksen’s London PR team for organising a wonderful event. You did an incredible job!