I was introduced to Kristina Dunn, founder of Norwegan beauty brand RUA by the entrepreneur Laia Esteban, founder of Botanic Affair, a sustainable beauty platform I recently wrote about. Laia offers a very intriguing selection of niche beauty brands from around the world and when I tried two of Kristina’s products, that she kindly and swiftly sent to me, within days my skin was singing praises to Kristina’s sophisticatedly efficacious formulations that nurtured the skin inside and out.
Kristina was born and raised in the US, but has moved to Norway for love many years ago and even though that relationship has come to an end, Norway naturally sipped under Kristina’s skin for good. When we spoke, her mellow American twang is still there, but her slower paced speech, coupled with very calming, yet happy disposition truly show how multifaceted humans are when they start their life journey in one place and then travel to other lands, settling down and finding new homes elsewhere. Kristina makes plant-based skincare that is “targeting” women in their mid-life and even though her original duo of products might initially come across as simple, they are anything, but when it comes to ingredients & visible effect on the skin. No less intriguingly, Kristina is a former fashion designer, a full-time DJ and an award winning graduate of Formula Botanica.
Less Is More Scandinavian Skincare Ritual Minimalism of RUA
Each of the products – SOOTHE Softening Serum and HYDRATE Elixir are hand-crafted in small batches, but word of mouth has already started spreading – Laia and I can vouch for that – and the brand is not only gaining traction with the local customers, but international ones (and potential retailers as well). Bare in mind that Kristina might have been experimenting with skincare and formulation for years, but she has officially launched her brand only in May of last year – yet it is the result of the last seven years work on this particular grain on an idea. I think I am trying to make an important point here – that launching a brand seems to be popular with celebrities & influencers, but it takes years to create, craft and refine ideas, backed by knowledge, before they truly come into their own, mature and take off. Unlike the people with fame, niche beauty brand founders have long-term plans for their brands, rather than building on current marketing trends that fizzle our fairly quickly.
Kristina started with taking weekend courses in skincare formulation and her first customers came from Xmas markets that are so popular in Scandinavian Europe. In order to do things right and prepare herself as the brand founder for future retail projects, Kristina directed her gaze towards a much respected online teaching institution Formula Botanica, where she did not one, not two, but three diplomas, covering Organic Skincare Formulation, Organic Cosmetic Science, and advanced and anti-ageing skin formulation as well (even though anti-ageing is not the terminology Kristina actively uses and I hope that this term is actually slowly, but surely, is being phased out for good, giving way to a more positive image of the ageing process, targeting individual skin problems as we move from one decade to the next – which undoubtedly has its benefits as well). Kristina also has a beauty management course under her elegant professional belt as well, as in order to run a beauty business the founders now, more than ever, have to know a multitude of things, possess a wide range of skills, masterfully engage with retailers and consumers, source funding and ingredients. Imagine doing all that by yourself? Well, that’s what Kristina does on a daily basis, with no celebrity clout or eager investors or beauty conglomerate firmly placed behind her.
After being diagnosed with rosacea – a problem that a not insignificant amount of people have to deal with, Kristina started looking for natural solutions that were holistic in nature. She elevated the formulating process to new heights. There were focus groups done in Norway, where many people also have skin sensitivities or skin that is described as ‘delicate’. At the same time Kristina’s focus remained on creating a minimal skincare routine that at the same time effectively addresses a multitude of other skin problems. There were attempts to make creams, but fairly quickly Kristina zeroed on skin creams with potent actives, narrowing her formulation to oil-based serums and elixirs that help to strengthen the skin barrier and slow down the ageing (genetics and lifestyle aside). While formulating RUA Nordic beauty products such factors as sunshine, cold climate, ingredient sensitivities were also taken into consideration, as main pillars of RUA formula signature.
NORDIC INGREDIENTS: Wild-harvested seaweed & Algae; Blueberry Oil; Arctic blackcurrant; Oat Oil; Pure Norwegian Spring Water; Sweidish Plant Stem Cells
Interestingly enough Kristina firmly believes that hydration is one of the key elements when it comes to age defence – I also wish more of us drank filtered water regularly, rather than from time to time, as cell hydration is an important element of our overall health, be it short or long-term. When crafting Hydration Elixir, oils and plant extracts were carefully combined to build synergy and Kristina also took into account her experience with gel moisturisers that hydrate different skin types equally well. In pure Scandinavian form RUA creates and delivers non-irritating, deeply hydrating and simply soothing plant-based skincare that is easily incorporated into daily skincare routine.
The question “who is RUA customer” is easily answered. In Kristina’s opinion she is a natural beauty irrespective of age. Her style is her own and effortless. She cares for the Planet, as well as human beings. She seeks healthy lifestyle in a world that only shifts the gears upwards. As she enters the mid years of her life, she desires a simple, but effective beauty ritual that reflects her values, yet allows her to temporarily escape from everyday stress.
RUA SOOTHE Softening Serum
In pure Scandinavian element, this serum was designed to provide perfect simplicity of skincare, helping the skin to renew, be better protected and hydrated. A blend of nutrient-rich oils and gentle plant actives leaves skin feeling soft to the touch, while the delicate herbatious scent uplifts the mood. If you close the eyes for a brief second, you can almost picture yourself at the seaside where pines gently sway in the breeze or with feet firmly planted in the mossy carpet of the forrest. The serum is non-greasy and sinks into the skin almost instantly, visibly plumping it up. It acts as a perfect skin canvas primer, if you follow skincare application with the make-up, making the need for primer obsolete. The serum can be used both morning and evening and in the evening, when combined with Hydrate Elixir, it gives superior and visible hydration to the skin.
There are three key ingredients in this formula. Norwegian Sea Kelp, that Kristina sources from a remarkable woman who has been dealing with different types of sea kelp for a long time. Using this ingredient is also a testament to Kristina’s talent as formulator (it took nine months of RND and even longer to research, before Kristina got down to formulating) and as a skincare founder who understands importance of smell in skincare – she uses the best of the sea kelp without the unpleasant smell. Two other ingredients are Swedish Oat and Arctic Blackcurrant – I will share more individual ingredient intel further below, for those of you who are interested in that aspect of skincare. As rosacea sufferer herself, Kristina was mindful of skin itching that many experience when using skincare with essential oils and while this serum isn’t ‘hypo-allergenic’, as it has essential oils, it achieves a perfect balance between dry and long-chain oils, so you get the nourishment and no greasiness with the clary sage helping to open up the lungs and nourish your body with more oxygen.
I think Kristina feels particularly proud of this product, because it truly reflects the identity of her brand and how she as a brand founder (and her customers) perceive natural beauty. Having used this serum throughout the summer I quietly fell under its charm – it really helps the skin look and feel its best and be confident without make-up to get on with daily life knowing and feeling really happy in your skin. While I believe that skincare choices are truly individual, in this instance one single product does seem to address a multitude of daily skin issues, with the resulting healthy and beautiful skin on its own, without enhancement or covering problems up.
RUA Hydrate Elixir
This gel like serum has an intriguing texture. Its almost like moaldable water that emerges from the pipette almost like a sloth – weeks after I first starting using this Elixir, I observe its’ phenomenon in wonder upon every application. As the name suggests this elixir is designed to maintain optimal hydration, as well as create a ‘light-weight’ cocoon for the skin. The unique blend of non-irritating ingredients smooths fine lines and can even be used on the delicate eye area. A blend of pure Norwegian spring water, active Swedish plant cells, wild-harvested Icelandic sea kelp and glacial snow mushrooms its almost like a geography lesson on ingredients and effect each brings to the joint synergy. In addition there is Alpine Willow Herb that Kristina added to the formula in order to control sebum production and minimise blackheads and Alpha-hydroxy acids from apples that provide mild exfoliation.
Elixir is formulated for all skin types, with sensitive and irritable skin particularly well suited to this product, as well as more mature skin in mind. With regular use it helps to relieve irritation, redness, itching and dryness. Easily used on its own, you can also combine it with Sooth Softening Serum to enhance the simple, yet sophisticated skincare routine. I tend to use Hydrate with Sooth in the evenings, sometimes mixing them up in the palm of my hand, which will have you transfixed visually the first time you do it. Two very different textures, coming together in the almost divine way. Add to that a scent that transports you to a place where forest meets the sea and the skincare ritual takes on a completely different meaning and creates a very sensory experience for the user.
Kristina recommends combining 2-4 drops of sooth Softening serum with 1 drop of Hydrate Elixir. Rub gently together in the palm of your hand to create a silky slip and massage the face, neck and décolletage. If using around the eye area, lightly massage one drop of Hydrate Elixir to help sooth and smooth fine lines, if you have them.
It is a ‘hero’ product for Kristina and she is humbly proud of its uniqueness and use of natural seaweeds in the formula. Interestingly when she started creating this product she wasn’t thinking of using raw seaweed, but then she met a a true ‘seaweed witch’, who has been harvesting Sea Kale herself off the coast in Iceland and her story made Kristina ponder its use beyond food. Kristina tested & boiled Icelandic sea kale and was intrigued by its ‘slippery’ texture, but the smell of raw material wasn’t great. Experiments continued, benefits of the wild-harvested ingredient – high in copper and amino acids, the ‘superfood’ effect on the body from inside out and outside in. But scent continued to be a problem – until Kristina came up with the idea of utilising hydrosols, rosemary and Douglas fir helping elevate and create a subtle herbal scent, with mountainous Nordic feeling undertones.
She also added Tremella mushrooms to the formula, as they bind water and have incredible effect on the skin. Mushrooms in skincare are still often overlooked – Finnish niche brand Four Sigmatic was one of the first to actively utilise the power of mushrooms in supplements, coffee, hot chocolate and then skincare, alongside Dr Weil in his wider available collaboration with Origins. Kristina chose to utilise the mushrooms thinking of how they break things down underneath the soil, reincarnate and rejuvenate the soil and in the instance of skincare balance the microbiome of the skin.
Another worthy of mention ingredient are the Swedish plant cells. Kristina met the producer at one of the global cosmetic fairs and was instantly fascinated by the bio-green house production in the south of Sweden. The stem cells arrived in a package carefully surrounded by dry ice, so Kristina works very fast to utilise them. The resulting water-based, gel-like product changed Kristina’s skin almost overnight. Blackheads disappeared, skin hydration improved visibly. Kristina passionately believes in protecting the skin and thinks that over-stimulation can have a negative effect in the longer-term, so she passionately crafts high-quality products, sourcing the best quality ingredients that work like a dream team in perfect harmony. So many of us ‘invest’ in high quality clothes that we hope can last us for many years, bringing us comfort and style simultaneously. When it comes to skincare consumers would be better off looking at skincare as investment in the long-term healthy appearance and functioning of their skin as well, rather then jumping from one new launch onto another, in vain hope that their skin problems will miraculously disappear and skin would look as good as the celebrity or influencer who is advertising it.
RUA not only strives to be sustainable skincare brand by incorporating wild-harvested, organically-grown and vegan-friendly ingredients into the formulations. In order to reduce brand’s CO2 footprint, 90% of the ingredients AND packaging are sourced from Europe. The packaging (I find exterior packaging as beautifully thought-out, as well as tactile) is also sustainable, using FSC-certified paper sources, ECF certified processing, plant-based waterproof laminate, glass bottles (simple contrast of white bottles against grey covering) and pipette closures for easy recycling.
Kristina and RUA are proof, if ever it was needed, that a simple skincare routine can at the same time be efficaciously luxurious. Hand-crafted with vast and constantly expanding knowledge, based on research and evolution of cosmetic science, Kristina is indeed a vanguard in elegant couture skincare that delivers results for different skin types, while being pleasing to the senses, turning routine into ritual.
To learn more about RUA Beauty please click here