Q & A with NAYA founder Sarah Zimmer

I first profiled German skincare brand NAYA in 2018, after meeting its founder, Sarah Zimmer, and trying her products before the official launch. Three years down the road, with pandemic and Brexit acting as a wrecking duo for individuals and businesses, I was curious to talk to Sarah again and see where she was at as a brand. With three NAYA new products that I will be reviewing soon, I talk to Sarah about sustainability in beauty, lessons learnt & future plans.

Sarah Zimmer, NAYA founder

GAP: Sarah, when did you launch each of the three newest NAYA products and what drove your innovation in each case?

Sarah Zimmer (SZ): We launched Cacay Oil + A, Glow Serum and Hydration Mask towards the end of 2019. At NAYA, we use the very best ingredients that nature has to offer, and combine these with proven and patented actives alongside our star ingredient, Cacay Oil.

With Cacay Oil + A, we wanted our customers to experience Cacay Oil in its purest form. The nutrient rich oil helps to increase cell turnover and improve skin tone.  We also wanted to combine Cacay with Vitamin A (AKA Retinol) in an attempt to unfold many myths around this potent ingredient. Together these ingredients refine and reveal the skin’s renewed youthful glow. 

For the Hydration Mask, we wanted to create a formulation that delivers long-lasting and intensive hydration to the skin. Many hydrating products on the market contain hyaluronic acid, which only contains large molecules with a short-lived plumping effect. We wanted to go one step further and ensure that our mask had a lasting & noticeable effect on the skin. We therefore searched high and low, and found a unique complex that harnesses four different types of hyaluronic acid. We then combined it with silverear mushroom to target multiple layers of the skin thus, improving skin elasticity and plumping up fine lines and wrinkles.

Finally, the Glow Serum. Before we launched our award-winning serum, we saw that our customers were yearning for products that helped them to achieve a natural glow. We therefore looked to nature for inspiration, trying to truly understand what dampens our skin down. We researched the mitochondria in our skin cells and learnt about the ingredients which could help to both brighten and boost the skin. We are one of a few (if not the only brand) who uses a natural Glow Complex in our formulation to activate the mitochondria in skin cells, thus providing a healthy and rosy glow. 

These three products are suitable for all ages or gender. At NAYA, we want to demystify what is happening in the industry. Instead of having a ten-step skincare regime, we want our customers to use a few high-quality products everyday. Less truly is more when it comes to your skin!  

NAYA Skincare

GAP: how do you decide what to work on or launch next – is it talking to the formulator and customers? Or focussing on requests from retailers? Or maybe your own skincare needs?

Sarah Zimmer: A mixture of everything! I talk to both customers and retailers, as well as keep an eye on what is happening in the industry. We will never be “trend-led” and the products we launch have to complement those within the existing range. I work directly with our laboratory to create these and ensure science is at the heart of each and every formula.  

At NAYA, it is our mission to keep the range compact. I don’t want to  get into the habit of launching more and more products each year for the sake of it. Each of our new products is designed to be unique, and unlike anything else on the market. They must also address a skin need or condition. This is why we have two specific collections within the range –  EVERYDAY and ELEVATE.  Those products within the EVERYDAY range are gentle enough to use on a daily basis and each formulation supports overall skin health. The ELEVATE products are designed to boost one’s skincare regime and provide a targeted solution. 

NAYA packaging

GAP: Sarah, you have changed your branding and packaging since the initial launch – what drove it and what do you consider sustainable when it comes to beauty marketplace? Can beauty brands be sustainable or is that a utopian notion? What are your short to mid-term goals in that respect?

Sarah Zimmer:  Our brand is constantly evolving. Our re-brand was designed to highlight the work we do with the indigenous communities in Columbia and what is at the core of the brand. Our business model makes us unique in comparison to many of our competitors and we wanted to reflect this through our packaging. Our approach to skincare goes beyond our products. We work closely with farmers and other partners across the globe to establish good practices that will deliver the purest ingredients to nourish your skin, feed your soul and calm your mind. We want to have a positive impact on the world, including our customers, our suppliers, the environment and the local and global economy.

Sustainability is at the heart of everything we do; therefore I decided to strip back, to make the packaging as recyclable a possible. This meant we had to remove the foil we used originally for the launch. We are committed to the environment we live in and want to ensure we keep our carbon emissions down wherever possible.

I don’t think that being sustainable is a utopian notion; it comes down to attitude and expectation. Can one be sustainable from day one? Probably not. There are so many hurdles one must encounter, but there’s no doubt that the brand and the brand’s founder need to drive that intention and take the necessary steps to commit to this goal. 

There are so many materials out there that are sustainable or biodegradable – however, they are still very expensive, which is challenging for smaller brands like NAYA. For example, we have recently discovered a wonderful material to replace our glass bottles and pump – however, to create a mould for just one size would cost 100,000 euros. And that cost doesn’t factor in the actual production fees etc.  Thus, we need bigger corporations to adopt these kinds of sustainable materials, which in turn will drive the overall cost down for a wider group of brands to adopt. 

At NAYA we are constantly evolving and will continue to do so as science progresses. We will always endeavour to be as environmentally-friendly as possible. Since our launch we have removed foil from our packaging, replaced labels to that of upcycled marble waste and introduced our refill optons from day one with aluminium caps to reduce pump and carton usage. We will soon be unveiling an exciting new product, where we will introduce a new type of sustainable material. The market is constantly changing, so  it is a matter of understanding what is available and at the same time, whether or not the customer is ready for change. 

So yes, it is possible; but it is about setting a conscious intention to change, which comes down to personal choice. For it not to be an utopia, everyone needs to make a conscious choice and question the status quo; and ask themselves ‘Can my kids, future generations and I live in an environment without nature, without the wilderness? What would that look like?’ Every little counts.

But if you’re asking if the beauty industry is sustainable, then sadly my answer is ‘no’. With the increasing pressure from consumers and the current competition within a saturated market, green-washing has become an ongoing issue in itself.

NAYA exterior packaging

GAP: Many retailers – be it physical or online – have noticed decrease in traffic/orders in the last couple of months. What retailers do you favour and what makes them a good fit for Naya ?

SZ: We favour small to medium retailers, who share a similar brand ethos to us. We are unique and unlike mainstream brands on the market. We therefore want to work with retailers, who can and do champion that, and who allows us to communicate our brand values.  One cannot change an individual’s mind straight away, so you need to find a customer base that has a similar outlook to giving back to the Planet.

Investing in social and ecological projects is important to us, so that is also a bonus, if a retailer does the same. Everyone can make a difference. 


GAP: How has Brexit affected you as a brand founder?

Sarah Zimmer: Brexit has certainly been a rollercoaster ride with endless peaks and troughs! Quite simply, we needed to make changes that we just weren’t ready for as a small brand. Due to Brexit, we have had to postpone many of our exciting plans until 2022.  But that doesn’t mean we aren’t still proud of what we have achieved this year. For example, we just launched a fabulous new website and sold out our new launch – Aura Hydration Essence – on pre-order! We also partnered with the Eden Reforestation Project to support their efforts in reforestation and poverty alleviation. And we have a few more exciting announcements for later this year.  

GAP: What’s your current most used Naya product and why?

Sarah Zimmer: We don’t have a huge range, so it is quite balanced overall, but the Glow Serum is definitely becoming a firm favourite amongst our customer base. The Aura Hydration Essence is also proving to be quite the hit too! 


GAP: What excites you right now and puts a spring in your step?

Sarah Zimmer: I just love it when a customer tells us how the products have made a difference to their skin. We have a very loyal customer base that have purchased with us from day one and we wouldn’t be where we are today without them.  

GAP: What do you consider your biggest achievements as a brand founder, since I first wrote about you three years ago?

I am grateful that we are still here! Typically 22% of newly launched brands don’t make it through the first year, and 30% don’t make it through their second year. And considering half of this time we had to weather COVID and Brexit – this is a huge achievement. We couldn’t have done this though without our customer base, our retailers and all the people we are working with, who kept cheering us on and motivated us to keep going. I am so very grateful to the people we work with. Without their support, their responsiveness and their agility during this time, as well as willingness to help, we wouldn’t be where we are right now. 

Having said that, we did take the time to slow down a little and put many pieces into place to set us up better for future growth. And we are very excited for the rest of this year and 2022. So hopefully, when it comes to our fifth year, we won’t be part of the 50% of startups that don’t make it, but we will be still growing strong. 

Sarah is as passionate about the environmental impact beauty makes on the planet, as she is providing her customer with the best skincare formulas for their skin

To find out more about NAYA or purchase the products, please click here

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