Nomshado Baca Seeks to Create A Luxury Beauty & Wellness Brand With Women of Colour at the forefront
Tell us a little about yourself?
I am Nomshado Michelle Baca and I am the founder and Creative Chief Executive of A Complexion Company. I was born in Johannesburg, South Africa but like many immigrants, I came to the UK in my youth to complete my education here. I am a Kingston Business School alumni, having completed a BA Hons Entrepreneurship & Management degree. I was one of the first, pioneering such a course at Undergraduate level and remain very active within the Business School.
I began the building blocks of A Complexion Company in 2016. I knew I wanted to build a luxury beauty brand for women of colour, but the pure essence of the company still escaped me – I hadn’t discovered the wellness element that carried the narrative. The Centre for Entrepreneurship fast track program which I completed in 2018, helped me have an environment to test my idea and create a blueprint for the company as it stands today.
How has your heritage influenced your brand and the products?
My heritage is very visible in the brand. I would probably say that it is the place that I create from. Primarily, it influences my ingredient choices; choosing Africa’s first ingredients which are known by the indigenous tribes of the continent. The familiarity that I have with the ingredients is my preferred starting point.
It influences my sourcing choices; where I can guarantee a high-quality product, I will choose African-sourced first. The current global situation has put a strain on supply chains that have affected supply but, as a rule of thumb, Organic African-sourced is our first choice.
The brand design shows where the two worlds I grew up in meet. For example, my quest to find the right font for the brand was an interesting journey. For years I had been looking within Serif fonts for the right font for the brand because European luxury uses Serif fonts and therefore, I thought that I must use the same. Something still didn’t feel right. It wasn’t until I asked myself if someone created the African luxury font, what would it look like? What are our written fonts? Most African languages are spoken languages and therefore finding ancient scripts was a challenge, but East African nations had some written scripts in their languages which gave me some direction. An African typeface was San-Serif, slightly mono, middle weighted, and with some varied line thickness. Through this, I was able to select a typeface that was defendable. Prior to this I had simply inherited a European template instead of creating the African one.
This is the type of question I ask myself every day – is everything I create founded on African heritage or inherited? It is important for me to create an original interpretation of what African Luxury is, defined from the continent to the world, and not the other way around.
What inspired you to create a wellness brand?
I want to answer the gaping black woman-sized hole in the market. We don’t seem to exist in that space at all. Which actually doesn’t surprise me because tokenism will not work in this space for us. Solutions need to be designed specifically for us. Women of ethnic descent are the ones most in need of wellness solutions as our health is disproportionately affected by the simple act of no longer living in our native environment. Epigenetic research around what has been the cost of immigration on our health as Africans has been limited. A research paper on, The role of diet and epigenetics in migration, highlights that direct effects of nutrients on gene expression are documented in fatty acids, Vitamin A, Vitamin D, and B vitamins. Deficiencies can result in chromosomal damage and DNA damage that mimics that of radiation exposure with problems such as brain dysfunction, neuronal damage, immune function, and birth defects being presented. It’s a scary thing to see science highlight explicitly how the nutritional deficiencies we experience as immigrants, are truly impacting us and future generations; and how we are in the dark about such issues as a community. Those of us who are enlightened need to bring greater emphasis on why it is important to build products around our genetic profile.
This gives us a lot of room to innovate as a company. I started with the Moringa powder because I understood the necessity of a nutritional supplement for immigrant women of African descent based upon my own experience and my research for understanding within science papers. We needed a fair starting point in the journey for optimal health and ultimate wellness.
Topical beauty has its own issues; 1 in 12 beauty and personal care products marketed to black women in the U.S. contains highly hazardous ingredients. I know that figure is even higher globally speaking, especially within the continent of Africa. The direct link of the ability to use beauty and wellness products to improve female health is why the brand exists within this space.
On the more aesthetic side, we simply need more brands that speak to us and are visually pleasing. For a lack of an African-origin or beauty comparison, I want A Complexion Company to be the Hermes of beauty and wellness. To implore the same emphasis on heritage, custom-made, authenticity, and excellence across all areas. I am determined to show that this is possible within the most challenging market against seemingly insurmountable odds. We have a long way to go; after all, the Hermes brand wasn’t created overnight.
What was the process of creating the super powder?
I had been researching wellness remedies for my own consumption for almost 8 years. I was tired, experiencing hormonal fluctuations, my skin was breaking out and scarred from post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation. My immune system was so vulnerable I had experienced tonsillitis every month for 8 months in a row and had been ill so often I got laid off from my job. All the visits to the doctor always resulted in ‘normal’ blood test results, how could this be possible? I was visibly suffering. They checked everything and just decided to sweep it under the umbrella of ‘stress’. I had a lot of questions and so I started looking into who’s ‘normal’ was I initially being measured against. Unfortunately, most health and beauty professional data does not make adjustments for race and DNA origin. My blood test results were normal for a European woman but dangerously low for an African woman.
I sought a combination of natural remedies from the local health shop and found myself creating my own multi-vitamin. The only problem is that it consisted of me in a single sitting taking; 1 tsp of iron, 1 tsp of B12, 1 tsp of D3, 1 tablet of pro-biotic, 1 tablet of Magnesium, 1 tablet of Zinc, 1 tsp of Omega 3/6/9 oil and 1 tsp of an immune re-boosting tincture mixture made for me by the Head Herbalist at Neal’s Yard Remedies. Having to do that every day, did not feel how wellness should feel – I felt like I was sick even though I was visibly getting better. This is because there are a ritual and holistic element to wellness.
At the same time, I also turned to foods I grew up eating which amongst them was Moringa. The popularity of the ingredient globally had increased and so there was more data on why it had been a staple for our communities for centuries. I found within it a complete solution in one singular form. For my genetic profile as a woman of African descent, 1 tsp of Moringa powder a day provided me with a sufficient amount of Iron, Magnesium, B vitamins, Zinc, probiotics, and Omega oils that I needed for my body to heal itself. I went from using 8 products costing me over £90 per month to just one product that met all my needs. I had to share this with every woman who is going through the same experience as I did.
What is your favourite way to use the super powder?
My favourite us of the powder in the body is as a latte. I prepare it by mixing 1 tsp with a little water to make a paste. Then add hot oat milk. I have this around mid-afternoon when I need an energy boost that isn’t caffeine loaded.
When using it on the body, I use our new product which is a super-dry oil. I infuse it with the moringa powder for about a week and apply onto my scalp as a hair growth serum. Moringa oil itself is the wrong profile if you have a congested scalp and fine hair but this combination is a perfect way to enjoy the benefits of Moringa without weighing down your hair and creating build-up.
What makes the super powder different to other wellness brand out there?
One of the deceptions of modern beauty is that complication equates a more sophisticated product. This goes contrary to what nature shows us as the truth. The proof is in the existence of such sophisticated singular ingredients being discovered such as Moringa. The use of it by traditional healers over centuries to cure a multiplicity of aliments debunks most modern beliefs in lab-made being superior to nature-made.
The bio-availability of ingredients is also showing that food-sourced ingredients are more readily utilised by the body. This is something you will experience when taking the Moringa powder – it’s very potent and you will feel it working straight away.
What are your favourite beauty routines and rituals to do?
I build a lot of rituals around beauty. My favourite is probably my evening bath. I love to bath in magnesium flakes and the Jo Malone Rose bath oil (or another bathing product I would have picked up from my travels). I love that I can top up my Magnesium levels through absorption, I also add the flakes to any scalp rinses I make at home. I use a dry brush on my skin when it is wet rather than dry as I find I am able to keep up my routine if it is a part of my bath. I have been doing this for years to maintain soft skin. I follow this up by my many oils to moisturise. I discovered a love for oils during a visit to Egypt in 2010 where I acquired a Lotus Flower attar and each time I travel I extend my collection. The scent is the longest lasting memory in the brain, therefore in every city I travel, I buy a perfume or preferably attar. It’s a way I can extend the memory of the holiday. I believe a woman’s scent should be a mystery, so I will use a combination of scents and perfume differently, in different areas, at different occasions. Never remaining predictable.
I have been studying the beauty rituals within the Holy Bible and the Holy Quran for over a decade now. I find them endlessly delightful. It’s where I have learned many of the personal beauty routines I use every day.
Are your products only aimed at women?
My emphasis is on serving women primarily because I am one. I can understand with greater depth the intricate challenges we face day today. With that said, ingredients know nothing of race or gender and anybody can benefit from our products. We have a community of women who aren’t our typical profile who want to learn about alternative holistic therapies originating from Africa. As we remain focused on telling the African story through African products, we are also attracting non-African customers who see us as the authority in this space.
What does beauty mean to you?
Beauty for me is certainly more than skin deep but my answer is quite brief. Beauty is the dignity in which somebody carries themselves.
What is the future of your brand?
I look forward to introducing other ingredients from across Africa including some not previously known to the international market. We hope to begin developing our own remedies next year with the aid of a world-class lab using some of these new ingredients. Combining today’s science within clean beauty formulations to develop new applications, in order to meet some of the more complicated beauty problems women in our community face.
We look forward to operating more internationally in the coming year as we onboard some international partners.
And finally, African Wellness™ is the narrative and the storytelling element of our products. Our collection of holistic practices across the continent paired with the indigenous ingredients used in our solutions creates the opportunity for us to curate cultural anthropology and blueprint for modern living. We will continue to build out our African Wellness™ database and grow out of the resources we have available online. In the future, I would like to see African Wellness™ practices as widely known as Ayurvedic and Eastern therapies.
This interview has been edited.
Check out the GUAP Arts & Culture section, to discover new art, film, and creative individuals.