Bernard & Olga van Vuuren – the founders of Nêô Sephiri, the result of rigorous research and climate change intervention

Our mission here at SKINDAYS is simple—to make shopping for skincare uniquely personal and a genuine joy. And to make that possible, we rely on working with the best brands in the industry to offer a curated edit of products that truly work. Whether it’s vegan cleansing balms, science-backed serums or trending tools, we only stock skincare from brands that provide efficacious solutions for your unique skincare journey. But what about the people behind the brands? Introducing Stripped Back: A new series that aims to share the story behind the brands that you love and a chance to hear directly from the founders themselves. So sit back, relax, and let us introduce you to our brand                                              

Skindays: What led you to create Nêô Sephiri?

Olga: The journey started almost a decade ago, when Bernard was developing the market for Kalahari melon oil on a wholesale basis – selling the oil to distributors, brands and formulators to include it in their formulations in small amounts. At that time, the ingredient was little known in the beauty industry.

Then, a few years ago, when on a skiing holiday, I experienced an intense sun and windburn after a day on the mountain. My skin was extremely sore and I struggled soothe it, especially in the dry winter air. I applied all my dermatologist prescribed products, which didn’t help. Almost in desperation, I tried using the pure Kalahari Melon oil – just from a sample bottle Bernard had lying around – and I experienced first-hand its naturally powerful properties. It was incredibly soothing, the itchy skin and redness went away and it relieved the tightness. Within a couple of days, my skin was back to normal, as it repaired my skin barrier. The single ingredient became a game-changer in my personal skincare routine.

We had also given the sample bottles it to friends who had difficult skin issues – baby cradle cap, stretch marks while pregnant; it helped a friend with eczema when nothing else did. We knew that it wouldn’t cause an allergic reaction or irritation because of all the tests the oil had been through. And they were willing to give it a try because nothing else had worked and they had nothing to lose. The feedback we received was incredible.

This made us realise the true potential of using the 100% pure oil as a product, and so Nêô Sephiri was born.

SD: How has your background influenced your brand?

Bernard: I grew up in South Africa as a child, after which we came to the UK. We had family links to a farm in the drought-impacted Kalahari area, where one of the few things that still survived after the worst drought for 80 years, was the Kalahari melon.

My background in biochemistry research and interest in endocrinology allowed me to have that ‘AHA!’ moment when we researched the plant’s incredible survival ability. After producing and testing a few early batches of the oil, the increasing amount of data we received allowed me to realise the sheer potential of the ingredient – that it was highly beneficial for healthy skin barrier function, and crucially, it was stable, meaning the oil didn’t go rancid easily. Not surprisingly, we later found out that the oil is absolutely packed with antioxidants! The continuous testing allowed me to really understand the oil’s properties and benefits for skin and haircare.

I understood that the ingredient we had worked with for a long time was really good on its own, and that it had enormous value for skin care as well as for climate and social impact.

I knew we had a really good product, and I believed that marrying the ingredient, social and environmental elements and putting it in front of people was an interesting proposition.

SD: Kalahari melon oil is your key ingredient. What are its benefits?

Bernard: We had almost 10 years of experience working with the oil, researching its properties and putting it through rigorous testing. This made us more knowledgeable about its benefits as a pure, one-ingredient product. It has numerous properties that make it beneficial to skin, making it stronger, plumper, more elastic.

Kalahari melon oil is very rich in linoleic acid (sometimes referred to as vitamin F), which is an essential fatty acid that is a crucial building block for the structure of each skin cell. When applied to the skin, it plays a multidimensional, bioactive role as a regulator for biological processes, precursors to critical ceramides, as an anti-inflammatory agent, photoprotection, and will even slot directly into the wall of skin cells.

In as little as seven days, it repairs the skin’s protective moisture barrier. So it reduces skin sensitivity, dehydration and irritation, calming inflammation, redness, itchiness and discomfort.

This property makes it suitable for all skin types and is excellent at soothing sensitive skin, eczema and rosacea – even in babies. It is naturally hypoallergenic.

It is extremely effective in rebalancing natural oil levels to help reduce excess oil and acne blemishes by actually regulating your skin’s natural oil production.

It contains the highest level of antioxidant vitamin E of any plant oil, which acts as a natural preservative, so we don’t need to use any preservative additives. All you have in Nêô Sephiri is the 100% pure cold-pressed Kalahari melon oil.

SD: What has been your most rewarding moment in developing Nêô Sephiri?

Olga: There have been rewarding moments in every step of the journey: Because we didn’t come from a brand background, learning how to brand something, finding out how packaging worked, and sourcing the most sustainable options possible.

Then, once we’d launched, we submitted the oil for awards, and we’ve won a number – including Harper’s Bazaar Best of Beauty and Global Beauty Awards.

But, actually, the most rewarding thing is our repeat purchases – people coming back to purchase Nêô Sephiri to include in their skincare routine. There’s so much available out there, so getting that vote of confidence in our product from someone a second time around, is very gratifying

SD: What sets Nêô Sephiri oil apart from other pure natural oils?

Bernard: When it comes to oils, the devil is in the details. Every oil has a unique fatty-acid composition, and varying degrees of different antioxidants. The fatty acid composition of our oil is very interesting (it contains 70% linoleic acid) but, almost more importantly, is its stability – which is down to the naturally occurring antioxidants in the oil, which is what keeps the oil stable, and stops it from becoming rancid too quickly, especially relative to other oils rich in Linoleic Acid.

SD: For anyone that hasn’t tried Nêô Sephiri’s oil, how would you describe it?

Olga: It has a light satiny-velvety texture. It has no added fragrance, and the very light nutty-hay aroma is unobtrusive.

It is not sticky or greasy and the skin absorbs it very quickly. It leaves skin feeling silky, with a lovely glow and a comfortable and nourished feeling.

SD: What are the immediate benefits of using Nêô Sephiri oil? And the long-term benefits?

Bernard: We’re not here to make claims about immediate transformations, even though the skin will feel more supple, smoother and more hydrated immediately. We’re not selling a cosmetic product – immediate equals temporary, whereas long-term equals permanent.

For us, it’s all about long-term skin health and strong, healthy barrier function, with regular use of Nêô Sephiri. We want to improve skin health overall.

It’s great for all skin types, including sensitive and oily skin. Putting an oil on an oily skin almost feels counterintuitive, but the linoleic oil normalises/rebalances the skin’s own oil production, so it also helps to reduce acne. We’ve seen it clear up bad cases of breakouts in as soon as six or seven days. All by just repairing that skin barrier function!

SD: Walk us through your brand ethos

Bernard: We believe in authenticity, and we are totally transparent about our provenance and our commitment to climate change intervention.

We might be closer to an ‘artisanal’ brand – as we produce everything ourselves, and we are the experts when it comes to this oil. Unlike most other brands, we control the full spectrum in bringing the product to market.

We plant and harvest the ingredient sustainably on our organic-certified farm, produce of the oil, handle logistics, and are involved in every step of the vertically integrated supply chain.

SD: You are a very conscious brand. What does that mean for you?

Olga: Our philosophy is ‘Native to the skin, native to the Kalahari’. Nêô Sephiri supports a healthy skin barrier, and our production process is in sync with our local ecology. It’s important to us and to our consumers that in healing our skin, we’re not harming the Earth.

We strive to be minimally disturbing ecologically – for example, we retain more than 95 per cent of the plant matter on the soil where the melons were grown, meaning we’re taking less than 5% out of the natural ecosystem.

It’s also important to us that we’re creating an economy in an extremely remote and drought-stricken area. This provides employment opportunities for people where the changing climate is making life even more challenging.

SD: Any tips on applying Nêô Sephiri oil to maximise its benefits?

Olga: It is a multitasking oil that has many benefits and applications.

Hydration: Use it as the final step in your nightly skincare routine. Think of it as slugging with extra benefits.

Outdoors protection: Apply it before doing sport and going outdoors in winter as a protective, moisturising barrier.

Soothing and healing: Apply to skin blemishes like acne to promote healing and reduce scarring. Use it daily on areas of skin prone to rosacea, sensitivity and eczema.

Make-up enhancer: Mix it with your foundation to provide a moisturising, smooth and velvety finish.

Skin nourisher: Rub leftover oil on cuticles and backs of hands.

Baby skin: It is a great oil for baby massage and for treating cradle cap.

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