Interview With Beauty Guru Lakesha Benson
I have a confession: I’m a beauty product junkie. From luxury brands with their $400 night creams, to “of the moment” Asian brands, to vegan lines that promise to give me the all-elusive glow of pubescent Hollywood darlings, I will purchase and try just about anything in the hopes that I can reverse the hands of time and recapture the skin I had when I was still in diapers. Yes, my goals are just that haughty. So when I was given samples by an up and coming beauty brand, LaVita Lush, I was cautiously optimistic.
No need. This all-natural skin care and make up line that has recently found it’s way into my beauty bag, packs a mighty pretty punch. From their honey and oats facial cleansing cream to their Triple Threat Body butter in Caribbean coconut and the dynamic Cleansing Coffee Scrub, my beauty routine has become a complete indulgence. My skin is brighter, more even-toned, moisturized and even firmer. And with a girlfriend-friendly price point, you won’t need a trust fund to try them for yourself.
Lakesha Benson, founder of LaVita Lush, graciously answered a few questions that I hope will prove beneficial for women who are looking to support ethical, natural, and emerging beauty brands on the rise.
What propelled you to start your own business?
I first created products because I wanted to find a natural and less expensive alternative to the prescription and steroid creams that I was using to treat my son’s eczema. The over the counter creams seemed ineffective and the steroids worked. However, I wasn’t comfortable using steroids on my child’s skin so frequently. My mom, who also suffers from eczema, began using it and many of her friends and colleagues saw how drastically her skin improved within a short time. They began asking for it and I began experimenting with scents. It became too expensive to give away, so we started selling items, and through word of mouth my brand grew.
How did you get into the beauty business?
I’ve always been a closet nerd and a problem solver and allergies, eczema, and sensitive skin plagues many of us. I continued to develop beauty products because I was fascinated with the process and the belief that I could make a product using gentler and more natural ingredients that would rival and exceed those that are currently on the market. I’m the first to admit that I have expensive taste, but as a mother, I just didn’t want to spend the money on myself. I wanted to develop products for consumers like myself. My first lipstick was my attempt to replicate my favorite MAC lip color. My first hair products were for my hair stylist who wanted something to enhance her curl pattern. Most of my product developments have come from customer requests, or from trying to find personal solutions. I continue to research and develop new collections for my customers giving them the luxury they deserve for a price they can afford.
What advice can you give aspiring entrepreneurs that you wished you had known when you first started LaVita Lush?
I wish that I had known the process of starting a business and the importance of networking. I spent a lot of time researching ingredients and developing products, but I didn’t spend nearly enough time fine-tuning the actual business side of it. I learned a lot along the way and from my missteps, but if I could go back I’d have sought the advice of someone who’d been there and conducted more research on the technicalities of running a business prior to starting.
What are the pluses and minuses of being your own boss?
Owning your own business allows you to follow your own vision, cultivate your creative side, and it allows for a more flexible schedule. It also gives you the greatest sense of accomplishment and satisfaction. I’ve also had many opportunities to form relationships and network with a diverse group of people. There are also disadvantages: I can no longer look to a boss for things like health insurance, retirement plans, and bi-weekly pay. Being the boss means everything falls squarely on my shoulders and while I may be an expert in one field, I’ve had to quickly have to learn how to do EVERYTHING. It’s been a challenge because I started my business while still working as a juvenile counselor. So my biggest challenge was pursuing my passion, which is my business and growing my customer base while ensuring that they are satisfied.
What beauty tips can you give to women in their 20s, 30s, and 40s?
For the twenty-something sect, the key word is CLEANSE! Develop an actual regime. Teenage skin issues won’t disappear as soon as you hit 20. Try not to get hair products on your face and DO NOT sleep in makeup. And just because you have oily skin, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use a moisturizer. Cleanse, moisturize, and let their skin breath (in that order)!
I’m still in my 30’s and I can tell you the main advice I’d give is to EXFOLIATE! It’s important for those in my age group to stay hydrated and moisturize. At this age you should know which of your features you truly love. Don’t be afraid to highlight those. If you have great eyes, make them pop! Lastly, I’d say, allow yourself the occasional splurge but don’t overlook a beauty bargain.
My last tip, (and the one I don’t follow enough), is to get enough sleep. The closer I get to 40, the more the lack of sleep shows.
Though this holds true for all ages, the word to focus on in your forties is MOISTURIZE! At this age, you really benefit from adding additional moisture as well as using a toner and focusing on using products that have naturally, age defying benefits. You also may want to reboot your skincare routine. What worked in your 20’s may strip your skin of the moisture you now need. Many products contain natural fruit enzymes that will exfoliate your skin without the “feel” of exfoliation. You’ll want to use cleansers that add moisture instead of stripping the skin and pay attention to ingredients. And while focusing on your face, do NOT neglect your neck, which can show signs of aging before your face does.
What is the one mistake women make when it comes to their skincare?
The thing I see most often is that they buy products without giving consideration to their own skin type or needs. Mature skin, oily skin, dry skin…each requires a specific regime and everyone responds differently to specific ingredients.
What is your bestselling item and why?
My Triple Threat Body Butter is my bestseller. I believe the body butters have maintained their popularity because people really want affordable options and natural alternatives to their favorite products. However as of late my cleansing creams are also in high demand. There are great products for your skin that don’t have great fragrance and there are some great fragrances that are either too harsh or don’t have the skin benefits of our body butter. That, along with the variety of scents that we carry, is why our butters are so beloved.
What sets LaVita Lush apart from all the other beauty brands?
We make an effort to appeal to all consumers while focusing on those who have an appreciation of nature, a desire for luxury, and a need for affordability. My goal was to create a product line that appealed to the senses. I want to create products that smell good, that look good, that make you feel good, and that even sound good; those that you can feel good about using. Natural products aren’t always luxurious. The typical large brand covers the problem without addressing it and healing it. We want to do both. Our goal is it be the brand where luxury and nature collide. As a woman of color, with a very diverse family, I was determined to create products, scents, and colors that appealed to, complimented and represented all the uniqueness and beauty of those whom I know and love. I wanted to celebrate diversity while being inclusive.
Where can shoppers buy your products?
I’m happy to announce that my website www.lavitalush.com will launch officially on February 1, 2017 but we’ll actually be online and taking orders on January 23, 2017. Customers can also purchase my products online via my Facebook and by contacting me via Instagram. I’m currently available in two boutiques in South Carolina…Fox and Collins and Hattielue Handmade.
A recovering TV producer, I'm working fastidiously--yet unsuccessfully--on my addiction to politics. I'm a hopeless Miles Davis enthusiast, who enjoys gallery-hopping and Nutella cupcakes. I owe my green eyes and gumbo-cooking talent to my Creole genes. And when I'm not blogging all things chic, me and my fur baby Lola Bean Pod are living it up in Atlanta.