Emma Davis was working as a make-up artist in Melbourne when she struggled to find a sanitiser that would cleanse her hands without drying them out and making them smell like alcohol. “I became curious about what I was putting on my skin so I started researching relentlessly. Then ‘bang’, there was an idea.”
That idea was for a nourishing hand cream that also sanitises. Her solution? Esst, a moisturiser with all-natural antibacterial properties. “I recognised the need for a hand cream that could tackle germs while promoting the natural conditioning of our skin,” says Davis, who would need to sanitise regularly and between clients.
Four years of research and development followed, during which time Covid hit and she realised what had been an idea for a niche product could have mass appeal. “With Covid, I no longer had to educate people on the importance of hand hygiene, but my job now was to educate them that a cream with beautiful nourishing ingredients and Australian botanicals could kill the germs.”
Esst – a nod to the word essential – sanitising hand cream (priced at $39) includes sandalwood for its antiseptic and astringent properties; nerolina oil for mild disinfectant qualities, and honey myrtle oil to tackle bacteria. Also in the mix is silver citrate – which has been used to remove skin bacteria and pathogenic microorganisms – and shea butter and macadamia oil for hydration.
Vegan, cruelty-free and packed with Australian essential oils, the cream was developed with a chemist in Australia. “The process was very time-consuming and needed my chemist to think out of the box and continually talk to ingredient manufacturers,” says Davis.
Once finished, the lightweight and non-greasy moisturiser, with a fresh citrus scent, was submitted to an independent laboratory for government testing that proved it would kill 99.9 per cent of bacteria. “Even the lab was blown away that we passed the 30-second kill rate test, which is the one all sanitisers go through,” says Davis.
Convincing people it can feel and smell good and also kill germs is now her biggest challenge. “People can’t get their heads around it,” admits Davis.
There’s a plan to follow on with two more products, although she’s not giving much away. “Let’s just say that they’re also essential everyday items,” she says. “I like products with purpose and I want Esst to be known as the brand that will be safe and do what it says.”