If you’ve had a conversation (or read an article) about skincare in Australia lately, chances are Rationale has come up. The Melbourne-born brand has become one of the country’s most coveted skincare brands in recent years thanks to its Essential Six regimen (three products in the morning and another three at night), a routine that promises you the best skin of your life, but one that comes with a cost: $1000, to be exact.

But in recent months, a new name has popped up in conversations about luxe skincare trends: Emma Lewisham. The eponymously named brand hails from New Zealand, and could be described as that country’s answer to Rationale, but with a difference. The founder aims to provide the same high-performance results – sans synthetic preservatives and “over 2,700 ingredients that are deemed to be deleterious, or potentially harmful or unsustainable”.

After Lewisham was told by her doctor that some ingredients in her regular skincare routine could be harmful during pregnancy, she went on the hunt to find alternatives. “I tried to find skincare products that were truly natural with efficacious and evidence-backed results, only to find this didn't exist,” she says.

For Lewisham, “clean” skincare means all the products she uses are 100 per cent naturally derived, without proven and suspected harmful ingredients. Some of those ingredients include parabens, sodium laureth sulphate, phthalates – the list goes on. (Although there isn’t conclusive evidence that all these ingredients are harmful or carcinogenic, either.)

Certain that other women would be in the same predicament, Lewisham decided to take matters into her own hands, beginning what would be a three-year process of perfecting the product she couldn’t find elsewhere – “the La Mer of natural skincare” – before launching her line in September 2019.

And it turns out her prediction was spot on. Despite launching three months before a global pandemic and subsequent economic crisis, demand has been overwhelming. In its first year, the brand is outperforming the numbers Lewisham had hoped to achieve in her third year of business.

Her number-one selling product is the Skin Reset serum ($139), which focuses on reducing hyperpigmentation (darker skin patches that arise due to age, hormonal changes and sun damage) by inhibiting melanin production.

The first-hand reviews are enticing: after recommendations from no fewer than three friends in the space of a week earlier this year, I’m now onto my second bottle and my freckle-prone skin has never looked better.

“For me, achieving a meaningful difference means setting a new standard in skincare: proving that luxurious, high-performing skincare doesn’t have to come at a trade-off to women’s health or the planet,” says Lewisham.

In late 2020 she released two new products: a retinol-equivalent face oil ($130) and an anti-ageing cream ($134). Her goal for 2021? To make the company 100 per cent carbon neutral and introduce a circular production model (where waste and pollution are eliminated from the business model). Initiatives such as the Emma Lewisham Beauty Circle (a free, incentive-based recycling program) and a refill program are already running in Australia and New Zealand.