Akhal Beauty founder Myriam Baïssa grew up in Morocco with a mother who worked for multinational cosmetic companies but never used their products. “I never touched a supermarket moisturiser growing up,” Baïssa says. “We always used traditional products. I admit I stopped using Moroccan products when I moved to France, but that did me no good.”
Baïssa, now living in Sydney, launched Akhal in November last year, selling organic, ethically made, traditional Moroccan skincare. Products include pure argan oil, rhassoul (a powder made from volcanic rocks), rose water and prickly pear oil – all ingredients grown and processed in the south of Morocco.
Mixed with a little water, the silica- and mineral-rich rhassoul is used by Moroccan women as a cleansing face mask. Rose Hydrolat is then used for hydration before finally applying argan oil, which locks in moisture and protects the skin from the environment. Argan oil can also be used to moisturise hair and rhassoul as a shampoo.
Baïssa, a former investment banker, switched careers after travelling back to Morocco in 2015. She found the country almost unchanged from when she had left as a teenager. Despite the world’s appetite for Moroccan argan oil, many of the marginalised communities producing the oil were still struggling.
“There’s no such thing as a minimum wage in Morocco,” Baïssa says. “It was really heart-wrenching to see non-indigenous companies take advantage of other people’s naivety and weakness. I felt that I ought to be doing something for them.”
Baïssa sought out women’s co-operatives to harvest her brand’s skincare ingredients, paying the co-op the price they asked for. A dollar from each product sold is donated to the non-profit CIFD (Centre Imdghass d’Étude de Formation et de Développement), which helps communities from the same region with education and improving living conditions.
Baïssa’s current goal is to raise enough money to fund two minibuses to provide safe, accessible transport to and from secondary schools. If that goes well, phase two is to scale the project across 50 villages.
“We want to develop the women’s co-op ecosystem in Morocco, and we also want to help educate children in these communities,” she says.