Susanne Norwitz was a high-flying corporate career woman for two decades, specialising in communications as a Harvard graduate when she gave it all up to launch her own skincare line, Maya Chia.
Named after the Maya people and the core ingredient of her formulations, chia seeds, the brand has catapulted to cult status since its launch in December 2014. Everyone is talking about it, from Well+Good to the beauty bible that is Allure. So what is it about these tiny mottle-coloured seeds, and Susanne’s offerings in particular?
Besides their stupendous skincare benefits, the brand has pioneered and patented a supercritical extraction process that produces a pristinely purified oil formulation. This means that clean beauty enthusiasts like us who buy any one of Maya Chia’s products can get as much as 98 per cent of the oil in a stable and effective form in a bottle. And for every cherished drop used, our skin gets a little bit more of that long elusive glow.
“You don’t need to wear a ton of makeup to look radiant. You need healthy skin above all, and then the right kind of glow.”
Your brand name and all your products are based on chia seeds. Why chia?
Chia seeds are the richest known plant source of omega fatty acids, antioxidants and essential minerals — components that all play a vital role for the health of your skin. This is really all I needed to know. What this meant to me was that there was no other plant oil that would be more nutrient-dense — or more transformative — for the skin than chia seed oil.
Additional research confirmed this thought. For example, the Nutritional Science Research Institute tested the nutritional value of chia seed and reportedly said it contains, “the highest amount of antioxidants we have ever measured” and cited chia as one of the most powerful whole food antioxidants we know.
Further, in a study published in the Annals of Dermatology, chia oil was clinically proven to significantly increase skin hydration, reduce trans-epidermal water loss and increase skin barrier function. After seeing incredible before and after results in which participants only used a topical four per cent chia solution, I thought: “What would happen if you use almost all chia oil (98 per cent) in a product? How would that dramatically transform the skin?”
What type of chia seeds do you use?
Our seeds originate from select regions reputed for growing the highest quality chia (Central and South America) and we’re meticulous about the high quality of the farms with whom we work with.
Leaving a corporate career and starting a brand from scratch takes immense courage and dedication. How did this journey begin for you, and what is your biggest takeaway?
Thank you for saying that. The journey didn’t happen overnight, but involved lots of soul searching, many conversations and visits with industry professionals. I’d say that entrepreneurship is not for the faint of heart. It is a wild ride full of ups and downs, but I’ve found that what sustains you through those inevitable ups and downs is the passion for what you are doing.
“After seeing incredible before and after results where participants used a topical four per cent chia solution, I thought: “What would happen if you use 98 per cent in a product?”
How have customer responses been?
We are relatively new to the skincare industry, having launched in December 2014. But in this brief period, the feedback has been wildly positive from beauty bloggers, press and consumers alike. We receive the best responses from consumers — whether they are in their early 20s or late 50s — and regardless of their skin type, the glowing anecdotal feedback spans the gamut.
One of my favourite comments I received recently was: “I almost dropped my Maya Chia and thought Mars was in retrograde against me again.” That kind of enthusiasm says it all, and fuels us to do what we do.
In your patented process of the supercritical extraction of chia seed oil, why is it important that it’s oxygen- and solvent-free, and how does this benefit the resulting formula?
When you introduce oxygen into the extraction process, you elicit the onset of oxidation. And we prefer not to use solvents so as to have the purest and cleanest product possible. Because of the supercritical extraction process, there is a total absence of chemical residues and impurities, and the end product most closely mirrors the chemical profile of the plant. Also, our two face oils have a shelf life of up to two years when unopened, which is very important for a natural product.
What is the best way to use this oil, especially in Singapore’s climate where it’s hot and humid all year round?
People have this misconception that you don’t need to moisturise your skin as much when in climates that are hot and humid. But so often the skin is dehydrated and needs, or craves moisture in excessive temperatures.
We prefer a scaled back minimalist approach to beauty so we recommend using our face oil after cleansing. You may choose to mist your skin prior, or not. Then apply the face oil in your hands to warm it, and press it into your skin in upward strokes.
Tell us about some of your favourites from the line, and your preferred way to use them.
Ah, it is so hard to choose. It’s like Sophie’s choice!
Okay, I will always have a soft spot for The Super Couple™, which was our first major success. The Super Couple™ ultra luxe facial serum has natural astaxanthin and supercritical chia, as well as 14 plus other active botanicals. The Super Couple™ targets anti-ageing with even more vigour than our supercritical chia oil. It kicks it up a notch by adding natural astaxanthin.
Natural astaxanthin, one of nature’s strongest antioxidants, addresses hyperpigmentation, wrinkles, firmness and elasticity. To give you an idea of its power, natural astaxanthin is clinically proven to be 65 times stronger than vitamin C in combating free radicals.
Maya Chia’s first commercially successful product, The Super Couple™
I also love the Highlight of the Day illuminating serum. It is an effortless way to look polished and glowing without having to wear a lot of makeup. It’s about ease, and again about being a minimalist. You don’t need to wear a ton of makeup to look radiant. You need healthy skin above all, and then the right kind of glow. There’s a blogger on Instagram, @mylucitedreams who always says, more glow = less makeup. And I agree wholeheartedly.
The Highlight of the Day mineral sheen is in a nutrient-dense base of chia seed oil, broccoli seed oil and calendula. It wears like a dream, and it’s pretty much foolproof and incredibly versatile. I was not blessed with the artistic talent of a makeup artist, so that’s an important one for me.
The Highlight of the Day in Happy Hour – Imparts a “cool-toned pink radiance, as if you are radiating with joy.”
The Highlight of the Day in After Hours — Gives a “bronze-golden glow, gilding the skin with a believable sunlit sheen, ideal for a beach-y summertime look.”
The Highlight of the Day Golden Hour — Leaves a “warm, golden, champagne-like radiance — as if you are lit by candlelight.”
What are some of your current favourite skincare or makeup products that you use daily?
We respect the fact that a portion of your net profits go to charitable organisations that help build schools and farms for the Maya people. What is it about them that you wish more people would be aware of?
Thank you for asking, because we don’t get that question too often. If you could paint a people with a broad brush, I would say that the Mayas are gentle and kind, and have endured unspeakable and heart-breaking oppression.
A percentage of Maya Chia’s net profits are donated to helping the Maya people of Central and South America.
What can we expect from Maya Chia next?
We will be launching a couple of new and exciting innovations in the new year. We are always, always looking to improve and do better.
Finally, what does the idea of conscious living mean to you?
Again, a great question. It means quieting your mind, and the noise around you so that you can pay attention to what matters. In our business, what you put into and onto your body matters. But it also doesn’t mean being hard on yourself for indiscretions. I guess what it all boils down to is that our days are numbered on this planet, so when we live a conscious life, we try to suck out the marrow of each day, while not being too hard on ourselves in the process.
“Our days are numbered on this planet, so when we live a conscious life, we try to suck out the marrow of each day, while not being too hard on ourselves in the process.”
Images courtesy of Maya Chia