Skincare Brand Tulii Puts A New Spin On Moringa To Develop Serious Serums
At 10-years-old, Margaret Ackah-Yensu’s legs were inflicted with a mysterious skin ailment that several doctors couldn’t solve. But, after her great aunt slathered a natural concoction she had blended on Ackah-Yensu’s inflammation, it subsided in a matter of days.
“Even though I was so young, the memory is so clear in my mind. It impacted me so much and affirmed my desire to share natural solutions for skin conditions,” says Ackah-Yensu, who six years later left her native Ghana for England to attend beauty school. “At that point, I didn’t exactly know what I was doing. In retrospect, I realize I was trying to find synergies between natural remedies that were passed down through generations and the science behind skincare.”
After a stint as a model represented by Elite Model Management in campaigns for Tommy Hilfiger, John Galliano, Emilio Pucci, Diane von Furstenberg and Ralph Lauren, and a career as an aesthetician at high-end spas, Ackah-Yensu, now 39, has returned to the mission that brought her into the beauty industry in the first place with Tulii, a new skincare brand she’s created with Rose Aziz, a former Procter & Gamble cosmetics product developer. Its two organic and fair-trade debut serums, Dawa Kali and So Te, are centered upon amino acids from Tanzanian Moringa leaves and seeds.
“Based on my background, I’m aware that you can achieve skin health without harsh and strong chemicals. With harsh chemicals, you may get the results you are looking for today, but, in the long run, you may destroy the integrity of your skin,” says Ackah-Yensu. “It’s not about a quick fix. It’s about maintaining the health of your skin long-term.”
“With harsh chemicals, you may get the results you are looking for today, but, in the long run, you may destroy the integrity of your skin. It’s not about a quick fix. It’s about maintaining the health of your skin long-term.”
The process to ready Tulii, which gets its name from the Swahili word for “calmly,” for the market wasn’t speedy. It lasted roughly seven years and cost $35,000 to complete two serums. Ackah-Yensu estimates she and Aziz rebuffed about 35 versions of the products’ formulas before landing on the final renditions.
“I grew up watching older women in my family whip up mixtures and put them on, but, to get the right consistency and stability, especially since we had the tall order of using no [synthetic] preservatives, how long it took was surprising. We would test the products, and they would be too thick or, we would leave something out, and they didn’t stay stable,” says Ackah-Yensu. “It’s one thing to mix product in your kitchen and use it right away, but it’s another thing to put it out there for public consumption.”
Moringa, a perennial tree known for its drought-resistant and medicinal properties, is a common font of beauty ingredients. Ackah-Yensu notes its seeds are often go-to sources for skincare formulation, but its leaves aren’t yet beauty staples. Aziz has figured out cold-press methods to extract amino acids from the leaves and, prior to Tulii, applied Moringa leaf extract to burns and severe skin impairments to much success.
“All the products that I know of use moringa seeds, and the research we have done shows the seeds oxidize quickly and go rancid, and we are able to stabilize extracts from leaves so it doesn’t oxidize as quickly.”
“When I met her and saw how effective it was, I thought, ‘This is a way we can really make a difference,’” says Ackah-Yensu. “All the products that I know of use moringa seeds, and the research we have done shows the seeds oxidize quickly and go rancid, and we are able to stabilize extracts from leaves so it doesn’t oxidize as quickly.”
Tulii’s serum Dawa Kali is designed to be a plant-fueled alternative to steroid creams for eczema and psoriasis. The universal serum So Te pairs Moringa with neem to even skin tone. So Te means “all of us” and Dawa Kali means “strong medicine” in Swahili. Tulii’s raw ingredients are harvested by the Gomvu Women Farmers Group in Tanzania and, in 2019, the brand plans to employ women from at-risk communities for quality control and packaging.
The serums are priced from $64 to $67. “Coming up with a price point was very challenging for us,” acknowledges Ackah-Yensu. “It’s a unique product, and we wanted it to be in the luxury market. At the same time, we wanted it to be accessible.”
For distribution, Tulii aims to enter department stores, upscale online e-tailers, and the offices of homeopathic doctors and dermatologists. The objective is to generate $250,000 during its initial year available.
“In five years, our goal is to be a household name and a well-established brand known for efficacy, and providing a solution for eczema and psoriasis without [synthetic] chemicals,” says Ackah-Yensu. “Also, we want to really able to have an established social entrepreneur component that’s empowering the women farmers we use and making a huge impact on their lives.”