Meet Saya McDermott, founder of Saya, the organic, vegan, native botanical skincare brand based in Noosa
Saya McDermott never set out to build an A-beauty brand. She was experiencing her own skin issues, which led her to formulate products with natural and organic ingredients only for herself and some family and friends. However, they were so effective that McDermott wanted to share the love and, without any experience in business, her brand, Saya, was born. After 15 years, she has seen the Australian beauty industry evolve along with advances in technology and product development. Here, she explains why manufacturing in Australia with sustainably sourced native botanicals produces the best results.
Tell us about when you started Saya and how the idea came to be what it is today?
“Having struggled with bad skin for years, I found it difficult to find a product that helped my skin. I was so frustrated with my troubled skin that it became my mission to learn how to create my own skincare products. I spent a lot of time researching and experimenting different formulations, and what certain natural ingredients offered the skin. Over time, my formulations seemed to be working, and my skin got better. Seeing what these incredible natural and organic ingredients could do was the start of my passion for skincare.
“It was never my intention to create a skincare brand, I just wanted to make skincare to help solve my problem skin. After years of making skincare for myself, family and friends, I decided I wanted to help others who were experiencing the same frustrations as I did. It took me many years to bring the brand to life. I had no experience in marketing or sales but I reached out to people around me to help. My first big step was selling my products at the local markets. This was a great way to get customers to try my products and it’s where I met one of my first stockists. It all started from there!
“I’ve been selling my products for about 15 years now, and it’s been so amazing to see the brand change so much over the years. We have so much more we want to achieve, but it’s always amazing to see how much it’s grown since the start.”
Tell us more about your philosophy and how it guides your brand and product development?
“We have always been Australian-made, using sustainably sourced and high-quality ingredients within our formulations. We’re proudly cruelty-free and vegan, so every product development decision comes back to ensuring we’re staying true to brand. This philosophy also influences decisions like who we choose to collaborate and work with.”
Can you talk about the ingredients you use and where you source them from?
“Our main goal is to use ingredients that are mainly grown and produced in Australia, however in some parts of the world, certain botanicals thrive and are far better controlled and more sustainably produced. We use a wide variety of sustainably sourced native botanicals grown in various regions of Australia. These native species are exposed to harsh weather conditions in Australia, surviving extreme heat, drought and weather. They have consequently developed a highly efficient self-defense system composed of a cocktail of various powerful compounds to survive and thrive. Technology allows us to extract these compounds, stable and alive, and add them into our formulations.”
How are sustainable and ethical practices incorporated into your business?
“Every decision we make, we keep sustainability in mind. We’re proudly 100% Australian-owned, and all of our products are manufactured within Australia. Even our product packaging is produced in Australia, which is either PET plastic or Miron glass. Both these and the labels can be recycled (labels to go into soft plastic recycling, which is available at most Coles and Woolworths stores). As we are Certified Organic, our products are already held to a very high standard, ensuring traceability to the source and sustainable farming practices. Our entire range is also vegan and cruelty-free, and only ever tested on friends and family!”
What is the importance to you of being made in Australia?
“We want to support Australian businesses and workers, so sourcing our packaging, labels, and manufacturing our products within Australia is extremely important to us. A lot of brands tend to outsource to other countries to keep costs low, but their carbon footprint is high! Being Australian-made ensures our products are sustainable, and aren’t travelling thousands of kilometres before reaching us (or our customers). We also really value being able to develop and maintain close relationships with everyone involved in the business.”
What changes have you seen in the Australian beauty industry and the ‘A-beauty’ category in recent times?
“A-beauty is definitely having a moment in beauty innovation. I think it’s because of our high-quality standards and incredibly unique ingredients. We have the ability to extract some amazing compounds from our native flora that have evolved to withstand harsh Australian environments, and utilise them in our formulations. The results speak for themselves! More A-beauty brands seem to be using Kakadu plum, which is an ingredient renowned for its extremely high vitamin C content (100 times more than an orange). Kakadu plum features in most of our range.”
What excites you about the potential and future of Australian-made beauty and skincare products?
“We’ve seen such a huge development in A-beauty over the years, especially in the clean beauty sector. Australian consumers are becoming more aware of the ingredients that are being used in traditional cosmetics and the potential dangers or unsustainable practices that are tied to these, which is driving A-beauty industry growth. We have access to powerful native ingredients, right on our doorstep, and people are experiencing the incredible results that come from using these within skincare formulations. The term ‘A-beauty’ didn’t really exist until recently, so even this shows we’re on the map of amazing skincare!”
What is your personal beauty regimen?
“I like to keep it simple, and now I have a baby, I keep it quick! I always ensure I take care of my skin by allowing myself time to complete my skincare routine in the AM and PM as consistency is key.
“Every now and then I use my Argan Body Oil as an overnight hair treatment, and slather the Rich Body Cream all over my body after I shower. It really helped with my skin elasticity during my pregnancy, which is imperative for avoiding stretch marks.
“I also like to get Dermapen skin needling done when I can. It’s a fantastic treatment and does wonders for my skin.”
What has been the most rewarding part of being a business owner? And what has been the most challenging?
“The most rewarding part of the business is the creative freedom! I get to design and formulate products. The research and development side of this is something I really enjoy. I also get a lot of personal fulfilment from helping people achieve their skin goals, particularly if they’ve struggled with issues like I did for a long time.
“There have been many challenges along the way, from growing the business on my own to managing growth, but each experience has taught me a lot. Challenges make you learn more about yourself and what you can handle. In the past I didn’t deal very well when things didn’t go quite the way I had planned and just thought I had failed. Now I use these experiences to learn and grow.”