Conscious Beauty And The Business of Beauty: Interview w/ Rohan Widdison, CEO of New Laboratories
Whilst originally destined for a career in the disciplines of political science, criminology and law, Rohan Widdison’s path ultimately followed that of his family, initiated with thanks to his mother and running of a successful beauty college in Melbourne. Rohan recalls these early beginnings — ‘Her business was growing and she needed back-office help. I started helping out with it and immersed myself into learning about the industry so I could really help her business. I found I really enjoyed the space.’
The CEO attributes his work ethic to his mother, stating ‘If I didn’t have a very strong focused and savvy mother, I wouldn’t be where I am today. I owe my drive to her. My fork in the road was having someone like that to guide me.’ Perhaps as a sign of what was, and still is to come. The legacy of success and longevity within the industry has punctuated the careers of both mother and son — with Rohan’s mother running that business for over 50 years and Rohan now proudly eclipsing three decades in the industry himself.
What was the first beauty routine you adopted as a child or teenager? Which emotions do you connect with this memory?
High school! My first ‘beauty’ routine definitely revolved around problem skin. Luckily for me, with my Mum in the beauty industry she got me sorted pretty quick. She brought home products for me to use and told me what to use and when. What I think was the best thing Mum did though was explain the why behind the products which I think helped. This naturally came from her running a beauty college but it changed the perspective of the products for me, as I wasn’t just doing what my Mum had told me to do. I understood what the products did and how best to use them. Looking back now I think that shaped how I viewed the beauty industry from an early age. Thanks Mum!
CONSCIOUS BEAUTY — What meaning do you give this term?
For me, conscious beauty is about turning off our autopilot and making conscious decisions when it comes to the products we buy. It’s about consciously making purchasing decisions based on our personal values and ethics and not making purchasing decisions based on habit. For example, purchasing beauty products which are ethically sourced or from manufacturers or brands that have a proven record of quality and innovation.
Quite often we continue to purchase our skin care and hair care products because that’s what we’ve always used, but many people don’t stop and ask themselves if the product aligns with their values and ethics.
I also think conscious beauty is about our daily routines which become our own personal rituals. Whether it’s the products and makeup we use in the morning or our bedtime routine. Conscious beauty is also about being present in the moment during these rituals and not leaving ourselves wondering if we put on moisturiser or forget to put on mascara as we were merely going through the motions on autopilot.
Which aspects of sustainability in beauty are especially important to you?
New Laboratories are big in the organic, natural and palm free space. Our personal care products are manufactured with the usage of plants as main ingredients. The growing interest in chemical-free products, along with the increasing disposable income and rising standards of living in developing economies is fueling the demand for natural and organic personal care products, but without these resources there will be no organic personal care products.
When do you consciously feel beautiful?
I always feel better when I know I’m looking after myself, both physically and mentally. It takes a conscious commitment, but I definitely feel more confident when I’m eating well, exercising regularly, sleeping well, drinking enough water and taking care of my skin. My skin also looks a lot better naturally when I’m taking care of myself and when my skin is at its best it definitely increases my confidence levels.
Did your approach to beauty change within the last 1–2 years?
I went back to my roots and looked for evidence based products that do what they say. Maybe a sign of getting older and have a family, but looking at the reality vs the hype has been a key focus. Overlay that with my professional life in this space, makes for an eyes wide open approach to beauty.
How would you like to see the image of beauty change within the next 5 years?
I think the image of beauty is already changing and it’s slowly changing in the right direction. For example, social movements such as the body-positivity movement and inclusiveness which through the power of social media advocates for the social acceptance of all bodies, skin colours and backgrounds regardless of size, gender, race, or appearance. Whilst we have come a long way in not only being more accepting of all and kinder to ourselves with our own self-image, the body-positive and inclusive movement is still a work in progress. Within the next five years I’d like to see this movement to not be a movement but be the societal norm, and for brands to have a broad appeal to all consumers whether it be colour cosmetics or functional beauty that does what it says.
What or who inspires your beauty routine?
I have to be honest, as a man, my beauty routine is pretty simple. But when it comes to my inspiration, that’s easy, my clients inspire me. We develop pretty close relationships with our clients so we learn their backstories, their values and what drives them. I often find my clients brand stories inspiring which organically leads me to using their products.
What is your best beauty advice to others?
My beauty advice to others is this, beauty is individual so don’t worry about what others think or do. Not everyone thinks the same things are beautiful, and thank goodness for that or life would be rather boring. If you’re not sure what products you should be using, start with your own values and use that as your research base. If your values are cruelty free and recyclable packaging, research products using these phrases. That way you’ll be making purchasing decisions which are aligned to your personal values and you can feel good each time you use your skincare and hair care products.
Connect with Rohan Widdison on LinkedIn.
Demee Koch about the MEDIUM interview series on CONSCIOUS BEAUTY:
Hello! I am a serial entrepreneur with more than 2 decades of experience in the health & beauty industry. This interview series is intended to create awareness about the movement of Conscious Beauty.
We are in a beautiful time of Conscious Beauty — you may have heard of this term, but what does Conscious Beauty mean, and why does it matter?
For us, beauty is a way to love — it is about self-care, art, nutrition, exercise, life, self-love. I invite you to become part of a movement that re-defines beauty. Let’s empower beautiful minds.
Thank you for being the change. I’m looking forward to learn from you. Reach out to me via LinkedIn.