Maryann Okoro has always had an interest in skin care. “I was the young girl buying one potion or lotion every other week, looking for the best product out there for my skin,” she says. After enrolling in an organic skin-care formulation course, she started creating her own products, indulging her fascination with plant oils and giving a special nod to her African roots. The result, Kambiio Skincare, is a range of high-quality, effective skin care, conscious and intentional products—that’s made in Canada, to boot. We chatted with Maryann to get the 411 on the brand, and we’re giving you a chance to win! —Noa Nichol
Hello Maryann! Please tell us a bit about yourself to start.
I’m the founder of Kambiio Skincare. I moved from Ireland to Saskatchewan in 2018. I knew it is cold over here but didn’t imagine how brutal the winters would be. I was pregnant at the time and my skin became sensitive and suffered from excessive dryness due to environmental and hormonal changes. My background is in pharmaceutical science with drug quality assurance and regulations. Once, I had my baby, I started looking out for pharmaceutical jobs but it was difficult to find one in my locality. I finally got into the cannabis industry. It was a new and exciting industry with loads to offer. I was in a new country, a new job and I just thought I will learn something new! I enrolled in skin-care formulation courses. I always had an interest in skin care but the problem was I approached it with overconsumption. Previously, I would use a dozen of products at once and suffer from burning sensations and irritations here and there. I was so attracted to gigantic marketing product names rather than the product ingredient lists. It was a turning point for me to have a better understanding of the products I was consuming. You can imagine when a brand says they used a certain technology or complex, they trademark a name and you find out it is in fact an in-house blend of a couple of essentials oils or where a minuscule amount of a hyped ingredient has been added only for the purposes of marketing. It definitely felt good to be experimenting and creating products for myself that suited my own skin needs. Aside from skin care, I enjoy travelling, fashion and interiors. I love reading self-development books. My all-time favourite is The Secret by Rhonda Byrne. I love anything that involves researching or investigating. I feel they all bring certain elements to Kambiio.
When and why did you launch Kambiio? What niche in the beauty/skin-care realm were/are you aiming to fill?
A couple of years ago living in Ireland, my sister and I would discuss how we can import cosmetic products to Ireland. My sister is very much into makeup, but finding the right products that suited brown skin was very difficult at that time. A lot of the new product launches would happen in the U.S. and it’s a pain to get them over to Ireland. This was the pain for a lot of people really and we would always talk about having an outlet where we can import these products and sell them. We talked about it but didn’t have the money and time to progress with the idea. That was the first time I thought about venturing into the cosmetics world. I thought about creating cosmetics a few times but I always pictured it like pharmaceutical manufacturing/production plants, with big mixers, bioreactors and multi-unit operations. I didn’t think it was practicable. In the middle of studying organic skin-care formulation, I started to think I could actually do this. My primary skin-care concern is sensitivity and dryness. I wanted to bring back lustre to my skin and maintain a healthy skin barrier. The foundation of Kambiio started in the winter of 2019. A lot of groundwork was put in right in the middle of the pandemic in 2020 and we finally launched this summer, 2021. I wanted to bring products that were without the fluff, without fillers, without the marketing gimmicks. I also wanted an empowering connection with the products that I use. I discovered the benefits of African botanicals and unrefined ingredients, and you will always find them in our formulations.
What products do you currently offer, and what makes them unique?
We currently have two products: our Kambiio Excel Radiance Oil Serum ($115) and Kambiio Dreamer Refining Oil Serum ($110). Everything about these two products is unique. From the blend of premium nutrient-dense botanicals, result-driven formulae, to our essence as a brand, our ethos and our distinctive packaging. We champion rich African botanicals as well as virgin, unrefined ingredients in our formulation to deliver valuable phytonutrients with compelling benefits for the skin. Our main focus is promoting optimal skin vitality and radiance with the beauty that nature has given. Our current products are without fragrance and essential oils, which a lot of people with sensitized skin appreciate. When we overload our skin by combining too many actives, too many products, or have adverse reactions from certain ingredients, products like the Excel serum will help nourish, protect and fortify the skin barrier. The mild scent of the products is all from raw organic virgin/unrefined ingredients. Quality assurance is very important for me. We ensure our products are made without compromise, in an environment that is compliant with good manufacturing practice (GMP). Our products are also third-party tested for heavy metals and other quality parameters. Heavy metals like lead, cadmium, mercury, arsenic and antimony present significant toxic properties and are more likely to find themselves as impurities in natural skin-care products because they are naturally occurring in the environment and are also likely present in pesticides and fertilizers used for cultivating. These metals have to be within the acceptable limits in cosmetic products. Even though we fall under the “clean and natural skin care” umbrella, we predominantly use the term “conscious”. For us, being conscious is knowing that each product has been created with intention, the awareness of our skin, the type of ingredients we use, our formulation, production and packaging process; the decisions we make, what we do and why it matters.
Tell us about the African connection, through your company name, botanical ingredients and gorgeous packaging!
I wanted to go back to my roots on this one. It is was something that was authentic for me. Africa is written all over the brand in subtle ways. The name Kambiio is culled from the word Kambiri, which means to come alive in the Igbo language. Igbo is a large ethnic group in Western Africa. There is a particular Igbo way of speaking where they add “o” at the end of a sentence. That is how Kambiio came about. Part of our DNA is distinctive patterns inspired by African Uli murals. Uli designs are decorative abstract lines and curves used years ago to beautify the skin and body, drawing attention to one’s best features. It is used to restore or give an identity not just on the body but on properties such as walls, fences, pots, and textiles. It is also worn when celebrating festive occasions. Uli is comparable to modern-day tattoos. People admire the beauty and uniqueness of these designs. In ancient Egypt and some other parts of Africa and Indian cultures, we see the use of henna. Henna is still used today to beautify the skin of a bride on her wedding day. We harness luxurious botanicals from the rich soil of Africa, like Marula, Baobab, Moringa and Kalahari melon. I am also working with other rich and sumptuous African botanical extracts for future products. These indigenous plant botanicals have been tried and tested for many years because of their skin-benefitting properties. They are rich in antioxidants with restoring and anti-inflammatory properties. They are very valuable for radiance focus formulations because they are excellent for premature aging, moisture-retention, rejuvenation, and hyperpigmentation skin care. They are ideal for all skin types including dry and sensitive skin. A very popular African ingredient is Shea butter and it is loved by so many as well. The efficacy of these botanicals speak for themselves. Every precious drop of our products delivers optimal phytonutrients that revive the natural radiance of the skin. I thought at the time, working in the cannabis industry, maybe I would venture into a CBD-infused skin-care brand. Coming from a science background, you have to look at historical data on the use of these ingredients, scientific understanding of phytochemistry to connect the dots and see the value of African botanicals. With all that being said, Kambiio is simply an expression of restoration, beauty and radiance.
Your product names certainly are empowering; tell us about the process of coming up with those, and how they reflect your brand/beauty philosophy!
It took a while to figure out the right names for the products. I made a couple of changes before settling for Excel and Dreamer. I wanted the names to be elevating and also reflect the description of the product. A couple of months prior to this time, my little boy was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). A lot was happening at the same time. My co-operate job was at stake due to the time I had to attribute to appointments and early intervention programs. At that point, I knew that Kambiio had to be more. I immersed myself completely when I had to work on Kambiio. I wanted a positive feeling to hold on to. I wanted self-appreciation and reflection that allow me to be present. I wanted to go out there knowing I will excel each morning regardless of what the day brings. I wanted to continue to dream with purpose with an attitude of gratitude. This for me is my wellness pursuit. Skin care is important but the care of self is crucial for our wellbeing. Our entire brand philosophy is created with intention. This is intentional and I hope that others feel empowered in one way or the other. In that little time when you apply your skin-care products, that self-touch when you stand in front of the mirror, you have the power to transform not just your skin but your state of mind, too.
What new launches from Kambiio can we look forward to next?!
There is a lot in stock for Kambiio. I’m currently in the research and development phase for a couple of products. It is too early to know what product, in particular, will be launched next. I am going to key into post-market reports, reviews, and feedback of our current products and see where these lead in terms of new product launches. There is a lot of interest in the Excel Radiance Oil Serum. I presume a Radiance Hydra Serum or Elixir may possibly be the next product launch. Definitely follow our social media pages to know when we have news on product launches! For me, every aspect of Kambiio must be created with intention. It is always a conscious approach.
Please take us through your personal Kambiio skin regime!
I use the Excel Radiance Serum for my a.m routine and the Dreamer Refining Serum for my p.m routine. This gives me the optimal balance for my own skin needs. The Excel is also amazing for my hair, cuticle and lip care while the Dreamer makes a good makeup remover. I do mix a few drops of the Radiance Serum with a loose highlighter to create a light shimmering veil, highlighting the top of my cheeks and the bridge of my nose, especially on no-makeup days (basically me every day 😊). Beyond skin care, every Kambiio product presents an opportunity to elevate your routine. A time to care for skin, care for self and embrace your inner radiance.
Win! A Kambiio Serum Of Your Choice!
Congrats Elizabeth K. of Brentwood Bay, B.C., who will receive their choice of Kambiio serum, plus a 100 per cent cotton beauty pouch. Please note: if you are the winner, you will receive a DM (direct message) in Instagram directly from @vitadaily.ca. Please be wary of fake accounts, which often use similar handles with an extra or missing letter, number or symbol. We will never ask for a payment or for your credit card number, and we will never ask you to click through a link. If you are unsure whether you have been contacted, via Instagram, by us or a fake account, email us before responding.