Let’s start with you. How did you find your way to genetics?
Well, I was born in Viljandi [Estonia]. I had always enjoyed biology. I remember seeing some documentary about genome therapy, and then I thought to myself, “Wow, this is really game-changing – I want to do that!”. That’s when I knew I would be studying genome technology at the University of Tartu. I was convinced that this was my true calling.
What brought the big change? I feel that sometimes university programmes can really disappoint. How did it go with you?
In high-school I used to be rather quiet and shy. But I feel like I completely changed during university years. They always try to make students more active and make them take part in different social activities. So, I ended up in the group of people who organised all the parties and events. The experience I gained made me open up.
To be honest, I was a bit disappointed. I had this huge dream of working with people and learning about the human body. But it ended up being more focused on bacteria! That’s when I really had to re-think my choices.
From there, losing your interest in studying genetics, you ended up working for Turbliss, a brand that focuses on a range of natural peat skincare and haircare products. Seems like quite a big U-turn.
In a way, it was, because it wasn’t anything I had ever considered before. However, I realised that I love make-up and I love beauty, so why not use my skills for that? I started to focus more on microbiology and learn more about the skin structure and how it functions. A good thing about my programme was that I got a lot of laboratory experience, which is what I essentially do today – I work in a lab and stir up new things from natural ingredients.
Now that you work in a natural cosmetics company, has your beauty routine changed at all?
I use less make-up now for sure [laughs]. I definitely value sleep more. When I do use make-up, I try to go for naturally-made products. I like Ontic Minerals, which is an Estonian brand and they don’t add anything extra – it’s clean and exactly what you need for everyday. I used to use regular cosmetics brands when going out, but just that one night caused my skin to lash out and look terrible.
"I had this huge dream of working with people and learning about the human body. But it ended up being more focused on bacteria!"
Where does the difference come from? We often try to compare 'natural' with ‘regular’, but what is that determing factor in, for example, face creams?
The pH level is really important. For me, it’s important that the pH level is similar to our skin's own – around 5.5. Turbliss has a peat tonic that has quite a low pH level. It helps strengthen the skin and bring down the pH level, if you use other [chemical] products. Now, what happens when the pH is too high in a product is that your skin becomes dry and the wrong bacteria feel more at home – and that’s not good for your skin. More itchiness, redness – the unpleasant things.
"What happens when the pH is too high in a product is that your skin becomes dry and the wrong bacteria feel more at home – and that’s not good for your skin."
I think it’s really important nowadays to know what you are buying and where it comes from. What’s your take on sustainable consumption and lifestyle choices, and how do you apply it in your life?
That’s an interesting topic, actually. I was just discussing the new plastic bag campaign with my granddad yesterday. They stopped giving out those small plastic bags in supermarkets in Estonia. But we realised that, surely, it does reduce the amount of plastic bags in circulation, but a lot of our food is still packaged and stored in plastic. There’s two sides to every coin. I try to use canvas bags when I go shopping. I think that if we want to call for change, we need to start the change from ourselves.
Like in those zero-waste stores in Germany and Denmark, and there are a few here in Estonia, too. They have a package-free concept.
Exactly. At first I thought I was weird when I put unpacked fruit and veggies on the counter, but it’s a tiny way to help the environment. That’s one thing I really like about Turbliss products as well – we use glass packaging, which can later be easily recycled.
Another aspect of appreciating slow living is spending more time with yourself and not rushing everywhere. How do you like to unwind?
I enjoy hiking in the forest on weekends or taking the dog out to the seaside. My dog loves it so much! I like travelling, too, especially in Estonia. There are so many strange places to discover here. I know I work with peat, but I really love our bogs. Time just stands still there. It’s just you, the silence, and the fresh air.
If you could explore a place anywhere in the world, where would you go?
Probably somewhere in the Carribbean. You know, the first thought that popped into my head was that I’d go to my summer home in the country. Build a summer kitchen, make a herb garden and grow herbs. My boyfriend and I really enjoy cooking. It’s a great way to spend time together.
Finally, what advice would you give on cosmetics to our readers?
It’s not all about the brands – sometimes small and less known brands make products just as great, only that it won’t cost you an arm and a leg to buy it. Don’t hesitate to read the ingredients and ask for assistance. Usually, ingredients with very complicated chemical names are actually some very basic compound, like coconut oil. Less is more. With a lot of ethical natural cosmetics brands you get what you need – no bullshit. And that’s what I love about it.