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The Roots of Beauty: Ewa Asmar

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Ewa Asmar is the founder and director of Bionée organic mother and baby products and a former cosmetics executive for global beauty companies like L'Oreal, The Body Shop and Yves Rocher. She was born in Poland, grew up as a German citizen and graduated from the Sorbonne and the prestigious ESSEC Business School in Paris. Today Asmar runs Bionée from New York City, where she lives with her husband and two sons.

Q: What impact does your Polish heritage have on the way you view beauty?

A: Eastern European women still have very different beauty rituals from those of Western and Asian women. We have a different approach to beauty in Poland. It is much more common for girls, not only in Poland but also in Russia and the Czech Republic, to use natural remedies rather than Western products. Even though the trend [of big Western beauty companies] is very strong and the temptation is there, a lot of people cannot afford those products and stick to traditional, natural recipes. They highlight hair with lemon or use honey on skin.

You learn these natural recipes from your mother, but when you are an adolescent you exchange them with your girlfriends, and then you experiment. You might put beer on your hair mixed with lemon for shine, or you put cucumber slices on your eyes to calm and moisturize them.

Q: What where traditional beauty routines in your home?

A: Everyone in Poland has a very basic soap, we called it grey soap, at home. It's the most basic soap without any fragrance, additives or moisturizers and people use it on skin as an acne remedy and a strong cleanser. Everyone swears by it. You can also use it to wash your clothes. It's a universal soap.

The cleanliness of your feet is also very important. Eastern European women take very good care of their feet. We would scrub almost every day with a pumice stone to keep our feet soft.

Q: What role does natural beauty play in your life today, as a mother and a business owner?

A: Today beauty has become much more sophisticated for me, and my choices are more closely based on my own education and experience. I tend toward natural products now, which is what my company represents. I am always surprised to see luxury products that I used to think were great, but now when I see their ingredients I completely change my perception.

Q: What are your personal beauty philosophies now?

A: I believe that a beauty product should be pleasurable to all of your senses. I know that a lot of people don't like products with fragrances, because they think all fragrances are bad, which is a myth. You can have a very nicely fragranced product that uses natural scent. I test a lot of natural products out there today, and it's not pleasant to put them on your face if they stink. A lot of formulations do not smell well because of their components. But I would not buy such a product. It should smell nice, spread nicely on your skin and give you a nice effect at the end.

Q: What is your favorite beauty ritual today?

A: To me the most important ritual is peeling, or exfoliation. I do this at least once a week at home. I'm not a spa person but there are very nice exfoliating products out there to use at home, or you can use a nice face brush or a cloth to remove dead skin cells. And as soon as you do that you can feel the difference and you can apply makeup much more evenly on skin. Gentle exfoliation is very important to me.

Q: What are your favorite beauty foods?

A: I strongly believe in carrots. I think that carrots and beetroot are great for the skin. I recently learned that the fruits and vegetables with the most pigment have the highest concentration of antioxidants.

Q: Why did you start Bionée?

A: With my ten years in product development and my experience in the beauty industry, I knew that I could offer women more than what was out there. When I came to the U.S., I was surprised to see that there were not more product options out there for pregnant women and babies, especially natural and organic. Here in the U.S., organic food is so popular, but I wondered why there was not a skincare line based on those healthy ingredients. Apart from that, I was pregnant with my first child and I was in the right place to test the products and understand the products from the view of a pregnant woman.

Q: What will you teach your children about beauty?

A: I like simple beauty. I don't think I will ever have a skincare routine with many products that you layer. I think when you expose your skin to too many ingredients it gets irritated and loses its natural self defenses. And hair as well. I would never wash my hair every day. I am confident that if you wash every day then your hair will become more and more oily as you dry it out. If I have a girl, I wouldn't like her to follow the trends of straightening and coloring her hair all of the time. I would want her to be more classic, and more healthy and natural.

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