Natassia Nicolao’s waterless beauty brand is making waves – and so is she as our Women of the Future Winner for 2022

How she's reducing the industry's water footprint and inspiring conservation within the beauty space.
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The beauty industry is grappling with an ugly problem. While brands urge customers to nourish themselves with rare, natural ingredients while utilising the latest lab-developed technology, consumers are increasingly aware of the resources going into creating these products and the waste they generate.

Water is a huge part of the manufacturing process, and the US$700 billion industry is estimated to produce 120 billion units of mostly one-time use containers every year. More and more consumers are asking how they can keep themselves clean and beautiful without trashing the planet.

Natassia has created a waterless beauty brand to help reduce the beauty industry’s water footprint.

(Photo: Supplied and used with permission)

It’s a question Women of the Future winner, Natassia Nicolao, 28, pondered during her years working in ethical sourcing and product development for beauty and wellness companies. She joined the industry armed with a degree in biochemistry, a passion for social justice and an interest in how humans are impacting the planet.

Having been raised by a strong, supportive mother, and mentored by supermodel-turned-entrepreneur Elle McPherson, Natassia garnered the moxie to use her skills and her passion to make a difference. In 2021, she created her waterless beauty brand, Conserving Beauty.

“Taking my experiences being an operations person on the nerdy side, I decided to re-map a product life cycle and look at it from start to finish to work out better ways to do things,” she says.

“It was just so obvious that water is involved in every stage of a product life cycle. It’s involved when we grow our ingredients, harvest, extract, manufacture, process. Everything we do has a huge water footprint – everything we use, buy, sell and make. On top of that, the beauty industry adds water, typically as the main ingredients in its products, despite it not actually having a direct benefit to our skin.”

Having lived through water restrictions in drought-ridden Australia, Natassia felt compelled to disrupt this overuse of water in the beauty industry.

For two years, she did everything solo. “When I started this business, so many people told me, ‘You’re not enough, you don’t have a co-founder, you’re not a marketer, you’re too young. Two per cent of global funding goes to female founding, you’ll never get,'” she says.

But she wasn’t deterred. Natassia is grateful for the formidable women who have supported her ambition and helped her keep faith.

“My main role model is my mum, who is pure strength,” she says. “The values and the lessons that she taught me really shaped me as a person. Growing up, I’ve always been super involved in social justice and planet impact.” Her former boss, Elle MacPherson, gave her professional guidance on channeling her passion. “I was her right hand for almost two years. I asked her advice all the time. She mentored me over the years,” Natassia says.

Natassia has always loved beauty, but the allure was less about glamour and artifice and more about the potential for change in an industry that makes a lot of money promoting indulgence and covetable ingredients. Her company strives to be sustainable every step of the way, but at its core, Conserving Beauty is about eliminating water from our beauty routines.

“It’s really rooted in water conservation first, and then managing your water footprint, your carbon footprint and your waste footprint,” Natassia says. “We create waterless beauty products and ground-breaking waterless technology and research projects to help conservate water.”

Natassia has always loved beauty, but the allure was less about glamour and artifice and more about the potential for change in the industry.

(Image: Instagram)

Conserving Beauty’s glass bottles and jars can be recycled through local council recycling. The cartons are 100 per cent post-consumer recycled paper and the recyclable packaging they initially rolled out for their wipes is being replaced with compostable packaging. The oils, balms and wipes are formulated without any water, and don’t require water to use. Conserving Beauty also has in its arsenal a nifty piece of game-changing beauty tech: face-wipes and masks that completely dissolve in water.

Natassia’s industry connections led her to a medical technology start-up that had created a fabric to help burns victims. “People could go into the shower, and it would disintegrate. It dissolved with water. We thought, imagine combining it with our [waterless technology].”

The dissolving fabric wasn’t intended for beauty but it is something the beauty industry sorely needs. Videos of customers dropping their wipes into a glass of water and swirling them around until they vanished created a lot of buzz around Natassia’s vision.

It’s an innovation she believes will help combat the havoc so-called flushable wipes wreak on the world’s sewage systems. Roles of twisted wipes have been clumping together and clogging pipes, and because they’re often made from plastics, when the wipes do degrade, plastic particulate matter is released into our waterways.

When Natassia launched Conserving Beauty, retailers grabbed onto her concept with gusto. Conserving Beauty products are already stocked in Mecca in Australia, and when The Weekly called Natassia to let her know she was a finalist in the 2022 Women of the Future Awards she was in New Zealand training Mecca staff. She is in the process of expanding into the UK.

Conserving Beauty is still in its infancy, Natassia says. With the help of the Women of the Future prize money, she plans to purchase a machine that will streamline fabrication of the wipes and mask fabrics. The publicity, meanwhile, will help her to spread the message that is central to Conserving Beauty’s existence: that beauty must do better. Natassia believes that, with a little courage and innovation, it can.

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