Meet Nyakio: Kenyan Skincare For All

By  April 19, 2013

Nyakio Grieco first launched her namesake skincare line independently in 2002, drawing inspiration and ingredients from her Kenyan heritage but has became a part of Gurwitch and hasn’t been available since 2009…until now! Using ingredients sourced from not only her native land, but exploring throughout the continent, Grieco discovered beauty rituals and natural ingredients like Kola nut, marula, honeybush tea, mongongo nut oil, and more that would help her reform her skincare brand. We recently got the chance to sit down with the founder to chat about the line’s revamp as well as the many natural ingredients that work wonder to give skin–regardless of shade–that gorgeous, youthful glow.

Q: What initially sparked you interest in skincare?
A: I’m a first-generation American of Kenyan descent, and both my parents are from Kenya. I come from a family of farmers, a medicine man, healers, etc., and educators, and I used to go to Kenya when I was a little girl with my parents and spend time on the farm with my grandmother, Nyakio, who is obviously my namesake. [I] was very inspired when I would go to Africa, even as a child, mesmerized by the sophistication and the beauty and the colors and the people. Because I’m a huge fan of beauty and have been since I was a very little girl, I felt like the continent of Africa wasn’t represented in a sophisticated way. And so, through my time, I decided to create the Nyakio brand to bring the beauty and sophistication of Africa to women here of all skin types, all races, and the journey has been pretty amazing!
Q: Which was the first product you created?
A: The very first product that I ever created was a Kenyan Coffee Body Scrub, based on the recipe that I learned from my grandmother, who was a farmer. And she would go out on the farm, farm all day—she would do it barefoot—come back at the end of the day and take her coffee beans, boil them down into an elixir, add honey, and then use a sugar cane rod from her farm to exfoliate her skin. That was some of my earliest childhood memories of this beauty secret that was passed down to me. She was the inspiration for my Kenyan coffee collection.
Q: What are some of the highlights of the collection?
A: [The Kenyan Coffee Face Polish is] gentle enough for use at least two to three times a week. In dryer months, I use it a little bit more often. [It’s] full of antioxidants and energizing properties, and obviously we have the exfoliating property. So I created the Kenyan Coffee Face Polish, and that’s for your face. And the greatest thing about this face polish is that you literally have an immediate radiance after you use it. I joke that I come out of the shower ten years younger, because I come our and it really not only wakes up your skin, but it almost evens your tone, as well.

Our Hydrating Kola Nut Collection, which I explained is also packed highly with caffeine. The first product that we’re going to launch in May from this collection is the Hydrating Face Oil with Kola Nut, which I am so psyched about. This oil, your skin just drinks it right up it’s very light, just a couple of drops go a long way. It’s also packed with different African oils; it’s go an oil called ximenia from Zimbabwe, a South African trichilia oil, a Moroccan chamomile oil. Not only do you experience an even toning through using the oil and you are able to really see that radiance, it also helps to fill in fine lines and wrinkles.

Q: How was the transition from having your own independent line to working with Gurwitch?
A: I’ve launched just a few bath and body SKUs about ten years ago independently and distributed them to upscale boutiques and had a really great reception from that, but knew that I needed a real partner to be able to really delve into the world of skincare. And so that’s how I met everyone from Gurwitch. And it also allowed me the ability, because I knew a lot about East Africa and Kenya and that’s where I’d spent my time working with Gurwitch, I was able to then go explore all the corners of Africa and start looking to other people’s rituals and celebrations and incredible, indigenous ingredients from Africa, and it’s been really, really awesome to discover really efficacious ingredients.

It’s a labor of love. The whole process is fascinating to me. And I feel really, really lucky to be able to do it. And Africa is this huge continent. There’s so much more for me to discover. I would make a hundred products right now if I could. But it’s so nice that we really focused on what’s important to you: hydration, hydration, hydration. You stay hydrated; you stay young.

Available exclusively at HSN and in May and in June for $34-$55.