New Zealander Lucy Marr was authentic before authentic became a buzz word. With unrelenting energy Lucy has been behind some of Auckland’s most beloved places including Stephen Marr hair salons, Lucy & the Powder Room, The Department store and cult sustainable beauty brand, sans [ceuticals]. In between running several businesses and looking after two boys, she takes time to cook great food, work in her ceramics studio and immerse herself in nature - all without being preachy or owning her own Instagram account (perhaps that’s the secret). We met with Lucy to talk about sans [ceuticals] - a luxurious beauty brand she has forged with laser-like focus; creating products are highly-active yet multi-purpose and completely free of harmful chemicals. As Lucy explains the cornerstone beliefs of sans it’s clear that these are also her own - honest, hardworking, ethical and supportive of the women around her.
When and why did you launch your beauty brand sans [ceuticals]?
I started developing sans [ceuticals] in 2007. It was born from a frustration of not being able to find pure, natural, results-driven products, that were also thoughtfully designed and sustainable.
I was working closely with a couple of dermatologists so I really got to understand skin at a fundamental level. I wanted products that could have a noticeable effect on skin conditions such as eczema and dermatitis. Because of my background as a hair stylist, I also wanted to create high performance hair care that had the ability to repair damaged hair. Doing this naturally has been something of a challenge with hair care but I believe we have finally achieved it.
When I was studying to become a hairdresser, I fell in love with trichology — a medical and cosmetic study of the hair and scalp. I have always loved science and am a voracious researcher. I also spent a lot of time with a dear friend who is a bio tech scientist carrying out exciting research in the field of cancer. She is a massive beauty junkie and would spend hours talking me through ingredients and how cells work.
Since launching your company almost 9 years ago, have you seen a dramatic shift in people’s mentality towards the environment, and particularly the concept of ‘clean beauty’?
In the last five years we have seen a surge in natural, clean living, where people can transform their health through superfoods and healthy living. Clean beauty is an extension of that. The skin is our largest organ and absorbs 70 percent of what is applied to its surface, so it pays to be conscious of what we put into and on our bodies.
sans [ceuticals] is a big supporter of natural beauty, and female empowerment in a space that often profits off female insecurities. Can you tell us a little more about the messages you aim to convey through Sans?
Throughout my life, I have found women to be generous, smart, supportive and non-judgmental making them exceptional friends, mothers and life companions. For me, these are the qualities that make someone truly beautiful.
Today, more than ever, people are editing and curating their lives and physical appearance in a way that is totally idealized through the lens of social media. Life can be tough, let alone without constantly being bombarded with unrealistic messages of perfection.
For Sans, I wanted to generate imagery and content that is honest and warm and that fosters a sense of connection, inspiring confidence, rather than self-judgement or feelings of alienation.
Thankfully there are some great brands championing this for a healthier and more positive representation of women.
Do you have a favourite product from your line?
Activator 7 Body + Hair + Face Oil, without a doubt. It does everything! It’s a super serum that packs a punch with high concentrations of Vitamin A. I put a few drops in my face cream at night for an added boost, use it on the ends of my hair as a smoothing and hydrating serum… I shave my legs with it, remove my eye make-up (when I remember) and also use it post shower as an amazing daily body oil.
What does beauty and self-care mean to you?
For me, self-care means restoration and comes in a really simple form… having time out with a cook book, a bath on a winters night. It is usually solitary time that's restorative because it’s something I very rarely get to do.
Because my time allocation to beauty is pretty minimal, when I get the chance, I love a good soak in the bath, face masque and overhaul. This can be as rare as a comet sighting so it's a real treat when I get to do it.
Do you have an impressive beauty regime? Walk us through it!
I have a minimalist routine. This is by necessity, not design. I’d rather spend my time doing other things than wiping stuff all over my face and body. A brilliant dermatologist who I’m close to thinks that that we do far too much to our skin, and I agree. A simple, singular approach can be far more powerful. Again, minimal. It’s like a fire drill in my home every morning with my boys, so the focus is on school lunches and getting out the door. Having said that, I use sans [ceuticals] Goji Cleansing Oil everywhere. I wash my hair once a week with the Nourishing Hair Wash & Ultra+. I mix Activator 7 Oil with Synergie Super Serum C and I apply my mascara in the car. I do sometimes wear RMS Un-Coverup, which is made primarily of pigment and coconut oil.
Do you have a daily uniform?
Yes, again, this is by necessity not design. It’s usually jeans, sneakers, white singlet and blazer. I’m basically on auto pilot and need getting dressed to be as simple as possible.
What is the most treasured piece in your wardrobe?
My 15-year-old Costume National boots. They still look great and go with just about anything.
You are a big foodie, and a great cook - can you share with us a new recipe you’ve had on repeat in the kitchen or a new ingredient you have recently discovered?
My all-time favourite recipe — Persian Gondi [go-n-dee]. We call it the Middle Eastern answer to penicillin in dumpling form. It is super comforting & loaded with a super dose of spices. This dish is sure to bring joy inside & out.
Sustainability and a connection to nature seems intrinsic to all that you do — have you always placed importance on this, and when did you really take interest in sustainability?
I am very connected to nature and the land. For me, it has informed my upbringing, my interests, and how I spend my time, whether that's rejuvenating or getting inspiration. In 1995 I became ill and started to research ways to heal and transform the body through natural and alternative methods. Methods that also support the body and immune system long term, rather than singularly treat disease. This opened up a whole new path for me, looking into what we eat, how we consume, what influence we can have through voting with our wallets. It’s been a long and interesting journey.
What is one simple step people can take to help the environment?
It is always the simple things that make a difference. I always say, adopt a new behavior and slowly make it habit forming. I see this approach as having more long term value and more sustainable. A couple of things to start with can be:
+ get in the habit of turning switches off at the wall when not in use
+ reducing the amount of meat you consume each week
+ try not to waste water and cut down general consumption
I’ve read you’re a big gardener! Auckland always seems so fertile and lush, are you growing anything special in your garden at the moment?
Sadly, no! I’m in-between houses so I don't have a garden at the moment. I have just bought a house so am scheming and plotting my next vege patch. The place we are moving to has just under an acre so my eldest son is working on a project to set up a chicken coop and get some chickens. My colleague Devon is about to do a course on permaculture so no doubt she will come back to work to a wall of questions!
What would your perfect weekend in Auckland look like?
It would be winter. The day would start with a coffee at the farmer’s markets. There would be a walk out on the west coast and then home to something slow cooked with a good glass of wine. This would be finished by all piling onto the sofa to a good film.
Can you share with us a book, podcast or film you’ve seen recently that left and impact on you?
My friend gave me Alice Waters biography— Coming to my Senses for Christmas. She is such an incredible woman and if you are a foodie, I would highly recommend.
Best spots in Auckland for breakfast?
The Kimchi Project in Lorne St, downtown Auckland
Han, a modern Korean restaurant in Parnell, Auckland. They do a really great BBQ – sensing a theme here?
My place. I have started fermenting kefir and make a killer, pink grapefruit and ginger with gin cocktail, its outrageously and dangerously good!
Bethells Beach lake walk. The landscape is so beautiful and alien like.
What are you working on next and what can we expect to see next from Sans?
We are working on a concise collection of skincare products for the face called the Superdose Collection. I was chatting to a dermatologist recently who said he sees a lot of inflammation and skin sensitivity from overly-complicated skincare regimes. After working in the beauty industry for over twenty years, I have been frustrated that most cosmeceutical skincare requires purchasing multiple creams and serums to be effective. We are working on a more simplified yet targeted approach, combining key actives such as A,B,C & E in one formulation to really deliver results.