Sonya Dakar is the beauty industry’s grand-dame of face oils, launching her iconic Omega Booster back in 1983 around the same time we were lining up to watch Return of the Jedi in theaters. Dakar is a sort of skin Jedi, time in her chair feels like The Force is not only restoring your complexion but working your abs because she’s also freaking hilarious. Celebrities like Gwyneth Paltrow submit their famous visages to her cutting-edge red light treatments, diamond facials and organic apple stem cell applications to glowing results.
She’s also a woman of reinvention, carefully retooling formulas and adding to her collection of (addictive) botanically-based products, most recently expanding her Organic Omega line with an Organic Omega Sculpting Face and Neck Cream and Organic Omega Overnight Sculpting Mask. Her Hoya Nourishing Body Oil, an insanely hydrating blend of sweet almond, grapeseed, flaxseed, hoya and passionfruit is a constant in our winter skin routines.
By her side is her daughter the VP of the company, Mimi Dakar Berry. These woman have collaborated on the family business for over twenty years. We sat down with the two blond powerhouses to chat effective work strategies, their hero products and yes a little GP as well.
First up, Sonya…
I loved that you essentially rebuilt your brand a few years back, tell me how that experience has shaped your approach to your business?
About 8 years ago, I had a major shift in my company and I decided that it was time to create a brand new skincare line. I was really excited about starting something new.
I had my daughter, Mimi and son, Yigal with me every step of the way. Together, we had over two decades of experience and we were looking forward to working with a blank canvas. At the time, the economy was crashing, and I found that it was necessary to create a smaller, more accessible line, while still using the most cutting-edge and effective ingredients.
I was not bound to old formulations. My creative juices were really flowing. I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed meeting with my chemist, where we would formulate products together in the lab. I loved the entire process and I was thrilled to be at it again.
I decided that creating formulas that were as natural as possible was equally as important as the efficiency and results of my products. I also knew what worked and what didn’t work and I used that knowledge to create the most edited and effective skincare collection possible.
You’ve shifted to more botanically-based formulas. What is your take on the organics craze in beauty?
I have always believed in a natural approach to skincare. Since I started my career over 30 years ago, my products have been naturally-based, incorporating natural ingredients (such as flax seeds, sulfur, and plant extracts), as well as essential oils.
However, if a client comes to me with concerns of acne, discoloration, or rosacea, I don’t believe that a bottle of almond oil or lavender oil will give them the results they need. I believe that we need science as much as we need nature, so, I combined the two worlds in the most natural and effective way possible.
You are a gorgeous flamboyant Taurus, tell me about how your professional relationship with Mimi works.
Mimi and I have a very open and honest working relationship. We are like yin and yang. We are so very different in our approach to business, yet our company could not work well without the other. I bring the fire, the passion, and the expertise, while Mimi is grounded enough to take my passion and transform it into something tangible. Mimi has a great vision and she is an extension of me (although, she is more practical, while I am definitely more wild). We balance each other. We have been working together for 20 years now and every year, our working relationship evolves.
How do you deal with conflict? Any advice for other entrepreneurs working with family members?
The most wonderful aspect of working with your family, especially your children, is that at the end of the day, we are all coming from a place of love. We are all working towards the same goal: to grow our business and continue to improve upon ourselves and the work that we do. We want to build a company for our children and grandchildren, and leave a legacy for them.
My biggest advice for entrepreneurs working with family members is not to skip the formality starting out. Yes, it’s family, but it is also still a business. Make sure all of your i’s are dotted and all of your t’s are crossed. Set your business up the right way, from the very beginning.
We also have one rule:
No business talk in front of the children and grandchildren. When I see my kids and grandbabies, we keep it 100% family time.
If someone was coming to your line for the first time, name your top three products you feel really speak to the Sonya ethos?
- Organic Omega Booster: I love oils. I have loved them for my entire career and in my personal use. I can’t live without it.
- Flash Facial 1 Minute Peel: You literally see results in one minute. It sheds all your dead , drabby, grey skin away and your skin looks and feels so much softer and better after the first time that you use it.
- Nano Mask: I love sleeping with a hydrating mask. I slather it on my face, neck, and décolleté. It seals in all of my products and takes my skin to the next level. It really turns a night’s sleep into beauty sleep.
Of course, your products are GOOP-approved, tell me a bit about working with GP, her skin is amazing. Any Sonya tips she follows you can share with our readers?
She is a true style and beauty icon, not just for the world, but for me as well. She has been a client for over 20 years. Her skin is flawless, but she is just as beautiful on the inside.
She started taking care of her skin at a young age, and that is what I preach to all of my clients because you can see the results on her skin. She is a natural beauty, does not get any work done, and needs no makeup. She is really aspirational.
Check in for Mimi’s interview later this week, we’ll chat working with mom, her routines and favorite LA haunts.
Photography by Winnie Au