Meet The Founder

15 Minutes With Indie Lee

We grabbed some precious minutes with brand-founder (and all-round inspiration) Indie Lee, who told us all about her self-named range of super-natural, ‘eco-chic’ skin care…

{Cult Beauty} Could you begin with a little bit of the brand back-story?How {Indie Lee} came to be, and what differentiates it?

{Indie Lee} On November 4th, 2008, I was diagnosed with a potentially fatal brain tumour that doctors believe was environmentally derived (my successful surgery to remove the tumour was Earth Day, April 22nd, 2009). When I questioned how someone like me – a fit, organic food-eating woman, with no family history of an illness of this kind – could wind up with a brain tumour, they highlighted the ingredients in the personal care/beauty products I may have used year in and year out. 

I was shocked to learn that up to 60% of what we put on our skin is absorbed directly into the bloodstream. Studies have shown that certain ingredients, found in many skin care products may cause health issues, such as cancer, auto-immune diseases and infertility in some people, while others who are exposed to those ingredients remain unaffected. In that moment, I knew my mission: to create a line of ‘healthful’ products that would be effective and chic.

{CB} There’s increasing concern about the impact of our (ever more) toxic environment – which negatively impacts on health and is shown to accelerate the skin-ageing process. What are your ‘top tips’ for urbanites who want to protect their complexions from pollutants?

{IL} I travel into New York City for business and pleasure on a regular basis. It still surprises me by how much dirt and grime appears on my toner-soaked cotton pad when I wipe it across my face, neck and décolleté upon returning home.

A few of my top tips are:

· Clean your face with a non-stripping, skin balancing and antioxidant-rich formulation

· The right toners are fantastic for use as a dry cleanse at the end of the day, or after a sweaty workout to remove sweat, balance pH and provide anti-ageing benefits

· Clean your mobile phones and make up brushes on a regular basis

{CB} This worry about exposure to toxins has sparked renewed interest in ‘clean’ cosmetics. You position the range as ‘eco-chic’ – can you explain a little more about what this term means, and how you source/identify the best ingredients?

{IL} To me eco-chic represents products that provide beauty without sacrifice. When I started this company, it was important to create and offer products that use wholesome ingredients, felt wonderful on the skin, were effective, looked beautiful on my bathroom counter and helped the planet.

For our formulations, we carefully source plant-based ingredients from around the globe to provide the best quality and highest concentration of nutrients. Our boxes are from recycled paper, most of our vessels are glass, we silkscreen the bottles vs. adding labels, and our e-commerce fulfilment house is solar powered.

{CB} Squalane seems to be a favourite ingredient of yours. Can you demystify what squalane is and what makes it skin-beneficial?

{IL} The body produces squalene in abundance until our mid 20s. As it’s production diminishes, the texture, tone, colour (i.e. hyperpigmentation) and dewiness of the skin changes. When I started to do research on what type of facial moisturiser would fit in our line, I had an ‘a-ha!’ moment: “Why not just use squalane oil?” 

I have found that by adding squalane to my daily regimen, positive changes to the skin are recognised almost immediately. I can’t tell you how many emails, social media comments and even handwritten notes I receive thanking me for this one product, which has changed their complexion. 

Keep in mind squalane oil can be derived from various sources and can be of varying quality. Our squalane oil is made from olives, and we use only olives of the highest quality. We are also a certified leaping bunny, cruelty-free, company.

{CB} What would you say is the ‘hero product’? The one that’s guaranteed to kick-start an {Indie Lee} addiction?

{IL} That is a tough question as it is hard to pick just one product. I would have to say the three superhero products that we are known for and the ones that would wear superhero capes if they could, have got to be the {Squalane Facial Oil}, {Brightening Cleanser} and {CoQ-10 Toner}.

If I had to pick just one – it would be the squalane oil which has even been called the ‘Holy Grail’ in multiple articles about it. I joke that I can’t live without it. I struggled with cystic acne into my late 30s, but using our squalane facial oil has totally transformed my complexion. I rarely break out and my skin has never been healthier. I’m proud to say I no longer find a need to wear foundation. Friends have even commented that I look younger today than I did in my 20s.

{CB} Clogged pores and congestion are another all-too-common complaint amongst those exposed to stress and toxins. Which steps – skin care or otherwise – would you recommend to keep skin clear, calm and blemish-free?

{IL} The skin care products you use are an important step in achieving clearer skin, but what we put into our bodies, can be just as important as what we put on our skin. When I eat right, limiting gluten, sugar and dairy, my skin is usually at its best. 

Regularly cleaning your cell phone screens, make up brushes and linens are another step to a better complexion. And as for skin care, I recommend using cleansers, toners and moisturisers that balance and hydrate and are free of synthetic fragrances and alcohol. I also recommend using a non-drying, detoxifying mask weekly.

{CB} There’s a lot of confusion surrounding face oils – with many espousing (and others revoking) their usage. Many people are still phobic about using facial oils – what do you say to those who’re dubious (or scared) of integrating oils into their skin care ritual?

{IL} I can’t tell you how many emails, social media comments and personal conversations I’ve had on this one subject. It is true that some oils clog pores, resulting in acne. But, using the right oils (non-comedogenic, non-greasy) can actually deliver beautiful, clear, hydrated skin. 

So how do you start? I suggest doing a patch test; try a non-comedogenic oil, such as squalane or jojoba on a portion of your skin to see if you have a reaction and go from there. (I actually suggest this for all products). In addition to the countless reviews and conversations we’ve seen here at Indie Lee & Co., I can personally attest that I have been using facial oils for years and went from suffering from severe cystic acne to being virtually blemish-free.

{CB} Is the range suitable for vegans? With so many adopting a vegan diet, we’re seeing a demand for cosmetics to comply.

{IL} All our products – with the exception of the Hydrating Body Balm and Calendula Eye Balm are vegan. Both of these balms contain beeswax.

{CB} Do you have a favourite make up range? Which ‘toxin-free’ cosmetics do you swear by?

{IL} It’s such an exciting time in the industry right now. We are seeing more and more brands come to market offering toxin free cosmetics. Of course, I do have a few favourite lines that I tend to reach for on a regular basis – I’m a huge fan of {W3LL People}.

{CB} And finally, what’s next for {Indie Lee}. Do you have any exciting new products in development?

{IL} 2017 is already looking to be an incredible year for {Indie Lee}. It’s always been my mission to stay connected with consumers and to empower others to make healthier choices by highlighting what you put on your body is just as important as what you put in it. So in addition to new products (sorry can’t divulge yet), I’m particularly excited to making more personal appearances and writing in the coming months.


Verity Douglas

Verity Douglas

Content Editor

Verity is our Content Editor and a Cult Beauty veteran. Currently on maternity leave, raising Cult Beauty’s honorary ‘word nerd’, Tabitha, she speaks fluent ‘beauty’ and loves nothing more than the marriage of language and lip balm (and cleanser and candles… ad infinitum). Nothing can stop her from quoting Nancy Mitford, treating herself to yet another Bella Freud candle for her desk or buying that pilgrim-esque collared or heavily fringed outfit she’s been eyeing. You can trust her to debunk widespread beauty myths and dispense invaluable advice with ease…