Sara Al Rashed On How She Has BuIlt Her Ethical Beauty Label ASTERI

Emma Hodgson   |   14-03-2024

Saudi entrepreneur Sara Al Rashed was born and raised in Riyadh, where she lives today. During her childhood, she and her family would escape the Saudi heat each summer to Paris and the south of France, and it was here that her eyes were first opened to the world of fashion and design.

Following her studies in both Riyadh and London, she took her first steps into the creative world with an internship at London interior architecture studio 1508, before returning to Saudi Arabia in 2018 and launching her first brand – the ethical and cruelty-free beauty brand ASTERI – following the Pandemic. The house is the first local brand on the scene which is built to combat the trying Middle Eastern climate while remaining true to its core values. This month we sat down with Al Rashed, to learn more about ASTERI and her plans for 2024 and beyond. 

How did you first get into the beauty industry?

To be frank, Covid was the main push for me to start ASTERI. I was unfulfilled with what I was doing prior but I never had the time to sit,  think and reflect. The time during lockdown gave me the time to think and research about the business. I have been involved in fashion and design but never beauty, especially the creation of it.

What inspired you to launch ASTERI?

It was a combination of things really. I have always struggled with skin issues growing up and it was always a struggle to find the right products that can give me the right coverage but also looks like skin and are easy to use. I also dont like to sit in front of the mirror for hours, I want to look good – and fast! Our lives as Arab women have become increasingly hectic, and fast-paced nowadays, we dont have time to sit down with a make-up artist every time we want to go out. We want make-up we can use easily, looks good, is professional and is kind to our skin. Something else that inspired me was the stereotype about the way Arab women look. I wanted to show the differences in Arab women and embrace these differences. 

What are the unique challenges in creating make-up formulas for the region?

The main challenge is creating efficient products that last long in the heat and are clean and vegan. We test our products locally in the heat and in labs too to make sure that they can last in the trying Middle Eastern climate, without being heavy on your skin.

How does ASTERI differ from other brands on the market?

We are made for this region and the ladies in the region. We represent the modern Arab woman. we are clean, vegan and long-lasting. 

What does your morning routine look like?

I try to keep it simple as I am not big on spending a lot of time in front of the mirror. First thing I do is cleanse, then put on serum, and moisturiser and finish up with a sunblock. I try to keep my make up application light in the morning, especially as at the office I will be testing and trying a lot of products during the day.

Do you have any daily beauty rituals?

I am all about hydration from the inside and outside. So I never step out without moisturiser on my skin, I always carry a bottle of water with me, our legacy lip balm, and a moisturiser in my bag. And I always put on a sleeping moisturising mask. 

Which products have been the most popular from your range and why?

Our Maha Mascara is phenomenal and one of our best performers, it doesnt flake and it stays put all day long and really makes a difference. Our super massive kohls are very popular too, because they dont move. Our HERizon eyeliner is a favourite –it is very easy to apply and lasts. The swoosh blush sticks too and our universal lipliner and legacy lipsticks. We are a new brand and people are always willing to try a new lipstick, or mascara until they start to trust the brand and then start exploring more products. We are seeing this with a lot of the women who are embracing the brand. They are coming back and expanding their collections.

As a company, you are incredibly vigilant about making your products ethical and cruelty-free. Is that a difficult process? 

It is much more difficult to create a product with the values we hold at ASTERI. We ARE faced with situations where we fall in love with a shade and then we discover that it’s not vegan. Or we start formulating a product and then we discover that it needs something specific that is in our blacklist to make it perfect, so we either reject it or rework it until we get the best formula possible within our standards. It’s very difficult to manage the process especially if we love the formula and after a few months, it fails the testing. So then we go back to the drawing board and rework the formula and restart the process.  It is time-consuming but it is worth every second of it to know that you are trying to create great products that are both kind to our skin and the environment.  

What are steps you think the industry could make as a whole to be better for the planet? 

Thankfully there is a lot of effort these days from different bodies, which means things are heading in the right direction. But I still think it is very difficult and it will take time, especially with the bigger established brands, but I think we can all start somewhere. I believe the biggest issue is waste and plastics. If we want to start from the beginning of the cycle.

What are your plans for 2024? Are there any launches that fans of ASTERI can look forward to?

I cant say too much at the moment, but certainly – watch this space. We have a lot of great products coming soon. New products that I believe are fantastic and some new shade extensions for products that are already in our collection.