#EscentualMeets: Elizabeth Barbalich, Founder of Antipodes

Are you career-focused, driven and looking to be inspired? #EscentualMeets is your source of motivation. Every month, we reveal the grit, success and stories from a selection of the world’s leading beauty founders…

Like any good business idea, Antipodes was born from a gap in the market. In 2006, Elizabeth Barbalich was looking for a premium, all-natural skincare brand and couldn’t find one, so she started her own. That brand became Antipodes, one of the world’s top organic skincare brands. Here’s the story of how Elizabeth founded a skincare brand with no experience, the challenges she’s faced, and her plans for the future…


1. Where It All Began

Elizabeth describes her childhood as idyllic, “I’m from a small town on the beautiful Canterbury Plains, a remote part of New Zealand’s South Island. I was the baby of the family; my father was a Presbyterian minister, and my mum was a teacher”. She studied biology at university, which later helped her when launching a skincare company. Before launching Antipodes, her career history was very different, “I was in a sales role for eight years, with a surgical corporation based in the US. The company pioneered the technology for keyhole surgery, and I became their local representative, training surgeons on how to use the equipment for surgery. I believe that training helped nurture my laser focus on my business”. 

When Elizabeth’s children were very young, her career path completely changed, “My husband Zoran became interested in healthy eating and what he was putting into his body. I tried some of his raw juices full of vitamins and minerals and realised how good I felt, so we revamped our diets and made an effort to create a toxin-free household. That got me thinking about what I was putting on my skin. I went looking for a premium skincare brand that was all-natural but couldn’t find one, so the idea for Antipodes came from there”.


2. Launching Antipodes

Once Elizabeth saw an opportunity for a luxury, natural skincare brand, she put her all into it. “When I was launching Antipodes, it was just me, travelling up and down New Zealand, convincing stores there was a market for clean, sustainable skincare, persuading them to stock my products, and then even training the store staff myself – teaching them about each product and hoping they would get on board and support what I was trying to do. It was hard work, but really rewarding”. Her background in biology proved invaluable in the process, “I knew I wanted the products to be backed by scientific validation. I credit my education with helping me understand the importance of robust, independent clinical trials. It also really helped in the company’s early days, when I was mixing and testing skincare formulations in my kitchen!”. 


3. Beauty Recommendations & Trends

A self-confessed skincare enthusiast, Elizabeth still gets a thrill from discovering new ingredients, “One example is the peptide we use in Diem Vitamin C Pigment-Correcting Water Cream. Created from the fermentation of sugarcane and healthy bacteria, it targets uneven skin tone by inhibiting melanogenesis, which leads to pigmentation. It never ceases to amaze me that we have all the skincare solutions we need here in nature”. 

As for the next big beauty trend, she believes it’s fermented ingredients and probiotics, “More and more, people realise the importance of a healthy skin barrier. We’ve all been wearing masks for two years, so that means for a lot of us, our skin is stressed, inflamed, and tired. Add the damage already caused by things like pollution, the sun, and central heating, and our skin is crying out for something to calm it down. I’m really proud of our Culture Probiotic Night Recovery Water Cream; it contains an amazing probiotic called Kalibiome AGE that’s been scientifically shown to help increase skin elasticity and firmness, reduce roughness and redness, and support healthy skin”.

With hundreds of iconic, cult-favourite, and award-winning skincare formulas under her belt, I had to ask Elizabeth what she always recommends, “Everyone knows the importance of cleansing and moisturising, but serum is a crucial step in a skincare regime. Choosing your serum wisely can deliver a potent dose of active ingredients to address your specific skin concern. Our Glow Ritual Vitamin C Serum, for example, delivers luminous, dewy skin while also fortifying against environmental damage. It’s been really popular with our devotees, who say they see improvements in their skin in just a couple of weeks’ use”. 


4. The Future

Antipodes’ goal is to be even more eco-friendly, “We’ve got some really innovative new products coming out soon; I can’t wait to reveal them to you all. We’re also focused on our sustainability ethos; we’re always looking at the big picture and trying to do better. Antipodes are 100% kerbside recyclable in Australia and New Zealand, and we aim to be 100% kerbside recyclable globally by 2023”. 

As for the beauty industry, Elizabeth hopes it will follow, “There’s a growing global desire to live more consciously in all areas of our lives, including what we eat and what products we use. Our devotees want to minimise their environmental impact, and the beauty industry is making some really positive moves in that direction. However, it still has some way to go regarding plastic packaging. Even if it’s made from recycled plastic, post-consumer-waste plastic more than likely ends up in landfills or oceans. I’m proud to say Antipodes has used glass from the start. Since we launched in 2006, our choice of glass has saved the creation of more than 10 million plastic bottles. We’re currently sitting at almost 90% plastic-free status, and we’re on a mission to be 100% plastic-free by 2023”.


5. Business Advice

It’s not every day you get to talk to a world-leading skincare founder, so I asked Elizabeth what advice she has for someone hoping to follow in her career, “Self-belief is crucial because launching a beauty brand isn’t easy. You’re likely to have setbacks, but you’ll find the drive to keep going if you truly believe in yourself and your idea. Launching a business means becoming a jack of all trades – a researcher, a salesperson, a marketer, an ambassador for your brand. It all comes down to you. At the same time, try to be patient! I’m not a patient person, so that was a big lesson to learn”.


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