Interview with Keli Smith, founder of KAIKE
In an industry speckled with gray areas and unclear definitions of what “natural” really means, Keli Smith is on a mission to make beauty a little more colorful and fun. After suffering from chronic migraines, the Chicago-based mom of four, began researching what really goes into skincare. Frustrated at the selection of toxic mainstream beauty, and bored with the lack of luxury and fun in non-toxic beauty, she created KAIKE –– or what she calls “good, clean fun.” We sat down with Smith to find out just exactly what that is.
What led you to create KAIKE?
It wasn’t anything intentional, but it kind of started at the beginning of the natural hair movement. At the time, I had a relaxer. After seeing a scene from Chris Rock’s documentary, ‘Good Hair,’ there was a scene in where he put relaxer on a can of coke and the can melted.
At the time, I was having bad migraines and I was pregnant. Immediately, I stopped relaxing my hair and I cut it all off. From there, I started my own natural hair journey. I’m the kind of person who likes to enjoy using the brands I use, but everything I was finding in the “natural hair” scene smelled or felt like grass. None of it was luxurious or fun.
The whole purpose behind KAIKE is to create good, clean, fun! Really injecting fun into everyone’s skincare and beauty routine is our goal. I really want women, especially women of color, to be able to celebrate their natural beauty and not have their beauty regiment feel like a chore. Beauty should be something you always look forward to.
Are men fans of KAIKE?
Yes! A lot of men who purchase KAIKE are first drawn in because they’re buying something for their partner, but then become hooked after trying what they bought for their partner. I’m seeing that many male repeat customers are loving Frosting, which is KAIKE’s signature product, a really decadent hair and body butter.
I saw that Frosting was a multi-purpose product and I love that. For me, I’m always on-the-go and so if I can have one thing that will eliminate several steps in my routine, I’m all over it.
A lot of our products are multi-functional, like our Cleansing Oil. It can be used as a makeup remover and a cleanser for cleansing the skin. Apparently it also goes beyond just being a 2-in-1 product, as a friend of mine actually spilled makeup on her floor once, and it got it out. Overall, as women we already have so much going on day-to-day, so by offering multi-purpose products to simplify our beauty routine is key.
What’s your mission behind the brand?
I really want the brand story to be fun. Growing up as little girls, we’re told beauty is pain and it doesn’t have to be. It’s much easier to take care of your skin when it’s fun. You’re more likely to stick to a beauty routine if it’s lively and fun!
What’s your creative process with developing new products?
Most of it comes from what I, myself, need. In my own beauty routine, I identify gaps where I could really use a product. Or I have a product where I feel like it could be a little better or I just don’t like the ingredients, so I try to produce a KAIKE version that solves and fills gaps in my beauty routine.
And because preservatives can be harmful to our bodies, KAIKE is a preservative-free company. Although, being preservative-free can be somewhat of a challenge when developing products because they can’t contain any water, it’s one we gladly take on in order to solve our customers skincare needs.
So far, it’s been really fun! My 12 year old son calls himself the operations manager, while my 8 year old daughter actually helps me develop and test out the products.
Are you personally vegan? Why was it important for your products to be completely vegan?
In my mind, I’m vegan. While I don’t follow a strict vegan diet, I am dairy-free. It was important to me because of how my whole journey started. So many of the products that are on shelves have terrible toxins and chemicals, and even if they are “natural,” anyone who follows a vegan diet can’t use the products. It was important to me for KAIKE to be a vegan brand because I didn’t want anyone to be excluded from using our products.
In the beauty world, “natural” isn’t always natural. What does “natural” mean to KAIKE and how does your brand embody that?
When I think back to my journey to KAIKE, I would see “natural” on products, only to read the ingredients list and discover the opposite. Every single thing that is included in KAIKE, is grown from the earth or extracted from a seed or herb. Everything is as pure as untouched as possible. Translating that into the body, we want to not only create products that are natural, but that serve your natural lifestyle and enhance how you feel. At KAIKE, we want to take care of your skin before you cover it up with your go-to makeup or other products.
What’s the best introductory product to KAIKE?
Frosting is our second bestseller, which is also the signature product we launched with when I started KAIKE.
Are there any upcoming launches you can share?
Absolutely! Our upcoming product line called, ‘Baby KAIKE’ will be specifically targeting moms, newborns, and pregnant women.
The first product that will launch will be our Belly + Baby Oil - a belly oil for moms to lessen the likelihood of stretch marks, and a moisturizing oil for mommy and baby. This will launch towards the end of the first quarter.
What’s your biggest swear-by skincare tip?
Keep it simple. There are so many products that do so many things. You get better results if you take care of your skin internally with the foods you eat, and with clean skincare products. If you go to your health foods store, or even in your pantry, you can get easy ingredients that offer some amazing benefits.
I also drink tons of water. Not only does that help plump your skin, but it also helps to flush toxins out.
Which products or rituals do you rely on to practice self-care?
I look forward to my nighttime routine. During the day, I’ve got a lot of stuff to do, so usually, when my kids are in bed at night, and I’m winding down in the evening – that’s when I do my beauty routine. I start off using KAIKE’s Cleansing Oil, taking my time to massage it into my skin.
Then, I’ll follow up with a mask. Depending on how my skin is behaving, I might use the Green Tea Mask, it’s perfect for oily or acne-prone skin. After that, I’ll apply my toner and moisturizer.
My life mantra is “less is more.” As far as other products I use, I love Glossier everything, especially their Cloud Paints. Unless it’s a special event, I wear minimal makeup, usually sticking to mascara and their cloud paint. I also love Origins face masks and Herbivore Botanicals.
What do you do to de-stress?
I do have a daily devotional, which I do in the morning that sets the tone for the day. If I don’t set my intentions before my day starts, I notice that I’m not as focused and more likely to get stressed during the day. At the end of the day, I reflect and try to think about what can be done better the next day.
Especially as an entrepreneur in any industry, you have to make sure that you’re prioritizing your time to the best of your ability. Every Sunday, I plan out my entire week. Sunday is devoted towards my family and I being proactive and planning for the week ahead, for instance, we’ll decide what we’re going to be eating that week and where we need to go. This helps things run smoothly and helps to minimize any stress during the week.