An esthetician for 19 years and a Reiki Master for 16 years, Leija Cas founded Knesko Skin, a luxury range of collagen face masks in 2012. Here she explains her spiritual, yet scientific approach to skincare and why she doesn’t believe in masking for special occasions
Was a career in skin care always the plan for you?
I grew up in Australia where I went to beauty school back in 2000. I always knew I wanted to be in skincare I just I didn’t know how I was going to get there. When I left school, I started working in some of the best medical spas, doing facial treatments and body treatments. I went into makeup as well.
Very quickly, I ended up leaving Australia and moving to Los Angeles for my job in 2007. I ended up travelling all over the world and in my first year in the US I visited 40 states. During that time I very quickly realised that I had to stay balanced because my lifestyle was very hectic. I started meditating in my hotel rooms, doing my chakra balancing and I would always go and buy different masks and run a bubble bath. I loved masking but I never found anything that I was crazy about. So that’s where the idea came from. I had so much experience and I love helping other women feel good about themselves. I noticed in my travels that, as women, we’re very hard on ourselves. I kept hearing excuses about why we should put ourselves last. “I’m too busy. I’m too tired. I have kids now. I’m too old. It’s too late for me.” Every single excuse and I was just so excited to challenge that way of thinking. I would be doing their makeup or their facials and I really wanted to inspire them to stop, have a good time and celebrate the time out.
How did you turn your philosophy into a business?
All of that information on business, results-driven skincare and a love for mindfulness and self-care made me think deeper and realise that if I’m going to start a business it has to have intention behind it. It has to have a message more than just selling. That’s depressing. This is just an extension of my passion. We all need you know electricity. We have to pay our bills. Same thing goes for skin care. It’s a means of getting to a destination that promotes beautiful skin and spirit.
Were there challenges in the beginning?
We’re a family owned business that was started by my husband and I and we have a daughter called Ayla. We have a perfect balance. Right now my husband’s with my daughter watching her because I needed to be here. But he can’t do his work so when I come home he’s working until two or three in the morning. For the first two years we were assembling our own boxes. We started in our garage. We had one product. We started start with the gold face mask. We then quickly added second mask. We were self-funded, we used our wedding money to start the business. . We just had a big vision. I want to give him credit too because I couldn’t do this without Sean.
What does he bring to the table?
Sean is more behind the scenes. He makes sure our bills get paid. He’s the CEO, he has an MBA, but he’s very introverted. I’m the product development and customer side, but we don’t do anything without each other. If we have new products he has to say yes. He will often say Leija, we don’t have the budget to do a hundred different products this year, let’s just slow it down. Sometimes it’s annoying, but he’s a CEO for a reason. So we don’t go bankrupt.
Not only is knesko based in a holistic approach to skin care, you also incorporate reiki
Reiki is a life force energy that flows through all the things. As a Reiki master I’m able to channel that energy. What I do is each time the new batch comes from my lab into the warehouse, I literally will shut down the warehouse for two days. Nobody’s allowed to go in. I do meditation and energy work and I send distance healing to my clients through the use of the Reiki symbols, which are sacred symbols. It’s a very spiritual experience. I meditate on the whole intent and what my intent is for my customers.After that, my intent is to send lots of universal love and healing because I feel the world needs more love.
So the masks are intended to be a component of a larger experience…
The instructions our retail packaging are very like ritualistic. You put on your favorite music, fluff up your pillows and allow the ancient healing art of Reiki energy to work and most importantly be open to the experience and give yourself the gift of time. We’re all so fast paced, always on the go. So with Knesko we’re really trying to rewire our customers, to re-educate them. It’s nothing new, we’re just trying to remind them about what they need inside. And it’s like any habit forming thing, you have to make that commitment to yourself you have to actually say you know enough is enough. Yes I have a hundred e-mails coming through but for the next 30 minutes I’m going to commit to myself. I’m going to do a nice mask, run a bath, put some music on and I’m going to do that no matter what.
Are you noticing a shift towards especially women being more comfortable with self-care now?
I am noticing the shift but I think women still feel so guilty when we take time out. Even for me. I have a little baby. She’s two years old but my daughter needs a strong healthy mum. If I don’t give something back to me then she’s not going to get the best version of me. So I’m noticing a lot of women still feel guilty to be a little selfish and take that time out but when they do, they are such better people. I am noticing the shift but I still feel that we we have a way to go.You can’t you can’t give from an empty vessel.
How long has knesko been distributed in this region?
Knesko has been here for about two years. We are sold in most beautiful resorts and we’ve just launched to retail. We’re in Harvey Nichols in Dubai Mall and Bloomingdale’s in Dubai and in Kuwait. That’s our big focus right now bbut we’re also in some beautiful spas like this one at W Dubai The Palm, Four Seasons Jumeirah and DIFC, Ritz Carlton, Caesars Palace, Palazzo Versace and the Bulgari Resort Dubai.
Knesko skin masks are on the pricier end of the scale.
Our retail price points are what I would call affordable luxury. They’re designed so that you can get four treatments for the price of one facial. When you’re getting facials, everybody knows it’s about maintenance too. So it’s not taking one away from the other, it’s that they really complement each other. It’s all about being able to continue maintaining your skin regularly in the comfort of your own home.
It’s not just women, you also have male clients.
Absolutely, if you follow Knesko Skin on social media, we have lots of males who post selfies. We have a viral hashtag which is called #kneskoselfie and guys love posting so do a lot of celebrities actually. We have a big celebrity following.
How do you approach the use of social media as a brand?
It creates credibility. We worked really hard to be in some of the world’s most beautiful spas and retailers. So when celebrities back it up, it means something because there are so many different masks on the market now. For me this was never a trend, it’s a lifestyle. I don’t mask because I’m going somewhere special, I mask because every day is special to me. You never know when it’s your last.
A lot of r&d goes into these masks.
Absolutely and I also work with doctors under formula. I actually we have a medical team on board that I work with. It’s an advisory board and we have a trade secret formula which is called Gem Clinical where we blend gemstone therapy with clinical actives. So bottom line we’re in the business of skin care, it has to work. You can’t just have cute product it has to be efficacious. We are very mindful about the absorption of active ingredients so we use gem clinical technology and a polypeptide delivery system that helps to really push products into the skin. Marine collagen as a molecule cannot penetrate the skin unless you use a technology that’s able to help you push right through.
What differentiates your masks from others in the market?
They are the perfect balance of science and spirituality.
Are you working on anything new that you can tell us about?
Last month we launched our Reiki charged gemstone rollers in the Middle East. They come in a discovery kit and we have two versions to match our two collections - Gold and Diamond. With the kits people really get to discover our top sellers so they can get one face, one eye and one lip mask with a matching jade roller to go with that collection. So for the Repair which is the gold line the green jade is what we recommend which is a very much toning and defining, helps to deep puff and really calms the complexion. We also have the white jade for the Radiance collection which is all about contouring and refreshing and great for dark circles. It helps push that serum deeper into the skin.
Facial rollers are very popular at the moment
Yes, there are a lot of different rollers on the market but the Knesko roller is by far one of the best in terms of quality. It’s professional size so we use this in treatment rooms and for retail I didn’t want to make it smaller. I’m giving you pro size roller. It’s handcrafted dipped in rose gold and Reiki charged so a lot of energy goes into them. You can use it over the mask and you can also take the mask off and use it to help the serum penetrate deeper into the skin. You can actually continue using it daily with your own serums.
And you’re launching some new rollers as well?
Yes we are. Rose quartz is my third collection. So we have the Rose Quartz roller with love energy and Antioxidant masks and the Black Pearl detox masks with the obsidian roller. Rose Quartz is great for attracting love and self-love. We have to give ourselves more love to attract love from others so it’s a good one.