Shortly before the world became unrecognizable seemingly overnight, a consummate globetrotter by the name of Ole Henriksen (“Ole” is pronounced “ooh-la” as in ooh-la-la) arrived on our shores. He was paying his first visit to Dubai to celebrate the official launch of his eponymous brand at Sephora Middle East and, after only two days in the city, was smitten. “I love this city. I love the beautiful people here, I love the food, I love the weather,” he declared.
Henriksen is not a man who does anything by halves. As a young boy, he dreamed of becoming a trapeze artist, started ballroom dancing at the age of six, and became a show dancer in his 20s. Living in Jakarta, Indonesia at the time, he battled cystic acne due to dietary and lifestyle changes. After a friend – who trained in Japan and had a skincare clinic – began treating his skin with a holistic approach, emphasizing the importance of nutrition, Henriksen was amazed by his skin’s transformation. This moment would set him on the path towards a future as one of the world’s foremost skincare gurus.
Over the years, he studied in London, and opened a spa in Los Angeles where an endless parade of luminaries like Charlize Theron, Barbra Streisand, Katy Perry, and Cher entrusted his confident touch and bespoke botanical products to maintain their famous faces. From carting around his kitchen-made products in tupperware containers to boasting one of Sephora’s top-selling brands, Henriksen has ensured that his skincare line continually and mindfully evolves. And did we mention he is the best ambassador for his own brand? The man has clear, luminous skin, and you’d almost certainly be wrong if you had to guess his age.
At nearly 70 years old, Henriksen has the look, demeanor, energy, and enthusiasm of a much, much younger man. Hailing from Denmark – a.k.a. “the happiest country on earth” – he lays claim to being the happiest man in Denmark, thereby being the happiest man on earth. There is nothing about him that suggests this is a marketing gimmick. His radiant joie de vivre is authentic and infectious. Whatever he’s selling – which happens to be a clinically tested, thoughtfully formulated, results-driven skincare range – we’re buying.
Skincare needs in the region are tricky. Between the arid desert, the humid coast, and constant air-conditioning, there are a lot of issues women face in keeping their skin healthy. How do Ole Henriksen products address these needs?
There’s no doubt that humidity can create a greasy mantle on any skin type, and give you visible pores. If the skin is oily or combination, it can also cause breakouts. Skin becomes more emotional when exposed to air conditioning; it can suddenly sap the skin of moisture, making it sallow and dull. This tug of war on the skin can be solved by the great formulations in my three lines. ‘Balance’ addresses excessive oil flow in the pores, and ‘Truth’ brightens and hydrates the skin – it’s all about giving life to the skin. ‘Transform’ is for getting rid of the dead skin cells, while tightening pores and reducing dark spots.
I love the fact that we live in a world where we have learned to embrace every color, every race.
What products do you anticipate doing really well in the Middle East?
One is the ‘Banana Bright’ eye cream and the ‘Banana Bright’ face primer. It’s extraordinary what happened with these. I saw a makeup artist work with banana powder to get a golden hue. It was illuminating, it was brightening. I love illuminated skin, and I thought, “What if I can take [ingredients] inspired from the banana powder and put into an eye cream with all the other active ingredients?” I had to get [the formulation] right to make it stable. It remains the number one selling eye cream in every single Sephora around the world for two years. It has won so many awards.
There is also the ‘Goodnight Glow’ serum. In it, you have multiple sources of AHA – sugar maple, orange extract, etc. I am a big fan of the polyhydroxy acid and AHAs and, with AHAs, it’s all about the synergy of the activation. They work below the skin surface and help build your collagen, so AHA is very effective. It gives a little bit of tingle, but then you suspend it in algae – which is soothing and calming – so you get that tingle with no sensitivity or redness. This is what I mean by the synergy of activations.
Now, pregnant women aren’t allowed to use retinoids. That doesn’t speak to me, so I searched and found bakuchiol in India years ago. Bakuchiol is clinically proven to reduce lines and wrinkles. For centuries, it was used on burns and rashes in India because it’s a great healing agent. It does all the repair and strengthening of the skin, it gives back, it makes love to your skin. It has a sort of a citrus-sugar aroma. It has essential fatty acids. It is not sun-sensitive. It is safe for pregnant women – that was key for me. This is the best night serum you will find.
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Not only are you a pioneer in the use of botanicals, but you’re also a pioneer in messaging – inclusivity, self-care, and self-love were all things you were talking about 20 years before anyone else.
It was just that I care about people. I’ve worked with children with cancer in Denmark, I’ve worked with homeless kids in Calcutta. They face serious issues, and I believe everyone deserves to have a great life, to feel good about themselves, to have access to proper food and a great education. I believe everyone is beautiful. And I love the fact that we live in a world where we have learned to embrace every color, every race.
You’re never telling anyone to disguise their natural beauty. Your philosophy is about enhancing what you already have, something that is reflected in the ingredients and formulations of your products. But it’s clear this is also coming from your heart. It’s not just a selling point – it’s you.
I’m not just going to sell people a product. Number one, it’s all about them, their respect, and their ability to make a decision. I am only an expert and if they want to buy [Ole Henriksen products], it’s an honor.
You said something a few minutes ago about the skin being emotional. Do you think that is tied to our real human emotions, or is it just something autonomous and happens without us knowing?
That’s a really good question. I think the emotional aspect comes from what you say to yourself – sending negative thoughts to yourself that can be reflected on the skin. Because often, when you’re not feeling as good as you could about yourself, you may also grab for the wrong things. For example, too many sweets that make the skin rash-y or salty fast food that is gratifying, but results in puffy eyes.
Is there such a thing as doing too much to your skin?
Yes, you can. There are so many choices available, so people want to try it all because we are an indulgent society. You should always stick to the notion that less is more. Keep it simple. Keep it faithful, and you will see results. Enjoy the journey.
Most Sephora stores in the region have now reopened, but you can also shop Ole Henriksen products online here.