24 October 2016Last updated

Features | People

Noella Gabriel: the beauty brand CEO

Noella Gabriel, the 59-year-old co-founder and managing director of skincare label Elemis, chats about staying motivated, balancing home and work and making skincare a priority

By Georgina Wilson-Powell
14 Feb 2016 | 05:36 pm
  • Noella believes that getting a facial every three to four weeks, and when the seasons change is a must.


What got you interested in beauty and beauty products?

Beauty products were always in my life – my mum never left home without lipstick. I trained as a therapist and opened a salon in Ireland, before moving to New York to study holistic therapy. I co-founded Elemis in 1990 with Séan Harrington and Oriele Frank.

How have the company and you changed?

As I grow older, the brand evolves as well – it’s an extension of me. It launched when I was young and had no commitments, but we’ve changed. I am still just as passionate about it, though. I see it as a vocation – we are here to make people’s timeout from their stressful lives as incredible as we can. It inspires me to give back and people love the products, which really motivates us.

What keeps you going?

I don’t think I’m a perfectionist but I have a high work ethic. I love what I do, so the hours are irrelevant. There’s always something new to learn – I have a hunger for knowledge and innovation and I think it’s a sad day when you don’t want to learn anything. I love nurturing my people and helping them move to the next level.

How do you cater to different skin types in various parts of the world?

I’m always travelling as part of my work and I see a lot of variety in how people from different regions treat their skin. They also need to look after it differently. For instance, those exposed to higher temperatures will sweat more and need more SPF, which can make skin greasy. So products for that region need to be made with this in mind.

What advice do you have for looking after your skin?

Diet, sun exposure and lifestyle totally affect what your skin needs. People tend to forget that your diet fundamentally affects your skin. I do look after my skin. It should be something you do just like you take care of your hair and nails. It should be on the shopping list, not as a luxury, but as a necessity. Having a facial every three to 
four weeks is something I’ve always done, and everyone should too – or even every time the seasons change. If money and time are issues, then a 30-minute facial should do the trick.

What makes for a bad massage or beauty treatment for you?

It’s so disappointing when you go for a treatment and your need hasn’t been met. There’s no point massaging the wrong bit, so you have to listen to your client and that’s the thing people don’t do. You don’t want to feel like a conveyor belt. I think it’s easier to deliver a good massage than a bad one, but you have to tune in to your client.

How do you balance being a working mum and a CEO?

I would never change bringing up a 17-year-old daughter while I was working. We have a good partnership and she respects the fact that I work to provide her with a good lifestyle. I’ve taken her all over the world with me. I’ve taught her that she can do whatever she wants if she puts in the hard work – you need that job satisfaction in order to be happy.

What do you do to relax?

Outside of work, I cook a lot with my daughter and catch up on the day. We’re both adventurous eaters thanks to all our travels – it’s one of the best things about travelling – and you end up with quite a cultured palate. I love to try out new restaurants that open in London, but Thai and Lebanese are probably my favourite cuisines.

What’s next in the Middle East for Elemis?

The next year or so for Elemis is going to be huge – in fact, we are putting all the infrastructure together right now. You’ll see a lot more concept stores in the Middle East as our Biotec treatments – which enhances the skin's ability to repair, renew and re-tone itself – are really taking off.

What is your dream for your company?

To be successful globally – I’d love to spearhead a bigger project and I still have so much to learn. I want to learn more about the countries in Asia and what makes them tick and then develop products to suit them – that’s my dream.

By Georgina Wilson-Powell

By Georgina Wilson-Powell