Meet The Makers: Steph and Ryan Davies of TWYG Skincare

Meet The Makers: Steph and Ryan Davies of TWYG Skincare

Introducing the visionaries behind TWYG Skincare, Ryan and Steph Davies, a dynamic duo shaping the beauty industry with a unique blend of heritage, sustainability, and cutting-edge science. Steph was born into a family passionate about New Zealand and endowed with an entrepreneurial spirit, their journey began two decades ago when her parents recognized the untapped potential of Totarol, a super ingredient found in the ancient Tōtara tree.

Today, as the driving force behind TWYG, Steph shares her fascinating story of family legacy, sustainable practices, and the journey to harness the powers of Bioactive Totarol. Join us as we delve into Steph's remarkable career, her transition into motherhood, and the inception of TWYG, a luxury skincare range that not only celebrates the potent benefits of the 100 million year old Tōtara Tree, but also revolutionizes the industry by heroing this exceptional ingredient in unprecedented doses.

TWYG founders Steph and Ryan Davies

Your story transcends generations doesn't it, well millions of years really, but perhaps you could start this story with your parents?

My parents are passionate about New Zealand and highly entrepreneurial. They got involved with Totarol 20 years ago as they saw the potential in this super ingredient and the opportunity it presented. With them doing it half my life it was natural for us to step into the business when the opportunity arose.

What is Bioactive Totoral, and who is it for? 

Firstly, it's only found in the Tōtara tree, a lineage that is 100 million years old and which is completely unique to New Zealand. Totarol grows inside the heartwood of the tree and after around 150 years of growth is in abundance throughout the tree. 

Secondly, the methods of sourcing Tōtara and extracting Totarol are extremely sustainable, adopting a circular economy that sees the by-product post extraction returned to the earth for further plant growth. Furthermore the Tōtara we use to extract is green waste (off cuts of logs) which would never have had a use by anyone, but thankfully found a home with us! 

And lastly but most importantly, Totarol is a highly active compound found in the heartwood of the NZ Tōtara tree that naturally preserves and protects the tree for hundreds of years. Totarol is a true natural superhero, providing a range of benefits including antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.  It is a completely natural, unique and organically certified extract. It outperforms Vitamin E as an antioxidant, has targeted efficacy against a number of pathogens and can be used in almost any kind of personal care product formulation. 

All this to say that it is a super ingredient with immense powers in all areas of human and animal health and wellness. 

The smoke of the Totara Bark was used in traditional Māori medicine to treat skin ailments, likewise the tea of the leaves used for tummy bugs. Can the foundations of Bioative Totarol be linked back to this / how much of a part does modern science play into its efficacy? 

Yes, many parts of the Tōtara were used by early Māori to treat all sorts of ailments. There is tiny amounts of Totarol in other parts of the Tōtara which would have been aiding in this healing. However, since Totarol was offically discovered (most abundantely in the heartwood of the tree) and scientists did extensive R&D in the 1990’s, it wasn't until then that we were truly able to learn and discover the health properties of the compound in detail.

Can Bioactive Totarol be used in supplements and natural medicines too?

It will be one day, and there are specific areas we have identified its potential. We need to go through certification and testing as a next step.

Tell us a little bit about yourself, your career, motherhood, and what lead you to where you are today.

After successful marketing and advertising careers growing local and global brands, the time was right and five years ago we joined to grow our family business. This has involved us taking over the Totarol raw ingredient sales as well as developing two consumer brands - byebyebad™  which is an FMCG, accessible personal care brand powered by Totarol™, and TWYG™ which is a luxury skincare range utilising Totarol in high doses. We have a beautiful seven year old daughter who understands mum and dad are passionate about the world of Totarol and perhaps one day she might want to be involved too! But as most people running a business and family know - the juggle is real! 

With hindsight, it must feel like all roads were going to lead you here. Did you ever have one of "those" moments, where the dream of TWYG erupted so bright and so clear it became the only thing in focus? Or was more holistic and a natural progression?

After 20 years of selling Totarol as a raw ingredient for the global cosmetics industry (L'Oréal being our biggest customer), we knew it was a popular ingredient with skin care formulators and brands. Around the time of joining the company, discussions with our chemists about the potential of the ingredient identified that Totarol could be utilised in higher doses, for increased efficacy. As brand developers and storytellers looking for a unique proposition, this sparked our interest in terms of designing a range that not only made Totarol the hero, but also used it in ways not seen before that would benefit users. 

Unlike other brands using this ingredient, TWYG heroes it. Our staff and clients have seen some incredible results. Can you share what makes TWYG so special?

At its core, the range is a powerhouse of antioxidants designed to tackle the effects of environmental damage that we are all susceptible to. This is primarily because this is the role Totarol takes inside the heartwood of the Tōtara tree, allowing it to thrive for hundreds of years.

The TWYG formulas are packed with active ingredients that reinforce and enhance the activity of Totarol, working synergistically for maximum efficacy for protection and rejuvenation. 

The serum is designed to brighten skin, help reduce hyperpigmentation and minimise the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. Inst'Tight™ C which derives from the Honey Locust tree offers instant results for things like under eye bags and smoothing of skin.

The oil is designed to boost skin elasticity, aid cell regeneration and nourish the skin barrier. It utilises Algae Oil for long lasting moisturisation, squalane for anti-inflammation and Tomato seed extract to even skin tone and improve the complexion.

A typical skincare product might have between 2-3 active ingredients (and some have zero actives!), and in contrast the TWYG range has between 9 -11 actives in every formulation. The actives chosen are gentle on skin while still working hard to do their job. 

Despite these action packed products, the ethos behind TWYG remains simple. It’s about celebrating the ritual of skincare, by igniting ALL the senses.  Whether that be through seeing the small forest with our unique, bespoke packaging, smelling the uplifting natural scents, feeling the potent products working into your skin or hearing how the rich story of TWYG’s origin comes to life. All these ignited senses are about connecting our community back to nature in an authentic way.

History and our native land are heavily woven into the philosophies that ground TWYG, tell us why these are so important to you.

The Tōtara tree is found in only one place in the whole of the universe – Aotearoa. This remarkable 100 million year old tree species (which is such a part of NZ’s DNA) is something to acknowledge and celebrate. From a manufacturing point of view we were only prepared to find a sustainable way to extract Totarol, which we do. We take only offcuts from fallen trees (aka green waste) and utilise it for health benefits and it is a part of the story we are very proud of. From a brand point of view we worked really hard to weave in Tōtara, New Zealand and its history to every aspect of the story, but particularly through the formulations, packaging and sustainability credentials. 

Your packaging is so beautiful and unique, can you tell us how the sculptures came about?

Thank you! As mentioned the ethos of the brand is built around igniting all the senses. So from a visual point of view that meant creating unique, distinctive packaging that linked back to the core of our story which is Totarol and the Tōtara tree, and the environment it is found in. So we created ‘a forest of skincare’ designed to be admired, and thoughtfully used, providing a moment to connect you back to nature. From a colour perspective the deep orange pays homage to the rich colour of the heartwood of the Tōtara tree, where Totarol is found. We have gone on to win the top design packaging awards in both NZ and Australia which we were obviously thrilled to receive! 

Launching with three iconic products; a Serum, Oil and Moisturising Cream, can you share what you are working on next?

Totarol is most effective as a leave-on ingredient, where it can penetrate into skin. We have developed a beautiful regenerative overnight repair mask which will work hard on skin while you are getting shut eye. We will launch this sometime this year.


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