Meet Laura Xiao, founder of Henné Organics
Meet Laura Xiao, founder of Henné Organics
Do your lips stay chapped no matter how much lip balm you apply? If so, you may be suffering from chronic dry lips. We sat down with Henné Organics’ founder Laura Xiao, who combined organic beauty with Scandinavian design to heal her own dryness.
Sometimes, desperation can drive inspiration, and that’s exactly what happened to Laura Xiao, founder and CEO of Henné Organics.
In 1991, Laura’s grandmother brought her from China to the United States to live with her parents, when she was just two and a half years old. Thanks to a full-ride scholarship Laura’s father earned, her family was able to relocate after he began studying at the University of Iowa. Though their early years were tough financially, Laura grew up in a pretty health-conscious household and played competitive sports. From a very young age, both Laura’s mother and father instilled in her the importance of hard work.
“My dad has done well for himself and he’s built a great life for all of us here,” she shared. “As parents, you always want to see your kids do better than you, to take it to the next level, and I think I’ve always had a little bit of a chip on my shoulder to do that, especially because of my upbringing.”
Other Chinese cultural values Laura was raised to embrace included punctuality and to have integrity, the latter she believes first influenced her ethical business practices and preference for clean products in general.
“It just feels better to do things ethically…so, for me, it’s not really about having to decide. It’s just a way of living.”
In 2006, Xiao started dating her now-husband, and Henné Organics co-founder, Johan Axelqvist. Together, they would create memories that eventually inspired her to adopt a luxurious Nordic aesthetic for the brand.
“My husband is Swedish so, prior to launching Henné, I definitely got influenced by a lot of aspects of Swedish culture,” said Xiao. “I absolutely fell in love with modern minimalist Scandinavian design as well.”
Due to the distance, she often traveled back and forth to Sweden to visit him. While there, she noticed the deep appreciation Swedish people seemed to have for nature. With tons of forests and lakes there, nature is very easy to come by and access, and, for a Midwestern city girl like Laura, this was a completely different experience. Despite this, the beauty of the country won her over and soon, she had become passionate about natural and organic beauty.
Then, between 2008 and 2009, Laura made a gradual, conscious effort to return to the clean lifestyle she had as a child. She began buying organic, non-GMO foods, taking multivitamins and supplements, and changing the kinds of consumer products she used. This ongoing transition, combined with her experiences in Sweden, was very helpful and sparked a few ideas for Laura.
“I was very young at the time,” she recalled. “I wouldn’t say that I thought it was a pipe dream, but I did think maybe in 10 to 15 years…it would be a nice idea to launch something that was both very high end and as clean as possible.”
In 2010, Laura made the decision to move to Sweden and, in 2012, the couple began their adventurous life together. They lived in several places before returning to the U.S., including Australia, New Zealand, and a short return to Johan’s home country. It wouldn’t be until 2014, when the two settled in the extremely dry city of Las Vegas, Nevada, that Laura would get the push she needed to make her dream company a reality.
“When we moved back to the states to Vegas, we developed really disgustingly dry lips, and that’s kind of how it all started,” she revealed. “I’ve always been kind of a lip balm addict, so having super dry lips was never something I struggled with. It really was the kick in the butt that I needed.”
By that point, Laura had also become more confident in her ability to create something successful.
“We had started another business two years prior and I’d managed to save some money, so it just felt like ‘OK, why not give it a shot?’ ,” she continued. “I also taught myself and had clients who I started doing branding and design work for, so I was more comfortable bootstrapping a lot of those aspects.”
Nothing they used before was able to tackle just how parched Laura and her husband’s lips had become, so they quickly went to work in their kitchen to create their own solution. With just a jar lip balm, their Swedish-American brand finally launched in May 2015.
So what inspired the name Henné?
“Without the accent on the E, henne actually means ‘her’ in Swedish,” Xiao explained. “At that time, I really wanted the brand to not only pay homage to Sweden, where I spent most of my life outside the states, but to what I call the modern woman [as well].”
The Organics part came from Laura’s wish for the brand to have organic certification. Because it was a new venture and not backed by any big names or celebrities, it was important to her to make sure her future customers would recognize and trust the cleanliness of her products. Henné Organics is now a USDA Certified Organic brand and the majority of their products are food grade as well.
When we think of the “modern woman”, a variety of characteristics might come to mind. What Laura feels each definition has in common is the desire to take care of oneself without feeling guilty about it.
“Most of us these days have busy schedules from all walks of life,” Laura said. “Sometimes, you just don’t have the time in the day to do a two hour self-care pre-bedtime skin care ritual, so our products are high quality, but they’re also very easy to use.”
Today, the full Henné line includes several lip products (a lip mask, a serum, two balms, eight tints, and three exfoliators), two face oils, and two hand creams, though Laura assures that the primary focus of the brand will remain on lip care. Her favorite way to use the Henné Organics Lip Mask is to apply a layer at her desk and leave it on throughout the day as she works. To her, luxury beauty doesn’t need to be complicated.
“I think it’s OK to be luxurious and have highly effective products, but products that consumers understand and don’t have to spend hours using either.”
Laura’s go-to morning routine includes a face wash, an amethyst face roller, the Henné Organics Lip Serum, a lip balm, lip tint, a blend of the Serene Face Oil and a moisturizer, and sunscreen. At night, she enjoys using a gua sha and applies four of her lip care products - a balm, a scrub, the lip mask, and the lip serum - if time permits. Finally, she saves her longer skin care ritual for the weekends.
As for her favorite part about running a results-driven beauty business, Laura loves providing highly organic, luxurious products to pamper women in an area that was mostly neglected in the industry until very recently.
“We have a lot of customers who’ve had chronically dry lips for decades,” she imparted. “They’ve tried a lot of different methods and it just hasn’t worked out that well [for them], so it was even surprising to me how many people have this issue.”
Laura also spoke on the stigma against clean alternatives for having less formulated ingredients: “The nice thing about our products is you don’t feel like anything is missing,” she said. “We don’t cut corners because we want our customers to get their money’s worth. Every ingredient serves a purpose and each one [of ours] is really meant to be there.”
In 2020, Laura and Johan finally decided to make the beachy city of Wilmington, North Carolina their home. Even though it took several years to get where they are now, Laura truly believes that everything in her life happened for a reason, especially the six years in Vegas.
“I was not meant to be there for that long…but I have no regrets. If we didn’t move there, I honestly don’t think Henné would exist right now.”
Henné Organics has been featured in Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, Elle, and Allure Magazine. We are so grateful to have such a unique and innovative brand be a part of our PWBeauty collection. Click or tap here to treat your kissers to some, or all, of Laura Xiao’s hero products.