WOULD BE A ROUTINE ARTICLE to talk about Margaret Hema being
Liv Tyler’s celebrated facialist. Or that Hema developed her skin
care range, now internationally sold, because she had to create
products that suited her clients. The trouble is, everyone who has
developed their own range has a story along those lines: a celebrity
connection, or the use of pure ingredients for sensitive skin. And
it would not get to the core of a woman who is, in my experience,
the best facialist in the business.
Like all New Zealanders, you wouldn’t necessarily
know of Margaret Hema’s international reputation by visiting her
room at the Harbour City Towers, where she has been based since
1988. Formally trained as an æstheticienne, with an aromatherapy
back-ground, diplomas and certificates in French and English adorn
her wall. In the waiting area are copies of Lucire, Vogue, Tatler
and Vanity Fair; little does one know that she’s more
than likely had a mention in them.
If you live in Wellington, and you are in this
business, you will have heard of Margaret Hema. Probably most fans
of Liv Tyler, her most famous client, have, too. Tyler was such
a fan that she flew in three hours early to get a Hema facial, prior
to the première of the Oscar-winning The Lord of the Rings: the
Return of the King in 2003. But it took me years to meet her.
Hema is not surprised when I tell her this, believing
all meetings happen when they are supposed to. We nearly met just
prior to the launch of Lucire as a print title, when someone
incorrectly identified a woman as her at the opening of Soup Fashion
Recovery, a vintage clothing boutique. I chatted to the stranger,
calling her Margaret, and she didn’t flinch. When my colleague Carolyn
Enting of The Dominion Post came in, saying she had met with
Hema that morning, we could not work out how she could have been
in two places at once.
These coincidences—slightly quirky stories that
you’d expect helmed by Rod Serling—seem to mark Margaret Hema’s
career. She began in Wellington, which she describes as a ‘village’.
Many of the capital city’s powerful women became
Hema clients early on, including former Fulbrighter and investigative
lawyer Judith Fyfe, of Fyfe and Doherty, who has become her ‘mentor
and legal adviser’. On her web site, Lady Southgate, a local society
name, is cited as an inspiration.
‘Hard Wellingtonians have made me successful,’
Hema confessed at our first interview. But some of these customers
reported that, regardless of their toughened exteriors, the traditional
brands’ products stung. That led to the development of her first
product, the Hema Facial Cleansing Oil, tested on clients such as
the Royal New Zealand Ballet. It’s still the first item listed on
her brochure, and the one that I sampled first during my Hema facial.
‘I created it out of need so I could give the
best facial,’ she recalled. ‘I did not create my products for film
stars and press. I created them for my loyal Wellington clients.
Everybody deserved a good facial. Other products, pre-Hema, were
not good enough.’
If there is such a thing as a knack, then Margaret
Hema has it. ‘My technique is deep with pressure-point and lymphatic
draining. To work as deep amazes the press [because the] skin is
still lucid, translucent and normal. [You] know if the product is
not that pure, you’d come up pink.’
There’s some healing going on there, too—the term
magic fingers comes to mind. Her pressure is perfect; the
Oil lives up to its promises as a gentle, natural cleanser. Checking
out the bottle, the calming green hue comes from pure organic avocado
oil—a product that is possibly unique to her range. In any case,
Hema now claims to buy the entire cosmetic product output from Avocado
Oil New Zealand Ltd. for her skin care line. ‘There’s no green oil
like Margaret Hema’s anywhere—that is the way I want to keep it,’
Pure organic essential oil of lavender, manuka
honey, flax plant extract, kawa-kawa plant extract, kiwi-seed oil
and manuka pure essential oil round off some of the more remarkable
ingredients, which are so far hand-made in limited quantities by
‘The secret is the base oil, not the essential
oils,’ she explained. The purity of the oils leads to better absorption:
‘I have an eye for whether something is absorbed.’
The seven products in Hema’s line are the seven
she will stick with. In a move that contrasts remarkably with the
large corporations’, Hema does not believe in adding new products
with incremental changes. After my facial, I thought, ‘Why tamper
with perfection?’ If certain oils have worked on humans centuries
ago, it’s a cinch they will work today. The genius—the intellectual
property—is in how they are combined.
Her Millennium Face and Body Oil, Day Crème, Facial
Spray, Day Crème SPF 15, Replenishing
Night Crème and Hydrating Unguent Masque are the other six, though
as Hema was to tell me, there will be a non-skin care range that
may bear her name in the very near future.
The ‘Hema Seven’ are so thoroughly tested nowadays
that ‘by the time the film industry came, I had sorted it out.’
Enting is one fan. ‘Every time I have had a facial
and then go to the supermarket to buy a bottle of wine, I get asked
for my ID—I’m 35. Her oils feel and
smell incredible and visibly plump the skin. Her hydrating masque
is wonderful after long-haul flights.’ She is not alone.
‘By the time Liv came in February 2000,’ which
for Hema was an ‘icing on the cake’ moment, ‘I knew the products
would not stink or sting. ‘My client base had proven what I was
doing was right.’
COMPLETED our interview over half a year later, again down
to the divine timing that the universe seems to throw at us. In
the interim she had attended the semi-official launch of this title
in Wellington, ‘Lucire Salutes Wellington Designers,’ as
did her elder daughter, Donyale. She had attended but tended to
Hema had been to the United Kingdom in the interim—her
daughter, Tamara, had been living there. She already had supporters
in the UK, thanks to Tamara’s earlier
efforts, and the range was already sold there (at Tri-Yoga in Primrose
Hill) with much the same positioning as in New Zealand: as premium,
This latest visit buoyed her. She told me on the
telephone that she was very happy to be back in New Zealand; the
return reiterated how much she loved the country. The journey had
been successful, as others fell in love with her technique and products.
Hari Salem, the celebrated hairdresser in Knightsbridge,
had become a retailer, and his staff members have raved about it.
Salem himself apparently now uses Hema products in problematic hair.
The press, invited by publicist Jori
White, became converts, with Hema showing everyone from the
newspapers to Tatler, I-D, Bride’s, Cosmopolitan UK, Harper’s
& Queen, Condé Nast Traveller and British Vogue. A new
fan emerged: socialite, former Ralph Lauren model and Tatler
editor-at-large Saffron Aldridge.
But Hema saved her biggest news for last: a make-up
range, which will be announced shortly. While there are aspects
of it that were off the record, the range is being developed with
a big name; and in other aspects, like the existing skin care range,
it is a family affair.
the full story in the June 2005 issue of Lucire.
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Jack Yan is founding publisher of Lucire.
‘By the time Liv [Tyler]
came in February 2000,’ which for Hema was an ‘icing on the cake’
moment, ‘I knew the products would not stink or sting. ‘My client
base had proven what I was doing was right’
Margaret Hema. ABOVE, FROM TOP:
Liv Tyler at the première of The Lord of the Rings: the
Return of the King. Saffron Aldridge in an earlier Ralph Lauren
campaign, and a new Hema convert.
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