Sunday March 12, 2023
Sabrina and Idris Elba launched S'Able Labs last year. AP
Sabrina and Idris Elba are, as it turns out, just like the rest of us.The couple’s opposing skincare routines — Sabrina’s endless serums and acids versus Idris’s Vaseline and go approach — became a topic of debate between them during the pandemic, when, freshly recovered from Covid-19, wellness was at the forefront of their minds.
“Idris would look at the 20 products on my bathroom counter and say: ‘Why do you need all those things?’ And I’d always say, I do,” Sabrina says with a laugh.
“We started going on a wellness journey together at that time, as we probably all did,” she says. “We didn’t feel like the self-care that we were using incorporated some of the issues that we faced, like hyperpigmentation and inflammation.”
The result of that journey is S’Able Labs, a genderless skincare brand that not only answers their individual concerns as a couple, but channels their ancestral history by sourcing natural ingredients from Africa that the pair grew up watching members of their family use.
“A-beauty [African beauty] is a huge pillar for us as a brand,” Sabrina says. “We really want to use this as a moment to give African ingredients a time to shine and to be able to back them with the right biotech, so they are at their most powerful.”
Sabrina is of Somali descent. As a child, she watched her mother, Maryam, mixing DIY face masks using turmeric and qasil, sourced from the leaves of Somalia’s gob tree, which she would leave on for hours at a time.
“My mum’s always been a huge believer of just using natural ingredients and using less — I rebelled against that,” she says. “At first I thought: ‘You don’t know what you’re talking about, you don’t even know what hyaluronic serum is’.
“I went completely the other way and was using so many things that were damaging my skin. I had really bad acne in high school, which led to bad hyperpigmentation. So I felt I always covered up with so much make-up and was then stripping it down with way too many actives. It wasn’t until I really started to incorporate my mum’s ethos of ‘do less, use more natural ingredients’ that I’ve noticed massive change. Mums are always right.”
S’Able Labs launched last summer with an initial three-step product line — the Qasil Cleanser, Black Seed Toner and Baobab Moisturiser, which are now available at Dubai’s Biolite Clinic.
“Three of the unique beauty ingredients that we use in our core collection are sometimes used in other formulations and other brands, but we really wanted to regain ownership because they did feel a bit appropriated in a way,” Sabrina says.
“Baobab, which is in the moisturiser, is an amazing antioxidant. Black seed, I mean my dad used to put black seed in his tea saying that it will make you live forever — it’s a really strong anti-inflammatory agent. Qasil is a natural soap and Somali women say it makes you look super young and claim it has all these great anti-ageing benefits, not only for your skin, for your hair as well. So we were really excited to incorporate those amazing ingredients.”
The Elbas are United Nations Goodwill Ambassadors for the International Fund for Agricultural Development, and so ensuring the products are responsibly sourced and rural farmers are supported is an important part of the S’Able Labs ethos.
The products have been awarded the Butterfly Mark certification from Positive Luxury, which recognises luxury brands contributing to the future of the planet.
It was also important for the couple to feel that they were contributing something new and progressive to an overcrowded industry.
“I get really frustrated when people say: ‘Oh, this is a celebrity brand’,” Sabrina says. “Yes, there are a lot of celebrity brands, we totally get it, but we created this brand because we thought there was a space in the market, so to now be dumped into something just because of Idris’s prior experience or because of who he is, feels unfair.”
Ensuring the range was genderless was important.
“Idris wanted to understand what he was putting on his skin because he felt the market for men dumbed down products and didn’t offer the education,” she says.
“Why do girls know so much about peptides and men only learn about peppermint? There’s this unfair distance between what you find in male marketing and what you find on a pink tax product. We wanted to come together in the middle and find a way to have a really efficient routine that we could share, that incorporated all of his skincare concerns and mine, but educated us in a way that made sense.”
And how is it running a business as husband and wife? “I love it,” she says.
“You know, it’s not for everyone. A lot of people told us it would be a recipe for disaster. But I think because we have a similar goal, we have a similar ambition, it actually gives us something that moves us forward together that we connect on. We found a passion together.”
Dubai’s Biolite Clinic is S’Able Labs’s first and only global retail partner. As well as offering the full range, Biolite has also created a signature Oxyjet Leo X S’Able Labs Facial, which is now available to book.
“We instantly fell in love with Biolite’s ethos,” Sabrina says. “There are so many similarities between our brands and our personal values. And it’s great to be carried in a clinic that has been in Dubai for such a long time and is run by women.
“I love Dubai — I could move here,” she adds. “I think I’ve almost convinced Idris.”