Zweena Argan Beauty Elixirs founders Jayme Barrett and Zouhir Yakoubi captured the spirit of Morocco in a pretty little bottle of precious oil. This is not the first time we’ve exercised wanderlust to this fascinating corner of the world, but this time, it doubles up with a beautiful love story that melted my heart. In the interview below, Barrett shares the life changing events that occurred from the moment she touched African soil until the day she launched her wholesome beauty brand.
LF: Why do you think Morocco is such a sensual place?
JB: The first time I flew into the small Tangier airport at the northern tip of Morocco where the Atlantic and Mediterranean Sea meet, I saw the palm trees swaying and knew I was in for a swirling adventure. After eight more Moroccan trips and bringing friends and family along for the ride, it continues to offer experiences you’d never have in any other part of the world. Morocco is exotic, sensual and pleasing to all the senses simultaneously. You’ll experience the delicate scent of rosewater, the mouth-watering taste of Moroccan spiced chicken, the colorful sight of hand-tiled fountains, and the echoing sound of the call-to-prayer all in the same moment. It’s a union of old and new, intricate and simple, traditional and modern, connected and separate, Arabic and European, slow and fast. You feel Morocco with the whole of your being.
LF: Are you surprised that on your first trip to Morocco you fell in love?
JB: Absolutely! Never in my wildest dreams did I think I’d find my husband in Morocco. I met Zouhir while sipping mint tea at a beautiful hotel in Tangier where he was a manager. Zouhir and I explored, lunched and shopped in many Northern coastal towns, which were so beautiful. Seeing Morocco with him, a native who speaks the language, was very romantic. He took care of everything and made me feel very special. Six trips and 1.5 years later, Zouhir moved to Los Angeles and we got married.
LF: Now that you and your husband live in Southern California together how do you honor both your Moroccan and American traditions?
JB: Respecting each other’s cultures and traditions is so important. To keep his country alive in our home, we have Moroccan lamps, tea sets, decor and books. Zouhir is a great chef so the smell of Moroccan food is a constant. Our pantry is full of spices, teas, preserved lemons and traditional Moroccan cookware. In fact, I just started baking Moroccan bread. Zouhir enjoys the American holidays, especially Thanksgiving and the 4th of July where we walk in an annual 5k race. You’ll hear American and Moroccan music in our home and bagels with cream cheese is now one of his favorite snacks.
LF: Your first bottle of argan oil was a present from your husband. What inspired you to start Zweena and bring it to the US?
JB: When Zouhir bought me organic argan oil, I fell in love with how soft and moisturized my face and hair felt. After researching the nutrients found in argan oil (80% essential fatty acids, vitamins A, E, F and Squalene to moisturize, revitalize and protect), it quickly became my go-to daily beauty treatment. In Morocco, it’s referred to as “liquid gold” and has been used for centuries by Moroccan women for anti-aging. We wanted to bring it to America as a natural beauty elixir women can use instead of unhealthy products filled with toxic chemicals and preservatives. Zweena Argan Beauty Elixirs is committed to green, clean and organic beauty. Many companies claim to use “Moroccan argan oil” in their formulas but much of the time, it’s not pure, cold-pressed or in high concentration. Zweena Argan Oil is 100% organic, pure, cold-pressed and sustainably sourced from Berber women’s fair-trade cooperatives that we visit.
LF: What uses beauty and more is argan oil best suited for?
JB: Zweena Pure Argan Oil is a true multi-tasking beauty elixir that has everything a woman needs to nourish, moisturize, heal and beautify her face, hair, body and everything in between! For the face, it minimizes fine lines, protects and moisturizes, restores elasticity while the omegas neutralize free radicals, which prevents pre-mature aging. Argan oil is also excellent for conditioning dry hair and scalp and repairing split ends. With a few drops, it can be used as a styling product to tame frizz and make the hair shiny. In addition to the Pure Argan Oil, Zweena’s line includes an Argan Rose Rejuvenating Face Serum containing organic Argan oil along with Rosehip Seed, Evening Primrose, Pomegranate Seed and our divine-smelling Moroccan Rose oil. The Argan Rose Serum hydrates the skin, smoothes wrinkles, improves suppleness and stimulates cell turnover to promote a glowing complexion.
LF: You named the company Zweena meaning ‘beautiful’ in Moroccan Arabic. What is beautiful to you?
JB: The majesty of nature, the kindness of people and deep feelings of love are all beautiful to me. The name Zweena popped into my head after leaving my husband’s family where his mom uses the word for everything that is beautiful and lovely. With Zweena Argan Beauty Elixirs, we are honoring the beauty of the Berber women who make the oil, our loving mothers and the argan tree in Morocco. Of course, we know that women here in the US will become even more naturally beautiful from using Zweena argan oil products.
LF: When will you be traveling to Morocco again?
JB: We were lucky to be able to spend a month in Morocco in 2011 and 2012 visiting my husband’s family, enjoying the country as well as leading an intimate, eight day “Magical Marrakech” retreat where we invite our guests to live in the old city, eat delicious food, do yoga, visit ancient sites, travel to the mountains and coast, learn Moroccan cooking and shop in the world-famous souks with us as their hosts. We will head back to Morocco in 2013 to visit with the argan cooperatives we work with and perhaps we’ll have time to lead another retreat! It’s a life-changing experience for all who attend. More info at www.jaymebarrett.com/blog.
LF: How fast do you live ?
JB: In our fast-paced Los Angeles life, I strive for balance, connectedness and fulfilling daily activities, including work and play. Spending time in Morocco has been a great inspiration for me as they experience life at a much slower pace, especially out of the cities. In a Moroccan home, preparing and enjoying food is an art not to be rushed. The meal is leisurely cooked and mint tea is luxuriously sipped along with hours of laughter and conversation. In my life, I do my best to live in the present moment and simultaneously make beautiful plans for the future.