Sara Pickus has always been that girl who loved to try new skincare products.
“If I was at a lunch and a friend started talking about a new lotion she was using, I’d have to stop at the store on my way home to pick some up and try it myself,” Sara, a Lake Forest married mother of three, says.
But it was a few years ago after Sara began experiencing some health concerns that she really began evaluating everything she was doing—from what she was eating to what she was putting on her skin.
“I started to read everything I could get my hands on about clean beauty,” she remembers. “Then I started to wonder if I could create something using ingredients that were best for me.”
This was unchartered territory for Sara, a graphic designer by education and training. As a launching point, she began to take note of the botanicals and essential oils used in some of the market’s most popular products and what they were used for.
“I discovered that jojoba, sea buckthorn, and rosehip seed oil were in a lot of the things I liked so I started playing with these [as well as many others] to come up with a face and body oil that restored my skin and made it soft. I was also trying to find the balance in creating something that felt moisturizing but didn’t leave my skin feeling as if I just applied an oil.” Sara sourced her ingredients from vendors who provided only organic products to her. A meticulous note taker, Sara finally settled on a recipe and began testing it on her family and friends.
“While I was still in the research phase, the marketing side of my brain wouldn’t turn off possible names for my oils or ideas for what the labels would look like,” she remembers. “This was as much fun for me as experimenting with the ingredients.”
Sara, who is part Armenian and part Finnish, grew up in a family that favored her father’s Armenian side. “When I started dreaming up the direction I wanted to take these products, I liked the idea of giving a nod to my mother’s Finnish side,” Sara says. “It was my mother and grandmother who influenced my love of makeup and skincare.”
Sara landed on “Makea Iho” as the name for her brand. “It means ‘sweet skin’ in Finnish,” she explains. “I loved that this name was not too long, not too over the top, and relatable. It’s also something I can tie to my mother’s legacy.”
After rave reviews from those close to her, Sara’s husband encouraged her to make Makea Iho a business.
“I’m my own worst enemy,” she says, who makes small batches of fresh product in a home work space especially designed for this type of work. “Here I have these products I love, that I know work, but I keep waiting for everything to be in order before I share it in a bigger way. To be honest, I’m not quite sure what the ‘everything’ is. I really just need to do it.”
Today, people can buy Makea Iho facial oil, body oil, and brand new lip balm on Sara’s newly launched website, makeaiho.com. She also has dreams of expanding her line to include her favorite cosmetic—lipstick.
“To look at me you would never know how much I love lipstick,” she says with a laugh. “But it brings back such special memories of my mother when I was growing up. But if nothing more comes from Makea Iho than these products I can’t personally live without, then that’s enough. This whole experience has been really enjoyable for me.”