In a world where conscious consumerism and eco-conscious choices are at the forefront of our daily lives, there emerges a beacon of inspiration in the realm of beauty.

Meet Karen Haig, the visionary founder behind the remarkable brand, Dear Heart. With unwavering dedication and a deep commitment to crafting vegan-friendly beauty products of the highest quality, Karen has not only carved a niche in the industry but also ignited a movement towards sustainable luxury.

Today, we have the privilege of delving into her journey, insights, and the heartwarming story behind Dear Heart.

Join us on this inspiring interview as we unravel the story of a brand that not only beautifies but also embodies the essence of compassion and sustainability…

What inspired you to create a vegan-friendly beauty brand like Dear Heart?

I noticed a significant gap in the market for a handcrafted vegan beauty brand that prioritized luxury ingredients and eco-friendly yet elegant packaging. Additionally, I wanted to establish a brand that didn’t rely on fear-based marketing or emphasize “the nasties.” We recognized that consumers have become adept at reading labels and understanding ingredients.

Could you tell us more about the organic plant-based ingredients and essential oils used in your vegan beauty products?

In all our products, we steer clear of ingredients like beeswax, honey, or animal fats, which makes them entirely vegan. We have a preference for harnessing what nature offers, especially when it comes to our essential oil blends, which we use to fragrance our shampoo bars and soaps.

How do Dear Heart’s shampoo bars contribute to reducing plastic waste compared to traditional shampoo bottles?

Each of our solid shampoo bars is equivalent to three plastic bottles. While many plastic bottles are recyclable, there are costs associated with the recycling process. In New Zealand, for instance, several recycling plants do not accept lids and pumps, leading to their disposal in landfills. I’d love to see more haircare brands embrace eco-friendliness rather than waiting for consumers to demand it.

What should consumers look for in a shampoo bar?

Dear Heart’s shampoo bars are genuine shampoos, pH balanced between 5.5 and 6. It’s important to note that there are two types of shampoo bars on the market, with a high percentage of them being soap bars. Soap, while wonderful for hands and body, can leave hair dry, coarse, and coated with a greasy film. The low pH of real shampoo enables us to incorporate proteins and vitamins that wouldn’t survive the soap-making process. If you find a lengthy list of oils in the ingredients, you can assume it’s a soap-based shampoo bar. I often say that washing hair with soap was never a thing until manufacturers of genuine shampoo bars gained popularity.

What makes the Dear Heart soap collection unique and appealing to customers?

Our soaps have a couple of delightful surprises. First, customers will notice a randomly selected inspirational quote tucked into the back of each soap box. These quotes have been collected over many years, and our selection is continually evolving. Second, our soaps contain an embedded soap heart that gradually appears as the soap wears down. This hidden embed adds complexity to our soap-making process, but we believe it’s well worth it.

Could you share some insights into the process of handcrafting Dear Heart soaps?

We employ the cold process technique, which leaves a small percentage of oils unreacted, a process known as “superfatting.” This technique allows us to maximise the benefits of our ingredients while providing superior moisturising properties in each bar. Commercially made soaps can be drying and lack the superfatting and glycerin component that prevents them from developing cracks over time when left unused. Each batch of our soap is cured for six weeks, allowing excess moisture to evaporate and resulting in a longer-lasting, milder bar for soap enthusiasts to enjoy.

How do you ensure that Dear Heart products are both vegan-friendly and of high quality?

Our formulations do not include beeswax, honey, or animal fats. We also incorporate generous proportions of cocoa and shea butters into our soap bars to enhance their luxury for the skin. Our sulfate-free shampoo bars entail a slightly higher investment in ingredients to deliver the gentlest and most effective solid bar experience.

What are some of the benefits of using vegan hair and beauty products for customers?

Vegan cosmetic brands contribute to a kinder planet by avoiding reliance on animal farming. These brands often adopt more sustainable packaging practices and are committed to avoiding animal testing, reflecting their concern for animal welfare. We’re here to offer environmentally conscious consumers a choice that combines ethics with a touch of luxury.

What’s your go-to quote when you are lacking motivation?

“When you’re feeling stuck, focus on the step in front of you, not the entire staircase.”

Can you describe the scent profiles of some of your most popular vegan beauty essentials?

Our Awaken scent is universally beloved, featuring lavender, bergamot, spearmint, and patchouli essential oils. Equally popular, with a more feminine note, is our Turkish Delight fragrance, which includes rose geranium and ylang ylang. For those who appreciate delightful aromas, our Chai Latte soap is likened to the scent of a freshly baked hot cross bun.

Since launching the brand, what has been your proudest moment?

Winning the award for the best vegan beauty brand in New Zealand for both 2021 and 2022 was a tremendous honor. However, I experience moments of pride every time I successfully convert a customer from bottled shampoo to solid bars. It signifies a reduction in plastic waste in our environment, and that warms my heart.

Looking back, is there anything you would do differently?

If I could start over, I would begin with just one product type and gradually introduce more to complement the range. Launching with too many products at once led to some chaos, to say the least.

What are your future plans for expanding the Dear Heart product line?

In alignment with our self-care theme, I aim to expand our offerings, and these may not be limited solely to bath and body products. Stay tuned for updates.

Can you share any exciting upcoming releases or new developments in the world of Dear Heart?

We have plans to release a body oil in time for the next summer season. Currently, we are in the testing phase, experimenting with fragrance combinations and determining which fruit and nut oils are most easily absorbed into the skin.

What advice would you give to individuals looking to transition to a vegan hair and beauty routine?

Transitioning to a vegan hair and beauty routine is an excellent choice, but don’t forget to verify if the company is also cruelty-free. Ensure that they actively promote eco-friendliness and education rather than just focusing on sales.

What advice would you offer someone who is interested in launching a brand in the beauty world?

It’s crucial to stay well-informed about industry trends and innovations. Additionally, establish a clear and distinctive point of difference to stand out in a crowded market. If you believe in your brand, don’t be swayed by well-intentioned friends and family who may discourage you from pursuing your passion.

Our readers love to travel. What destination is at the top of your bucket list?

I would love to revisit the Sagrada Família in Barcelona to witness how it has evolved since my last visit in 1992.

Where do you call home?

I reside in the South Island of New Zealand, in a city called Dunedin. It’s often referred to as the “Edinburgh of the south” due to its castle and climate.

What does self-care mean to you?

Self-care, to me, involves taking time for oneself and indulging in a bit of pampering. However, it extends beyond that; it encompasses caring for our minds, emotional well-being, and recognizing our basic human need for belonging and connection.

Where can people find out more?

For more information, you can also find us on Instagram at @dearheartnz.


Northern girl Laura is the epitome of a true entrepreneur. Laura’s spirit for adventure and passion for people blaze through House of Coco. She founded House of Coco in 2014 and has grown it in to an internationally recognised brand whilst having a lot of fun along the way. Travel is in her DNA and she is a true visionary and a global citizen.

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