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Elizabeth Barbalich of Antipodes: “Give yourself a break”

Give yourself a break. Life is challenging right now. We’re all just doing the best we can. You’re going to have days when you struggle to keep all the balls in the air. Don’t feel guilty about it — that’s just life. Be kind to yourself. Listen to what’s going on inside. Practice mindfulness. Being a skincare […]

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Give yourself a break. Life is challenging right now. We’re all just doing the best we can. You’re going to have days when you struggle to keep all the balls in the air. Don’t feel guilty about it — that’s just life. Be kind to yourself. Listen to what’s going on inside. Practice mindfulness.

Being a skincare brand, we advocate for the small things that can make a difference at the end of a long day. Self-care rituals such as a nourishing, creamy face mask is a 15-minute respite from the chaos of life (our Aura Manuka Honey Mask is a cult favourite for this very reason). Apply thick layers and take a few minutes to sit or lie down somewhere comfortable, and just breathe. It’s a mental reset — with glowy skin at the end of it.


As a part of my series about the women in wellness, I had the pleasure of interviewing Elizabeth Barbalich.

Antipodes founder and CEO Elizabeth Barbalich was searching for natural skincare that offered the same benefits as conventional skincare — but using pure New Zealand ingredients that were independently and scientifically validated. That personal quest turned into a trailblazing scientific green beauty company which has won both global fans and awards for combining premium New Zealand products, including raw super-fruit extracts, with science and innovation to produce high-tech certified organic and premium formulations. “We want to show our children you can build a life by sticking to your values and beliefs. We’re also proud to show them you don’t have to compromise your green goals — we deliberately use clean, organic New Zealand ingredients, we only partner with suppliers who align with our values and we’ve retained manufacturing in New Zealand for sustainability and quality control purposes. That’s our Green Beauty Ethos™ and we’re proud to share that with the world.”


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” better. Can you share your “backstory” with us?

Antipodes® is a Scientific Green Beauty™ brand from New Zealand, creating award-winning, results-driven skincare from premium natural ingredients. Our high-performing ingredients are sourced from New Zealand nature and our formulations are tested using in-vitro scientific investigations and clinical trials — which means our products are not only beautiful to use, but they genuinely work.

The brand came about through a need. To hydrate my dry skin, I was searching for natural skincare that offered the same benefits as conventional products. I couldn’t find anything like that on the market — and certainly nothing that was backed by science. And so, Antipodes® was born.

I didn’t go into it blind. Science, innovation, and nature have always been a core part of my life. Growing up on the Canterbury plains, I studied biology before embarking on an MBA, and worked for a US-based international surgical corporation pioneering technology for keyhole surgery. My interest in a natural lifestyle came through my husband Zoran, who turned the whole family onto raw juices, supplements, and alternative medicines. Even with three children under four, I felt healthy and energized.

Armed with this specialized background, I spent time mixing and testing formulations myself before enlisting the help of experts to take Antipodes® to market. I never doubted we would go global — and thanks to hard work and innovation, we now sell in over 40 markets on four continents.

Since launching in 2006, we’ve remained committed to our green beauty ethos, which means onshore production in New Zealand, sustainably sourced ingredients, recyclable packaging, and independent verification of our organic, vegan, and vegetarian products. It’s a unique approach that has earned Antipodes® accolades and devotees, worldwide.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career? What were the main lessons or takeaways from that story?

From a business perspective, the global pandemic has been unprecedented. It required a swift and significant pivot. Our team poured all their focus into strengthening and building our online presence, fast-tracking key e-commerce and digital projects to meet the needs of consumers who were no longer able to engage with us through traditional channels.

Core to our success over this period has been the establishment of cross-functional teams. It meant we were nimble on our feet and able to drive those key projects forward without internal ‘red tape’. We learned a lot in the process, but to be honest it would be more truthful to say that the experience solidified what we already knew — that resilience, tenacity, and agility is key to thriving in a challenging environment.

Can you share a story about the biggest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

I am an impatient person, which can be both a strength and a weakness! There are times when I wished something could have happened sooner, because I knew I could take the Antipodes® brand to a global level with the right blend of strategy, drive, and people. I had to learn patience — it’s key to making good decisions that future proof the business rather than fulfilling an immediate, short-term need at the expense of your end goal.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

My husband, Zoran, was the catalyst for me starting this journey. Zoran’s enthusiasm for a natural and holistic way of living was infectious — he really opened my eyes to the possibilities of a natural lifestyle and how it could enrich every part of my life.

I’m very grateful for my enthusiastic, cross-functional team here in Wellington — these talented people carry the Antipodes® brand forward each day and their innovative and agile approach is a critical success factor for us.

Otherwise, Antipodes’ success comes down to a lot of research, hard, work, and absolute dedication — basically living and breathing the brand. At the beginning, we had to work incredibly hard to access retail channels and ensure that once our range was on the shelf, it sold. I personally trained staff at retail stores throughout New Zealand, and I’m really grateful to the retailers who believed in the brand from the outset — it was crucial in those early days.

Ok perfect. Now let’s jump to our main focus. When it comes to health and wellness, how is the work you are doing helping to make a bigger impact in the world?

Our Green Beauty Ethos sits at the heart of our brand and governs everything we do — from the ingredients we source, to the suppliers we work with, to our choices around packaging, to the certifications we achieve for our 100% natural skincare. We live the talk.

From the beginning we’ve been committed to a policy of sustainability for Antipodes. We define sustainability as traceability of key ingredients, extraction processes using pure water, and organic or biodiverse farming methods that have little impact on the environment. Our ingredients are sourced responsibly from New Zealand’s pristine natural landscape: botanical bioactives from plants and trees in lush wilderness; world-famous antibacterial manuka honey from bees that forage on wild manuka flowers; antioxidant-rich grapes from award-winning vineyards; and Vitamin C-rich kiwi seed oil from fruit grown on sun-drenched orchards. From this nutrient powerhouse our skincare is made, preserving the health-enhancing properties.

We believe that certified organic and certified vegan skincare is not only better for the planet, but better for your skin. 28 of our products are certified vegan by the UK Vegetarian Society — the world’s oldest and most respected vegetarian organization. 11 are certified organic by BioGro, the Pacific’s largest and best-known certifier of organic produce and products. Every Antipodes product is 100% natural in origin, and free from toxic ingredients including phthalates, parabens, and petrochemicals.

Our sustainability policy is threaded through our packaging, too. We use recyclable boxes made from 100% biodegradable cardboard, sourced from sustainable forests. The ink used to print our boxes and other packaging materials is 100% eco ink derived from vegetables. Products come in either recyclable aluminium tubes, or glass jars and bottles.

We’ve worked hard to create an eco-system of like-minded partners in a production chain that spans field and forest to shop floor. All of our producers and supply partners are picked for their values and commitment to sustainability. We’ve grown this strong network of business partners in New Zealand because our country has world-class producers and suppliers, and because it reduces our carbon footprint. Our products are proudly made in New Zealand, with most ingredients sourced from New Zealand to ensure supply chain integrity. We’ve been working with some suppliers since the company’s inception in 2006 and we work hard at nurturing these relationships.

Can you share your top five “lifestyle tweaks” that you believe will help support people’s journey towards better wellbeing? Please give an example or story for each.

#1: Connect with nature. Humans have an intrinsic need to be among nature — it’s essential for our health and happiness. Walking in the bush, digging our toes in the sand, or a simple picnic in the park is like a cleanser for the soul. Unfortunately, getting out into nature can be really difficult at the moment. If you can’t get outside, it’s important to look for ways to capture that experience in some small way at home — whether it be through fragrance, artwork, music, food, or self-care rituals. We like to say that you can lift the lid on any Antipodes® product to connect with nature in New Zealand. Our products are formulated with pure New Zealand ingredients such as regenerative mamaku black fern, exfoliating hibiscus bloom, and antibacterial manuka honey — rich in nutrients, and in nature.

#2: Exercise. A healthy mind needs a healthy body, so no matter what’s going on in my day, I’ll never compromise on exercise. I’m a morning person, so I try to get on the exercycle, the weights, or out for a run and then that recharges me for the day. Of course, exercise is tricky for many of us right now. I would look at simple ways you can get moving at home. Body weight exercises can be done almost anywhere and require no fancy equipment. It’s critical for getting the endorphins flowing and it’s excellent thinking time, too.

#3: Choose clean. Greenwashing is rife in the beauty industry right now. There is a difference between being 100% natural (which is what Antipodes® is) compared to a brand using natural ingredients, which can be as little as 5%. It’s really important to look beyond the marketing hype and research the ingredients on the label, so you know what you’re putting on your skin — it’s an eye opener.

Antipodes® is one of few brands globally to have achieved authentic organic status. We work closely with our suppliers in New Zealand, so we know exactly where our raw materials come from, how they are grown and their integrity and quality. By choosing clean over chemical, you’re serving the health of your skin.

#4: Go plant-powered. Making the switch to veganism has made a huge difference in my life. It’s also the foundation on which Antipodes® is built. Going vegan means choosing plant-powered products that feature no animal products or by-products. If you’re not ready to go vegan, there are some really easy switches you can make to have a positive impact — such as going meat-free a few times a week, and finding vegan alternatives to your conventional skincare products.

Vegan beauty is a better choice for your skin, because it contains ingredients that are often vitamin- and antioxidant-rich and filled with anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and antioxidant properties. 28 Antipodes® products are certified vegan by the UK Vegetarian Society, something we’re really proud of.

#5: Give yourself a break. Life is challenging right now. We’re all just doing the best we can. You’re going to have days when you struggle to keep all the balls in the air. Don’t feel guilty about it — that’s just life. Be kind to yourself. Listen to what’s going on inside. Practice mindfulness.

Being a skincare brand, we advocate for the small things that can make a difference at the end of a long day. Self-care rituals such as a nourishing, creamy face mask is a 15-minute respite from the chaos of life (our Aura Manuka Honey Mask is a cult favourite for this very reason). Apply thick layers and take a few minutes to sit or lie down somewhere comfortable, and just breathe. It’s a mental reset — with glowy skin at the end of it.

If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of wellness to the most amount of people, what would that be?

Going vegan, going natural, going toxin-free in all aspects of life. To my mind, this is essential to support mental and physical health. My focus at Antipodes® is making it easy for people to start that transition with skincare. If the world switched from conventional, chemical-laden products, to 100% natural products, formulated with nutrient-rich ingredients whose efficacy was proven by science, we’d be serving the health of our skin — and we’d feel pretty good on the inside, too.

Science is one of the cornerstones of the Antipodes brand and we invest a lot to ensure that our products are not only 100% natural, but that their efficacy is scientifically proven through in-vitro investigations (in the lab) and clinical trials. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if everything we consumed or used met this standard?

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why?

If I look back on my younger self, I think what I love is the naivety and sheer drive I had. It never occurred to me that we wouldn’t be successful. So to that extent, I’m glad I never had someone over in my ear to tell me what to do!

Ultimately, you can hear all the advice in the world, but if you don’t have real-world application, it’s just noise. But here are five things I’ve learned through experience — and maybe they would have streamlined the process for me if I’d known them all along:

  1. Be patient! New products and new markets require lots of research, travel, experimentation, and conversations at many levels with potential business partners, in-market expertise, retailers, beauty buyers, media, the list goes on. Don’t skimp on the preparation — it’s the scaffolding for your success.
  2. First impressions count, and you can only make one first impression. So make sure what you say and what you do is always best practice.
  3. Innovation is key. If you’re following what’s trendy, you’re already too late.
  4. Be prepared to pivot. Clinging to a set strategy will hold you back if you’re ignoring reality. Embrace extreme objectivity. If you can let go of your preconceptions, you’ll continue to drive your business forward.
  5. Back yourself! You really need strong self-belief to start a business in such a competitive category as beauty. Fail fast, stay positive, and expect to grind through the lows — it’s the only way you’ll reach the ladder to climb out.

Sustainability, veganism, mental health, and environmental changes are big topics at the moment. Which one of these causes is dearest to you, and why?

These are all incredibly important causes. If I had to choose one to highlight, it would be veganism. Being vegan is hip right now, and for good reason. There’s a huge global trend being driven by those who are conscious of the origin of the products they consume or wear, and who follow a fit, healthy, and sustainable lifestyle.

Personally, going vegan has made a marked difference to my life. I actually followed in the footsteps of my daughter (she’s clearly more switched on than me!) and I’m not missing dairy products at all. Instead, I feel healthy and on top of my huge work demands. Diet has a huge role to play in health and I genuinely believe that a vegan diet helps me achieve everything I need.

We care about authenticity and ensuring our products are genuinely vegan. We planned the vegan certification for a year and underwent an extensive process by VegSoc, which audits every Antipodes product line annually to meet its strict criteria for approved vegetarian and vegan status. As a result, our customers can be assured that our vegan products are authentic, and you’ll find the UK Vegetarian Society logos proudly displayed on the packaging of all Antipodes products.

Of course, veganism is closely related to sustainability and the environment, as the harmful environmental impact of meat production is well documented. Therefore to me, going vegan is something that does so much good for the world.

What is the best way our readers can follow you on social media?

We’re active on social media and love it when users reach out to share their love for our products! You can drop us a line on Instagram and Facebook.

https://www.instagram.com/antipodesskincare/
https://www.facebook.com/AntipodesSkincare
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