More than skin deep: Anna Ross of Kester Black

27 May 2021
By Fashion Quarterly

On her return to New Zealand, the clean beauty pioneer and founder of Kester Black shares her vision for a cleaner, greener future of beauty.

Moving home in August last year was a pretty easy decision to make.

With Covid having a huge impact in Australia, New Zealand became more and more of a lure for us. It’s such a safe haven, and we felt lucky to be able to choose Wanaka as our new home and business base. Wanaka is a dream. It has given me time and space to think, and a whole new tapestry to fuel my creativity. Wanaka is a great muse, and we’re super happy to be home.

I’m already fuelled with new ideas, unencumbered by the distractions of the rat race.

The inspiration for Kester Black’s new products and names has purely come from being home and being immersed in new surroundings. It’s a never-ending kaleidoscope of colour and light that makes you see things differently every single day, and I am excited about what that means for Kester Black.

New Zealand is a bit synonymous with the colour green, and once I’d settled back in, I was reminded of just how many shades of green there are, which made me start thinking about when I was little. Like scratch-and-sniff stickers were prized possessions — hence ‘Another Pickle’ — and summers were spent running around with these oversized water pistols — Super Soakers — camping in the backyard, and drenching the holidays away.

Beauty to me means health and happiness.

For me, modern beauty is rooted in being ethical, sustainable, and delivering social justice. These shouldn’t be the merely glib marketing buzzwords. I believe in beauty with a higher purpose. I call Kester Black a good-weird kind of beauty company, and I think that has helped to define how I feel about the beauty category. I’m uncompromising about being certified carbon neutral, donating two per cent of all revenue to social causes, [and] making vegan and sustainable products that are classy with a conscience. That’s what fires and fuels me.

My love for and belief in ethical beauty goes way beyond Kester Black.

I am single-minded when it comes to it being time for all beauty brands to focus on becoming ethical. Kester Black is initiating a new code of ethics for cosmetics that other brands can follow. For beauty brands wanting to become ethical, creating a brand positioning statement is the first step. It’s easy to know exactly how to formulate products and choose to package once you know what you stand for. Are you vegan? Or natural? Those two values can be very opposing, which is why you don’t see many ethical colour cosmetics brands on the market.

When it comes to nails, preparation is key.

A clean, dry base will make your manicure last three to four days longer. And never, ever skip the base and topcoat! They’re just as important as the colour of your manicure. It’s like eating a sandwich without the bread.

Don’t skip the SPF!

For the past four years, I have been working closely with a dermatologist to formulate functional skincare products. Before I met her, I had never really understood the benefits of wearing sunscreen (but that’s the beauty when you are under 30, I guess). She taught me to take care of my skin — preventative care is so much better and longer-lasting than trying to repair it after the fact.

For more beauty inspiration, read our interview with Jessie Gurunathan on self-love and finding her place in the world here.  


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