Career Diaries: Why Holly Harding Founded O'o Hawaii Skin Care

July 03, 2019
Marisa Petrarca
By: Marisa Petrarca | by L'Oréal
Career Diaries: Why Holly Harding Founded O'o Hawaii Skin Care

I remember my first experience with O'o Hawaii like it was yesterday. I managed to score a sample of the brand’s Brilliant Feather Beauty Balm and fell in love immediately. The formula is the silkiest, softest balm I’ve ever encountered, and its smell is practically identical to that of a sweet berry smoothie (and just as addictive). After my first use, I looked forward to applying it in the evening because I always woke up to a soft, dewy complexion. This is how my love story with O'o Hawaii skin care began. 

I digress (because I could easily talk about these products for hours on end), but my glorious first experience led me to test some of the brand’s other top-sellers, like the Birdbath Antioxidant Cleansing Balm, Birdseed Detoxifying Cleansing Scrub and Golden Nectar Brightening Firming Ferulic Serum. The O'o Hawaii products have since become a staple in my skin-care collection, and judging by all of the amazing reviews I’ve heard in real life and seen online, I’m not alone. To learn more about O'o Hawaii and the brilliant woman who started it all, I reached out to the founder, Holly Harding. Ahead, she shares the brand’s story, how she came up with the brand’s name and what brought her to Hawaii in the first place.

Can you share the story behind O'o Hawaii? 

As an integrative nutrition health coach, I help others live their best lives and be their healthiest selves, which is always my goal. I love this part of my career and I also wanted to apply this approach to skin care. I created O’o Hawaii with a “beauty from the inside out” concept because I believe skin care starts with food first. I wanted the line to perfectly blend health and nutrition with external skin care. Nature gives us everything we need to take care of our skin, and it was important to me that my line embody that philosophy. 

How did you come up with the name O'o Hawaii?

The name O’o Hawaii is a tribute to the Hawaiian ʻōʻō bird, which is now extinct. This bird was known for its beautiful call, and some people in Hawaii believe they can still hear it today. Like this bird, our ingredients signify beauty. We create products with ingredients that preserve, protect and improve the skin, while also ensuring that the natural resources our ingredients come from are preserved and protected.

Have you always lived in Hawaii? 

My husband’s career actually brought us to Hawaii in 2003. Before that, we were living in Boston. He had a great opportunity for his music career (he was a saxophonist for the Air Force Rock Band), so we packed up and moved to Oahu. At the time, I wasn’t too stoked about the idea of moving to Hawaii because I had a really good set up in Boston and the move was overwhelming. However, after six months in Hawaii, I fell in love. I took a surf lesson and my life honestly changed forever. I’ve lived in Hawaii for more than 15 years now, and I have no intention of going anywhere else!

What were you doing before O'o Hawaii?

We owned Bubble Shack Hawaii, a natural bath and body company, for ten years and sold it in 2016.  I then went back to nutrition school and began coaching clients and helping them get healthy. 

What's a typical day like for you? 

I typically wake up around 6 or 6:30AM, get my dogs taken care of with breakfast, get myself breakfast, then make my way to the computer by 7AM.  At 9AM, I take a break and work out every day. I use the rest of the day for office work or customer meetings, and a few days a week, I hop in the ocean for a surf in the late afternoon. I also enjoy mountain biking, but I save that for the weekend.

Can you share your daily makeup and skin-care routine? 

I have the luxury of working from my home office, so during the day I rarely wear makeup. If anything, I’ll just wear mascara. I religiously use the entire O’o Hawaii regimen both day and night (but just the scrub and mask in the morning, not evening). 

What's been the biggest pinch-me moment in your career thus far? 

Seeing our products on the shelf at Neiman Marcus. In the luxury space, I can’t think of a more esteemed retailer.  

If you had to recommend just one of your skin-care products, which one would you pick?

My personal favorite from a performance standpoint is the Golden Nectar Brightening & Firming Ferulic Serum because it instantly perks up and brightens the skin. I’m a surfer and in the water and sun quite a bit, so I’m always battling sun spots. Golden Nectar has really helped keep those annoying spots at bay.  

What advice do you have for aspiring female entrepreneurs?

Don’t try and do everything yourself.  Find capable people to help in areas that you either aren’t as talented in or don’t enjoy and focus on your areas of strength.  

Can you tell us about O'o Hawaii ingredients? What does "no filler" mean?

Our ingredients are highly concentrated with actives. By “no fillers,” it means we do not use soy, palm or silicon dioxide to “fill the jar” and dilute the actives in order to create a better profit margin.  

Can you tell us about the H Lyfe Method and how it relates to O'o Hawaii skin care? 

In my nutrition education, I studied more than 100 dietary theories and along the way aligned with some of them more than others. I discovered that the more people know about themselves on a variety of levels, the more likely they are to respond positively to a plan that is then customized to their specific needs, body type, lifestyle and genetic disposition. I teach my clients so much about themselves that by the end of my program their old ways of thinking seem so foreign. What’s awesome is it constantly keeps me thinking about my own health, and as I prefer to lead by example, it also keeps me in check. 

What's next for you and the brand? 

We’re currently working on opening a variety of new retailers all over the world including Japan, Hong Kong, Russia and Australia. In the next six months to a year, you’ll be seeing O’o Hawaii in a variety of new brick-and-mortar locations.   

What does beauty mean to you? 

It sounds like a Miss America answer, but I truly believe beauty begins from within, starting with attitude and a person’s heart.  Being authentic, considerate and mindful of the greater good is where beauty begins.  

Read More:

Career Diaries: Celebrity Esthetician Renée Rouleau

How Dr. Ellen Marmur Became a Top NYC Dermatologist 

Dermablend’s Malena Higuera Is Proof That You Don’t Have to Compromise — In Your Career or Your Skin-Care Routine


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