19 Nov 2021
Beirut, Lebanon
Sustainable Cleaning Products and Cosmetics

It is scientifically proven that freckles look amazing — or so says this heavily freckled writer’s mother (who is not a scientist). Unfortunately, mum’s entirely objective findings did not reach Lebanon during the childhood of Batoul Hakim, founder of sustainable skincare and homecare company Savvy Element. “My dermatologist told me that [my freckles] weren’t nice and had to be treated,” explained Batoul. “For two years, I wouldn’t go out without applying foundation to hide them.”

While Hakim has long since embraced her freckles, her once-constant use of self-care products revealed a powerful opportunity for change. “I think that we all go through a phase where we’re obsessed with clear and perfect skin, which today I find rather unnatural,” she reflected. With Savvy Element, Batoul is bringing sustainability to Lebanon’s booming self-care industry by offering products that minimise harm, both to people’s bodies and the environment.

A green chemist by trade, Batoul has a strong background in promoting sustainability in Lebanon. She started out as a researcher in the renewable energy field, contributing to projects focused on waste-to-energy processes and green solvents. 

In her spare time, Batoul started to experiment with a different kind of research: eco-friendly skincare products. Savvy Element’s range included biodegradable shampoo bars, sunscreen, and face and hair serums — all free from unnecessary additives.

As Batoul’s family and friends began giving her prototypes rave reviews, an inevitable question arose: Would she pursue a career in renewable energy or sustainable self-care?

“When I was selected for the SwitchMed program, I took it as a sign,” Batoul recalled. “I quit my [research] job and decided to dedicate my time to growing Savvy Element.”

Batoul then spent two years conducting extensive research and development, shuttling between Lebanon, Germany, and the United States. By 2019, she had established Savvy Element’s first small-scale production lab in Beirut. 

Proudly, Savvy Element adopts a holistic view of sustainable production. The company’s entire value chain revolves around minimising environmental harm — from designing products with responsibly sourced materials, to reducing energy consumption during manufacturing, to using sustainable packaging.

Savvy Element’s ambitious project has thrived with help from several talented women, who complement Batoul’s expertise and entrepreneurial drive. The company’s team includes eco-visionary (and existing Switcher) Maya Karkour, along with talented scientific, administrative, and marketing staff.

As events have turned out, Batoul is lucky to count on such a motivated group. In October 2019, Lebanon’s crippling economic crisis directly harmed Savvy Element, driving up the cost of imported raw materials and decimating the spending power of Lebanese consumers.

Then, in August 2020, Savvy Element received a crushing, existential blow: the Beirut Port explosion, which destroyed the company’s original production lab. “The blast put us back one year,” said Batoul. “Today, we are still struggling with the repercussions of the blast.”

Somehow, Batoul remains undeterred. “We will make it through,” she said confidently.

The fact remains that, even as Lebanon endures cascading disasters, Savvy Element is the country’s only domestic producer of biodegradable detergent. And, encouragingly, a market exists for this admirable offering. 

According to Batoul, customers have told her how proud they are of having local, high-quality products. “That reassures me that I am on track, because I’m still true to my personal values and to the values of my brand,” she concluded.


Learn more about Savvy Element through Facebook and Instagram. Savvy Element’s website will soon be live.

Photos courtesy of Savvy Element

David Wood is a freelance writer and researcher based in Beirut. He previously worked in Cairo.David Wood
Facing freckles: Lebanese company leads biodegradable self-care goods | The Switchers
Savvy Element Sustainable Cleaning Products and Cosmetics