Emma Heming Willis has walked the runways for the fashion greats—Chanel, Valentino, Armani—and was the face of a Dior campaign. But when she became pregnant for the first time, she found a new calling. Willis was in search of effective products with safe ingredients to rub on her growing belly and came up empty handed. So she turned to coconut oil, an old family standby, and the rest is history. We sat down with the former model to talk about the launch of her skincare company CocoBaba, finding time for self-care and her best advice for moms-to-be.
Lauren Kay: You’ve spoken about rediscovering coconut oil during your pregnancies and CocoBaba being born out of a need for better products with conscious ingredients. What was the hardest part of that journey for you?
Emma Willis: The hardest part was taking this concept of wanting a clean product for pregnant women to use and trust, and then handing it over to a formulator. We’re talking 10 years ago, so this clean beauty movement was just getting started. I was educating myself in an area I knew nothing about and no one was really talking about. I was nervous to hand it over to just anyone as I wasn’t sure if I would be able to achieve the products I was envisioning. The products coming out of Europe were starting to embrace this idea too, so I decided to take my idea to Germany so it could be formulated into EU standards. I knew that by starting there I would get the formula I desired.
LK: What was your biggest learning or take away from creating this company? Anything you’d do differently (assuming there was no global pandemic in the mix!)?
E.W.: I didn’t know much about starting a brand, and I still learn something every day. I didn’t go to business school, and there are times I feel really underequipped. My biggest takeaway has been being able to speak up, raise my hand and call on friends or colleagues when I don’t understand something or need some guidance. There’s power in asking for help.
LK: Sustainability is a big CocoBaba value. Can you share more of how you prioritize this in the day-to-day operations?
It was important to really simplify everything and look at our overall footprint. The beauty of selling directly to our consumer means we’re able to get rid of secondary packaging. That in itself cuts out so much waste. Where we manufacture our products is right next to our fulfillment house, both here in the USA and in Germany. At every corner of the business we focus on being thoughtful and sustainable. It is always in the forefront of our minds as a brand.
Image: Courtesy CocoBaba
LK: Do you have a favorite product in the line? I know it’s like choosing a favorite child.
E.W.: Easy; it’s our Coconut Body Oil. That was the first must-have product I wanted in the line. I was sure it would be our hero product, but it turns out our bestseller is the Coconut Butter Mousse. The reason I love our body oil is that it deeply hydrates and repairs the skin. And it’s not too greasy because your skin just drinks it up. It also is a great product to use if you’re in a rush—leave it in your shower and when your body is still wet, put the Body Oil all over, and then pat dry and go. Easy! That’s how my daughter Mabel likes to use it too.
LK: What’s new or next for CocoBaba?
E.W.: We just launched our Coconut Body Serum that is more like a targeted treatment. It tightens, firms and reduces the appearance of stretch marks. I want to keep building on body care. Skin is your largest organ, so it’s vital you take care of it. I think when you take care of your body, you’re taking that extra time for yourself. Carving out that time is important.
LK: Agreed. Will you tell us about your skincare regime?
E.W.: Are you sure? It’s heavy, because I love a good beauty routine. It’s a full system of cleansing, exfoliating, serums and lots of moisture. I have a cream for every part of my face and body. My shower and beauty/body care routine is seriously my me-time that I get everyday, so I take it and just enjoy the ritual of looking after myself.
LK: That resonates so much, which reminds me of your tagline—everyone deserves to be mothered. In addition to that fab beauty routine, what does that look like for you? How do you recharge? Any advice for other mothers struggling to carve out time for themselves?
E.W.: I struggle with making the time for self-care every day. I put my family’s needs above my own, which I found does not make me any kind of hero. That amount of care for everyone else within my household had taken a toll on my mental health and overall health, and it served no one in my family. Someone told me not long ago that when you over-care for someone, you end up under-caring for yourself. That stopped me in my tracks and really resonated with me. I don’t mother myself perfectly but I know that I have some basic baseline needs that are a must, like first and foremost, exercise. It’s a time I can disconnect and can do something that I know makes me feel good overall. I think it’s important to find that one thing that makes you feel good and build from there.
Image: Belathee Photography
LK: What is your favorite part of being a mother to Evelyn and Mabel? Any family rituals or traditions you especially cherish?
E.W.: I always wanted a family for as long as I could remember. If I had a vision board (which I don’t), family would be the center and everything else would filter around that. The girls bring so much love, laughter, and life into our home. For us as a family it’s always been about making memories. I’m not even sure we have rituals or traditions. We just love spending time with each other and we know that time is precious, and I don’t take that for granted.
LK: What do you wish someone would have told you about being a mother before you had your children? Any advice you’d want to impart on moms to be?
E.W.: Stop listening to unsolicited advice. One size does not fit all. Each child and family are different, which means the needs are different. Follow what feels right for you versus the naysayers.
LK: What would you go back and tell yourself during those first three months, aka the fourth trimester, with a new baby?
E.W.: Oh boy, those first three months were a blur. My husband had signed on to do three movies, back-to-back, in good ol’ Bruce Willis style, which took us around the world that first year. So for me, who had envisioned Mabel’s first three months very differently, I had no time to doubt myself. I learned to breathe and trust the process. In hindsight, that time of our lives was just perfect. It all goes by in a flash, so don’t sweat the small stuff.
The Bump readers can score 25 percent off CocoBaba’s Supreme Bundle with the code THEBUMP25 now through June 2.