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11 April 2024

NilCeutica: A New Skincare Brand by Azerbaijani-American Dr. Nilufar Rahimova

How a Doctor of Pharmacology decided to open her own skincare brand after ten years of creating skincare products for herself, friends, and family.

Dr. Nilufar Rahimova NilCeutica

Image: courtesy photo

Meet Dr. Nilufar Rahimova, an Azerbaijani-American pharmacist turned entrepreneur whose skincare brand NilCeutica, in just a year since its launch, continues gaining popularity. “NilCeutica was born at the crossroads of my skills and knowledge, and the problems that I had,” Dr. Rahimova says. 

Recently, she was awarded the Extraordinary Azerbaijani Woman Award by the Chamber of Commerce. Although the brand was launched and is manufactured in the U.S., the logo of NilCeutica points to the founder’s roots. The buta ornament is a traditional Azerbaijani motif used in many designs. “I wanted my logo to be associated with Azerbaijan,” Dr. Rahimova explains. “I want Azerbaijan to be associated with smart, bright people and innovations, because innovation is what we are doing at NilCeutica.”

Although the brand is still young, the idea of launching her skincare business came to Dr. Rahimova over ten years ago, when, as a young pharmaceutical student, she was doing her Master’s and later Ph.D. in Japan. At 22, she discovered the world of skincare out of sheer necessity—to take care of her dry and sensitive skin. Yet, nothing that young Nilufar was trying would help. “It was either not heavy enough to moisturize, or I didn’t like how my face looked after. I was puzzled how is that possible,” she remembers.

That’s when a memory of her grandmother came to her. As a pharmacist, she used to make medicine for her family.  “Because at that time, pharmacists in Azerbaijan used to make drugs in the pharmacy,” Dr. Rahimova explains. “She used to make lots of potions by herself. So, I was like, I am a pharmacist; I guess I can do that too.” She started producing her own “formulation,” which led to her personal skincare products that weren’t initially for sale. “At that time, I knew that I would one day launch my skincare brand. What I didn’t know was that it would take me twelve years to do that,” she laughs. 

Born in Baku into a family of scientists, the career choice for Dr. Rahimova and its trajectory was not surprising. After graduating from Azerbaijan Medical University as a pharmacist, she decided to continue her studies abroad. The future entrepreneur and her husband moved to Japan to continue their studies at Kyoto University. After five years, they moved to the U.S. where Dr. Rahimova was invited to be a Postdoctoral Researcher at the University of Pennsylvania. “We have been working on finding new therapeutic targets for triple-negative breast cancers and androgen-independent prostate cancer,” she explains the reality of the five-year-long work that she had done. 

Luckily, Dr. Rahimova is now able to work from home, writing papers, which helps to navigate being a wife, a mother, a postdoctoral researcher, and an entrepreneur. However, it wasn’t always as easy. “It was difficult, especially during the pandemic when daycares were closed, but we had to work. We had only three months of working from home, after that, we had to go back to work. I was working from 7am till 3pm, and my husband from 3pm till the evening.”

Today, NilCeutica is growing steadily. Its team currently consists of several graphic designers, a technical specialist, and people in product fulfillment. “I am overseeing the manufacture myself,” Dr. Rahimova explains. “According to the new regulations in the U.S. that have been passed in 2022, only appropriately trained personnel can oversee manufacturing. If I want to hire someone for manufacturing, it has to be a trained person like me, but that’s going to be my biggest investment. For now, I have part-time people in order fulfillment; I don’t have full-time employees yet,” she states, adding that it requires a lot of additional investment. That’s why Dr. Rahimova is currently focusing on management to scale up her business.

When asked what makes NilCeutica unique, Dr. Rahimova says, “I have ten years of experience studying and working in Ivy League universities doing wet-lab biomedical research. I am using that knowledge and skills to formulate products for NilCeutica. We utilize all the most significant advancements in cosmetic science so far using growth factors, phyto-retinol, standardized and stabilized extracts, high-performance cosmeceuticals, and advanced formulations like multi-lamellar emulsion that mimic the lipid bilayer of the human skin to increase absorption and provide long-term benefits.”

In addition to that, NilCeutica is a cruelty-free and eco-friendly brand, which was very important for Dr. Rahimova when launching her own brand. They have in-house manufacturing, “which gives us full control over the quality of each ingredient and the sourcing,” and unlike their competitors, they do not use distilled water in their products. During extensive competitor research analysis, it was found that “most skincare products contain up to 90% distilled water.”

Lastly, NilCeutica is designed for “knowledgeable consumers or ‘skintellectuals’ who are well-informed and research-driven regarding skincare” and “are willing to invest in high-quality formulations backed by scientific research and proven efficacy.” 

As for herself, Dr. Rahimova shares that the first year was exhausting because most of the tasks required creativity, which used up more energy. “Hopefully next year will be easier. Now I am kinder to myself; when something comes up and I don’t know how to do that, that’s okay. It will take time, but in the end, I will learn it.”