The graphic red; white and blue of the Union Flag/Jack on packaging catches my eye more now than ever before. This ‘Made in Britain’ indicator means – if possible – I lean towards purchasing that product before others. This applies to food (less transport time for fresher veg especially), clothing (though hard to find these days), furniture and skincare.
In anticipation of British Beauty Week (5 – 11 September) find out more about my British beauty brands in Beautiful British
Photographs by Jason Yates
I used to have mixed emotions about the Union flag (along with the English St George cross) because of its association with the 80s far-right skinhead movement and racism. The Union Jack was a way for them to indicate which tribe they belonged to. This is interesting because the skinhead movement was initially a multi-racial celebration of Jamaican Ska music in the UK. Thankfully, the Union Flag is now back in the nation’s hands as a measure of pride – as the 2022 summer celebrations of Queen Elizabeth’s Platinum Jubilee and a few major sporting events proved. It was during another national sporting event, the London 2012 Olympics when these mixed feeling diminished. That was also when I waved the Union flag for the first time.
I recall that same sense of pride on introduction to the British brand, Ark Skincare. The realisation that the UK could produce a well-researched effective skincare kind of took me aback. I wave my imaginary flag whenever recommend them.
You’ll notice there are a few common threads running throughout British skincare. We are serious leaders in organic, natural, ethical, traceable and sustainable cosmetology. Farmers and land owners are developing innovative “Waste not, want not” brands. Creators starting and developing in their kitchens due to personal skincare concerns. And whenever brands cannot harvest certain ingredients in the UK; they’re ensuring they purchase ethically and sustainably internationally (while at the same time reinvesting in what is often small holding farming communities).
So I look back and ask myself, why did I mostly look to the Far East or France for skincare? Was it due to their long history in the beauty industry and very effective advertising? Or because I was lazy? Maybe because I had low expectations of British cosmetology? Or, because I still felt those mixed emotions from my teens?
Eve Lom first discovered the exquisite power of ‘nature-as-remedy’ as a child foraging for powerful botanicals. She encountered the skin-healing properties of Chamomile, Clove and Eucalyptus. She used these key ingredients to develop her signature blend of aromatic oils for her iconic Balm Cleanser. Combining science, essential oils, and naturally derived ingredients to create efficacious skincare solutions. Free from harmful additives can only be good for skin and the planet.
Georgie Cleeve launched OSKIA London (the concept of nutritional skincare) in 2009 after witnessing first-hand the skincare benefits of MSM, (‘Beauty Minerals’). She was introduced to their benefits by her father after suffering a skiing accident (he pioneered its use as a joint supplement for race horses). A natural form of organic sulphur, MSM boosts collagen production, promotes circulation and helps decrease inflammation for a brighter complexion. OSKIA’s bio-nutritional formulations are designed by Georgie and a team of international nutritionists and skincare experts, manufactured in their factory and lab in Monmouth, Wales.
Laura Rudoe created Evolve Organic Beauty 12 years ago. With the philosophy of being led by nature and scientific methods to find the most effective natural solutions to skincare. Each product is lovingly handmade in small batches by skilled artisans and carries their name on each bottle (traceability at its best). All the magic happens at their fairly new sustainable Eco Studio (100% wind power and low energy lighting) in Hertfordshire. This ensures the freshness of the precious antioxidants in the natural oils. Vegan, cruelty-free and eco-friendly; Evolve are truly ‘walking the talk’.
Rhug Wild Beauty is the brainchild of Rhug Estate ( North Wales ) owner Lord Newborough. He was an advocate of organic farming and a pioneer of sustainability way before the term became popular. Lord Newborough championed the highest standards of farming, protecting and enhancing the environment for future generations. Lord Newborough had the idea of creating a truly luxurious skincare collection using the finest organic and wild foraged ingredients from his estate. All collections are hand-made in the UK using a selection of other ethically and sustainably sourced raw ingredients from small suppliers. Every product complements the other as part of Wilds’s holistic approach.
Have you ever wondered what happens to the crushed grape skin from making wine? Pelegrims Co-founder Alex Verier had that exact thought and partnered with vineyard Westwell Wines to create a skincare company where “grape extracts are at the core of its brand and future research”. Alongside grape extracts, they use a limited variety of ingredients to boost the capabilities of the extracts. This enhances the product’s potent formulations to act quickly. Pelegrims try to limit these ingredients as much as possible to those sourced from the UK only. Their aim by 2025 is to source all of their ingredients from UK farms, in support of the local economy whilst reducing Pelegrims’ carbon footprint.
Kelsey Raspberry Farms is another farmer – Paul Kelsey – who followed their instinct and branched out beyond their comfort zone. Knowing of the internal power-packed vitamin, mineral and antioxidant benefits he then used cutting-edge scientific research to develop the benefits of raspberries for the outside of the body. Working with hand-picked experts, they’ve formulated an exclusive ‘raspberry first’ skincare range. Fruit pulp and leaves are sourced locally and conscientiously as possible; along with their up-cycled seeds. Kelsey are also showing their commitment to changing the production of skincare by using recyclable packaging from an FSC-certified supplier.
Internationally known; Aman is a brand that originates from the British Isles. Founded in 1988 with the vision of building a collection of intimate retreats with the warm hospitality of a gracious private residence. The very first Aman Spa to be built outside the world-renowned resorts was The Connaught in the UK. To complement their spa treatments there’s also skincare and at-home body care range that reflects each of the rituals of the treatments. All ingredients are 100% sustainably sourced, certified organic, wild-harvested and first pressed at the source.
Espa, is an internationally known spa brand but very much homegrown. If you’ve visited a hotel spa in the last few decades you’ve more than likely come across them. Espa is the brainchild of Susan Harmsworth, MBE, she has had a passion for health and wellbeing since her childhood. Her grandmother was a herbalist and her mother was in medicine. Susan also ran the world-exclusive Grayshott Hall Spa (on a personal note … after graduating from Beauty Therapy College; Grayshott was the ‘health farm’ we all aspired to work at). Her early experiences gave her the vision of combining health and beauty, mind and body, natural and scientific. Believing prevention is better than cure Susan integrated complementary medicine into the business, bringing in naturopaths, osteopaths, acupuncturists and physios. And in 1993 Espa the facial and body care was launched.
Elemis skincare is very personal for me. I worked for their mother company, Steiner spa salons — on cruise liners as a beauty therapist -thirty ‘odd’ years ago. Not only did we use Elemis oils for massage; but we also received training from the innovative thinker and co-founder Noella Gabriel. Noella has become world-renowned for her knowledge, award-winning and iconic creations, Pro-collagen Cleansing Balm, need I say more. Her love, enthusiasm and energy for her craft were so infectious, it’s one thing I’ve never forgotten and something I feel every time I use Elemis.
As I previously mentioned; intrigue about the ability and creativeness of British skincare happened on the introduction to Ark Skincare. Ark Skincare’s ethos is all about empowering their consumer to celebrate the age they are. Their age-specific products ensure the skin’s needs are addressed, making it easier for the consumer to navigate. Protect for teens & 20s, Defend for 30s & 40s, & Defy for those over 50. Their belief in avoiding irritants like Parabens, SLS, mineral oil, S.D. Alcohol, Formaldehyde, and Artificial Colours & Fragrances is the first step in achieving optimum skin.
Founder Joy Isaacaas was born in South Africa but we are claiming her brainchild Argentum Apothecary as British. Because it was while living in England she had a dream and clear vision to use the healing power of silver. Joys knowledge of silver started with her mother using colloidal silver spray to treat scratches and burns to prevent infections (something she has continued with her own family). I also learned from Joy that surgeons use silver-infused wound dressings post-surgery. Argentum has patented two vital ingredients, Silver Hydrosol and DNA HP* for their anti-bacterial properties and cell regeneration. These ingredients also have an amazing ability to carry 10,00 times their weight in water. The le masque Infini silver mask is a blast!
As the founder of Daylesford Organic Farm some forty years ago; Carole Bamford has been the ultimate champion for sustainability. The rest of us have been trying to catch up with her ever since. The need to work in harmony with nature is Carole’s ethos of sustainable and mindful living. To treat nature with respect, to give back and not just take take take. ‘What we put onto our body is as important as what we consume’; is the Bamford skincare belief. Carole has taken every aspect of life into account through her work in organic farming, holistic healing and ethically minded luxury clothing. Bamford has become one of the most trusted organic brands out there. Every time I see their logo I can’t help but smile with delight. I only wish I could fill my whole house with them.
Michele Scott-Lynch is the founder of Bouclème. She created this speciality haircare brand because she could not find natural products that were serious about curls. When told Bouclème was British I recall how pleasantly surprised I was. That’s because when it comes to naturally curly hair we tend to look across the pond (USA) for leadership. But Michele is showing the way, especially when it comes to nature and the extra nourishing required for curly/afro hair.
Charlotte Mensah‘s, – award-winning hairstylist and creator – experiences and knowledge were ignited while living abroad. Born in England to Ghanaian parents; Charlotte grew up with her Grandparents in Accra, Ghana, as a baby. She returned to London at eleven years old. She recalls watching her Grandmother and mother style the hair of family and friends, this ignited her love of all things hair. Organic and sustainably and ethically sourced Manketti Oil (mainly produced by women’s co-operatives in Namibia & Botswana) is the centre of Charlotte’s hair care range. It has a high content of linoleic acid, lots of vitamin E and Omega 6, copper, iron, calcium, and magnesium. It’s ideal for conditioning hair due to its hydrating, regenerating, and restructuring properties. The vitamin E content makes it a natural sunscreen.
And finally but not least … I’d like to give an honourable mention to the following ‘Beautiful British’ brands: Organic Pharmacy; Conscious Skincare; Neal’s Yard; We Are Faace; Balance Me; Wildsmith Skin; Medik8; Aromatherapy Associates; This Works; AromaWorks.
British Beauty Week (5 – 11 September).
If you enjoyed reading Beautiful British then why not read An Ode to Art Here
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