FROM LONDON, WITH LOVE: A BEAUTY GUIDE “MADE IN ENGLAND”, PT. II
Carla Valois Lobo
Here it is, finally, the second part of our English beauty guide, which features six lovely brands founded and manufactured in England: Pai, Lush, ILA, ESPA, Miller Harris and REN Clean Skincare. The delay, it is important to be said, has a good reason as our Editor had to test over 30 products in order to share with Morning Beauty’s readers which one is worth the investment.
In her twenties, Sarah Brown developed chronic urticaria, commonly known as hives, which is a cutaneous eruption identified by its redness and may cause itch and burning or a stinging sensation. Needless to say, her skin became very sensive and reactive, including to the skincare products she had been using. At the same time, acne started to appear on her skin and the doctors told Sarah that the only treatment available was to take anti-histaminics on a daily basis. In 2004, shocked with the amount of chemicals she discovered in the cosmetics she owned, she quit her job as Head of International PR for a multi-national wine company and retrained to learn how to make her own cosmetics. In 2007, with an initial investment of £15,000 , Sarah launched Pai – the name means “good” in maori.
Since its beginning, Pai has been based in west London – all its products, are manufactured there – and it does not use alcohol, phenoxyethanol, synthetic fragrances, petrochemicals, parabens, sulfates, phthalates or beeswax (although organic, beeswax is comedogenic, what means that it may block pores). The brand also does not test on animais, is suitable for vegans and all its packaging is recycled and recyclable, and also certificated by Soil Association. By its own website, Pai delivers in over 40 countries, and is available in several Whole Foods branches in the UK and the US.
Editor’s experience: Camellia & Rose Gentle Hydrating Cleansing Balm, which is made with shea butter and camellia, geranium, lavender, damask rose, sweet almond and castor essential oils, is amazing and smells lovely. It removes makeup very well and, according to the brand, is suitable even for those who suffer with rosacea. I also love the Geranium & Thistle Rebalancing Day Cream as it moisturises and can be used as primer. At night, I always use the wonderful Rosehip Bioregenerate Oil that made with a blend of rosehip fruit and seed oil, which has high levels of Trans-Retinoic Acid and carotenoids. After the Bioregenerate, I normally apply Pai’s Echium & Argan Eye Cream, produced with argan oil, lactic acid, shea butter and geranium, orange and sunflower essential oils.
In the end of the Eighties, Mark Constantine and his wife, Mo, founded Cosmetics To Go, where they produced, in their kitchen, handmade cosmetics, made basically with organic ingredients, such as fruits, essential oils and vegetables. The brand soon became The Body Shop’s supplier, which, in the beginning of the Nineties, bought the couples’ formulas for £6 million. The amount however was badly invested and Cosmetics To Go went broke in 1994. In April 1995, less than six months later, Mark and Mo opened Lush’s first store in Poole, south of England. Nowadays, Lush has over 100 stores in the UK, including a recently launched flagship in Oxford Street, and is present in over 20 countries.
Even with its steady growth, Lush maintains its products fresh and almost completely free from synthetic preservatives, and they are mainly vegetarian or vegan suitable. The brand also doesn’t test on animals and acquires part of its ingredients by Fair Trade. In 2009, Lush opened its first spa in Kings Road, London, and currently has spas in other cities such as Edinburgh, Liverpool, Kingston-Upon-Thames, Paris, Seul, Tokyo and São Paulo. In 2012, Lush created the Lush Prize in partnership with the ONG Ethical Consumer, in which awards scientific researches made with no animal cruelty.
Editor’s experience: I love Lush’s products. Everything that I tried is truly great. My favourites: for the hair, I am really fond of the Fairly Traded Honey shampoo, Retread conditioner and H’Suan Wen Hua mask, which has a wonderful scent. For the face, I have the facial highlighter Feeling Young, which is lovely and can be used alone or blended with foundation, and lip scrub Mint Julips, made with sugar, vanilla extract and jojoba and mint essential oils.
Body-wise, get ready as the list is quite long: I have already tested the shower gel bar The Olive Branch, made with olive, bergamot, lemon and mandarin essential oils; body scrub Buffy, made with shea butter and releases grounded rice, almonds and aduki beans. I am currently using the lovely body conditioner Ro’s Argan, which is amazingly pleasant and has argan oil, cupuaçu, cocoa and shea butter in its composition, and the body lotion Dream Cream, made with oat milk, rose water and chamomile blue oil.
Occasionally, when I remember, I apply the cuticle butter Lemony Flutter, a lovely scented product made with beeswax, shea and mango butter, organic avocado oil, coconut and castor oil, stearic acid and fresh lemon infusion. Lush recommends to use Lemony Flutter in the knees, elbows, heels, brittle nails and, obviously, cuticles. Lastly, I must say that I love the massage bars.
Aromatherapist, nurse and yoga teacher, Denise Leicester launched ILA – “ila” means Earth in Sanskrit – in 2005. The brand uses organic ingredients sourced in India, Pakistan, Morocco and Brazil, which are obtained ethically through partnerships with local cooperatives; all the components, after imported, are blended in the Cotswolds. Every ILA’s product is made from plants or minerals.
As Denise is very connected to her own spirituality and holistic therapies, ILA is also associated to individual and collective wellness, harmony with nature and energy, purity and vitality concepts, which is the reason behind the brand’s motto “Beyond Organic”. ILA has the Glowing Radiance and Rainforest Renew collections – with products made with Babassu extracted in collaboration with the British ONG Tribes Alive, which works with indigenous communities in Pará and Mato Grosso, in Brazil, and also skincare, body & bath, and home ranges, the latter with incenses, scented candles and diffusers.
Editor’s experience: ILA’s Face Mask for Revitalising Skin is amazing and pretty fun to use as it has a dark green colour. It exfoliates, nourishes and softens the skin and is made with argan oil, clay, rosehip seed oil, Himalayan salt crystals and Damask rose. I am also fond of the antioxidant Body Oil for Vital Energy – I normally use after shower –, and the Body Scrub for Energising and Detoxifying. ILA’s products are priced above average, but really worth the investment.
Susan Harmsworth used to write about beauty for Vogue, in London, when she married Vidal Sassoon’s right hand man and, at the end of the Sixties, relocated with him to the US and subsequently to Toronto, Canada. Without a job as a journalist, she opened a salon, which was inspired by Eastern European therapy traditions. Fifteen years later, already divorced and with two sons, she sold the salon and moved back to Europe: first she went to France, where she studied thalassotherapy, but soon she returned to the UK. In 1993, with 48 years old, Susan launched ESPA, which, initially, was only for professional use.
Nowadays ESPA’s products are sold in over 50 countries and are used in over 450 spas worldwide; its philosophy – holistic – is to treat body and mind, as well as combining beauty and health, science and nature. ESPA does not test on animals and does not use alcohol, synthetic colours or fragrances, mineral oils, silicones, parabens, PEGs or sulfates; also all its products are suitable for vegetarians (the only non-vegetal ingredients that the brand uses are beeswax, keratin and milk derivatives, such as sodium lactate). Apart from the women’s skincare and bodycare ranges, ESPA has a home collection and products dedicated for men, such as anti-ageing and aftershave lotions.
Editor’s experience: I spent an afternoon at ESPA Life at Corinthia Hotel, in Charing Cross, where I had the Anti-Cellulite Hip and Thigh treatment. At home, I have the Pink Hair & Scalp Mud mask, which is literally pink and manufactured with bergamot, apricot seed and lemon peel essential oils. I haven’t felt much difference in the first use, but from the second application I really felt my hair lighter and smoother.
Since very young, Lyn Harris was fascinated by fragrances: her maternal grandparents cultivated herbs, flowers and vegetables in the family farm in Scotland. “Not a day goes by that I don’t think about that place. I ‘d wake up to the smell of fresh bread baking and there were always interesting aromas”, she told Red magazine in 2012. At 20 years old, Lyn moved to London and soon found a job in Aromatherapy Associates; later, she went to France and there she graduated, in Paris, in the ISIPCA and, subsequently, in Roberlet, in Grasse.
In 2000, back to London and with £200.000 (£75.000 from a bank loan), Lyn opened the first Miller Harris store – Miller is the second name of her father –, in Notting Hill. In the very beginning, the brand had only four scents; today, however, it has over 100 products, including bath oils, body lotions, shower and hand gels, and scented candles. Miller Harris, now with three stores, is currently sold in Harrods, Selfridges, John Lewis and Fenwick.
It is worth mentioning that, in 2010, Samantha Cameron, David Cameron’s wife, gifted Michelle Obama with a Miller Harris’ miniature set of scented-candles: when the press released the news, its sales grew over 300%. Despite the buzz, Miller Harris is still a niche brand and intrinsically British, which translates into elegance, but with a dazzling twist.
Editor’s experience: I visited Miller Harris’ store in Covent Garden, where I tried every fragrance available, which didn’t really help me because I left quite confused with so many scents. Afterwards the brand kindly sent me La Collection Découverte, a small box that brings eight vial samples. I really enjoyed all of them, but my favourites were L’Air de Rien, and La Pluie.
L’Air de Rien, created in collaboration with Jane Birkin, brings Tunisian neroli in its top and heart notes, whereas amber, oak moss, Indonesian patchouli, musk and vanilla. La Pluie has a blend of bergamot, lavender and tangerine in its top notes; at heart, it has ylang ylang, jasmine, blackcurrant and orange flower, while vanilla and vetiver are in its base notes.
Anthony Buck and Robert Calcraft launched REN in 2000. They decided to create the brand when Anthony’s wife got pregnant two years earlier and developed an allergy to her cosmetics: “in the following months, she discovered that she could solve her problems if she avoided synthetic ingredients”. The natural cosmetics she found, nevertheless, were a failure as they were sticky, smelly and didn’t work, explained Anthony to “Vanity Fair”. REN’s first range, already made with no mineral oils, parabens, petrochemicals, silicones or synthetic fragrances or colours, was formulated under the supervision of Collete Haydon, doctor in Dermocosmetics by the University of Lyon, France.
In 2015, REN – which means “clean” in Swedish – completes its 15th anniversary; although its core values are based in three words (Performance, Purity and Pleasure), the brand does have some products with phenoxyethanol, an allergenic organic glycolic ester used as preservative, and carbomers, acrylic acid polymer used for control the consistency of cosmetics. According to scientific researches, these ingredients are not harmful; it is important however to mention their presence as ingredients.
REN is present in over 50 countries and in several stockists, such as Net-A-Porter, Liberty, Space NK and Sephora (in Canada and the US). The brand is also used by many spas in the UK and, it is said, has Kate Moss, Lily Allen, Sienna Miller and Uma Thurman as clients.
Editor’s experience: last December I visited REN’s HQ in Marylebone. Since then I’ve been using two of their products: the recently launched Keep Young and Beautiful™ (Instant Firming Beauty Shot), which is an anti-ageing serum that can be used before or after the makeup, and Flash Rinse 1 Minute Facial, which is a mask rich in boswellic acid and Vitamin C that cleanses and tones up the skin.