This weekend is Organic Beauty Weekend, part of the month long Organic September celebration. For Organic Beauty Weekend, People Tree founder and CEO Safia Minney interviewed Abi Weeds, the co-founder of organic beauty brand Essential Care. Here at People Tree, organic beauty and ethical fashion go hand in hand. Last spring, we asked our go-to makeup artist Louise Dartford to tell us how she cleaned up her beauty kit and what brands she loves. Essential Care is one of her top picks. We hope you will enjoy this incredibly inspiring interview. Read to the end to find an exclusive discount on Essential Care!
Safia: Tell me the story of Essential Care. What inspired you to start an organic beauty brand?
Abi: Essential Care had its seeds sown in an interview my mother Margaret had with Boots in the 1960s. She inquiring about career opportunities as a cosmetic chemist, but was told that there was “no future” in such a career. Rather than be disheartened, she pursued courses in beauty therapy, aromatherapy and herbal medicine. She became a founding member of the International Federation of Aromatherapists in 1985.
She specialised in phyto-nutrition, developing an in-depth knowledge of the profile of different extracts of plants. Essential oils, tinctures, cold-pressed vegetable oils and butters each have their own beneficial properties for medicine and skin health.
As a child, I had sensitive skin and eczema. My mum used her expertise to develop products that would help. After some very interesting experiments, Mum found some really beneficial formulations. This fuelled her passion for treating sensitive skin using natural and organic beauty ingredients. Ten years ago, my mum and I launched Essential Care together to bring her incredible formulations to a wider audience.
Safia: Why are you upsets you about the beauty industry?
Abi: There is a lack of regulation about the promises brands can make about products being ‘natural’ and ‘organic’. Many of the additives in beauty products that claim to be natural can be incredibly irritating to the skin and are absorbed by the body.
My passion is education and empowerment. I feel strongly that every person who buys a beauty product should know what they are putting on their skin and be confident that it is safe, natural and healthy. I want to enable skincare and beauty consumers to make an informed choice. At the moment there is no law to stop brands calling a beauty product organic when it only contains a tiny amount of organic ingredients.
Safia: That’s shocking! What types of ingredients do you use in your makeup and skincare? Why should we be picking products with organic ingredients?
Abi: Our skin is more than an outer covering. It is a living, breathing organ, the largest in the body. Much of what we put on our skin is absorbed into our body, a scientific principle illustrated by nicotine and hormone patches. The synthetic chemicals in many skincare preparations soak into the skin and body. Over time, these substances accumulate in the body and may cause problems, such as allergic reactions. Choosing certified organic body care is as important in decreasing the toxic load on the body as choosing a healthy and organic diet!
Our philosophy is simple. All ingredients must have therapeutic value and make the product a joy to use. Our products are free from all potentially unhealthy synthetic chemicals. Plants grown organically yield the purest oils and extracts, free from herbicide and pesticide contamination. We use these oils and extracts in our products. Research shows that plants grown organically have a higher level of vital antioxidant vitamins – antioxidants help fight aging. We will not compromise the quality and effectiveness of our products. We also support fair trade.
Safia: What are your favourite Essential Care products? Why?
Abi: That is a hard question! My favourites tend to change from season to season. My top pick is our Organic Superfruit Concentrate, a facial oil and serum. It is one of our hero products and an absolute must-have, not only for allergy-prone skin, but for anyone looking for an effective daily skin boost and moisturiser. With vitamin-packed rosehip, pomegranate and sea buckthorn, it really does give you an instant lift. I also love our concealer – with two children and a business to run, I find a quick bit of ‘wake-up make-up’ definitely comes in handy!
Safia: The theme of this year’s Organic September is “small changes, big difference”. What small changes will you make this year?
Abi: I have ordered a box of Abel and Cole organic ‘meals on wheels’ for my parents to help out with the cooking. So we’re now a 2-box-a-week family! I love my Riverford organic veg boxes, but chose Abel and Cole for my parents because they deliver to rural Suffolk and also have gorgeous ready meals.The new People Tree autumn catalogue dropped through my door this week and I’ve been drooling over it! I switched to buying only sustainably sourced fashion a few years ago and would never go back.
Safia: How does buying organic beauty products, food and fashion make a big difference?
Abi: Other than the advantages to your body and health, it also makes a significant difference to the planet and in developing countries, to the welfare of communities. It is widely acknowledged that organic farming is better for wildlife, causes lower pollution from sprays, and produces less carbon dioxide and less dangerous wastes.
I really believe that beauty and fashion that destroy our environment are anything but beautiful. Organic systems are broadly the only sustainable methods of growing or producing the goods we consume. In fashion, the social and welfare aspect of ethically produced clothes make the argument particularly compelling. Cheap, exploitative fashion galls me. And after the Bangladesh clothing factory tragedy I find it difficult to justify not searching for a Fairtrade or organic label.
Safia: I hear you are a fan of People Tree dresses. What are your favourite styles?
Abi: I love People Tree dresses! And they are a superb illustration that green and sustainable doesn’t mean grunge and sandals. The designs, fabric and cuts are gorgeous: great for work, going out or just feeling good at home. The new Zandra Rhodes Jungle Print Pencil Dress is a great example of the sophistication and elegance People Tree bring to ethical fashion. It’s a cracking work dress – smart and glamorous. There are at least 5 more dresses in the new Autumn Winter collection that I’m thinking of buying! The Navy Pippa Stripe Dress just looks so comfortable and snuggly, as well as flattering. And the Lauren Rose Dress (which ties in nicely with our rose skin care!) is a beautiful cut. The lovely red fabric passes my daughter’s checkbox of ‘mummy, you must wear more colours!’
Safia: You are an enthusiastic supporter of Organic Cotton. Why is this so important to you?
Abi: Cotton is one of the most pesticide-intensive crops on earth. So switching to organically grown cotton really does make a substantial difference to the environment and welfare of agricultural communities. Clothes made from organic cotton aren’t dramatically more expensive than those from conventional cotton. The biggest problem is availability – other than People Tree and a handful of other sustainable fashion brands and the odd bit of organic school uniform that you find if you’re lucky – organic clothes are in short supply. The more we buy organic, the more the fashion industry will take notice.
If you are inspired to make a small change by switching to organic skincare or beauty products, here’s an offer that will help. Essential Care has offered our People Tree customers and blog readers an exclusive discount. Enter coupon code “PTREE13!” at checkout to save 15% on everything at Essential Care.