My love of beauty began when, as a teenager, I was given the Vogue Body & Beauty Book by Bronwen Meredith. I instantly fell in love with this glamorous, encylopaedia full of illustrations and images of supermodel greats – Verushka in perfect yoga shoulder stand, Bianca Jagger as dark lipped disco diva, Lauren Hutton natural, outdoorsy and smiling. I made the natural cosmetics – including egg white face mask and olive oil conditioner – and soaked up information on acupuncture and meditation. It spurred me on to follow my dream to become a Beauty & Health Editor. Looking back now, I realise it also sparked my interest in the holistic approach, making me see that our lifestyle choices and how we feel about ourselves feed into how radiant we look. A ‘beyond beauty’ approach – where a slick of lipstick is as important to self-esteem as exercising, and making the connection that what we put into our mouths matters as much as what we smooth onto the surface of our skin (and vice versa).
Over the years, there have been many beauty pioneers who’ve taken this approach. As I sit and write this – two major influencers spring to mind. First, Dame Anita Roddick who founded The Body Shop in 1976. Back then, her products had a home spun feel, and were sold in re-fillable bottles which fitted with the era (hippy was in Vogue, popularised in the sit com, The Good Life). As the down-to-earth beauty approach caught on and the company grew globally, so did the strength of its campaigns for ethically sourced and cruelty-free ingredients. Meanwhile in the US, Austrian born session hairdresser, Horst Rechelbacher launched his brand Aveda in 1978. Rechelbacher’s travels to India led him to discover and study the ancient healing system of Ayurveda, which inspired him to create his first Clove Shampoo. Rechelbacher grew Aveda into a hugely popular organic/luxe lifestyle brand making environmentally friendly washing up liquid as well as skin creams, perfume and hair products, which hit the UK in the mid 90s (just as organic food began to emerge on the High Street, and yoga became the exercise choice of A listers…).
Both were visionaries in their own way – they had that beyond beauty approach which captured a moment in time and paved the way for a whole host of others. These days, we expect a lot from our lotions and potions – we want the best of both worlds: science and nature. In the last interview I did with Rechelbacher (less than a year before he passed away in February 2013) he was convinced we could have it all. That it’s possible to create 100% organic, effective skin care in luxurious textures – his latest discovery was lab grown plant stem cells – and that they could be food grade ie good enough to eat. While Rechelbacher’s legacy lives on in his brand Intelligent Nutrients, there are others who’re continuing in the modern holistic vein.
My current favourite is de Mamiel, founded by Acupuncturist, Annee de Mamiel. Annee’s famed for her Seasonal Attunement treatments – holistic facials in which she combines her studies of TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine), anatomy and physiology, and acupuncture to treat mind, body and skin from inside out. As part of her treatments, Annee mixes beautiful oils, which, due to demand she began to bottle and the resulting Seasonal Oils became the start of the brand. There are many great facial oils on the market to choose from, but it’s the attention to detail which make the de Mamiel ones different. First, it’s the idea of shifting with the seasons – we all know how our skin goes haywire at the end of summer or from winter into spring in particular. This is normal in terms of TCM – it’s thought we need to adjust our diets to make that transition a smooth one, so why not skin care too? So each batch is sourced and created from scratch for the season. Then there’s the cleverly constructed base of oils which both hydrate the surface and absorb to nourish the deeper layers, plus an essential oil blend alongside bespoke flower essences which altogether address mind, emotions as much as the physical functions of our skin. I can feel and sense these layers each time I take a few moments to inhale and massage in a few drops daily. At the moment, I’m using 2015’s Spring Oil which has a particularly zingy kick of citrus and aromatic plant oils which boost my mood and rev up cell energy so my skin has a noticeable bloom.
After launching Seasonal Oils, Annee created Botaniques, a line of skin care products inspired by her treatment room. She only ever launches products which arise out of a need she sees in her clients, and it shows. To me, there are many must-haves in the range. There’s a wonderfully luscious Restorative Cleansing Balm which has just the right amount of butteriness to melt away the day, with a skin clearing cocktail of essential oils such as Fragonia, a specific type of tea tree oil from New Zealand which has a lovely floral aroma. Plus the Brightening Cleanse & Exfoliate, a seemingly magical reddish brown powder, a blend of skin rejuvenating clays and minerals including Hawaiian sea salt, red jasper and rose quartz. Dull, office skin is transformed into super soft and glowing. And I won’t go anywhere without the sweet smelling (and tasting) Rosey Lip Balm which lives up to its name by making lips soft and rosy pink. That these products deliver fantastic results is of course vital, but knowing that Annee has personally hand picked the ingredients from the best producers she can find, and that she has hand blended each batch – to the point of giving each one a blessing and meditation – makes this truly a meaningful and holistic beauty brand of the moment.