Saturday 14 December 2019

Bog bodies help give birth to a whole new cosmetics industry

Pretty in peat: Bill Kenny and son-in-law Donal enjoy some beauty treatments on the bog
Pretty in peat: Bill Kenny and son-in-law Donal enjoy some beauty treatments on the bog

Tom Prenderville

A CO Offaly builder who has swapped the cement mixer for mixing cosmetics is now poised to become an international brand success with his own unique range of skin-rejuvenating peat products.

During the height of the boom, Bill Kenny had 85 employees on site and was building projects all over the midlands. Then came the economic collapse in 2008 – and he had to try and reinvent himself.

One evening while out walking in the bog, he got into deep conversation with a neighbour about a perfectly preserved Iron Age bog mummy which was found several years earlier close to his home in Croghan.

The conversation set him thinking about the remarkable preservation and restoration properties of peat and triggered a long half-forgotten memory.

One of his earliest memories as a child growing up in the Irish midlands was of his mother using peat to soothe him after he had badly scalded his hand and suffered second-degree burns.

"There were bubbles on my arm as big as plums. My mother actually put peat on my burn; she put a cloth over my hand and left it there. After four days she took it off and it was pink, the skin was perfect. I always knew after that, that there was something special in the bog," explains Bill Kenny.

Recalling the 2,500-year-old bog mummy found near his home, he says: "Whatever way the bog seals itself naturally, the mummy's skin, nails and hair were preserved.

"I started to read about this and look it up and saw there were plenty of people found in bogs around the world where their nails, hair and teeth were perfect."

In a eureka moment, Bill decided to properly investigate if he could use peat to make a skin-rejuvenating product.

He dug into the bog near his home and had samples tested by scientists to see how it could be made into a range of organic cosmetics, from peat face masks to an anti-wrinkle cream.

Bill Kenny later set up Ogra Skincare – which is Irish for youth – and started packing the 9,000-year-old peat into jars.

"We now employ six people and our products are in five-star hotels and spas all over Ireland and online of course. We are currently in talks with a major US and UK distributor. We sell 50ml jars which retail for €39.99. We also do a professional product which comes in a 350ml tub," he added.

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