Thursday 22 February 2018

Outstanding natural beauty

Dr Jane & Katherine Mulrooney SEAVITE
Dr Jane & Katherine Mulrooney SEAVITE
Mark and Neil Walton

Diana Kitt

As more and more Irish beauty products appear on the market, who are the faces behind the brands

{Ogra Skincare}

Benny Clavin, Owner

The decision to launch Ogra Skincare was the brainchild of Bill Kenny. Bill had grown up convinced there was something special about the bog after witnessing his mother using it for every sort of ailment over the years.

It was only when the bog bodies were discovered in Co Offaly that Bill realised he'd been right all along. Bill owns a virgin bog in Co Offaly, so we had some preliminary tests done on the peat from that bog and discovered it was full of all the minerals and components that our bodies need on a daily basis.

"Then with the help of Enterprise Ireland and LIT in Limerick, we did further research on the peat and received enhanced results of what exactly it contained," he explains.

"At that stage, we realised that peat is filled with powerful anti-oxidents like folic and humic acid, which do wonders for the skin. We also discovered that peat is a powerful detoxifier which pulls toxins from the skin."

Then, they had to find a company to produce the formulations for a skincare regime which used peat as its main ingredient.

"We discovered Cosmetic Creations in Mayo and now they make our natural-based formulations. We worked closely with them to research the correct formulation. They have years of experience and are specialists in skincare production, so we're really happy with them. Our formulations are of a very high standard and have quite a lot of technology in them.

"We worked closely with a local spa in Tullamore to develop treatments using our products and then last year appointed Cofri as our distributor and they took distribution into two channels, professional and retail.

"At the moment, we're stocked in 140 locations across the country, including retail outlets and pharmacy chains.

"Last year we spent 80pc of our time concentrating on our domestic business and 20pc on our international business so for 2013 we're hoping to become an export-led company. We're very pleased with how well it's going considering we're still in our infancy."

I need to be able to trace every ingredient back to the field it was grown in

{Lucy Annabella}

Colleen Harte, Founder

I had been working with clients using aromatherapy for years and was mixing up blends for everything from nappy rash to constipation when eventually the time came when I knew I had to stop disappearing into the production room and develop a brand properly.

My idea was to launch the luxury products like body lotions and candles first and then to go back and develop the health-related products, but when I brought the brand to fairs around the country I realised that people actually wanted organic-based skincare.

I produce everything myself. I fill all the pots myself and I make everything. The only machinery I have is a mixer to make the lotions and that was essential because of the amount of water that's needed to get the formulation right.

I spent eight months trying to find a manufacturer but every time I'd get the sample back, I'd feel disappointed because it wasn't what I wanted. So in the end, I decided to just do it myself.

The whole thing has been a learning curve for me. I knew where to source the essential oils because I had been doing it for a few years but then my favourite supplier went into liquidation and I decided that I didn't want to use a middle man any more so now I buy directly from the farmers.

My main goal was to be organic but because there's no law surrounding organic products I knew I needed certification to add credibility. There was a huge level of paperwork to be done to become certified by the Soil Association.

I need to be able to trace every ingredient back to the field it was grown in.

I'm one of those people who suss things out before I do anything, so the amount of work necessary to become 100pc organically certified didn't put me off or intimidate me at all.

I am the Darina Allen of skincare – I try to get the best ingredients I can

{Kinvara Skincare}

Joanne Reilly, Founder

The idea for Kinvara skincare came about because I've always had very tricky skin and was always looking for new solutions and buying new products. I did some research and realised that no matter what the problem, the solution always came back to plants.

My background is in science, so because of my ability to carry out research I just saw the process of setting up a skincare company as a challenge, I wasn't phased at all. I looked around and saw that there a lot of small indigenous companies doing it, so I thought why can't I. I did some training course and developed my skill base.

For me it's all about the ingredients. I'm the Darina Allen of skincare, I try to get the best ingredients I can and then do very little to them. I use a fresh formula and a gentle preservative so no matter what happens, in the future my products will be okay because they originally come from a plant source.

All my ingredients come from certified organic suppliers and we're working towards becoming organically certified.

I consider Kinvara to be outside the beauty industry. We focus on skin health, our customers look after themselves and so also want a healthy way to look after their skin.

Our ethos is simple: we want women to celebrate what they have with the help of some stonkingly good multi-tasking products. Really you only need between three and six Kinvara products to cover all your skincare needs, which leaves space on your bathroom shelf for a vase of flowers rather than piles of products you spent a fortune on but feel guilty for never using.

You'll never regret a Kinvara purchase.

If the products can't compete with people's expectation of skincare, then you won't succeed


Mark Walton, Skincare Founder

My father was one of the founding members of the organic movement in Ireland and my family were happily running Walton's Seaweed Baths in Strandhill, so when I was made redundant from my job in Dublin, my wife Kira took voluntary redundancy and we started to look at ways to make a life for ourselves in Sligo.

Initially, we looked at the possibility of opening up other seabaths around the country, but that wasn't an option due to property restrictions.

In hindsight, I suppose we dodged a bullet on that one. Then we looked at ways in which we could grow the business and saw that there was no real organic skincare brand out there, so we decided to do that.

People told us it was a niche business and that we wouldn't be able to have sustained growth; now people say that we had real foresight to see how the organic beauty market would develop.

It would be dishonest of us to take that credit. At the time, it was all we could do.

We were blissfully ignorant about the process of establishing the skincare brand and we're still learning. I went to the Society of Cosmetic Scientists, but I don't sit in a lab coat all day.

Then, there was nobody making organic products, so I joined to help our scientists think laterally; to be a conduit for them. They are scientists, so if a formulation isn't stable, their first thought is to add some preservatives to it. I had to make them think differently.

We're certified by the Soil Association and, in the beginning, we did make everything ourselves but we're too busy to do that now.

We produce about 40pc of our products here in Sligo and we outsource the rest.

A lot of organic brands come and go. We have invested a lot of time and money in the brand and spend a lot of time on our formulations. We've never been in the situation where we had to throw something on to a shelf, because it's still a business. It doesn't matter how much people like you, your products or the fact that they're organic, if the products can't compete with people's expectation of skincare, then you won't succeed.

It was only when I came to the perfumery that I discovered that business is actually about the people and the product

{The Burren Perfumery}

Sadie Chowen, Owner

I bought The Burren Perfumery in 2001 after working here for five years. Despite my background, the business just suited me and fitted well with my skill set.

However, it was first registered in 1972 so already had a strong history with scents like Man of Aran.

I was raised in south west France so had some background in distillation and lavender fields but my main background is in the arts. It was only when I came to the perfumery that I discovered that business is actually about the people and the product and once I discovered that I realised I was actually rather good at business.

When I bought the perfumery, my vision was that it would be a place for Irish women and their everyday skincare, not tourists. I wanted to know that when I walked into the shop every single thing in there was something I would like to buy.

It's a business, but it's also a lifestyle. I knew I wanted to start the skincare range and at the time one of our staff members had a grandmother who had made creams, so we started making them with her in small quantities, quite literally like batches of mayonnaise.

The lady's name was Olive, so at the time they were called things like Olive's Magic. We started with somebody who had the knowledge and went from there.

We've regained the knowledge over the years and have done courses and training.

We had somebody come in and show us how to do it, so we've spent the past 10 years honing our skills and now make everything on site.

We are certified as 100pc organic with the British Soil Association. The demands to get that certification are rigorous. But we chose that certification because it's the highest one available.

We want to expand the online side of the business and continue to expand our range of products. We were in a few small stockists pre 9/11 but the market changed then and it became more cut-throat.

We made the decision to only sell the products ourselves so that we could continue to have control over them and not compromise anything.

We used specially selected organic seaweed and botanicals with proven skin nourishing and rejuvenating properties


Katherine Mulrooney, Medical Director Seavite

Growing up with Seavite as our family business myself and my sister Jane were always involved in some way with what was going on. When we were in school we helped in any way we could, making gift sets, packing and organising deliveries or helping out at different fairs etc.

We were an extra pair of hands and we were always on call! My main reason for deciding to study medicine and to do further study and practice dermatology stemmed from the fact that I had severe and chronic childhood eczema as did both my brother James and sister Jane.

It was so bad we had to skip school at times. Mum and Dad (Seavite founder Kaye and Patrick Mulrooney) were plagued trying to find a cure and we attended every dermatologist in the country.

They say you go into the area of medicine to cure yourself and that's certainly true for Jane and me. We both love what we do.

While students in NUI Galway we both started to research all the scientific background of seaweed, its various powerful components and how they helped soothe sensitive skin.

We then began developing new products with the help of two chemists in the lab. We used specially selected organic seaweed and botanicals with proven skin nourishing and rejuvenating properties.

We now have seven face products and seven hair and body products all formulated with sensitive Celtic skin in mind and all containing scientifically proven skin-rejuvenating ingredients that don't irritate.

Jane and I travel worldwide to cosmetic dermatology meetings where the most exciting and newest trends in skincare are showcased. They really spark our imagination and often are the basis of a new product.

Ultimately for us, quality organic ingredients coupled with gentle yet efficient extraction techniques are key to create products that can compete globally with any of the best brands.

Today, we continue to work on R+D and try to stay on the forefront of new and exciting ingredients that are natural in origin and exciting formulations.

Irish Independent

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