England’s oldest natural cosmetic brand, Neal’s Yard Remedies, has now been available to Finnish customers for almost eighteen months. But how well do you know this pioneer with thirty years of experience under its belt? This is not just any natural cosmetics brand, after all, but possibly the most ecological, ethical, and transparent business in the cosmetic industry, and has been voted as the most ethical skin care range by The Good Shopping Guide.
I get so excited whenever I get to work with Neal’s Yard products and its Scandinavian distributor. The innovative spirit, amazing knowledgeability, honesty, and caring that this brand exudes inspires and takes me by surprise, time after time. So what is Neal’s Yard Remedies all about, besides essential oils and dark blue bottles?
Romy Fraser founded Neal’s Yard Remedies in 1981 in order to encourage people to make use of natural remedies, and to promote a more holistic approach to beauty and health. Using a wide range of cold pressed vegetable oils and fats, flower waters, extracts, and essential oils, the company made products for daily skin care. Their aim was to create products that people would enjoy using – to offer alternatives for mass produced synthetic cosmetics. Originally, Romy allowed small amounts of synthetic ingredients to be used in the cosmetics, but today, with the exception of potassium sorbate, the world’s first cosmetic brand to have been certified by the Soil Association is almost entirely natural. If a synthetic ingredient doesn’t need to be there, it isn’t.
When it comes to organic ingredients, the Soil Association is among the strictest of the European certifiers. To be given the seal of approval, 95% of ingredients must be organically grown. Although 70-94% organic content is enough for certification, it is not enough to be considered organic by the association. This means that the product cannot wear the Soil Association seal, and will be given a “Certified Organic Ingredients” label instead.
If your main concern is naturally and organically grown ingredients, Soil Association is your best bet. Neal’s Yard is also careful about the safety of its products: unsafe or suspicious ingredients are not used, and if a product contains an ingredient that is later discovered to be unsafe, its use will be terminated.
The Kindersley family, dedicated to a natural way of life, bought Neal’s Yard Remedies in 2006. Since then, the company has continued its success story in Asia, America, and Australia. 2005 saw the opening of the company’s first eco factory in Peacemarsh, Dorset in England. The new factory uses rain to water its herb plantations, recycles and reuses sewage water, and derives its electricity from solar panels – and much more besides. I can’t wait to get see it all for myself! Neal’s Yard is also carbon neutral; staff flights are recorded and their impact added up, so that the company can plant enough trees by the end of the year to maintain its carbon neutrality.
The knowledge behind Neal’s Yard’s products is based on the wisdom of old apothecaries and aromatherapy. With over five hundred products, you will find anything from mouth wash and makeup to foot creams. Neal’s Yard doesn’t offer products for external use only, but also supplements, vitamins, super foods, herbs, and herbal teas.
Most of the essential oils are made by the company itself, which also offers training for professionals and consumers alike. The topics include aromatherapy, homeopathy, flower remedies, herbal remedies, nutrition, massage, and even the production of natural perfumes. Several books have also been published by Neal’s Yard, on topics such as beauty, cosmetics production, nutrition, and herbs.
Neal’s Yard’s shops in England are big, with attached beauty salons. Besides facials, they also provide acupuncture, aromatherapy and ayurvedic treatments. There’s a rumor about town that Helsinki might be getting its own store in a year or two. One can only hope.
Besides making products with a holistic aim to improving people’s health, Neal’s Yard is also concerned about the future wellbeing of the planet, the environment, its animals, and its humans. The company has run several charitable campaigns, and carefully monitors the source of its ingredients. The frankincense tree, from which essential frankincense oil is made, grows wild in areas of Africa where the ground soil too poor for anything else to grow in it. This makes the sap of the frankincense tree a vital source of income for the families in those regions.
Neal’s Yard’s most visible campaigns include the Mother & Baby products, and the Bee Lovely products. These products have their own related campaigns, as well as the campaigns run by the distributors of the products in their own countries.
Have you ever heard of a woman not being allowed to give birth at a hospital unless she is carrying the tools needed in labor herself – including needles, thread, and scalpels? That is the case in Uganda. To have her baby at a hospital, she must have her own birth kit with her, and not everyone can afford one. The Scandinavian distributor of Neal’s Yard, Eteritique, donates five percent of the proceeds of the Mother & Baby products to the purchase of these kits in Uganda via Barnfonden, a Swedish child development organization.
What about the bees? Have you heard about how close to extinction they are, and how massive a part they play in our ecosystem? Every third spoonful of food that we eat is thanks to these pollinators. Experts fear that England’s entire bee population may become extinct by 2018 – which would cost the English farming industry 440 million pounds per year.
The lovely orange scented Bee Lovely products were designed by Neal’s Yard to help protect the bees, and the hand cream from the range has been the recipient of multiple beauty awards. Eteritique works in cooperation with Bee Urban, a Swedish organization with beehives on the roof of Kulturhuset in Stockholm. The money from a Bee Lovely product sold in Finland is enough to sponsor two bees in those hives. Perhaps Helsinki will soon get a Bee Lovely-sponsored beehive of its own!
For to the bee the flower is a
fountain of life, and to the flower
a bee is a messenger of love, and to
both, bee and flower, the giving and
the receiving is a need and an ecstasy
– KAHLIL GIBRAN
Whew. There’s so much I could tell you about Neal’s Yard. The company’s website will easily suck you in once you get started. I have such respect for this company, and want to introduce it to as many people as possible. I’m also dreaming of a chance to work closer together with the brand…we’ll see what the future holds.
The full list of my personal favorites is far too long to be included in this post, but I might mention a few. The Wild Rose Beauty Balm is the newest of my favorites, and also the brand’s best known product. The hand soaps and hand cream in glass bottles are lovely, and the blue bottles can be reused as vases – the label comes off easily, without having to be soaked first. I used to find the scent of the Bee Lovely products a bit too generic, but the products themselves are very good, perfect for their intended age group, and if nothing else, you know you’re contributing to something important. My favorite is the Bee Lovely hand cream, which I use at nights.
If I’m in the mood for a bit of aromatherapeutic luxury, I go for the shower gels. The Orange & Geranium body scrub was harshly reviewed by Saara Sarvas, but I absolutely love it! If you don’t like the oily residue, try the Seaweed & Salt Scrub instead – it will exfoliate and purify blemishes on your back much like a body peel would. Along with the Lavender Bath Salt, the Comfrey & Mallow foot cream is also one of my all-time favorites and makes for a perfect foot detox if you don’t own a bath tub (the Bath Salt is meant for the entire body). I’ve conducted some empirical experiments on the effects of essential oils on sleep with the help of the Beauty Sleep Concentrate. The Frankincense Face Mist comes in a perfect travel-sized bottle, and I recommend using it under your face oil or the Wild Rose Balm to improve their absorption.
I’m also reading two of the books from Neal’s Yard: Looking good and Feeling Younger, and Recipes for Natural Beauty. You can expect a little cosmetics factory to pop up in Punavuori, any moment now, and I’ll be sharing the recipes, naturally! I was given one of the new products for testing a while ago; it is a Super Food powder containing spirulina, spinach, parsley, chlorella, wheatgrass powder, barley grass powder, green tea, acerola, and oat grass powder. Those are the kind of super foods I like to see! I’m also trying out an ingestible Organic Beauty Oil, and concentration enhancing Cognitive Supplements.
That was a whole lot of information, and we’ve barely scratched the surface of the fascinating world of Neal’s Yard Remedies. What are your thoughts? Was some of this information new to you? What are your favorite products?
Neal’s Yard Remedies’ products are sold at Sokos department stores, Jolie, Naturelle, as well as PUR Hyvinvointikauppa. You can also order products from the web shop of the Scandinavian distributor in Sweden, or from Neal’s Yard Remedies’ own webstore.
Below is a video about the production of Neal’s Yard’s neroli oil in Morocco.
Photos Katja Kokko
Translation Katja Nikula