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How can we make more sustainable skincare and wellness choices?

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Sustainability is the buzzword of our time - so much so, that you could be forgiven for thinking it had ceased to have much meaning. Except that when it’s really, truly, properly implemented, sustainability is the ultimate wellness goal, supporting not just our own wellbeing but that of the world around us. The trouble is, as consumers, it can be difficult to know what to prioritise, which brands are authentically engaged, and what actions really make a difference. 

One brand that’s got eco ethics running through its veins is Proverb Skin - a clean, natural and organic product line that’s begun with refillable natural deodorants and hand sanitisers. Such is their commitment to environmental sustainability, that when we interviewed him, co-founder Luke Sherriff was on the cusp of a debate as to whether he could justify manufacturing products of any kind, at all. Of course, if anyone is going to do anything, then we can only hope it’s those with a conscience, and Proverb Skin founders Kirstie and Luke certainly have that in spades.

The journey to sustainable skincare and wellbeing

A conscience is just the beginning of Proverb Skin, however. The husband and wife duo also have a wealth of experience, education and a seemingly endless appetite for information. Having met at Oxford University, where Kirstie studied history and Luke achieved a Masters in epidemiology, he went on to play professional rugby while she founded Pinks Academy Training for beauty and holistic courses.

During that time, Luke became more aware and more knowledgeable about nutrition, health and wellbeing, influenced in part by the teachings of Phil Richards, who is considered to have been ahead of his time in terms of things like questioning the impact of microwaves on our foods. Meanwhile, Kirstie honed an in depth knowledge of skincare ingredients - not just what we should include in products, but what we shouldn’t as well. As a result, she developed the award-winning vegan, natural and organic skincare brand, Pinks Boutique.

When Luke retired from rugby and Kirstie sold her training school, they decided to combine their passions in a new business, designed to work directly with spa destinations on one hand, and with consumers on the other. 

The goals were:

  • To prove that natural products work
  • To help consumers to be sustainable in their everyday skincare and personal hygiene routines
  • To show how holistic therapies can enhance well being and athletic performance
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Proving that natural skincare works

When it came to proving that natural and organic products work, Luke says:

“We  know that natural and organic products work, but we wanted  the data to support that knowledge. So, we briefed our formulation team to come up with products using ingredients that have a proven in vitro or in vivo testing, were used in elite sports nutrition and the diet sheets I ate playing professional support and  that are easy for us as consumers to understand.  We wanted to start with ingredients that have a proven efficacy in themselves. The inci list should read like a nutribullet or your vegan poke bowl for lunch but ideally it would also have it’s own clinical trials to prove it works. At Proverb we have committed to investing in these trials. We are also very passionate about educating consumers to avoid greenwashing. Labels like ‘vegan’ are nice for people to see on products, but you want to know that they work as well and what those labels really mean..”

The emphasis for Luke and Kirstie is to be authentically natural and organic (regulations mean that products that are as little as 1% organic can be labelled as such), but for them it’s as much about what’s not in the products as what is. Luke says:

“We work with the Environmental Working Group in America, who have as much research as they possibly can on what’s safe to include in skincare. For us it’s as important to avoid things that we know are widely believed to be detrimental to well being as it is to include ingredients that have a positive impact. We are also highly focused on how the raw ingredients are sourced, so we know it’s not from a plantation where there’s palm oil or from a Himalayan Crystal mine that’s unethically run with child labour ” 

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Everyday sustainable wellbeing

With Luke’s sporting background, there’s a clear fitness angle to the brand that also offers a high degree of practicality. 

For those of us who want to find sustainable ways of living, much of it is tied up in our everyday actions and products rather than whether we choose to hop in an aeroplane to go on holiday once a year. With that in mind, the two products that Luke and Kirstie started with are hand sanitisers and refillable, natural, solid deodorants. They also have a Refillable body wash and other hygiene products in the pipeline. 

The idea was to look at reducing packaging rather than recycling it (considered to be something of a sticking plaster solution). There’s also a characteristically pragmatic point for the cost savvy consumer as well - if you consider the cost of a product and what percentage is likely to have been spent on the packaging itself, less packaging is certainly a way to get more bang for your buck.

Holistic therapies for improved performance

The second part of the journey incorporated Luke’s experience of massage and holistic therapies in conjunction with professional sports. Where most of us might have a massage to unwind after a long day, his experience was of having one before an event, to improve mobility or increase energy. He wanted to work with spas to increase that side of the spa experience, whether it’s helping someone before they workout, prepare for a marathon or to maintain wellbeing with long stretches sat at a desk. 

He says: “massage for mobility is a big thing. So many of us sit at a desk all day and you feel stiff at the end of it, but if you stretch you feel ready to go again, and that’s where massage can really help.”

While the pandemic has shifted the timeline of Proverb Skin somewhat, Kirstie and Luke have certainly put their efforts to good use. As luck would have it, the first item off the production line as March 2020 loomed, was their hand sanitiser. That prompted them to dedicate their resources to providing donations and support to The Hygiene Bank, with whom they still work.

Now however, it’s full steam ahead. They are beginning to bring their ethos to the spa world, while their products, notably the natural, refillable deodorant are available to consumers who want to embrace a more sustainable approach to everyday wellness and hygiene. Watch this space.

Find out about sustainable spas 

Written by
Bonnie Friend
“A journalist by trade, Bonnie is the Editor for Spabreaks.com. Keen to spread the message on accessible wellbeing and a spa experience for all, she thinks green smoothies are somewhat overrated and her favourite spa treatment is an Elemis Couture Technology facial.”
See all my posts

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