Winter Wellness: in-conversation with Skin & Tonic London founders

When we are young, we are eager to explore the world and to try & experience absolutely everything. We are also more susceptible to following trends when it comes to fashion & beauty, but as we get older and become more and more in tune with who we are and what suits us, we become more selective in what we wear and what we apply to our skin, be it skincare and make-up. However, irrespective of age and self-assurance, simple skincare appeals to everyone and that’s one of the reasons why one of my brands in the spotlight, as part of Winter Wellness series, is a natural British beauty brand Skin & Tonic London. I have been a fan of  Sarah & Josh, creators and founders of the brand, as well as their products, for a while now and want to start with introducing them, as well as their story and brand to you (with the review of some of their products coming later in the series, as a separate post, with helpful tips and ingredient insights by Sarah).

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Sarah and Josh are a young couple, whose sparks flew over gin and tonic. They are both open-faced and have dancing eyes, and when you meet them, you can’t help but break into a smile yourself ( both of them also have great skin, something I always zero on, when I meet people working within the beauty industry, brand founders in particular. Sarah has suffered from dermatitis in the past, so her clear, beautiful skin is a genuine testament to the efficacy of Skin & Tonic products ).

Sarah’s mother was a charming hippy, who loved making soaps and Sarah, who grew up surrounded by freedom and eccentricity, rebelled against this. Sarah chose to work in the field of marketing and TV at the start of her career path and has done so for nine years, until issues with her own health made her decide to take a sharp turn from her chosen field of expertise. From the age of 18 Sarah had some symptoms that doctors waved off as inconclusive or inconsequential, so she wasn’t officially diagnosed with severe endometriosis ( a painful condition from which, alarmingly, one in ten women now suffer ) until years later. Sarah, like any young woman, worked and partied hard, she smoked and enjoyed life but gradually she realised that medicine prescribed by doctors didn’t help or improve the painful symptoms. As often in life, when help doesn’t come, we choose to take reigns into our own hands. Sarah started researching nutrition and wellness, particularly focussing on anti-inflammatory ingredients and looking for ways to ease her, at times terribly painful, symptoms naturally. As we talked in a cafe, local to Skin & Tonic offices, Sarah admitted with a peaceful smile that it was all part of her journey and lead her to where she is now. She also credits Josh and the effect of regular yoga and meditation on her overall wellbeing, both inside and out, as well as overall outlook on life.

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One day Sarah came across an article about endocrine disruptors that are often contained in our food and household cleaning products, which made her pause, take stock of the information and clean out her cupboards and bathroom shelves – you get to a point when you realise that you only have one health and if you lose it, it won’t come back. That’s why Sarah was determined ‘to know exactly what I put on my skin’. Thanks to the process of self-education, Sarah eventually made a decision to quit her job and to retrain as skincare formulator & aromatherapist at Neal’s Yard. She focussed on psychology, zeroed on the power of plants & fully immersed herself into the study of essential oils. Sarah & Josh looked tirelessly and managed to find small farmers in both UK and France, who wild-harvest plants and herbs, making sure that the ingredients have maximum potency. Finally, after all the hard work and the flow of creativity, British, Organic & Sustainable brand Skin & Tonic London was introduced to the world in the autumn of 2014, with the initial eight products: Steam Clean, Calm Balm, Gentle Scrub, Brit Beauty Oil, Beard Oil and three lip balms (peppermint, naked and lemon), aimed at people with sensitive, dry, mature and normal skin. In a relatively short time since the launch the brand has not just grown successfully but been welcomed with open arms by customers, as well as retailers, building loyalty and efficacy credibility in the process.

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‘There is not a day that goes by that I feel secure professionally’ 

Starting your own brand and investing your savings into your wildest dream, while your friends are buying houses and starting families, is only done by the brave and the crazy, but Sarah and Josh come across as people whose feet are firmly planted on the ground, even though dreamy clouds do pass over the faces when you get immersed into a discussion with them.

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The focus of the brand and of each product is on simplicity, using plants for improving wellbeing and the health of the skin and helping you integrate it into your life almost effortlessly. Sarah looked for the best ingredients she could find and zeroed on every single oil and its aspects, trying different ratios, in order to find the perfect combination in its efficacy.

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Towards the end of last year four more additions have been made to the existing range ( Travel Kit, Coco Mask, Calm Clean and Naked Beauty Oil ), so you have a wider choice of products to ‘play with’. Personally I love the Calm Range, even though I don’t have sensitive skin ( Calm Clean and Calm Balm – both feel soothing and mediative and sometimes I enjoy simply opening a jar and exhaling their aromas, as I tole away on my computer ). Men seem to like the products as well and Beard Oil is a particularly noteworthy product ( gentlemen need to look after their faces too, even if they choose to grow a beard or moustache – I highly recommend this if your other half has a beard, as it softens it and prevents your own skin from being irritated ). Lip Balm are also met with universal approval ( beware, men are impartial to them and kids will quickly sneak yours off, pretending they have no clue what you are asking about, when you can’t find yours. I would suggest buying a few, so you can share ). 

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Find raw and high quality ingredients and let them shine’

 A genuine skincare shouldn’t about one’s vanity, instead it should be based on desire to help, nurture and care. When Sarah & Josh started Skin & Tonic they made sure they built direct relationships with suppliers ( Sarah comes even more alive when she tells me about their suppliers and places where their ingredients are grown ) and took ‘seed to skin approach’ when it came to developing their products. They both are determined that their business has an ethical component ( Skin & Tonic supports fair-trade in Ghana and Sri Lanka, as well as small local producers in France and in the UK. In addition they donate 10% of their profits to CharityWater ), as well as maintain the highest possible quality of skincare. The products are developed with a maximum of seven ingredients and in small batches. Some of them are multi-functional but all of them smell like nuances of nature, capturing freshness, sunny beams or peaceful vibes. One of the best ways to discover them is by getting a Mini-Kit, which also has a practical aspect, as it is compact enough for make-up bag but sizeable enough for weekends away or travel.

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When you speak with brand founders impressions can be fleeting, but I was lucky to observe Sarah and Josh in different environments. Initially at the Farehealthy festival at Borough market, where they were tucked in the corner, yet their small stand, with distinct packaging and a young and enthusiastic couple drew you in. A few months later, I ventured to Hackney, with its grungy, yet energizing feel. With canals where boats sail and a beautifully uninterrupted view over Olympic park, you freeze in time momentarily, peacefully contemplating life while looking around. Skin & Tonic office is based in Queen’s Yard, a buzzy enclave of activity, with start-ups, fashion designers, breweries and even its own theatre. Skin & Tonic occupy a small studio yet it has an inner soul, with mood boards and carefully organised shelves, where each order lovingly and thoughtfully gets assembled – it is like a sanctuary, where you want to linger. And when Sarah and I ventured to a nearby cafe and ended up talking for several hours, I caught myself thinking how wonderful it is to belong to a truly enthusiastic community, where passions are combined with knowledge, where ethics are developed alongside research and where conversations are never-ending, because you long to find out more.

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As to the future, Sarah and Josh are planning to grow organically. Having said that, towards the end of last year their collaboration with a talented practitioner Vanessa Gruninger came to life, with Skin & Tonic facials at Triyoga – each a bespoke one, depending on client’s skin type and needs, with aroma-therapeutic scents being enhanced by Skin & Tonic products skin-balancing effect.

So, isn’t it time you discovered Skin & Tonic products for yourself and who knows, creative sparks might fly or you might want to clear out the contents of your bathroom shelves and make space for something created with spirit?

 For more information about Skin & Tonic, please click here

Categories: Beauty & well-being, Interviews

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