Featuring Guest Guru, Liz Earle, Co-Founder of Liz Earle Naturally Active Skincare
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January 2011 - Featuring Guest Guru, Liz Earle
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  Guest Guru
Liz Earle, Co-Founder of Liz Earle Naturally Active Skincare

Q: What inspired you to create your own skin care line?
A: My own journey in search of great skin began more than 30 years ago as a teenager with eczema. This combined with my life-long fascination for botanicals and natural remedies led to my early career as a magazine health and beauty editor. Despite having worked in the beauty industry for more than a decade, and having tried and tested almost all products on the market, I had yet to discover high quality skin care with active botanical ingredients that really worked for all types of skin, even sensitive skin.

It was my great friend Kim Buckland who suggested combining my research knowledge with her marketing and business skills to develop our own range … Kim and I hoped we would be able to help women around the globe in their quest to achieve radiant, beautiful skin, but we never expected that 15 years on we would now be helping women in over 90 countries across the globe, and that one Cleanse & Polish Hot Cloth Cleanser would sell every 30 seconds -- it truly has exceeded all of our hopes and expectations!
Q: What is the most challenging aspect of creating natural products? Why are you so passionate about "natural"?
A: We believe that natural ingredients offer more skin benefits -- some of the most potent skin care ingredients are found in nature, including antioxidant vitamins, anti-bacterial essential oils and anti-inflammatory herbs. In the majority of cases, we believe that natural ingredients offer better results for the skin than synthetic counterparts because they work in harmony with the skin. For example, naturally sourced vitamin E, (one of my favorite ingredients) is close to being three times more potent than the synthetic variety ...

It's worth highlighting that our passion is to use the best possible ingredients (the finest quality, safest and most environmentally sound), so we're not afraid to use synthetics if there's good cause to. For example, there are issues surrounding the sustainability of some ingredients, such as sandalwood oil -- which can be a corrupt and rare resource. The synthetic alternatives are actually identical molecularly so you could say that in some cases, where sustainability is an issue, it is better for the planet to use the synthetic variety.

Working with botanicals is also fraught with supply issues and we face many challenges sourcing our naturally active ingredients. We use a substantial percentage of the world's neroli (sweet orange) essential oil production as it is a key ingredient in our best-selling Superskin Concentrate, Superbalm and Hand Repair. A few years ago the frosts were so bad in Spain and Tunisia that most of the harvest was wiped out and, as we don't use the synthetic alternative, our skincare stocks were jeopardized. As a result, we now employ our own Botanical Research Manager to forward-buy specialist crops up two years in advance from farmers and growers all around the world to protect our supplies.

Q: What made you decide to sell your company to Avon? How has it affected your business or how will it?
A: The reason we joined forces with Avon is to be able to take our small, but highly prized, Naturally Active Skincare range and our message worldwide.

Joining forces with Avon has been a dream come true for us. Just as we have our own 'Precious Recipe' which lies at the heart of all we do, Avon has a long established set of guiding principles that include high levels of customer service, being a good company to work for and contributing to the wellbeing of society.

We will continue to operate as an independent, standalone beauty brand, under my and my co-founder Kim Buckland's leadership. Our new ownership gives us an international platform to fly the flag globally, but we will remain firmly rooted in our home in Ryde, on the Isle of Wight in England, which will remain the brand's heart and home. As both Kim and I, our CEO, management and Isle of Wight team has remained the same, there have been no changes in our customer service or how we reach and talk with our customers.

Q: With so many skin care lines out there, how do you help differentiate your brand?
A: I believe that we stand out from the crowd because our customers are at the heart of everything we do; from the way our in-house ethno-botanists expertly source our naturally active ingredients, to the careful hand-tissue-wrapping of our products before they are mailed to our customers so that they arrive like a special present; to the information packed newsletter that we send to our customers, and the specialist training of our Customer Care team. The success of our company is all down to customer service -- delivering outstanding products that exceed expectations in a friendly and efficient way. Because of this commitment we have been rewarded with loyal customers, who tell all their friends and keep coming back for more.

Q: What new ingredients are you most excited about right now and why?
A: We've recently launched Liz Earle Naturally Active Haircare … During development of our Botanical Shine Duo we found some fantastic natural ingredients … The first 'super ingredient' for your hair is Kenyan yangu oil, which has fantastic moisturising properties! Our yangu oil is pressed from seeds hand-collected by forest tribe-community groups in Kenya trained in sustainable forest work. By placing a value on yangu trees in their native environment, we help stop the trees being chopped down for wood or charcoal, which also helps preserve the local flora and fauna associated with them. Around 250 people collect the yangu seed, more than 80 percent being women. Each supports an average of five people, so more than a thousand people benefit from the collection of yangu seed.

Another fantastic 'super ingredient' is blue seakale, which we use for its great protective properties. This halophyte (salt-loving) plant is native to the shingle coasts of Europe … including our home on the Isle of Wight where it is a protected species. The seakale we use in our extract is grown in Brittany, France. The leaves are harvested by hand in June and July from sustainable plantations. The company that grows and extracts the seakale for our conditioners is committed to respecting and preserving the plants. They use a number of traditional and novel methods to cultivate what is an endangered marine plant in the wild. Not only is the company committed to traceability and the protection of natural resources, but they apply the same scrutiny to respecting traditional knowledge and the intellectual property of the people who share it.

Q: You juggle having a large family with running a business. How do you do it?
A: The key for me was working with another mother who understood family life -- if I needed time off to watch a school play or attend sports day, Kim always understood (and vice versa!). In the early years we tried to organize our working lives to fit around our families. We would often start work as soon as the children left for school and break mid afternoon to collect them, cook supper and help with their homework. Once the children were in bed we would restart our day and work late into the evening. For me, juggling a business and raising children has been made much easier with the support and understanding of my business partner and now with our fantastic ever-increasing team.

Q: How many children do you have? Five, correct? What activities do you like to do together?
A: Yes, I have five children. I often bake with my youngest children who love to be in the kitchen. I love making my oat-packed 'beauty boost bars' because they are so simple -- but taste truly delicious. These healthy staples are a firm favorite in our household! Make them on Sunday and they'll last the week, if you keep them hidden ...

Q: What's your beauty mantra?
A: To me, beauty is much more than skin deep, but healthy, radiant skin is the icing on the cake.

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