How Lily Hartley is looking to make a difference in cosmetics with Salt + Steam

The cosmetics industry needs to be more transparent about its eco credentials and stop misleading consumers over issues such as animal testing, says the young founder of a bath products business.

Lily Hartley set up Salt + Steam as a result of growing frustration at the lack of affordable bath products that also ticked the right ethical boxes.

Lily Hartley set up Salt + Steam as a result of growing frustration at the lack of affordable bath products that also ticked the right ethical boxes.

She told The Yorkshire Post: “I feel that there’s quite a lot of misleading information out there.

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“If you look at animal testing, a product can have on it that it hasn’t been tested on animals, however, that doesn’t mean that the company that owns that brand doesn’t test on animals.”

"You don’t actually need loads of preservatives," says Lily Hartley, who mixes her own salts.

Currently, in order to get their products into the Chinese market, the big brands are required to test them on animals. That looks set to change but Ms Hartley believes that there is still a lack of transparency.

Ms Hartley said she would look at ingredients on bath products and started questioning whether there was a need for “all these extra unpronounceable chemicals in there”.

Her bath salts are a simple combination of essential oils and a mixture of salts.

“You don’t actually need loads of preservatives and things like that,” Ms Hartley said. “I thought why not just make it really simple.”

The 29-year-old was working for a marketing firm in York prior to the coronavirus outbreak last year.

She added: “You have to have everything safety assessed by a registered chemist. All of my products have a cosmetic safety certificate and have been tested.

“For each individual product they have to make sure the concentration of essential oil is not above a certain level. Essential oils, while natural, are still potent things that can be dangerous.”

The 29-year-old was working for a marketing firm in York prior to the coronavirus outbreak last year.

She was put on furlough in May. Ms Hartley used that time to delve further into what would be required to create her own bath products range.

Since launching in October, Salt + Steam has enjoyed a busy period of trading with Ms Hartley admitting to underestimating demand.

A few months later, when she was made redundant, Ms Hartley decided to launch Salt + Steam from her home in Buttercrambe.

Since launching in October, Salt + Steam has enjoyed a busy period of trading with Ms Hartley admitting to underestimating demand.

“We’ve had just over 500 orders since we started,” she added. “We have about 20 wholesale clients now, which is fantastic as it means our products are on plenty of online shops and a few bricks and mortar shops as well, which is really nice.”

The business would be interested in having its products listed with a big retailer but only if it aligns with its values.

“We would want to make sure that they adhere to the eco credentials we’ve set out for ourselves,” Ms Hartley said.

The pandemic has “definitely made people more aware” about eco credentials of products that they buy, says the founder of Salt + Steam.

She added: “With people having a lot more time on their hands, they have researched things that they are buying a little bit more.

“During the pandemic, we saw much more of a push towards shopping with independent businesses as well to help support them and keep them afloat through everything.

“It made people a lot more aware of what they were buying and who from. That will continue.

“With all the information that there is online and all the research that people are choosing to do themselves now, it’s opening people’s eyes up a little bit more and making them really think about what they are buying.”

The 29-year-old is already looking at recruiting help and hopes to build a business that she can ultimately pass on to her family one day.

Experience in running a business

In her previous job at marketing firm Embarking Group, Lily Hartley ran its online letterbox flower delivery business called Vela Flowers.

“They gave me the opportunity to run it, which was way out of my comfort zone,” she said. “It wasn’t something that I had ever done but they put a lot of trust in me, which was nice.” Ms Hartley added: “It taught me a lot about running a business almost single-handedly because you are doing everything.

“The only bit I wasn’t doing was the accounts because we had someone for that. Now, obviously, I am doing that on my own and that has been a very sharp learning curve.”

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