How son’s eczema inspired award-winning natural skincare business for Yorkshire mum
When Alice Lavin’s son suffered from severe eczema, she wanted to find an alternative to steroids.
Living in the countryside and with a beautiful garden full of plants, she decided to go on a course to learn how to make her own natural cream.
“The course made me realise just what chemicals go into so many skincare products. It’s no wonder so many people have problems with their skin,” says Alice who until recently ran her own telecommunications business.
“We all have sensitive skin and I wanted something that wasn’t full of sulphates and parabens and artificial fragrances. I thought the course would be something nice to do.”
She started off just making a moisturiser for family and friends.
“I had no intention of starting another business,” says Alice. “I was already busy running one business which was more than a full-time job.
But then people in her yoga group wanted to buy it and so she decided to launch Annwyn Botanicals.
Annwyn is the old Celtic word for ‘the Otherworld’.
“Our Celtic ancestors believed that in the Otherworld all good things came or grew from the Earth,” explains Alice.
“Our mission at Annwyn Botanicals is to reconnect people to the natural world, helping to raise awareness of the importance of the ingredients we feed our skin. We should only feed our bodies with ingredients that heal and promote wellbeing.”
All profits from selling her moisturiser went back into the business and it allowed her to create a hand cream.
“That has happened every time we bring out a new product – the money from its sales goes into creating another new product.” There are now 16 products in the Annwyn range, all handmade at Alice’s North Yorkshire home using only natural ingredients, many growing in her own garden. And just this week she learnt that they have won a Bronze Medal for their Sensitive Skin Fragrance Free Moisturiser and a gold medal for our Exfoliating Cleanser with Papaya soft citrus and herb in the Free From Skincare Awards.
Ingredients include Apricot Kernel Oil, Marshmallow Root Oil, Prickly Pear Seed Oil and White Poppy Seed Oil, to name just a few.
They are all stringently tested to ensure they are safe.
“If I knew then what I know now I am not sure I would have started,” says Alice.
“When it comes to EU regulations there are more when it comes to what you put on your skin than food products that you put in your body.”
Once they have made the products they have to be challenge-tested by a UK registered chemist before being allowed on the market.
Since lockdown, she closed her telecoms business and now concentrates on Annwyn full-time.
In fact lockdown has helped boost her sales.
“We produce a hand sanitiser which is proving very popular, especially with larger companies. One of my first corporate customers was a business in York. I am finding that people are becoming more aware of what they are putting on their skin during lockdown, when people are washing their hands more and using alcohol sanitisers.
“I really hope that once we come out of the pandemic that our awareness of our skin and how to look after it is one of the positives to stay with us.”
As well as looking after our hands, Alice would like people to pay more attention to their feet.
“We are all guilty of not looking after our feet properly especially when you consider how much time we spend standing up,” says Alice.
“Just a little bit of extra care, such as moisturising and massaging our feet just for a few minutes every morning can make such a difference.”
As well passionate about what goes into her products, Alice is passionate about the packaging she uses.
“All our bottles are made out of 100 per cent recycled sugarcane plastic which in turn can be recycled,” she says.
“Our glass jars are all brown to protect the creams and they too are made from recycled materials and can be fully recycled as can the cardboard we use.
“They do cost us more but I believe it is really important.”
Alice is also encouraging retailers to stock the larger five litre containers and allow people to refill their bottles.
At the moment all the products are made in Alice’s thatched home and outbuildings.
“Being where we are is also an inspiration for our products,” she continues. “Being surrounded by nature is a real inspiration and although we haven’t ever done any marketing and most of our business comes through word of mouth we have nearly outgrown where we are.
“In the near future we may have to move, possibly to a unit, but I will always keep something at home, as that’s where I love to do the product development.”
Although Annwyn products can be bought from some local health shops and from their website, Alice would eventually like to see them in her own skin care farm shop.
Her twin boys, now 36, are her biggest testers and also her harshest critics. Although it is hard work, Alice says she doesn’t regret her change of career.
“I never used to get people ringing up saying what a fantastic telephone system you’ve supplied us.
“Whereas now we get people contacting us all the time saying what a different our products have made to their skin. We have had some amazing feedback which is so lovely to hear and nurtures me and them.”