By Heleayner Davies
Beekeeper, herbal botanist and all-round chemistry fiend. Co-founder of Beauty Kitchen, Jo Chidley is on a mission to make sustainable beauty the norm. In fact, it was her frustration with not being able to find truly natural and eco-friendly products that encouraged her to create her own.
Expect nothing less than cleansers, oils and masks supercharged with sustainably sourced plant oils (we’re obsessed), to compostable konjac sponges that will have you quiver at the thought of using a face wipe. We caught up with Jo to discuss all things sustainability, forefronting the refill revolution and her most recent venture, the launch of their Organic Vegan Hand Sanitiser Spray. We also discuss her sources of inspiration and how this motivated her to start her own beauty brand.
We are huge fans of Beauty Kitchen here at KeiSei and love your story. For our readers who aren’t familiar with your brand, could you tell us a bit more about what inspired you to start Beauty Kitchen?
Thank you and I hope our story gives some context to the changing face of beauty and sustainability. Since reading Cradle to Cradle by William McDonough & Michael Braungart and finding out about B Corp business practices, I felt truly sustainable beauty products were never that easily accessible or even existed, so it was our aim to disrupt the industry and make sustainable choices the norm.
For years I searched for beauty products which were natural, sustainable and effective that considered packaging as well as how they run their business. This proved difficult so I decided to take matters into my own hands. Creating products is the easy part within beauty (believe it or not), it’s the packaging and business practices that are the challenge to do sustainably.
We tackled the business practices first by becoming one of the first B Corp certified businesses in the UK where we must meet rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability and transparency. Next was packaging and the only way forward for Beauty Kitchen was reusable. That was an exciting project for me and more recently launching our Refill Station, like all other Beauty Kitchen products, has been designed using Cradle-to-Cradle principles.
It is developed and manufactured in the UK and can be remanufactured to incorporate updated technology eliminating future waste. The bulk dispensing bottles are collected by Beauty Kitchen and washed and reused with all its other packaging as part of the Return • Refill • Repeat programme.
Your professional background is as a chemist and herbal botanist. How did this influence you to start making your own natural beauty products?
I have been obsessed by both beauty & sustainability since I was a teenager, I decided to study chemistry, which gave me the critical thinking skills & curiosity needed to start a business.
In 2019, you launched your Return, Refill, Repeat scheme. How did you come up with the concept and what were the biggest challenges you faced when creating it?
We live in a world where the emphasis is on reduce and recycle, however reuse is where the impact lies. Only 9% of plastic is recycled globally, reduce, reuse, recycle ends up being down-cycling, whilst what we need are circular flows of goods that we “use” and “consumables” with zero or positive carbon footprints.
The biggest challenge is the current linear supply chain approach where you make something, you sell it to a customer and the customer disposes of it. With a circular economy approach you are changing overall behaviour with both consumers and current business practices.
You are leading the way and trying to get everyone to come with you. It’s not easy however we are seeing powerful changes happening which is being driven by people like your readers. They are demanding a change to our waste policies and have an appetite to reuse e.g. cotton shopping bag or coffee cup. We have had more returns than we ever expected and it’s only going to get bigger which is fab news.
Refillables are becoming a big trend in the beauty industry, what do you think the future of refillable beauty will look like?
In the future, I want refillables and sustainable beauty to be the norm rather than a ‘trend’. We’re seeing so-called refillables in the market right now, however these businesses need to go a step further to incorporate circularity rather than simply refilling small bottles from an even larger plastic bottle.
At Beauty Kitchen, you’re always encouraging people to create their own beauty products through your Raw Inventions range. Why do you think this is so important in terms of sustainability? What do you think the future of DIY beauty will look like?
DIY beauty was the foundation of Beauty Kitchen and where we have come from and seeing this emerge as a recognised category is a dream come true for me. It’s important to know where your products come from and what they contain.
Most people don’t understand exactly what goes into products, simply because it’s not communicated to them. DIY Beauty doesn’t have to be elaborate, starting with a handful of small simple and natural ingredients will be easier to manage and less wasteful.
Thank you, we worked incredibly hard to make this happen! Hand sanitisers are a vital product, and especially now, but there aren’t many sustainable options to choose from. It’s estimated that 1 billion single use plastic hand sanitisers will be used this year and we wanted to provide a sustainable alternative that is effective but contains no microplastics and is part of our Return • Refill • Repeat programme.
We use organic ingredients where possible, organic farming uses no manmade materials e.g. pesticides, GMOs etc this ensures the robustness of the soil for future generations. We have a passion for treating the natural world with respect and helping it out where we can.
As we are all aware, Covid-19 has changed the way that many beauty brands now operate. What are the biggest challenges that you are facing since Covid-19?
As an entrepreneur challenges are opportunities, innovation is key and as a small nimble business we can move at pace which is what we have done in the current crisis. I’m excited by the way people’s behaviours are starting to change at this time, particularly their shopping habits, it feels like we are taking more consideration in our choices and taking the time to enjoy what we already have.
“Our world had set an unrealistic pace that you felt you had to keep up with, it’s been a relief to have that removed and getting back to basics, it feels wonderful”
In your own opinion, what do you think the future of natural and sustainable beauty will look like?
It will become the norm as every beauty product will claim to be natural and sustainable. Refillable and reusables will continue to grow faster than any other beauty category and become more accessible as the larger players see the benefits for them in terms of customers, CSR and cost savings.
What does the future of Beauty Kitchen look like? Are there any exciting new launches that you’re working on?
Right now, we are in the process of planning to launch our next generation Refill Stations. These technologically advanced stations will dispense our Leaping Bunny approved, microplastic free, natural, vegan and organic products whilst incorporating Return • Refill • Repeat points.
Only with collaboration can we design and implement reuse or refill models that are convenient for consumers, move the planet to 100% renewable energy and most importantly clearly communicate to consumers what is good and what we need them to do to help.
What are your top 3 tips for someone who is looking to switch to a more natural and sustainable beauty routine?
– Accreditations. Look to invest in beauty products that carry quality certifications such as Zero Plastics Inside, B Corp, Leaping Bunny and Cradle to Cradle to name a few. These are businesses that care less about profit and more about the impacts their products have people and the planet.
More About Jo
3 Favourite beauty products:
This changes all the time. At the minute though, our Beauty Kitchen Organic Vegan Bar Soap for a start which is completely Waste Zero and gentle for all the hand washing we are doing right now!
To lead on that, our Organic Vegan Hand & Body Cream has been a skin saviour for dry hands.
Lastly, the Abyssinian Oil Night Halo Potent Mask which is incredibly nourishing and a great excuse to treat yourself to some sustainable self-care.
Source of inspiration:
William McDonough is the co-author of Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things which has been a huge inspiration when creating the backbones of Beauty Kitchen and our sustainability ethos. It’s worth a read if you haven’t already.