I select ingredients based on how they benefit / support the skin - regardless of whether they're considered "natural" or synthetic, as well as how they fit together in an overall formulation. The reality is that whether an ingredient is "natural" or synthetic has no bearing on the effect it has on the skin and this is why I love to fuse the best of what plants and labs have to offer.
Plant (carrier) oils are packed full of different nutrients and benefits for the skin, but I have also selected oils based on a range of factors:
- the feel of the oil: I prefer lighter oils, which are less likely to clog pores and cause breakouts
- their protective properties
- how rapidly and fully they’re absorbed into the skin
- their scent
- their shelf life
Whilst the oils in my blends are carefully selected to ensure they are not too heavy they still provide moisturising and protective properties with a non-greasy feel. In particular, high linoleic oils (such as safflower oil, hempseed and sunflower oil) are prominent in my normal to combination skin formulation as these light oils are much less likely to clog pores, making them an ideal choice if you are concerned about congestion or dislike heavy textures.
Organic ingredients are present in many of my oil formulations, although I don't consider myself an organic brand. Some ingredients are not available organically, yet still possess important benefits for the skin. It is important to me that my formulations aren't constrained by the availability (or lack) of organic oils and because of this I do not rule out using non-organic ingredients in my formulations. It's also important to keep in mind that organic ingredients aren't any better for the environment (due to land resources required etc).
Spotlight on ingredients:
- hyaluronic acid (sodium hyaluronate)
- ceramide complex
- biosaccharide gum-1
- sodium PCA
- colloidal oat
- panthenol (vitamin B5)
- shea butter
- sunflower oil (infused with calendula / comfrey)
- organic hempseed oil
- organic safflower oil
- olive squalane
- sea buckthorn oil
- organic macadamia oil
- evening primrose oil
- organic jojoba oil
- grapeseed oil
- borage seed oil
- vitamin E
- co-enzyme Q10
- organic geranium essential oil
- frankincense essential oil
- sandalwood essential oil
- linaloe essential oil
- lemon essential oil
- myrrh essential oil
- organic lavender essential oil
Niacinamide has a multitude of benefits and skin barrier health is just one of them (others include sebum regulation, antioxidant benefits and brightening). Niacinamide supports healthy barrier function by reducing transepidermal water loss (TEWL) and improving the water content of the surface layer of the skin. It does this through different mechanisms including encouraging ceramide production, protein synthesis and accelerating skin cell turnover. If that wasn’t enough, it’s also been shown to have anti-inflammatory effects in acne and rosacea. I have 5% niacinamide in my barrier support formulation – an optimal amount to provide these benefits with a lower risk of irritation than might be seen with higher concentrations.hyaluronic acid (sodium hyaluronate)
Hyaluronic acid is a well-known humectant ingredient that is found in abundance in the skin / body and helps to give the skin its volume and keep it supple. Topical humectants offer hydration to the skin. They draw moisture from humid environments as well as from the deeper layer of the skin (dermis) to the upper layer (stratum corneum). So HA acts as a hydration booster for the upper layer of skin, which is important as hydrated skin functions better. It also softens and smooths the skin, as well as “plumps” (improving how the skin looks) and forms a film on the skin surface, offering a degree of protection. It's even been shown to aid wound healing! It works well together with glycerin, another reliable humectant in my barrier support serum. My formulation includes a mix of higher weight and a very small amount of lower weight HA to offer hydration on different levels and is plant derived (via biofermentation). HA works well applied to damp skin so it can hold on to that moisture and keep the skin surface feeling hydrated. It should also be immediately sealed in with an occlusive moisturiser to help to reduce the amount of moisture lost from the skin.ceramide complex
A number of different ceramides are found naturally in the skin and play an important role in barrier function and water retaining abilities of the skin. Skin dysfunction, UV exposure and ageing can deplete ceramide levels in the skin, thereby increasing trans epidermal water loss (TEWL). Topically applied ceramides have been shown to hydrate the skin and help to reduce TEWL, as well as having the potential to offer a protective mechanism from sources of irritation (e.g. SLS). My formulation contains a skin-identical blend of ceramides 1, 3, 6 II as well as cholesterol (another lipid found naturally in the skin) and the ceramide precursor phytosphingosine. Phytosphingosine is a naturally occurring lipid which as well as having an ability to repair a damaged skin barrier, has also shown anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties. Ceramide complex is found in my barrier support serum and both moisturisers.biosaccharide gum-1
A polysaccharide (plant derived via biofermentation) which offers a complementary hydration effect in conjunction with hyaluronic acid amongst other benefits. I use this ingredient in my barrier support ingredient.urea
Urea (also known as carbamide) is part of our skin’s own Natural Moisturising Factors (NMF) – a collection of very effective humectants that attract & draw moisture from the environment into the stratum corneum, the top layer of our skin. The NMF maintains optimal skin hydration which is important for keeping the skin supple, protecting it from damage, facilitating desquamation (the natural process of the skin cells shedding), as well as keeping the skin barrier functioning at its best (spot the theme!). Urea is hydrating due to its ability to attract and hold water within the stratum corneum even at levels as low as 3%, it offers a protective effect against drying influences and with regular use may improve barrier function, it's soothing for all skin types including dry, itchy skin. At higher levels (10%+) it dislodges corneocytes in the top layer of the skin, accelerating epidermal renewal. I use it at a much lower concentration for its hydrating and protective effects in my skin quenching moisturiser.sodium PCA
Sodium PCA is the sodium salt of pyroglutamic acid and like urea, is also part of the Natural Moisturising Factors (NMF) – water soluble compounds naturally present in the skin which play an essential role in maintaining skin moisture and are responsible for keeping our skin looking fresh and healthy. Sodium PCA helps to increase the water content in the top layer (stratum corneum) of the skin by attracting and drawing moisture from the environment. It’s worth noting that as skin ages levels of PCA fall. If the stratum corneum is better able to hold onto moisture, then the skin will stay better hydrated and through the use of humectants like urea and sodium PCA, it can do this independent of the occlusive effect of a moisturiser. This perhaps explains the ability of these ingredients (especially urea) to improve skin barrier function (reduced TEWL) rather than a transient improvement in skin health. Sodium PCA is featured in my skin quenching moisturiser.colloidal oat
Oats have a long history of use in skin conditions and an excellent safety record. Key constituents of oats include various types of phenols, like avenanthramides with known anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties. The composition of colloidal oatmeal consists of starch (65%-85%), proteins (15%-20%), lipids (3%-11%), fibre (5%), and beta-glucans (5%) and many of these components offer skin benefits. Notably, the high concentration of starches & beta-glucans in oat are responsible for its protective & water-holding functions. As hydration of the skin is instrumental in preserving the integrity of the skin barrier, this makes colloidal oatmeal a great option for moisturising dry or sensitive skin - which is why you'll find it in my comforting moisturiser.allantoin
Allantoin has long been used for its healing, soothing, and anti-irritating properties. It helps to heal wounds and skin irritation and therefore features in my comforting moisturiser.panthenol (vitamin B5)
Panthenol has been shown to assist epidermal barrier function by reducing TEWL and increasing SC hydration, keeping the skin soft and pliable. Wound healing effects have been observed (in vitro and in vivo), and it’s been shown to have an anti-inflammatory effect in response to UV-induced erythema. It has been shown to exert a protective effect at 1% and is well tolerated with very low risk of irritation or sensitisation. I use it in my facial moisturisers and SOS recovery hand cream.shea butter
Shea butter is composed of triglycerides with oleic, stearic, linoleic, and palmitic fatty acids, as well as unsaponifiable compounds (e.g. triterpenes, tocopherol, phenols, and sterols) which possesses potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. It has a rich, "weighty" texture which offers occlusion, making it a great choice for dry skin - hence why you'll find it in my SOS recovery hand cream.sunflower (infused with calendula / comfrey)
Sunflower seed oil contains lipids similar in composition to stratum corneum (SC) lipids and has been shown to preserve SC integrity and improve hydration of adult skin without causing erythema. It's a lightweight, high linoleic oil which is much less likely to clog pores vs richer oils. I use calendula infused sunflower oil in my comforting cleansing oil and comforting booster to help soothe irritated skin, and comfrey infused oil in my rebalancing cleanser and SOS recovery hand cream for its healing properties.organic hempseed oil
A wonderful balancing high linoleic oil suitable for all skin types, rich in Omega-3 and Omega-6 with a very similar lipid profile to the skin. It's a relatively light oil and doesn't clog pores, so it's particularly ideal for skin prone to break outs. It offers protective and regenerating properties thanks to its essential fatty acids that fight against free radical damage and stimulating the regeneration of skin tissue. It smoothes and firms the skin and works against dehydration. As if that isn't enough, its anti-inflammatory properties also make it great for calming and soothing irritated skin.organic safflower oil
This oil is high in linoleic oil, very rich in omega-6 and very lightweight, making it an ideal ingredient for skin prone to blemishes. The presence of active antioxidants in this oil provides a great protection for the skin. Despite its lightness and ability to easily penetrate the skin, this oil is highly nourishing and protective, helping to restore moisture to the skin.olive squalane
The squalane I use is extracted from olive oil, not derived from sharks liver which was found in mainstream cosmetics products in the past. Squalane is a lightweight oil with a silky feel, yet offers occlusive properties. It has an excellent affinity with the skin and is highly moisturising as well as reparative giving your skin a glowing complexion. This fabulous ingredient protects the skin from dehydration and gives my face oils and nail oil a wonderful, light texture compared to other high end commercial face oils on the market.sea buckthorn oil (cold pressed and unrefined)
Rich in vitamin E, carotenoids, omega -3 and omega -6 fatty acid this is a wonderful healing oil. Owing to its high vitamin content (A and E), sea buckthorn oil may offer protection from free-radicals, one of the causes of premature ageing. This oil is highly emollient with excellent softening, smoothing and healing properties, therefore ideal for scarring.organic macadamia oil
This softening and nourishing oil is rich in oleic acid so it is highly effective at preventing moisture loss and is more moisturising than high linoleic oils. High oleic oils are ideal for drier, more mature skins that need more nourishment and are therefore used in higher ratio in my rejuvenating facial oil for normal to dry skin formulation. Despite the high oleic acid content, this oil still has a light feel and fast absorption rate compared to other high oleic acid oils.evening primrose oil
As with other oils in my blends, this nutrient rich oil contains powerful antioxidants to protect the skin from environmental damage. This oil also has softening, revitalising and soothing properties, and is a rich source of GLA (Gamma Linolenic Acid), which plays an important role in hydration and maintaining elasticity of the skin.organic jojoba oil (cold pressed, golden)
Technically a wax, jojoba is used in my SOS recovery nail & cuticle blend, cleansing oils and comforting oil booster for its nourishing, hydrating, soothing and softening effects, as well as its excellent affinity with the skin. It is suitable for all skin types, given its balancing abilities and unique fatty acid profile. In my SOS nail & cuticle oil it is easily absorbed without leaving a greasy feel. It helps to restore flexibility and elasticity, thereby reducing the risk of nail breakage.grapeseed oil
This light oil which features in my cleansing oils and SOS nail & cuticle oil and it's fantastic for a wide range of skin types. It’s rich in linoleic acid, Omega-6 and vitamin E and therefore rich in antioxidants which help fight against free radical damage.borage seed oil
Another fantastic nutrient rich oil, borage seed also possesses exceptional protective properties and is rich in antioxidants to fight environmental damage. It’s known for its ability to revitalise and restore elasticity of the skin and is particularly beneficial for dry, dull or tired skin. It’s for this reason and its effectiveness against brittle nails that this oil features in my SOS recovery nail & cuticle oil.natural vitamin E (tocopherol)
This is a natural and potent antioxidant which helps prevent other oils from rancidity and prolongs the shelf life of my oil blends. Vitamin E plays a very important role on the skin: it has an excellent anti-ageing activity by blocking the action of free radicals on the skin, including the reduction of cell damage linked to UV exposure. It also helps maintain the elasticity and hydration of the skin by strengthening the lipid barrier.co-enzyme Q10 (ubiquinone)
This powerful antioxidant fights against free radical damage and is known to protect the skin from premature ageing from oxidative stress, especially when exposed to sunlight. It works synergistically with vitamin E, which is also included in my oil blends.organic geranium essential oil
This is a wonderful essential oil for skin care. Geranium is renowned for its ability to control sebum production, making it ideal for all skin types. It evens and brightens the complexion and has anti-bacterial effects. Beyond skincare, it is relaxing and stabilising to both mind and body. It provides a floral and slightly sweet aroma with a fruity undertone. The scent will probably remind you of a spa!frankincense essential oil
This oil is of significant value in skincare because of its renowned rejuvenating powers, making it an indispensable oil to use in skincare as it's believed to prevent fine lines, wrinkles and minimise scars. I love the beautiful woody fragrance of this oil which deeply relaxes the body and mind, ideal for bedtime!sandalwood essential oil
Sandalwood essential oil is a fabulous oil with soothing and regenerating properties and is primarily used for dry skin conditions caused by a loss of moisture, though it benefits all skin types. It has a gorgeous smooth, woody aroma which is enhances the overall subtle scent of our face oil blends. Although East Indian sandalwood is considered the preferred sandalwood oil, for conservation reasons, I use Australian sandalwood in my blends.linaloe essential oil
A protective, invigorating and regenerating oil, linaloe is an excellent alternative to rosewood essential oil which I have avoided for conservation reasons. This oil, rarely featured in skincare products has a delightful gentle and soothing scent, very similar to rosewood (but more environmentally conscious – win win!). Aside from its skincare benefits, this oil is appreciated for its soothing and balancing effects on the nervous system, particularly in times of stress. Overall a wonderful all rounder for wellness and holistic beauty.lemon essential oil
Everyone knows and loves the fresh, zesty scent of lemon essential oil. However this cold expressed oil from Sicily offers so much more than that. Used in my SOS recovery nail & cuticle oil, this wonderful oil can help to strengthen brittle nails. It may also help with yellow staining of the nails caused by dark nail polish.myrrh essential oil
This mystical oil was used by the ancient Egyptians in the embalming process for its notable preserving action on the skin. Today myrrh is used for its healing, and antiseptic properties in skincare. I use it in my SOS recovery nail & cuticle oil to promote growth of smoother, less ridged nails, whilst keeping cuticles soft and moisturised.organic lavender essential oil
Another popular oil known as an excellent all rounder in skincare and for good reason. It's renowned for its abilities in wound healing, treating blemishes and burns, as well as having proven analgesic action. It's one of the most active essential oils against MRSA and interestingly, it's also moderately active against P. acnes, one of the principal bacteria implicated in acne. This fantastic oil from France is used in my SOS recovery nail & cuticle oil for its healing and regenerating abilities, as well as in my rebalancing cleansing oil to help balance the skin and calm the mind after a busy day.
List of charities Apothaka donated to since launch:
The Joseph School – Haiti
50% of Haitian children don't have the opportunity to attend school. The Joseph School believes that through education students will teach and empower hundreds— transforming the future of Haiti.
The money went towards health assessments & medical needs, a food programme which provides locally grown food for the students’ meals, and some desperately needed books.
DENS - Dacorum, Herts
This wonderful local charity supports and empowers those in my area that face homelessness, poverty & social exclusion, by providing access to temporary accommodation, food and provisions as well as supporting them with the development of skills and confidence to build a better future.
NHS Health heroes (Healing Hands – Hemel Hempstead & Kings College ICU staff)
Apothaka donated a number of larger hand cream samples to a local initiative in the area, Healing Hands, which gets much needed skincare products to front line NHS workers. A batch went to Hemel Hospital and in total, Apothaka has donated over 70 samples, including some to local NHS staff in Berkhamsted and to King's College ICU staff (thanks to Yasmine @peels_masks_and_scrubs who has been doing an amazing job of getting goodie bags to the wonderful staff there)
Young Minds UK
My incredible daughter raised over £1,000 for Young Minds a few years ago when she did a 5-mile run, aged 8. Given how the pandemic has affected the mental health of so many, it felt like the right choice to support Young Minds this year.
Stephen Lawrence charitable trust (now called Blueprint for all)– London
Blueprint for all (formerly Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust) works with young people and communities to create an inclusive society in which everyone, regardless of their race, ethnicity or background can thrive.
Their programmes provide inspiration, opportunities and support to talented young people, enabling them to succeed. They work with innovative organisations and businesses to address disparity of opportunity, so everyone’s talents, skills and perspectives are valued. And we empower communities across the UK to tackle inequality and discrimination for long term, sustainable change.
Incredible Brilliant Youth - London
Incredible Brilliant Youth is a fun, innovative youth organisation that was set up in July 2012 to help empower and improve the confidence of young people aged 11-30 through courses, workshops and talks on self esteem, beauty, education and employment. To date they have worked with over 2000 people across the South of England.
After the success of the IBY Complete Hair and Makeup Artist course in the Summer, all six graduates went on to paid work on photoshoots, adverts, TV shows and films. How amazing is that, especially in an industry that's been hit so hard by COVID19?!
Emergency Medical Aid for Ukraine
My Slovakian friend, Michaela Ruby is working closely with an amazing Slovakian charity ADRA which is based at the border helping with emergency medial aid purchases and transport to Ukraine. Apothaka, together with Luneia Skincare donated a proportion of sales from a collaboration to these efforts.