Whether or not you're still eating meat, it's becoming near impossible to ignore both the controversy and the chemicals involved in breeding animals for consumption. Fortunately, the cosmetics industry is one each of us can choose to dabble in with a clear conscience, thanks to a growing number of vegan skincare, haircare and make-up products.
These lotions and potions lie at the very upper echelons of animal-free certification. A vegan formula uses zero animal products or by-products, while the cruelty-free tag signifies the final product has not been tested on animals (although this may not be true of all individual ingredients).
It’s telling that even China, the monolithic market that demanded all cosmetics produced outside the country be tested on animals before being approved for sale, recently announced that this will no longer be the case by 2020. Of course, long-contested laws can involve many a logistical loophole and mountains of paperwork to fully implement, so Sonia Deasy came up with another solution
The founder of ethical Irish beauty brand Pestle & Mortar went down the online sales route, instead of retailing her animal-free products in brick-and-mortar stores, to bypass the current laws in China. The rapidly expanding brand has also cast its eye on Australia, Russia and the UAE, where it will launch next month.
“The client in the UAE values beauty and understands design. With simple skincare solutions that are highly effective, a less-is-more philosophy and a classically luxurious design aesthetic that informs everything we do, we know that the UAE and Pestle & Mortar will be a perfect fit,” Deasy says.
Less is more when it comes to skincare
One way in which that less-is-more motto manifests is the company’s award-winning skincare offering. Since mum-of-five Deasy launched the company in 2014, Pestle & Mortar has developed eight products. Each is composed of a minimal number of all-natural ingredients, and does not differentiate among dry, oily and combination skin.
“It’s deliberate,” says Deasy of that decision. “Your skin type will change with age and other factors. What your skin needs above all else is balance. Every skin-type – oily, dry or combination – are manifestations of skin that is craving balance. That’s why we use ingredients that help your skin to function optimally. By blending nourishing natural ingredients with advanced technological actives, we create products that work for all skin types.”
Skincare dos and don’ts
Despite this minimal aesthetic, Deasy’s top skincare tip is double cleansing. “Everyone must double-cleanse every single night, even if you don’t wear make-up daily,” she says. “Our faces are exposed to a lot every day, particularly if you live in a polluted climate; city air can play havoc on the skin.”
Her top no-nos are using foaming cleansers and using too much product (“a little goes a long way”), while her must-dos are “always sleep on a clean pillowcase and simplify your routine, so it works for your life”.
The latter piece of advice goes some way to explain Pestle & Mortar’s limited but no less effective range, which is not only 100 per cent vegan, but also free of parabens, mineral oil, silicones and sulphates. While these chemicals were an accepted part of mainstream skincare not 10 years ago, they are now on the hit list of most conscientious consumers, and companies are starting to take notice.
“At its most basic level, everything is a chemical. There are a host of skincare ingredients that are ‘under suspicion’, but in many cases, there’s no definitive research,” says Deasy. “At Pestle & Mortar, we take the following view: why use anything that has a question mark hanging over it when there’s a better way of doing it? It’s possible to create skincare products that are ethically responsible, safe for all skin types and highly effective without using controversial ingredients – by blending science with nature.”
Pestle & Mortar’s products and ingredients
The eight products currently in the Pestle & Mortar portfolio are divided into cleansing, hydrating and anti-ageing. The first category features the Erase Balm cleanser (Dh245) to remove make-up and grime; the Renew Gel cleanser (Dh245), which is formulated with fruit enzymes and superoxide dismutase to tighten and unblock pores; the Exfoliate toner (Dh155) to even out the skin; and a misting spritz called Balance (Dh180) to refresh and calm the skin.
Under hydration come the Hydrate moisturiser (Dh270) with tri and tetra-peptide technology and olive-derived squalane oil; and the Recover eye cream (Dh215). Finally, the brand's anti-ageing range offers the Pure Hyaluronic serum (Dh245) and Superstar night oil (Dh425), which uses two types of retinol. The company will launch a vitamin C serum in May.
About hero ingredient hyaluronic acid, Deasy says: "To a lay beauty seeker, I would describe it as 'a drink of water for your skin'. Hyaluronic acid is an amazing natural carbohydrate that has the ability to hold up to 1,000 times its weight in water. As we age, the levels of HA in our skin deplete. That's why it's important to incorporate it into your routine; a good hyaluronic serum should instantly plump the skin and smooth the complexion.
“Hyaluronic acid can also be used at any age,” she continues. “A more active ingredient like retinol should be introduced when the skin starts to show visible signs of sun damage or wrinkles – normally around the age of 25.”
Deasy lists four other ingredients that make Pestle & Mortar products worth their salt, including a magnesium-rich deep sea extract mined from the depths of the Irish Sea. "We use it in the facial spritz; it's extremely bioavailable and delivers a revitalised complexion," she says.
Another local ingredient is Irish moss extract, derived from a mineral-rich sea algae, which is used in the eye cream, while daisy flower extract can be found in the brand’s glycolic toner. From her Indian roots, Deasy cites the cold-pressed and organic cumin seed oil. “Both antiseptic and anti-inflammatory, cumin seed oil locks in moisture and promotes skin cell regeneration. It’s married with a host of other nutritious oils in the fast-acting Superstar night oil.
"I come from six generations of medicine men in India," she says of the connection with the subcontinent. "My uncle practises natural healing to this day in Hoshiarpur. The formulations are inspired by the ancient wisdom passed down through generations in my family. My uncle grinds herbs and powders using a century-old pestle and mortar – hence the name of my brand; it reflects my vision and will withstand the test of time."
The full range of Pestle & Mortar products will be available to buy in the UAE from October at Faces and www.beautysolutions-me.com