If you missed our Instagram live with Theresa Edward, Founder of Skin Alchemists, we talked about beauty and wellness secrets from the Caribbean Life. The interview with the herbalist was very informing. You can still catch it too.
Tell us about your journey?
I am from the magical Caribbean island of St Lucia and migrated to London over 15 years ago to attend university. I fell in love with the city and stayed on to work and build a career. Fast forward a few years of fast-paced life, working long hours in a polluted city and eating mainly on the go, my health began to suffer. I would get back to back colds lingering for months, at one point developed a chest infection, I felt sluggish with low energy levels and got adult acne which was something I never had even as a teenager.
At one point I needed a break and went back home to St Lucia for a holiday which became the genesis of Skin Alchemists. Right off the flight, my mom took one look at me and said: “you need a purge” which is a Caribbean term for detox. Next stop was the beach for a swim because Caribbean people believe a sea bath is a cure-all. Then fresh farm to table food. Almost overnight I got better, my skin cleared and it brought back all the memories of growing up at the feet of my grand aunt Mano, a master herbalist and alchemist.
Back in London, I connected the dots between wellbeing rituals and the importance of eating fresh, nutrient-dense foods. It morphed into a practical obsession with foods and plant medicine. What became apparent was that I was honouring my body with the right food but not my skin which is the body’s largest organ. Taking a closer look at the ingredients in my skincare, I couldn’t pronounce some of the words in the so-called natural product ingredient list. Greenwashing was so obvious. Calendula, for example, would be marketed as the main ingredient of a sterile white cream. Calendula is a vibrant orange colour. Any product containing calendula should not be white. The pigment forms part of its healing qualities.
I wanted to feed my skin as I wash my body, with nutrient-rich natural skincare; however the market lacked what I wanted. The products which came close were mainly farmers market type products packaged to look and feel the same, or the aromatherapy products which concentrated on scent and not necessarily the quality of base ingredients. My mind went into overdrive trying to bring these three elements together: High-quality fresh ingredients, aromatherapy and efficacy.
Tell us about your life in the Caribbean?
My life was the typical Caribbean; it involved food, music and the sea. Fresh ingredients were a way of life. We live a holistic lifestyle as second nature. Each island has its festivals like carnival or folk celebrations. I take inspiration for all my products from the Caribbean, down to the product names. Example Sesenne, our facial elixir was inspired by Sesenne Descartes, a local folk singer.
What is alchemy mean to you?
I see alchemy as having a catalyst to invoke transformation. History has it that all alchemist seek the philosophers stone which changes lead into gold. That’s the inspiration for the brand name actually: Skin Alchemists. Our products transform your skin to its best state.
Why do most of your products have a ritual element to them?
I didn’t want to create functional skincare. I wanted to conjure products which would transform everyday routine into a ritual. To create moments of self-care and pause, to encourage breath. As a mom of an almost-two-year-old, I can tell you my life isn’t mine. I’m sure most moms can relate, and if I can find five minutes to myself, I want those five minutes to feel special. Sometimes I can’t find five minutes, and these are the times when I reach for our Humble Warrior cleansing oil to transform the dull routine of washing my face into a self-care ritual.
Why do you believe young people need to learn how to take care of their skin?
I think I’ll go right back to my ancestral teachings on this one that prevention is better than cure. Getting into the practice of caring for your skin at a young age makes second nature as you get older.
What beauty tip do you give men and women?
Less is more, and beauty begins from within. I have found in many instances that by only letting your skin rest, stripping back and using edible quality plant oils will yield unbelievable results. Your skin is also impacted how you treat and feed your body.
Tell me more about that?
The skincare industry is very much based on sales, advertising and marketing. The more products you buy, the happier is some top CEO’s pocket and the industry can lead you to believe that you need a twelve-step skincare routine. When the truth is, you need just a few products with the right quality ingredients.
Why is that important to you?
Skin Alchemist is an independent brand, and the buck stops with me. There are no shareholders or board of directors to report to. I am held accountable only by my conscience and my customers. Therefore I personally ensure we source the best ingredients and produce the most beautiful, efficacious products. Our messaging is honest and transparent, and our customers trust us.
What is the new normal for you?
I was living in my back yard a whole lot more. This will be our 8th year in the house we live in, and it is the first time I have spent so much time in the backyard. I try to connect with nature as much as possible to help not get too overwhelmed with it all. I have so much more gratitude for the ordinary people like our milkman who keeps my little one happy and the delivery men and women to help me keep my business running.
What did you learn from being quarantine?
If anything it re-iterated not taking today for granted because you don’t know what tomorrow brings and also there are a lot of things I could have done without after all.
What happens if nothing changes in the world after this pandemic?
It would be sad that we didn’t heed any lessons or that we lost the respect we now have for the frontline workers.
How are you coping?
In the first few weeks, it was tough. My anxiety went through the roof; I quickly got emotional watching the news. Now It doesn’t feel as surreal anymore, and I have found ways to adjust. My self-care rituals are now an essential part of keeping me sane and also to give a sense of routine.
How are you coping not being allowed to congregate?
Pre-COVID I must admit to being a bit anti-social. Between building the brand and my toddler, I didn’t have much time to socialise in person. Most of my family and friends live abroad anyway, so video calling has always been part of how I socialise. It has probably had a more significant impact on my little girl. She is finding it difficult not being able to play with other kids and having to stay at a distance.
What are you grateful for?
Good health, life, my little girl, she keeps me grounded—small mercies like a back yard.
What is the lesson you learned from your grandmother?
Both my grandmothers passed before I was born, so I never met them, but the grandmother figure in my life was my grand aunt Mano, and she taught me all about the healing power of plants, to be proactive with our health rather than reactive, the power of touch and energy work.
What message do you want to send the universe?
Gratitude. I am grateful that the universe has given me all that I need for today.
Thank you so much, Theresa. We will meet in the summer to share more tea. Thank you for teaching us the most things that ale us we can be cured in the kitchen. If you want to learn more follow Skin Alchemists.