Personal care products that are good for you and the planet are on everyone's shopping list these days. But what are the go-to, up and coming brands?
Well, get ready to be inspired. We caught up with Department of Hygiene this month as we got ready to launch their handmade personal care products at the Organa Beauty store. Founders Leo and Greg took us on a virtual journey from their birthplace in Syria to their brand’s launch in London.
Your background is in marketing and healthcare, so what inspired you to start making organic soap?
We’d already launched products in the eco-friendly space aimed primarily at reducing plastic waste. With soap, we started thinking about how traditional handmade soap has been hijacked.
We were born in Syria and lived there for 10-years. Everyone used Aleppo soap there, which is a kind of castile soap. It’s a traditional recipe using laurel oil, lye and olive oil, and it’s used for everything from washing your body to your clothes.
The truth is, plenty of personal care products on the market today are not good for people or the planet. They have added chemicals and unethical ingredients like palm oil. We wanted to take a step back and return to the kind of bar soap and personal care products that people have used for centuries.
There are problems with these ancient recipes though, so we needed to apply an understanding of modern skincare to improve them. They can sometimes dry the skin, for instance, so we worked on our recipes to complement different needs across the body.
For example, for the body we use a blend of olive oil, coconut oil, and shea butter to hydrate the skin and nourish it with essential vitamins A, E and F. Different ingredients can then be added, such as poppy seeds to gently exfoliate. Or, orange and grapefruit to promote collagen production.
Another example is our shampoo bars. We chose ingredients like castor oil, which has a long history as a natural conditioner for the scalp. It has multiple benefits, being rich in vitamin E and natural proteins. It helps with everything from hair loss to dandruff.
For every ingredient added, it’s natural, organic and sourced from ethical suppliers. It’s important for us to only work with the best partners and we use high-quality ingredients to create the best products. But each ingredient is added for a specific purpose too, whether that’s to hydrate, exfoliate, work as an antibacterial or balance our natural PH.
At the same time, we reduce plastic waste through eco-friendly packaging. We can all save a tonne of plastic waste by choosing products that eliminate single-use plastic and instead use recycled and recyclable packaging.
Eliminating plastic waste and single-use plastic is the big part of your brand ethos. How do you keep your packaging process sustainable?
By looking at the end-to-end process from sourcing ingredients to making our products and packaging them up. And we keep everything as sustainable as possible by maintaining full control over the partners we work with and the ingredients we use.
All our eco-friendly packaging is made with recycled and recyclable materials. But we also decided to go one step further and offer jars for our products which can be kept forever and refilled. You can simply buy the refills in our paper packaging. This completely cuts out plastic waste.
Even if you don’t want to buy the jars, you can get the bar soap in our paper packaging and dispose of that in your recycling bin.
You talk about “personal care without the junk.” What’s your process for keeping all your products free from nasties?
When we started our full-body line of personal care products our focus was on reducing plastic waste. Our research led us to find out more about modern soaps and discover what’s added to them.
Chemicals, palm oil and other unethical ingredients shouldn’t be there. If you trace back the history of soap, these things were only added during the Industrial Revolution. For thousands of years before that, natural soaps used natural ingredients.
Our products take us back to the natural oils, kinds of butter and ingredients each body part needs. Whether that’s your scalp or your teeth. We call this an essentialist approach.
You’re more than a soap brand. How important is it for your brand to offer hygiene products for the whole body?
Our brand’s name is a cheeky take on the idea of a global department of hygiene. If that existed, what would it look like? If it advised people on the best products to use across the body that is good for you and the environment.
We look at the three essential personal hygiene areas across the body. Oral, skin, face. Our overarching principle is to make a bar soap that’s good for the world’s inhabitants and the planet.
Our research has taken us down a path where we can see what these body parts need, based on traditional handmade soaps and other hygiene products. But also, what’s superfluous, and even harmful to us and the planet. That includes plastic waste, which formed the start of our journey. So, eco-friendly packaging has to be a core part of our brand.
At the same time, choosing the right ingredients based on modern science and a traditional organic soap recipe. For example, with our Aleppo soap, we updated it with a hydration element, which is shea butter.
Ultimately, there’s a beauty in simplicity. People crave it. All our products appeal to that sensibility too. We create organic, natural personal care products that keep your teeth, body and face healthy. And we don’t add any plastic waste in the process. It’s simple, and it works.
Written by Clio Pope @the.luxury.brand.copywriter