A family affair
With seven industry awards in just over one year, new skincare brand By Sarah London is revolutionising the beauty industry with its fully transparent approach. Co-founder Sarah Murrell, whose career began at Estée Lauder and L'Oréal, says she was drawn to skincare from a very young age. Growing up, Sarah and her sister Lauren were crafting creams at home with their mother. “We were very lucky growing up that our mom was a real advocate for organic plant-based products and we were influenced by that,” says Murrell.
What started as a hobby turned into a real desire to revolutionise skin care in 2012 when Sarah’s sister Lauren was recovering from leukaemia. “This was the catalyst moment for me,” says Murrell. “I started to look at plant-based ingredients. We now know how transformative plant-based foods are, but seven years ago plant-based as a concept didn't really exist in the UK.” Murrell laments that at the time beautiful skincare products were only available from the large beauty conglomerate and natural or organic products were ‘very beige and boring’.
While searching for gentle, non-toxic, natural and organic products - which would soothe and nourish Lauren’s sensitive skin - Murrell found a problem: it was almost impossible to tell what was in the products. “One of my frustrations was how confusing it was, even with the knowledge that I had, to interpret skincare labels,” Murrell explains. According to Murrell, even natural and organic ranges had long and cryptic lists of ingredients and often confusing and misleading labelling. “The market came a long way in seven years and formulations are now a bit more sophisticated but back then there wasn't any on the market,” she says.
Murrell decided to take the matter into her own hands and to start developing her own blends using recognisable plant-based organic ingredients of the very finest quality. To Murrell, ‘natural’ was simply not enough. After five years of creating skincare blends behind the scenes for family and friends, the products were gaining popularity amongst friends of friends and their list of customers continued to grow. A year ago, the sisters decided it was the right time to bring Sarah’s formulations to the market and launched By Sarah London.
A pledge for transparency
The brand features a very curated collection of products and is proud to be the only skincare brand in the UK to have a fully transparent approach and disclose the full ingredients list on the products’ label.
“I think in light of this new world we live in, where customers are incredibly savvy and demand transparency, it is the brand’s responsibility to be upfront and to be transparent,” says Murrell. “It is very much inherent to our brand to champion beautiful plant-based ingredients but also to empower our customers to be in control and to know what they put on their skins and in their bodies.”
On a larger scale, By Sarah London hope to pioneer a real shift in the industry by creating a bottom-up effect and putting pressure on the large beauty conglomerate to be more transparent. “I think there is a lot to be done in terms of transparency,” Murrell explains. “These industrial synthetic fillers are often quite difficult to interpret on an ingredient label. And even today there are brands that don't even fully disclose the full list of ingredients on their websites.”
Murrell thinks that it is still a very confusing space for consumers. “There's a lot of products so we're trying to make it easier, through that empowerment, through that transparency and through sharing our stories so people can really connect with us and our experiences,” she says. Although she believes that there is still a lot to be done in term of sustainable skin care, Murrell is thrilled to see how important the sustainable fashion movement has become and looks forward to seeing it translating across the beauty industry.
A conscious brand
By Sarah London's goal is to build a trusted skincare collection in a very thoughtful and considering way whilst also minimising its environmental footprint. The pioneer brand doesn’t use outer packaging, plastic or bubble wrap and instead chooses recyclable paper packaging.
“In terms of our packaging, we use glass bottles,” Murrell explains. “We proactively encourage our customers to upcycle or recycle our containers. In fact, we have customers that send us pictures of their upcycled glass jars as a new house for their succulents or hair accessories.”
The brand also advocates for a less is more approach. “We don't believe in excess which is why we have a very curated approach to skincare: we don't have any moisturisers or eye creams in our collection,” says Murrell. By Sarah London recommend having a very simple but very effective skincare routine that is about using one, two or three products a day. “Our skin is incredibly fragile, we do have to be careful what we put onto our skin especially when over the years we have been targeted with so many sub-products,” she explains.
Murrell recommends being very mindful of what we're putting on our skin but also how it impacts the environment. “Not having a bathroom full of so many products that often we don’t end up finishing, and end up being thrown in the bin,” she adds.
Natural skin care’s impact on the environment
Many industrial synthetics that are used in mainstream skin care products such as Polyglycol, an ingredient also used in antifreeze, are petroleum-derived and have a very negative impact on the environment, in addition to being linked to the number one polluting industry: oil and gas.
“Our principle is that if an ingredient can be grown in soil, we will always choose the certified organic option,” says Murrell. “This has so many positive implications, not only because each of the ingredients flourishes under the strictest requirements for organic farming, but also free from synthetic pesticides, herbicides, chemicals, fertilisers, which contribute to protecting the soil as well.”
For her, there are wider implications that come with choosing organic. “If we don’t fundamentally protect the quality of our soil, we can’t nurture ourselves, we can’t eat well and we can’t enjoy the best skincare,” she adds. “For us, that’s where it really starts. It’s about protecting the quality of our soil.”
An inclusive and accessible skincare line
The line features a very gender neutral packaging. “We don’t discriminate by gender, age, skin type or anything else, and we do have male customers as well as female customers,” Murrell explains.
She finds that regardless of their skin types, their customers are all looking for that alternative to heavily synthetic mainstream skincare. “If you look at our reviews online, you will see for example that women with either several acne, rosacea, or some very normal skin types have all benefited in their own ways from our facial oil,” says Murrell.
In addition to being inclusive, the brand insists on making its products affordable and therefore as accessible as possible. Murrell explains that when you invest in organic, you invest in your overall health and in the health of the planet, which goes beyond that price tag. “We say to our customers with any By Sarah products you choose, 100% of your spend goes into a single one of those ingredients that have been carefully curated to service specific purpose for your skin, unlike the fancy water you get in mainstream products,” she adds.
What is the secret to beautiful skin?
For Murrell, the secret to beautiful skin is a holistic approach. She explains that being mindful of the skincare that you’re using does support your overall skin health. “One facial tool that we launched about a month ago, the Rose Quartz Gua Sha, takes the skincare ritual to another level,” she says. Murrell uses the tool every evening after using the green clay cleansing balm and the organic facial oil. She loves how the Gua Sha activates basic circulation and works facial muscles when used with the facial oil. The tool also helps the skin absorb the vitamins and nutrients from the facial oil. “I see that as a meditative ritual because it does really focus your mind, it forces you to be really present and it holistically does support your well being and therefore also supports your skin health too,” she concludes.
Words: Charlaine Grosse-Lopez