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Neal's Yard Remedies: Raising the Ethical Beauty Bar

Neal's Yard Remedies: Raising the Ethical Beauty Bar

Beauty may only be skin deep, but health-savvy consumers know that beauty products go much deeper. Despite a growing awareness of the toxic load that conventional cosmetics and skin products can place on the body, surprisingly few companies have succeeded in perfecting all-natural alternatives. Neal’s Yard Remedies, however, has… and its two Canadian stores are located right in our backyard!

The company itself was established in England in the 1980s, with the aim of preserving time-tested, traditional beauty wisdom in an increasingly synthetic industry. Its Canadian offshoots, locally owned and operated here in Calgary, have maintained this mission, embodying the traditional charm of the original shops and products, backed by modern science and convenience that rivals even their most chemical-based competitors.

We recently spoke with Lisa Costello, CEO of Neal’s Yard Remedies Canada, about the modern beauty industry, keeping NYR products ethical, and the one product she’d want if she was stranded on a deserted island.

Neal's Yard Remedies has won an astounding number of awards (read: hundreds) for their ethical and natural products. What's special about how your products are made? 

Our products are all natural, we use organic ingredients wherever possible, and we ensure each one is ethically sourced. NYR started 35 years ago and has been using many of the same suppliers it started with in the beginning. We have relationships with these suppliers and work with them to support their production and well-being.

For example, we helped our lavender farmer in France achieve organic certification. We also source our frankincense from a tribe in Kenya where women don’t typically work - so with us they’re able to earn their own income and receive living wages. Our partnerships have contributed to local improvements such as schools, and we’ve built a well in the plantations where they work. (Frankincense is tapped from the sap of the boswellia trees similar to the process for maple syrup - and natural latex). 

On the subject of all-natural ingredients, how do you navigate avoiding toxic substances in an industry where the quality standards are set by synthetic products? 

Neal’s Yard Remedies evolved in the 80s as part of a pushback against the rise in the use of synthetic chemicals in the cosmetic industry. It aimed to preserve traditional, apothecary wisdom on beauty and health, which is still relevant today. There’s sometimes a stigma that using natural products is a compromise in function. But we use what we call the Art of Herbal Science - which merges both traditional knowledge and clinical studies to ensure our products compare in effectiveness with conventional ones.

When it comes to our ingredients, we also operate on the precautionary principle: if there’s a chance something might be harmful, or even if we just don’t know enough about it yet, we don’t use it.

One thing both Black Sheep Mattress Co. and NYR are interested in is promoting holistic approaches to healthy sleep. What do you recommend for a good night's sleep? 

We use essential oils in all of our products, including many that help promote relaxation and sleep. The Remedies to Roll for Night Time can be applied to the pulse point as part of an evening winding down routine, because it’s not only calming, but regular use helps signal the body that it’s time to get ready for sleep. The Beauty Sleep Body Butter also contains restful fragrances that help soothe the body and mind. And there’s a tea blend, calming room spray and candles with similar effects.

Your Canadian stores are locally owned and operated in Calgary, which has led to a lot of engagement with the local community. What are some of the things you get involved with at the local level? 

Our “Create Your Own” events bring local participants together to get background training on essential oils and make their own blends for products. We also offer holistic health and lifestyle workshops as an educational opportunity. (For example their recent Beauty Sleep event with a local neuro-nutritionist provided holistic nutrition and lifestyle tools to promote sleep and overcome insomnia).  

Watch out for a new series of events coming up in January.

What's your favourite NYR product? 

I love the Wild Rose Beauty Balm. It makes skin glow and absorbs nicely, without being oily. It contains rose hips, jojoba, and borage - and not only nourishes skin, but works as a cleanser, exfoliator and even soothes bug bites. It’s the kind of product you’d want to have if you were stranded on a deserted island because it’s so versatile.

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We love the way Neal’s Yard Remedies has stuck to their traditional roots and maintained integrity and transparency about their ingredients despite industry pressures to the contrary. (And it helps that we are on a similar journey in the mattress world!). To learn more about NYR products, especially that dreamy sounding sleep line, visit their website or Instagram.