23 Nov Meet The Maker II: White Witch – The Irish Organic and Ethical Skincare
We’re really happy to be able to work with White Witch and sell their lovely range of skincare products. Their values are very much aligned with ours and they have been committed to using 100% plant or mineral based natural ingredients which are kind to our skin and on the environment. They are also serious about helping to tackle plastic pollution and their products are completely plastic free. This year they also decided to make their whole range vegan as they felt this was the right thing for them to do.
We talked with Caitriona, White Witch’s Sales and Marketing Director, to find out more about the company’s story, why being sustainable is so important to them as well as more of an insight into why they decided become a fully vegan brand.
For those reading who don’t know, what is White Witch and its history?
The Name White Witch came from a time when the founder, Ruth Ruane, was a little girl. She had knee length hair that her mother always kept in plaits. One day she wore it loose and all the kids in the school teased her and called her a witch. She went home in tears and told her mother. Her mother replied “not all witches are ugly. There are white witches and they are very beautiful, so you are a white witch”. This made Ruth feel better of course and as an adult she found out that White Witches are not only beautiful they also do no harm.
Ruth went on to become an entrepreneur with experience in food production and ran an organic bakery. At one point she started a business making organic cookie mixes. One of the ingredients was oatmeal. She developed 4 nice cookie mixes and did a pilot run in a local shop. Even though the reaction was good, Ruth decided she didn’t want to run a food business anymore. She was pregnant with her 7th child and she took a break. When her new baby was around 3 months old her skin was paper dry. Ruth had always used herbs to treat her children. Her eldest was 20 at the time. She had never had a child with such dry skin. The first thing she thought of to help was oatmeal. There was a big bag of it left over from the cookie business. It was still good.
She used the biodegradable nappy liner from the cloth nappies (7 kids and all cloth nappies!!!) and made a sachet with it on her sewing machine. She filled it with a mix of fine oatmeal, marigold, chamomile and lavender flowers and sewed it up. Just like a big tea bag.
She used this in the bath to wash her 3-month-old daughter. It not only helped her parchment like skin become soft and moisturised it also relaxed her. Well that was the first Idea. Ruth liked how it felt on skin so much she decided to make smaller sachets and use them on the face as a cleanser. Ruth knew she was onto something good. The product has changed since then. But the Gentle Exfoliant Cleanser was born from that very first product. She started to think about business. This is 13 years ago, she said to herself: “the last thing that the Earth needs is another skin care company making more plastic waste.”
Ruth wanted to launch a White Witch perfume in 2008 and started considering getting a natural perfumer who she could commission to create a perfume. While doing this she came across Mandy Aftel's course in Natural Perfumery and she decided to do it. A whole new world opened for her. She past the course with flying colours and received her certification of completion from Mandy Aftel. Mandy has made perfumes for the rich and famous, for example Madonna and Liv Tyler.
Ruth started a perfume academy, and which is now certified International Perfume Foundation Certification. Ruth herself hold a certificate from the IPF.
How have you positioned yourself in the skincare market and what sets you apart?
Ruth saw a gap in the market and a real need for natural skin care products, as unprocessed as possible, but without plastic packaging.
Ruth was passionate about plastic free before anyone else was. She had people telling her it didn’t matter to people if there is plastic or not. It was difficult having to make choices not involving plastic. It gives you less power to grow when you really need more. Ruth feels that White Witch is a part of this great movement to stop creating mountains of plastic waste, part of the movement to stop damaging, and start giving back to the earth. White Witch felt to Ruth a lot of the time, like White Witch has its own lifeforce.
Also, White Witch uses natural organic as possible ingredients – the formulations are very simple and solve problems. Ruth goal with White Witch was to help people solve skin problems and to create a simple but effective skincare line.
Another thing that is important to Ruth is the work environment. She has a vision for everyone who is making White Witch products needs to be OK. Feeling ok in themselves as Ruth believes this transfers into the product or the task in hand. One thing Ruth feels strongly about is that parents should be able to take their children (especially babies and toddlers) to work with them. So that they don’t feel torn. She believes that at least parents should be given give the choice. Follow regulations obviously but have a space. A space for family, like home from home space.
A big part of your ethos is being plastic-free, why did you feel this was so important for your company?
When Ruth set up White Witch back in 2013 she had already adapted a plastic free way of life herself. She was expecting her 7th child. She never once gave any of her children a bottle. She used cloth nappies when her first daughter was born in 1984 and all the way through. It went against her grain to use plastic in the packaging and she carried these values through to her brand.
Her first products she created using the sachets filled with herbs (which we plan to relaunch) were so amazing. Ruth recalls she had taken one out of the bath and had left it on the side. The fennel seeds that were inside the sachet started to sprout.
Everything could be composted. She used cellophane and cello tape as they are both biodegradable. And paper. The good kind. :)
Creating good skincare products, using organic unprocessed plant-based ingredients and presenting them in plastic-free packaging, is what White Witch does best. And there's more...
Of primary importance is the 'energy' flowing as the products are being created. Not just at the conception stage, when we are researching the ingredients, combining the properties of the plants and focusing on what we want the product to do. We carry that same energy through to the blending stage, and pouring stage and even to the packaging stage. The energy we put in is a big part of the magic of White Witch.
We can't control what happens to our ingredients before they get to us, but we like to be sure that nothing was harmed in the process. That's why all our ingredients are certified organic and ethically sourced. That's also why we switched from using honey and beeswax to all vegan. We want to help the earth, not hurt her. We want to take care of skin and the earth at the same time. Because in a way they are the same.
We are one! That's the magic!
The brand went through and re-launch and the current packaging is recyclable, and people love the jar and the bag – they send photos to Ruth of the multitude of uses they have for her packaging. Ruth loves that she can share with the world that her brand is plastic free.
You recently became a completely vegan skincare company, what was the reason for the change and how did you go about this?
The vegan change came about for a few reasons. Ruth is a Vegetarian and has been most of her life.
One of the first queries we received on the new website when we rebranded 3 years ago was from a customer who was disappointed because there was honey in a product. She also said she wished there was a vegan version. Ruth accepted the challenge and decided to reformulate the whole brand as the Vegan way of life also fitted with her ethos.
There was also the whole idea of harm none. Ruth knew that the same person who cares enough not to want any plastic is the person who will want them to be vegan. Who’s going to care that much? Vegans of course! :)
Ruth has been called a “lifetime vegetarian” she has never been able to eat meat. As soon as Ruth discovered there was a thing called a “vegetarian” she became one, her mother would then stop trying to get her to eat it. It was natural for Ruth – She believes the less harm you can do the better.
The brand White Witch can’t do any harm. Every day that is what we strive for while creating skincare products.
What’s next for White Witch over the coming months and beyond?
Ruth has some amazing formulations from her old line – which we plan to reintroduce in 2018. I think the world is ready for it now. She has an amazing hair care product that she is excited about. “Nutrisil” is the formula. It is for growth and it’s a strength tonic and it is a truly amazing product.
We also have an exciting perfume coming in Mid-2018. Vegan organic solid perfumes.
Perfumery is an art – and Ruth is an amazing perfumer. It takes time and the right space. As with everything that Ruth does – she puts time dedication and love into her products and her formulations. When Ruth is working on the perfumes it is very important for her that business is set aside; the phones and internet are turned off. It takes time. She is working with her son Jomo, who is 25, he is helping her with the compositions. He has an excellent nose and is a great addition to the White Witch formulation team.
Ruth also works closely with Dr Dilis Clare a GP and herbalist who has given her seal of approval for her products and White Witch has also achieved the vegan registration, our next step is to get the soil association symbol on our own products, rather than just our ingredients. Lots of exciting developments for the future of White Witch.
Christmas gift set for normal skin types - £36.50
We hope you enjoyed reading about White Witch's story. You can check out their gorgeous skincare range, including their new Christmas gift sets for a range of skin types, here.