Seasonal Skincare with Vanderohe's Olivia Thorpe
September is always a great time for a fresh start. We all metaphorically buy a new pencil case and notebook (or literally, in my case - I adore lovely stationery!) and get ready for the new term in a moment that is, to my mind, as psychically important as the New Year for regeneration and setting of intentions. One of the things I'm planning to focus on this autumn is my skincare regime, which tends to slip during the balmy, lazy days of summer. I caught up with Olivia Thorpe, founder of the amazing Vanderohe company, to pick her brain about all things skincare.
The gorgeous Olivia Thorpe
What is the ethos and the story behind Vanderohe? What are your inspirations?
I created Vanderohe by chance. I formulated an oil blend that healed my very allergic and sensitive skin and that, soon after, proved to help with all sorts of other skin issues with other people who tried it. I had difficulty at the time trusting other brands and other products – their ethos, ingredients, purity… If you suffer from allergies, you become very afraid of putting anything on your skin that a) you don’t really understand and b) that could be less that pure. So when I created this beautiful and complex formula and realised it had this amazing dual capacity to treat the skin and to also treat one’s mindset, I applied everything that had frustrated me about other skincare products in the years I was reviewing them for editorials, to do it properly: use only 100% organic and wildcrafted plant ingredients and help educate the customer putting the product onto their skin – form a bond of trust, honesty and transparency from the very start: show them what each ingredient looks like, explain where it’s from and why it’s in the product. I was bored of the monochrome same-ness of cosmetic products at the time, so I deliberately made our packaging feel feminine and precious – because that it what it should be given the privacy and intimacy of a skincare ritual.
In terms of my inspirations, my formulation process is based upon function and scent. For any particular product I create, my aim is to simplify multiple products into one excellent one, so that it is multi-correctional and universal. Then, in order to strengthen that product and take its beautifying capacity a little deeper, I create a scent journey that will allow the person using the product to escape for a moment, to relax and to connect properly with their skin. From the start, I have considered Vanderohe as much more than just another beauty brand; for me, creating these products is a very delicate art form that has the potential to create real positive change in the world; on a personal level – helping someone reconnect and understand their skin, simplify their routine and solve their skin issues, allowing them to feel more comfortable and confident; on a business level – steering away from the traditional marketing-led beauty products, stripping back the glossy jargon overlaying cheap ingredients and poor practises and instead, creating total transparency and trust; and lastly, on an environmental level – ensuring all our practises are as environmentally-friendly as possible: investing in organic farming, supporting small communities around the world who rely on the trade of local plants for their livelihood, offsetting our carbon footprint through the World Land Trust by partnering with a carbon-balanced printer and creating everything by hand in small batches, thereby minimising energy-chugging machinery, errors and waste…and then one step further, pledging a percentage of our profits to marine conservation. I hope Vanderohe becomes a leader in all three regards. So my inspirations are also people who aren’t afraid to break the mould and speak out for what they believe in – environmental activists, conservationists, people who dedicate their lives to protecting the planet and us…I admire their passion and drive so much.
What happens to our skin and our bodies generally as the seasons change?
I don’t believe that our skin and bodies naturally change with the season; I think that it’s our habits that change and those habits then impact our skin and body. For example, during the summer months we’re far more likely to spend more time outdoors, which allows us more Vitamin D, we’re more likely to eat lighter foods, fruit and veg, drink more water and exercise more because we’re more body conscious. Whereas, in the winter we’re more likely to cut down on exercise as we hide away in warm layers, we’re more likely to drink warm, sugary drinks and stodgy food and spend more time indoors with central heating on…all of which will have a detrimental impact on your skin and body. Our skin is a brilliant indicator of things going awry within our bodies – both physically and emotionally. If your skin suddenly becomes very dry, sensitive, angry during the winter (when it’s been fine over the summer) I would first advise to assess your lifestyle and see if simply cutting down on warming foods, alcohol, central heating etc. might be the solution, before you choose to switch up your skincare. If you use effective products and focus on a consistent routine of exercise, healthy food and supplementing where you can’t get the vitamins naturally (ie in the case of Vit D as you’re exposed to less sunlight in winter), I really believe you can achieve a seamless transition between seasons without having to change your skincare routine at all.
How can we support ourselves during these transitional times, in terms of both skincare and nurturing rituals more widely?
I think nurture is the key. A change of season can cause a huge shift in our everyday habits, most notably as we enter autumn. Colder weather, darker days and a change from holiday mode to hard work can take its toll on our emotional wellbeing. I think it’s more important than ever right now to make time for nurturing rituals throughout the day to support our emotional wellbeing and carry us into winter with strength and in a happy frame of mind. A skincare ritual is a really wonderful way to connect with your skin and make you feel immediately better about yourself. Taking even just ten minutes out of your day to wash your skin, exfoliate it, massage it with an aromatherapy-based product has incredible and immediate results, not just topically, but deep within too.
What rituals do you practice daily to ensure your skin and body look and feel their best?
In the morning, I exercise on our x-trainer and follow afterwards with a cold shower. In the winter I will probably want it a little warmer! I use our Sasawashi cloths for both my body and face every day and they give me the squeaky clean feeling of having been in a hammam spa. I then spend at least 5 minutes massaging my skin with Vanderohe No.1 Face Serum and Vanderohe No.1 Body Serum. I try to eat only organic food and I supplement with multivitamins and a collagen drink. Since the start of lockdown, I’ve made a conscious effort to spend at least an hour outdoors without my phone every day and it has an amazing positive effect on my mood and wellbeing. I fail miserably at probably the most important ritual of all, which is sleep. My daughter still wakes in the night for milk and I go to bed far too late because I enjoy that peaceful time alone with my husband when the kids have finally all gone to bed! I feel as though I haven’t had one full, uninterrupted night’s sleep for 7 years now, thanks to my children, so my main on-going wellbeing goal is to sort that out!
Why is using natural ingredients so important? What particular ingredients make Vanderohe so special? How did you first begin to learn about botanicals?
The beauty industry is notoriously full of plastics, dangerous synthetics, animal by-products and pollutive chemicals. They’re not only extremely harmful for the planet, but also for us, given that our skin absorbs most of what we put on it and delivers it straight into our bloodstream. There is so much information around how certain chemicals are linked with cancer and with hormone disruption, but there have been no laws passed to prevent those same chemicals from being used in cosmetic products. I first became aware of this when I was pregnant with my first son. I developed a fiercely protective instinct towards this little baby inside me so I shunned everything that wasn’t natural. The more I read, the more the curtains came down on this very glossy beauty industry I’d looked up to for so long. Plant oils, on the other hand, treated my skin so well, and instantly, and I could trust them.
What makes Vanderohe so special is that I use the very highest grade of plants oils, sourced from their country of origin, where they grown optimally and under certified organic farming standards, and I blend them in a way that not only optimises their topical qualities, but their aromatherapy qualities too. Native, organic plant oils ensure that we have the optimal strength of nutritive properties, but also the optimal purity. It has a knock-on effect on the environment too, as pesticide use on non-organic plants wreaks all sorts of havoc with local inhabitants as it leaches into the soil and water systems. My goal is always to create the most potent but pure and natural product that will work across the board – on all skin types, on all ages –, that will have an equally powerful effect on one’s mindset and whose production will work in harmony with nature.
What can we do to take care of the world more generally, and to live a low-impact life?
A really effective and simple measure is to simply read into whatever it is you want to buy: if it’s food, make sure you know where it’s from, how it has been farmed… You soon start to realise that opting for non-organic produce, for example, might be having a wider-reaching, negative impact on soil and water pollution through pesticide use on those crops. If it’s clothing, will it last, where has it been made and what is it made from? Buying fast fashion made from materials such as nylon or rayon contribute to a dangerous dependence on fossil fuels and may involve underpaid workers in unsanitary factories. If it’s cosmetics, what is actually in the product, is it safe, where has it been made, what happens when you throw it away? As soon as you start to take an interest in the make-up and origins of the product you’re buying, you fast become very aware of the positive or negative impact your purchase has on a larger global and environmental scale.
To learn more visit vanderohe.com