The natural look: hand-made cosmetics on a roll
From mixing ingredients at home to having their products on supermarket shelves, Polish home-grown natural cosmetics brands are expanding fast as more and more consumers shun mass-produced products and turn to something more original and greener.
Just a few years ago fairs for home-produced cosmetics would pull in around 100 exhibitors, now that number is between 300 and 400. What those producers at the fairs have in common is a focus on natural ingredients, a desire for ecological solutions to environmental problems, an individual approach, and the utmost care for the quality of their products.
The trend of moving away from mass-produced cosmetics packed with questionable substances, to safe and tested homemade products has been gaining force for a while. But for many of the producers now exploiting the trend their businesses often began by experimenting with mixing creams or oils for themselves before going on to develop small workshops or starting to cooperate with professional laboratories.
While it is hard to clearly define what counts as a natural cosmetic (any product with water in it requires a preservative), they are based on substances of vegetable, mineral, and animal origin. A growing percentage of production is also vegan.
According to PMR, a market research company, in 2019 natural cosmetics made up 4 percent of the entire Polish market, while in Western Europe this figure is often in two digits. In 2018 it was worth PLN 0.9 billion, and it is only going to grow.
Slow life movements, increasing customer awareness, and the effectiveness of the products is responsible for the trend. Around 16 percent of Poles are already buying natural cosmetics, and brands such as Mokosh, Resibo, and Alkemie are already part of the mainstream.
One such natural company, Toruń-based Domowy Kosmetyk (Homemade Cosmetic), was launched by Ewa Rusin-Gazda, an accountant with 30 years of experience, who would use a natural substance in her everyday life – in the kitchen, for cleaning and finally to care for her skin.
From making creams for herself, her friends, and family, she moved on to producing them in a little lab in her home and selling them online or at cosmetics fairs.
“When I started four years ago, I went to the first such fair,” the owner and founder, told TFN. “There were about a hundred companies exhibiting. Now there's even 400 of them.”
Rusin-Gazda is one of the producers who still does everything by herself, with some help from her husband and children. “Not everyone does it as I do. I’m one of the few, who does everything by themselves right from the basics,” she said.
That includes creating the formulas for different serums, creams, and oils, mixing them, and then testing – mainly on herself and close family and friends.
“You can do it at home,” the Domowy Kosmetyk owner states. “As long as you have a separate workshop for the production, as the sanitary services are very particular about that." Rusin-Gazda said that many of her clients call her to ask for advice about mixing different substances and making their own cosmetics.
Aleksandra Lemmle and Elżbieta Karwik, the owners of Be The Sky Girl, took a different path. Friends for eight years, they both were looking for a new challenge and a change from corporate life. This desire made them both quit their jobs and come up with the idea of Sky Girl – a woman who knows what she wants and is not afraid to go for it.
Lemmle told TFN:” We knew that cosmetics are an extremely graceful tool to carry our message. We envision our Sky Girl accompanying women from the moment they get up in the morning and go to the bathroom. The few minutes in the morning that they have with their body and their gaze in the mirror is a very intimate moment. We believe that if we do something good for our bodies, we nurture ourselves on many different levels.”
Using the skills they gained during their careers, Aleksandra and Elżbieta made sure to have a clear idea of what their brand is and whom they want to reach. Employing experts in creating formulas and mixing cosmetics was crucial to achieving their goal – making products that have the right smell, texture, and properties.
“Today, we are at a stage where we sometimes offer suggestions to the experts working on the formulas,” said Aleksandra. “We look for novelties and new solutions, and they are focused on the laboratory work and don't always have time for this. We also want our brand to be consistent when it comes to caring for the environment, so we are working on changing the packaging.”
That doesn’t mean, they don’t like to get their hands dirty from time to time. “Our cosmetics are not tested on animals but on ourselves, our families, and friends,” Elżbieta said. “Now we have also created a Facebook group for this purpose.
“The pandemic showed us how much our company was based on direct contact with customers. Very often we participated in large fairs, during which we had contact with people who provided us with a lot of inspiration, energy, and good ideas.”
The quality of products is one of the factors which attracts buyers to natural cosmetics. However, proper marketing and outreach are essential owing to a market rapidly becoming congested as new brands pile onto the market each month.
One solution that Polish companies have found for this issue is expanding abroad. “We participated in the Polish Agency for Enterprise Development’s program for exporting goods and won a grant. Among other places, we want to go to London twice, as well as Germany and Austria,” said Rusin-Gazda, the owner of Domowy Kosmetyk.
The Be The Sky Girl duo also have international ambitions.
“From the beginning, our dream was to follow the phrase 'born in Poland, flying worldwide', said Elżbieta Karwik. “This is what we are working on now because we were born in Poland, but we want to reach destinations all around the world. We received funding from the European Union for participation in international fairs next year, so we are preparing a strategy for that.”