• Holly Jo

Shop Sustainable: PERLcosmetics

Ethical skincare is often hard to come by, with so many brands engaging in animal testing, child labour and contributing to the climate crisis. PERLcosmetics, however, hopes to change the status quo. Created by Isobel Perl, a Biology graduate from the University of Nottingham, the London native has had years of experiencing formulating cosmetics for her friends and family which she has now chosen to translate into a sustainable business. Her USP is her Pearl Powder Clay Mask (£19.50), the first of its kind according to the company’s Instagram. I spoke to her about her upcoming launch in July 2020, her ethos, and the ways she incorporates sustainability into every aspect of her life. All her socials will be linked at the end of this article!

First off, tell me a little about yourself, what your business is about and why you started it?

I’ve never truly known what I want to do with my life. I finished my A-levels and hadn’t planned to go to university, so I took an impromptu gap year. As soon as I saw my friends living their best lives at university, I instantly regretted my decision. I applied and off I went to university that September. Those 3 years flew by and I am so glad I made the decision to go. When I graduated, I knew I wanted to travel, so I got a job to save money and then spent 6 months travelling with my best friend around Asia and Australia. 

My plan when I returned from travelling was to study a masters in Cancer Biology at Imperial. I managed 3 weeks, before deciding this wasn’t the right path for me. I felt so lost and again didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life. I went back to the job I had prior to travelling and was truly miserable. I managed to move to the London office and into a different job role with my company in April 2019. In June I then moved into a flat with two best friends, which has been so much fun. But the job was…well it was just that, a job. It wasn’t a career path I was particularly passionate about and I found myself yet again lost and directionless as to where I wanted my life to go. 

In November 2019, I was back at home with my parents and this is when I had the idea of setting up a business, PERLcosmetics. I have always been obsessed with both makeup and skincare. I’ve been formulating my own cosmetics for years, from pressed glitters, to hair and face oils. I distinctly remember reading a Daily Mail article (where all good ideas begin, of course) about two young e-commerce guys who had started a hugely successful skincare brand in Australia selling clay masks. After doing copious amounts of research, I realised there were no big brands in the UK that sold something similar, which was also natural, sustainable and ethical. The lightbulb moment happened. I brought my domain name, perlcosmetics.com, and set up a holding page for my website and began my Instagram page @perlcosmetics.

However, starting my business remained a dream until now as I wasn’t in a position to leave job security, what with rent and bills to pay. Then 2020 came and coronavirus took hold of the world. It also saw me lose my job. Rather than seeing this as a setback, I saw it as an opportunity to channel my passion and time into building my new brand. In a strange way, I’m truly happy this has happened as it’s given me the push I needed. 

How did you get into sustainability? Were there any particular stories or events what resonated with you enough to change your habits?

Sustainability is definitely been something I’ve become more aware of as culture is turning toward more sustainable and ethical practices. It’s also something I’m constantly trying to improve on in my own lifestyle and with starting my business.

I think something that really resonated with me was a few years ago when I saw a picture of a seahorse holding onto a cotton bud in the ocean. I thought to myself ‘wow, our throwaway culture driven by consumerism really knows no limits’. I understand it can be difficult to adopt more sustainable practices in life, as all too often our biggest concern is a price tag. However, being able to understand what changes you can implement within your means to move towards a more sustainable life is what matters most.

Can you tell me a bit about how you have made your business practices sustainable?

When starting my business, I knew that sustainability would be at the heart of what I do. The bottles and jars I use are glass, which can be either be recycled or reused. For the next re-stock, I am looking to get bio-degradable cardboard jars for the powder clay, meaning you can re-use the glass jar by transferring the powder clay. I am also looking into ways to do this with the illuminating oils, albeit it is harder to find something other than glass that is sustainable to contain oil! Any suggestions are greatly appreciated, please let me know at isobel@perlcosmetics.com. I make sure not to use any unnecessary packaging, so you’d receive the jar and bottle in the cardboard postal box protected by recycled shredded paper. 

In our production, I make sure I keep my waste to a minimum and ensure I recycle as much as I can. The ingredients are all-natural, free of parabens, palm oil, alcohol and artificial fragrance. On top of this, I try to source as many components of our product from Britain, this reducing shipping distances. 

Are there any areas of your business that just can’t be made sustainable?

Shipping is definitely a big factor in trying to become more sustainable, and unfortunately until a better method of receiving and sending goods is available, shipping is something every product-based business will have to be involved with. 

Something that I don’t have to worry about yet with my clay mask but may do in the future if I release more products, is the use of preservatives. If you create a water-based product, you absolutely must use a preservative to prevent microbial growth. There are many preservatives that are not biodegradable and are harmful for the environment, however not using preservatives in your cosmetics would be even more harmful for the person using it. It is best to opt for bio-degradable preservatives, such as Preservative 12, which is palm-oil and formaldehyde free and vegan. 

Do you hope to expand your business in the future or are you happy where you are at?

I would absolutely love to expand the business. As I am yet to launch, it’s difficult to say whether I’d be in a position to expand. But the idea is that if it does take off, to release more products such as a pearl powder exfoliator, a cleanser, a moisturiser. Really, the sky is the limit and I’d love for PERLcosmetics to become a household name in the beauty industry! Dream big girls! 

What are you looking forward to most about launching your business?

The biggest thing I’m looking forward to is seeing our customers use our product! I can’t wait for everyone to experience the illuminating and calming effects of the mask and see how nourishing it is and how their pores become visibly smaller after use! I am also excited to launch an all-natural brand, with our brand ethos promoting sustainable and ethical beauty. 

What is the one cause that you are most passionate about in terms of sustainability/environmentalism? 

Wastage. Whether it be throwing away perfectly good food, to fast fashion and our throwaway culture, or to the amount of plastic packaging you receive when getting a new beauty product. Upcycling, re-inventing and being creative are all great ways to try and reduce waste. Whether that be turning a disused wooden ladder into a display to hang your plants on, to using leftovers in a new recipe the next day. Another great way is shopping more sustainably, researching those brands who keep waste to a minimum. I love shopping vintage fashion, finding stuff on Depop and discovering new small independent slow fashion brands. I also thoroughly enjoy upcycling. One of the joys of living in London is that you can find furniture on the streets to take it home with you. So far, I’ve upcycled 2 wooden tables for the garden, and a ladder to hang my plants from. Another thing I’m very passionate about is food waste. I hate seeing people waste perfectly good food for the fact it is a day out of date, or they don’t want to use up their leftovers. I follow a really great food account on Instagram, @thestarvingstudent, who does great posts about using leftovers and has lots of inspiring ways to create meals from leftovers.

How do you think people should go about promoting sustainability in their everyday lives? 

I think the biggest thing someone can do is to research into it and to understand the changes they can make to help live a more sustainable life. They may even realise that some changes take very minimal effort, for example buying a reusable water bottle. Knowing that small changes can make big differences, and if everyone tries to follow a life as sustainable as they can within their means, then that’s the best possible outcome. 

You can buy PERLcosmetics here from July or visit Isobel on Instagram.


All images courtesy of Isobel Perl.

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