We are diving into the world of holistic skincare with Peckham based (but a country bumpkin from Berkshire at heart!) Sophia, the founder of The Palm of Feronia.
When did you realise that you wanted to create a holistic skin care brand?
I suffered with adult acne for over 10 years, starting in my early 20’s and tried EVERYTHING - all the tablets, creams, acids, cutting out dairy, a new pillowcase every day, never touching my face, cutting out sugar (you name it, I’ve tried it!) but nothing worked. It was hormonal acne but all month long, so I always had loads of painful cysts across my face.
Eventually, I had enough and said yes to a very controversial medication which basically dries out your face (and everything else) which made my skin super-sensitive to the point that even raw aloe vera would cause my face to burn.
Early in 2019 I began experimenting with natural oils to see what was gentle enough to use and gradually began to make my own products for myself, then later family and friends. I’ve always been a bit of a knowledge sponge so as soon as I started learning about all the ingredients, it just rolled on and on. I then studied organic skincare formulation and used this as a platform to launch what is now the Palm of Feronia.
What do you think that you would be doing today if you did not start The Palm of Feronia?
If The Palm of Feronia wasn't part of my life, I’d definitely have another creative project. I’ve always been very entrepreneurial but fashion or wellness focused, so likely something related to holistic therapy or crystal healing. I studied reiki a couple of years ago so I likely would have moved more into this space.
What would you say are the challenges of being in the skin care industry are nowadays?
For me, the biggest challenge is accepting that you cannot cater to everyone.
As someone who bought into the hype of so many products but was usually let down, I am extremely cautious of making grand promises. I stick to natural, simple ingredients that have been proven to work for centuries and go from there. Not every product will suit everyone and that's OK.
Another constant challenge is sustainability - it’s really hard to keep sustainability a core focus when you are a small brand, whilst managing costs. I’m “bootstrapping” The Palm of Feronia, so have no external investment or financial support, meaning I have to purchase packaging, labels and raw ingredients in small order quantities which can be eye-wateringly expensive when looking at the most sustainable options.
I LOVE hearing about new sustainable technology though so if you know of something we’re missing- please do let me know!
"The palm of feronia is not just for super-spiritual yogis"
Can you tell us a little more about your creative process when it comes to making a new product? When making a new product, I come at it from different angles everytime. It’ll either be a “need” - either something I want myself or a friend asks if I can help with, a “feel” I want to create in a product or through just experimenting (which I do a lot!).
My favourite is when I get to create a product around a feel - for example our Grounding Bath and Body Oil, where I just knew I wanted to combine crystals and oils that felt luxurious and full of self-love whilst at the same time being super-grounding.
Some products are just happy accidents and have remained the same since very early on (our Ritual Cleansing Oil for example) and some have come later on, like our Helichrysum Night Cream which is one of our most popular products.
Of course there is so much trial and error, lots of testing on family and friends, constant iterations - lots of products have been huge failures (a particular night cream that i’ve been working on for 12 months and just can’t get perfect!) and a huge list of “in development” products, waiting for the right time to launch.
We understand that each product is different, however, how long does it take you on average to make one of your skin care products?
I usually work in small batches of 10 as this means that I can ensure that I don't have any stock sitting around.
Depending on how organised I am, and what music I’m listening to, a batch can take me anywhere from half an hour to an hour and a half.
Because it’s just me, and we’re small scale, I don't have a lot of the time saving tools bigger labs have. I don’t mind this as I love knowing how much time I’ve spent on a product but one thing I despise is LABELLING!
What are your favourite ingredients to work with?
I love working with the crystals, matching these to each recipe and getting to put these in most products. I spent a long time (again lots of trial and error) finding the highest quality and most sustainable supplier for crystals and ensure they’re all cleansed and positively charged before being used
I also enjoy working with essential oils - I find them genuinely exciting to work with and love the impact they can have on emotions. I think essential oils, crystals and colour all work so well together. I’m such a visual person so when I think of a smell, it’ll make me think of a mood, a colour, a tone, a crystal that would work with it. My favourite essential oil is Vetiver (which is why it features in quite a few products!) - it’s such a grounding, soothing and earthy fragrance!
What do you want to communicate to the person who purchases one of your products?
What do you want to communicate to the person who purchases one of your products?I feel that in recent years, there’s been a real increase in people's intrigue into holistic therapies, wellness and spirituality. I want Palm of Feronia to help bring crystal healing, aromatherapy and ancient ingredients to people and help educate but in a really open, accessible way, without feeling overwhelmed. It’s not just for super-spiritual yogi’s, in fact a lot of our customers aren't. I see The Palm of Feronia as a really good way to "level-up" your self-care ritual or routine.
A more sustainable lifestyle is extremely important to us and our customers. Could you tell us what you do to approach your business in a more sustainable way?
Back to sustainability :) I guess there are a few obvious things like our glass packaging, refill options and all natural, vegan ingredients.
We have had to make some tough calls on things (for example we can’t use paper or biodegradable labels because they get damaged too easily by oils).
I’ve spent a lot of time ensuring our raw ingredient and crystal suppliers are operating ethically and sustainably - it’s something that's super important to me as a brand, especially as we gradually scale. This does increase the cost, but it’s a no-brainer to put quality and sustainability as top priorities.
Do you have any plans for the near future to increase your sustainability even further?
Do you have any plans for the near future to increase your sustainability even further?We’re working on a rebrand at the moment which means our packaging will be changing to aluminium caps so even less plastic which is great!
I’ll continue to push refill options but I’d love to get refill stations into our stockists in the future.
I look at brands like Haekels and love their approach to sustainability, a huge inspiration for me! I think in some ways, this will get easier as we scale but it’s definitely a priority.
If you had to choose only one of the Palm of Feronia products to take with you forever, what would it be?
Oooh, one product is a tough one - I don't know if this is normal but I genuinely use all of my products (but that probably comes from selfishly formulating for myself!).
I guess if I was pushed to choose just one it’d be the Moonstone Sleep Spray.
It’s one of our best-sellers (and works worryingly well!) but is such a comforting fragrance. I love the blend of oils, chamomile water and relaxing, meditative crystals!
I’m not a bad sleeper but
it’s just part of my bedtime ritual and something I don’t think I could do