Curious about how the Leafology brand came into being?
Click here for The Naked Story. (Opens in new window.)
And below is a rough timeline, (including some mishaps & adventures):
Began my foray into modelling for a renowned painter, then posed for fine art photographers all over the globe who described my appearance as uniquely natural (and who affirmed my new decision to stop rather-incompetently straightening my hair). Met a multitude of inspirational people who shunned convention and ‘mainstream’ ways of thinking/being, and explored my own creative impulse more and more. (Also: hugged a lot of trees and inhaled a lot of flowers while portraying various natural goddesses and tree nymphs here in Oxford and internationally; from Mexico, to Iceland, Europe, Australia, the US and Canada.)
Became increasingly conscious that the ingredients in skincare and haircare matter, as do the ways in which they’re packaged. Inspired by the fact that our skin absorbs into our bloodstreams what we put onto it, and by a growing love of cooking (both art forms involve concocting delicious things with natural, nutrient-rich ingredients, after all!), every time I ran out of something in my shower or bathroom, I researched online, bought my own ingredients and experimented over and over again in my parents’ kitchen, gradually commandeering multiple cupboards for my growing collection of powders, oils, salts, clays and other weird and wonderful base ingredients for my potions.
Gave my creations as gifts to friends and family. Some of these early formulations were excellent (and became developed into the products in the range); one or two of them, however, evidenced the fact that (ahem!) I hadn’t quite cottoned onto the truth that water and oil do not naturally mix, or that things could spoil if not correctly formulated, or… (etc.)… One of the more positive tales: an early gift of what later became developed into the Frankincense & Tea Seed Magic Eye Night Serum gained Leafology a fan for life.
Went vegan after learning about the dairy and egg industries, and realising that being vegetarian since the age of 8 didn’t go far enough to accurately represent my lack of desire to pay into a system that perpetuates animal suffering and abuse. Made sure my ingredients aligned with this, in case others felt the same.
Made a ‘Bruise Balm’ (complete with handwritten label) for my Mum, which later became the world’s best lip balm (seriously, it’s so good!). I later realised the essential oil blend was coincidentally the exact same as that in a ‘headache cream’ concoction my Grandma once made me when I was a child (perhaps this kind of thing runs in the family?). …Had a lot of fun making a whole load of other things, seemingly unable to stop!
Travelled to India (marvelling at tea and spice plantations and learning about the traditional use of herbs and local ingredients which have stood the test of time in skin and haircare) and Bali, where I learned about the various uses of hibiscus, tomato, coffee, rice (I also attended singing groups, ecstatic dance sessions and had a brief infatuation with a wonderful sound healer… but anyway, back on topic…).
Decided my love for tea needed to be reflected in the range; that every single product would be united by this one ingredient! (Here’s why this is more than just a gimmick!)
TMI alert (but I actually think this should be talked about more!): as part of my urge to live a more natural life, I decided to go off the contraceptive pill, which I’d been on quite unthinkingly since the age of fifteen. Was absolutely terrified I’d immediately be covered in spots if I stopped taking it (the pill was originally prescribed to me to help with a ‘breakout’, which was in reality probably about three pimples…). Weaned myself off it while doing lots of research into how to prevent acne when not taking hormonal contraceptives (the internet is awash with this fear, which is shared by women all over the globe, it turns out!). Then: went to Indonesia and suffered a rash of painful spots on my cheeks which took months to heal and felt horrendous. During this time, I experimented with what would later become the brilliant (soothing and non-pore-blocking) Overnight Face Food.
My love affair and growing confidence with my natural products (which I found better and more joyful to use than the shop-bought ones I’d systematically been getting rid of) continued. After a lot of umming and aahing, and with no impressive ‘goal’ (I’ve never had a business plan, only a huge ‘to do’ lists full of ideas!), I dared myself to make things official and actually turn my passion into a small business. Took some courses here in the UK around the practicalities of cosmetic production and the law as regards to selling products legally. Began to study a diploma in herbalism, which is ongoing and completely fascinating.
Wrote a LOT of potential brand names on a piece of paper (some with seriously bad puns), until ‘Leafology’ popped into my head – I’ve never looked back! (The sub-line ‘Pure naked plant knowledge’ is a reference to my other, aforementioned life as a fine art muse.) Was lucky enough to be able to move out of the kitchen(!), giving my parents back their cupboards, moving Leafology into a dedicated studio room complete with a brand new, regulation-acceptable floor and some otherwise unwanted free-standing cupboards kindly donated by my brother.
Drew a leaf on a piece of A4 paper, coloured it in using green crayon and pen, photographed it and turned it into my logo (the most low-tech logo ever?). Also drew the Leafology mascot, ‘Harvey’ (a rabbit inspired by the 1950 film about an imaginary 6ft3.5 pooka of the same name) drinking a cup of tea – he represents all that is vegan, cruelty-free and tea-loving about the range. Asked Amy at Brock & Briar to draw me a teapot (which would later be on all the labels), for good measure. Taught myself (using a mixture of YouTube tutorials and trial and error) how to use software to design labels for the first few products which would be certified for sale. Spent a lot of time going to and from Oxford Print Centre, making endless tweaks to the designs (perfectionist, moi?); drank a lot of green chai post-pickup at the utterly wonderful (but now sadly closed) Albion Beatnik bookshop in Jericho, which later became Leafology’s very first stockist.
Jumped through the various required legal hoops to make sure my business would be proudly legitimate, positive and up and running. Learned about batch records, EU portals, databases, good manufacturing practice, microbial tests and the surprising amount of maths required in cosmetic formulation. Became official! Started selling online and very quickly gained loyal customers who still continue to buy Leafology products alongside the new customers who happily discover us.
… And now?
I continue to enjoy dreaming up new products and the fulfilment of many repeat orders, learning more as I go and taking joy in the positive feedback which keeps flowing in. I really think I have the most wonderful customers and am grateful to the beautiful independent shops who proudly display this lovingly-created, handcrafted brand of natural, plant-based skin and haircare (…and now home) products, and all who’ve supported me along the way so far.
Thank you for being a part of it.