Certain processes in life are gradual, you start the journey with one intention and sometimes end up in a different place all together-this definitely applies to my love of cosmetics and beauty brands.
If someone said to me a few years ago that I will take organic brands seriously and not just that, but start using them more often than the more well-known cosmetic brands and that their effect on my skin will be quite profound, I would have giggled at best. But as they say, life is a journey, we live and learn.
My opinion about organic brands and the actual consideration of what is it that I actually put on my skin started to gradually change when I got pregnant with my first child. When you become a mother, your life changes instantly and you start questioning your judgement while caring for a tiny bundle, who can be susceptible to the nasty environmental effects with long-term health side effects. And one of the first things that I realised was that Johnson’s baby products didn’t work for us and I wanted to use something gentle and full of goodness on my child’s skin, yet there was hardly anything on the shelves at the time-be it for the mother or the baby for that matter.
I went for treatments to Michelle Roques O’Neil and she mixed me oils to nurture my skin and the baby growing inside of me- my body bounced back pretty quickly post birth and I had no stretch marks. I massaged my babies with Michelle’s oils (my son hardly even had a cold in his first year of life) and desperately wanted to find a place where I could try a variety of effective organic skincare. I started looking around, trying things but remained skeptical and then, one gloomy day, I was passing a small store, off Marylebone High street and the name Content beauty/well-being attracted my attention. I went inside and the first thing that caught my eye was the Butter London nail polishes ( I used to go and have pedicures by the lovely woman who started the brand called Nonnie Creme at Vaishaly’s spa). The place was quite, in a meditative kind of way, and the staff didn’t hassle me, allowing me to get on with peaceful browsing.
Time passed and a few months ago I popped into the store again, looking for something for my skin that has become a little temperamental. A young woman, called Cindy answered my questions and recommended a brand called Amala, that she used on her skin. The range had a cute packaging and smelled delicious, so I thought I would try one of the cleansers. I also got some Suki products (unfortunately my skin didn’t like it but it was my choice, not a recommendation and there is a lesson in it-everyone’s skin is different, so it doesn’t mean that this brand won’t work for you !) and decided to buy a couple of products from the range called Stem Organics-so that’s how it started and this love affair continues to grow. I now also buy RMS Beauty products there, Dr. Alkaitis, Barefoot Botanicals, W3ll People and Suvana’s paw paw and honey balm.
The store itself reminds me of the apothecaries with interesting products on the shelves, yet the whole place breaths health and contentment-it’s in the small hand held mirrors hanging on the walls, in the decor that accentuates the brands yet doesn’t push anything on you-it always whispers to you ‘come in, browse and you will discover a secret that is just waiting to be discovered by you’.
Content was started and remains a huge passion of Imelda Burke, who cherry picks small, niche organic brands (some of the products are uniquely distributed by Content boutique or their online store ) that in the long-term will revolutionise our skincare routine and well-being. Her staff is smiley, welcoming and honest, so when you make your choice, you know it will work, hence you won’t be disappointed.
Sometimes the store can be quite, with just a couple people browsing and sometimes it’s full of laughter, as women of different ages seem to converge on it and exchange tips and happy banter, while browsing the shelves. I have never seen a place like that before in London and can truly say that their customer service is second to none. You can try the products there or ask for samples and if you place orders on the Internet, not only do they arrive pretty speedily, but your package always contains samples, often of the brands that might not be well-known now but will definitely grow and become big.
I couldn’t resist asking Imelda a few questions and she was kind enough to answer them, so please read the Q & A below. Having met Imelda I can honestly say that her passion for natural cosmetics is contagious and I only wish that more of you started thinking about what it it that you are actually putting on your biggest organ, your skin, daily and what goes into your body and blood stream. Don’t you deserve to be healthy and beautiful, just like the nature and life cycles intended?
Q & A with Imelda Burke, owner of Content store in Marylebone
GAP: Can you please tell me about your professional background and how you the idea of Content was born?
Imelda Burke: I was in the fashion industry for 15 years. The idea came from my own needs really. I had a mild skin condition from birth and was prescribed creams for it by my doctor. In my 20’s it suddenly occurred to me that I had been rubbing this cream on my whole body for over 20 years – everyday! I looked at what was in it and didn’t like it, so looked for alternatives. This lead to a dissatisfaction with what was available in the natural and organic sector. I didn’t want to purchase my products from a health food store. So I created CONTENT.
GAP: What has been the biggest lesson you learnt while setting up Content?
Imelda Burke: I started in a recession with a very niche product selection. The greatest lesson has been learning to hold your nerve. Three and a half years down the line the new brands we had at the time, which no-one was interested in, are now becoming household names. You need to be incredibly passionate about what you are doing when setting up a small business independently. It is this passion that keeps you going late at night.
GAP: From your point of you, what’s your secret of running a successful beauty store with a difference?
Imelda Burke: Customer service. Switching beauty brands is like starting over again. Many of the people that shop with us are trading up to natural and organic brands for the first time and it can be confusing choosing where to start. I wanted the store to have a more personal feel to it and I think people appreciate the extra lengths we go to. We don’t always get it right but we always attempt to.
GAP: How do you choose which brands to stock and which has/have been the biggest success/surprise so far?
Imelda Burke: There are lots of different criteria to choosing the brands we stock, ingredients being only of them. This sector can be confusing with the different certification bodies, some brands choosing not to certify, and some synthetic ingredients being allowed under certification. So we aim to provide an open discussion between brands and customers.
GAP: Can you please share a few of your full-proof beauty secrets?
- Sleep!. My skin looks rubbish if I have a late night.
- Raw unbleached coconut oil for removing make-up. RMS beauty do a great one. Make-up vanishes in a second.
- Amala Rejuvenating Serum and the Slim Cera Facial Rollerare two things I wouldn’t be without!
- Facial acupuncture – I have witnessed the results on customers who have been for a course of this and it is quite incredible. Lines softened and jaw lines are more defined.
- New Chapter – Skin, Hair & Nails Supplement & Eskimo High Strength Fish Oil. All the nutrients you need for healthy skin.
- Green Vegetable Juices – I always make up a batch in the weekend to give my skin a boost of anti-inflammatory nutrients and to alkalise the body. If I don’t have the time during the week I use Radiance Cleanse Greens Programme which they deliver to your door and is a great treat for the skin.
GAP: Do you think organic brands are more beneficial than non-organic ones and do you only use organic brands?
Imelda Burke: I only use natural and organic brands and have done for over ten years. I find them incredibly beneficial. Often the brands will use an aromatherapy component which has the added associated wellbeing benefits. There are also several brands now such asAmalawho have clinical testing to prove that going organic doesn’t mean a sacrifice on results.
GAP: Your staff is very knowledgeable without being pushy- what qualities do you value in your sales staff?
Imelda Burke: Passion for the organic beauty sector and wellbeing is number one! One of my main aims was to create an environment where people are treated with respect and intelligence. People often change their skincare as part of a lifestyle change when they or someone close to them has been diagnosed with an illness. A level of sensitivity to how people arrived at the decisions to change, is important.
For example, our Facialist is actually both a Beauty therapist with over ten years experience and a Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioner, providing a very holistic experience. While others that work in the shop have been on their own health journey’s.
It is great when someone undergoing treatment for cancer is comfortable enough to throw off their wig in the shop.
GAP: Who/what inspires you professionally? Have you ever had a mentor? Or have you mentored anyone within the beauty industry?
Imelda Burke: The brand owners who have dedicated decades of their time and energy to creating these products –
Dr Saul Alkaitis fromDr Alkaitis; Horst Rechelbacher from Intelligent Nutrients; Ute Leube from Amala. Plus the relative new comers like Alexandra Balahoutis from Strange Invisible Perfumes, Rose-Marie Swiftwho has changed the face of organic make-up with her rms beauty line, Tata Harper who grows some of her ingredients on her farm in Vermont,Pai Skincare… the list long! What inspires me late at night is providing a home for some of the world’s best natural and organic brands and proving you don’t have to compromise of results of a little luxury.
GAP: I am sure that many of your customers are mothers. Why do you not stock more of organic brands for kids?
Imelda Burke: We have tried lots of different mother and baby brands. But unfortunately the don’t seem to be a core part of our business. I think to service this properly we would need a larger selection of brands to offer and for that we need a bigger store!
GAP: Name your favourite brands stocked up at Content that work for you?
Imelda Burke: They are all favourites! We have limited shelf space so each brand is chosen carefully. I personally use products form Dr Alkaitis, Amala, Oskia, Rms Beauty, W3LL People, Pai, Strange Invisible Perfumes and I have the whole set of Lotus Wei tinctures – you never know which one you will need.
GAP: What are your future plans for Content?
Imelda Burke: The main aim is to get more people to consider what they are using on their bodies as much as they consider what they eat!