Carrying on the age old practices performed by the traditional apothecary of centuries past, AS Apothecary founder Amanda Saurin has created her hand-made, small batch line of natural skincare to celebrate her love of plants and their unique ability to heal, illuminate and rejuvenate ones own natural beauty.
The line features a collection of natural scents, creams and essential oils made from home grown plants, as well as flowers, bark, leaves, roots, blossom and moss picked in fields and mountains. Before a single pot of AS Apothecary makes its way to your hands, it has undergone a unique journey, one that is now almost impossible to find in the beauty industry. To gather the key ingredients for these blends, Amanda first plants the seeds, then tends to their growth, patiently waits. Plants are harvested at the optimum time before distilling the ingredients to blend into her unique brand of ‘local’ skincare.
With a philosophy that stems from what Amanda describes as a particular way of ‘being, gathering and noticing plants and our surroundings’, a state that can be compared to a meditative process or a form of art, Amanda works both with herbs and homeopathy and has an understanding of how to capture the essence and vitality of plants to the benefit of our skin. Her unique experience as a plantswomen for 30 years accompanies her belief that plants are potent healers and companions. When your pot of moisturiser has this level of traceability, you can see how your purchase offers us a route for change, support for local growers and exceptional benefits for both body and soul.
To celebrate some of the products of the AS Apothecary range, such as the Geranium Cleansing Water, the Mineral Powder, the Flex and Extend, and as part of our Great British Beauty Market initiative, we caught up with plant grower, gatherer, distiller and maker, Amanda Saurin, to find out more about her unique ‘Seed to Skin’ ethos.
What was the catalyst that initially sparked your interest in plants and incorporating them into skincare?
I have had a life-long love of plants, many years as a Homeopath/Herbalist and decades of gardening in Britain and the Levant. I started making balms and creams because I saw so many patients with eczema and psoriasis where steroids were the first treatment choice and thought there must be a better, more sustainable way to care for the skin. I started incorporating plants into a healing range, initially for my patients, and it was so effective that I became convinced that capturing the vitality of plants to create products is fundamental to really healthy skin. Much as the best cooking starts with fantastic, simple ingredients as strong and vital as possible, so it is with products for the skin – fresh, seasonal, hand-made and well prepared is definitely best.
AS Apothecary is a hand-made, small batch line of skincare, which we think is at the heart of a redefining what makes a luxury beauty brand. Talk us through your unique formulation process from seed to skin.
Our season starts now, in autumn, with the organic seed catalogues. We spend blissful hours working out what we want to grow the following year and more hours trimming the wildly over enthusiastic list we have produced. We are incredibly fortunate to have the AS Apothecary workshop on an 80 acre Sussex organic farm which allows us to grow many of the plants we use less than 25 paces from the workshop door. In Spring we get to work sowing the seeds in small cells, transplanting out and then we watch, weed and water until Summer when we harvest the plants. We are mindful of using the best processes to extract the scent and therapeutics from each plant and so we enfleurage, tincture, macerate, dry or distil according to each plant’s requirements. I love to distil – it is an alchemy that turns botanicals into aromatic waters and essential oils and there is nothing like filling our 200 litre hand beaten copper Alembic Still with thousands of rose petals and smelling the aromatic water as it slowly trickles out.
When we have processed the plants, we can start to make the products. We do everything by hand in small batches, that way we can be certain that every pot is suffused with good intention and that it captures a particular seasonal moment. We understand that it is the minutiae that makes the difference to the products. We record each harvest on our Small Batch Reports (see image below, which is our way of inviting everyone into our little world and a touch closer to what we do.
The real-time process of our production is years in the planning, months in the growing, weeks in the transformation and finally hours in the making. We have chosen to be small in scale but huge in benefits and that is what we believe makes a luxury beauty brand – knowing the plants, understanding how to get the best from them, carefully turning them into beautiful products and having good intention at the heart of everything we do.
What are your some of your favourite plants to work with for skin and spirit?
There are some plants that I would never be without – I adore Roses and although our essential oil production is minuscule, our Face Cream 05 is stunningly lovely for the skin and spirit. It has such excellent anti-ageing and cooling properties – a quick spritz in the morning is perfect to start the day. Chamomile is another of my favourites, it is incredibly labour intensive to pull each tiny white flower head off but the rewards are amazing. When distilled the flower water and essential oil are bright blue because of the Chamazulene in the plant, which is where the fantastic anti-inflammatory properties come from. It is also utterly calming – I’ve used it for teething children, eczematous skin and in labour to help with the pain. My other top plant is Calendula, not only because when grown in profusion it just lifts the spirits to see the sunny orange flowers but also because the oil from Calendula is spectacularly healing for wounds and scars. You can find it in the First Aid Parched & Dry Balm.
If we were going to try one product from the range what would be your must-have product?
I love the Cleansing Oil and Cloth. It seems counter-intuitive to use oil as a cleanser but there is nothing better. It gently lifts the day’s grime from the skin, reduces pore size and nourishes perfectly. The scent is warm and rich and I always feel enveloped by it. It also involves a ritual, applying a few drops to the skin, massaging it in, waiting a moment and then rinsing it off with hot water and a beautiful cotton cloth crocheted by my friend. It affords me a few minutes in the day that are free from interruption and just for my own pleasure and it leaves my skin soft and beautifully cared for.
We love: The Geranium Cleansing Water can be used in a multitude of ways: as a cooling and refreshing toner after cleansing or mixed with the AS Apothecary Mineral Powder 02 to create a deeply conditioning face mask. AS Apothecary’s Lip Balms are any #greenbeauties dream product: formulated to leave lips nourished and protected all year around. The face creams do a great job at softening skin – as well as relaxing body and mind. Last but not least, the First Aid balms are a must-have for anyone prone to occasional bouts of unease: from promoting calm and tranquility, to parching dry skin and soothing sore muscles.