Shari Black Velvet: How easy or hard was it to put into operation in the beginning?
Vicky Ewbank: We had just come back from six months travelling around Europe and having landed back in the UK had to decide what to do with ourselves! I had been making my own Living Vegan Skin Foods for a number of years previously and we realized that not only were they really effective but that there was an obvious gap in the skin care market for products that were so fresh, clean and pure. My background is in nutrition and homoeopathy and Ian’s is in design and advertising, so once the decision had been made to start the company it was fairly straight forward after that. The most challenging aspect from me was to source the suppliers of the base ingredients to my exacting requirements of raw, vegan organic and fair trade. I was almost in despair of ever finding an Aloe gel that would fit the bill as they have all been pasteurized or flash-pasteurized and most are sold as powder that you reconstitute. Finally – after nearly six months of searching – I found it! The same is true of our raw shea butter – it just wasn’t available until last year. So, although I had to make a few compromises at the beginning I’m delighted that as the raw movement is gaining strength, more choice is now available.
SBV: When did you decide to become a raw vegan and how did the change in diet benefit/affect you?
VE: I have been fully raw for 7 years, a decision influenced by a close friend who had ‘become raw’ two years previously and by the health promoter David Wolfe. The improvement in my health, energy levels and overall enthusiasm has been incredible. I was lucky enough to never really suffer with ill health, I have been involved in the health industry and eating a veggie then vegan diet for 20 years now, but even so I couldn’t believe the difference. My body went through 6 weeks of extreme detox and suddenly my eyes cleared, my teeth whitened, my skin smoothed, I slept better and my energy levels went sky high. I took up singing, guitar, piano, dancing; traveled from Panama to Australia and from the Arctic Circle to the Adriatic Sea before Ian and I began working with Live Native. One word of advice to anybody considering the raw lifestyle really is to plan in advance what to do with all the extra energy you will have!
SBV: Was it hard at first being a raw vegan or was it instantly natural to you, and did you miss any food or other items that you used to eat/use before becoming a raw vegan?
VE: It’s been totally natural, I just think my body was ready for that shift, and there is nothing worth missing in the old cooked-food paradigm. I love preparing food and am a natural in the kitchen – food or skin-food, preparing either gives me great joy. I still make curries, soups, cakes and biscuits, chutneys, jam and ‘toast’ – it’s just all raw.
SBV: As a homeopath and nutritionist, what do you say to the people who say that a vegan, or raw vegan, diet is not healthy, or that it’s as healthy to eat meat as it is to not eat meat?
VE: It’s important to know that you can be a healthy vegetarian/vegan or raw vegan or an unhealthy vegetarian/vegan or raw vegan depending on your daily food choices and exercise levels! And if anyone still believes that eating meat is a healthy choice I usually tell them to read a copy of Dr Colin Campbell’s ground breaking and conclusive study on dietary habits and diseases of affluence called ‘The China Study’. Available from Amazon, I urge you to get a copy today!
SBV: How do you source the ingredients for your products?
VE: With painstakingly long hours on the internet, talking with other raw food innovators and attending trade shows. A recommendation from other suppliers that I trust is also a good way forward.
SBV: Also, tell us about the containers and packaging. Where do you get them from? How did you decide on what packaging to get and use?
VE: The packaging was product-led in that we need to protect the contents from not only UV but also chemical leaching e.g. Phthalates from plastics. Add to that the environmental concerns of using only reusable or recyclable packaging and that narrowed our choice somewhat! So having established that we needed to use brown glass jars, paper from sustainable forestry, vegetable inks and aqueous glues for the cosmetic boxes, while only buying items that have been transported by ship… yes, many more long hours on the internet searching for the best solution! I’m happy to say that we now buy from a worldwide aromatherapy supplier with UK distribution, while Ian has done an amazing job of liaising with printers to develop packaging that not only performs well but also looks wonderful!
SBV: You use ingredients such as Frangipani, Rose oil, MSM from pine trees. How did decide on which ingredients for which items?
VE: Take a tablespoon of knowledge, a generous pinch of intuition and stir in love and laughter! Seriously, the ingredients are chosen for their outstanding therapeutic benefits, and the essential oils add their own characters to individualize the balms.
SBV: How long does it take to make each item?
VE: Our first seven moisturizers and balms were developed over a two year period, as I was using them on myself I could take time to try different blends to find the best. Now it takes from 1-6 months to develop a new product as I now have many more ingredients to hand, and have also established good relationships with my trusted suppliers. In terms of actually making them that depends on how many… half an hour for 1x120ml jar or 10 hours for 100 jars…
SBV: Your products are not tested on animals. How do you test them?
VE: There are a number of different tests that we do carry out to ensure our products’ safety. It is a legal requirement that each product has a safety certificate issued by an independent chemist, and in addition we also carry out Challenge testing and TVC testing. This ensures that the microbial content of our Skin Foods remains at safe levels for the duration of their recommended shelf life. Because we mainly use botanical or mineral ingredients that have been in use for many thousands of years it is not necessary to re-establish their safety. This is an issue only for new and novel ingredients such as isolated compounds or synthetic fragrances. Our suppliers of sodium levulinate and sodium anisate use non-animal testing methods, such as synthetic skin, and we are never short of willing human volunteers in the form of friends and family who are happy to test new products for us!
SBV: You have items for both men and women – and even include a ‘Love Lube’. Who’s idea was the Love Lube and why – and do you get many men ordering from you? Or is it more women who buy men the products as presents etc?
VE: The Love Lube is a great product, and as well as being the most enjoyable Skin Foods we make it also has many therapeutic benefits! Coconut Oil contains three fatty acids – Capryllic Acid, Capric Acid and Lauric Acid – two of which have anti-fungal properties and one is anti-viral. Add to that the known anti-microbial benefits of Sandalwood and Tea Tree oil (and of course the beautiful fragrance of Ylang Ylang, reputed to be an aphrodisiac) and you may understand that it is more than just a lubricant! Dr Rosemary Leonard in Woman and Home magazine recommended that Love Lube be used by post-menopausal women, and the majority of our customers (though not all) are women. One particular shop in Edinburgh, Organic Pleasures, had a customer declaring it was the best sexual lubricant that she has ever used, and yes, we have many happy men (and women) receiving surprise birthday presents!
SBV: Have you had any celebrities or well known people buy or use your products?
VE: We have sent our Skin Foods to Joanna Lumley, Daryl Hannah, Jenny Seagrove and Chris Evans.
SBV: What most women want is a product that will get rid of wrinkles. Do you think you or anyone else has any chance of creating a product that does that?
VE: I think that using our Skin Foods in combination with a healthy vegan lifestyle will really improve most people’s skin tone and texture including eliminating fine lines and wrinkles. I think the only way to eliminate wrinkles for any lasting period of time is to combine skin care with diet, otherwise you are only ever treating symptoms and will become dependent on products that give only short term improvements. High moisture content foods – such as fresh, raw and organic fruits and vegetables – with high antioxidant levels are the real answer to keeping away the wrinkles! And please, I’ll not trade my laughter lines for any amount of Botox!
SBV: Do you have any other products planned?
VE: Yes, many! I’ve just finished our new Facial Beauty Serum (so new that it has yet to be named!), a wonderful blend of Argan oil with macerated plant oils and powerful plant extracts, glowing with carotenoids and other antioxidants, which feels like silk on your skin. Actually a couple of our willing testers have reported that fine lines have begun to disappear even after only 3 days of use! We also have face masks, cleansers and hair masks, a hair pomade, sun screen, foot soaks and body wraps all nearing completion, some of which are already in use for our Live Native Botanic: Facial treatment offered by Anthyllis in Edinburgh.
SBV: Do you think your products are better than other similar products? Why should people buy yours?
VE: We are only one of four companies in the word making living skin care, so I can say with confidence that there aren’t many Skin Foods like ours available. Unlike some, our Skin Foods are aqueous - a blend of fresh living Aloe Vera gel with Virgin Coconut Oil and raw Shea butter - making them light and well absorbed, leaving no tacky or sticky residue on the skin. They are wonderfully hydrating, and loaded with phytonutrients and enzymes that have not been destroyed by heating. This gives your skin an exceptionally rich blend of nutrients with which to protect, renew and repair skin cells.
We recommend our Skin Foods for people who desire to use only the purest living organic skin care available, free from petrochemicals, phthalates, parabens, preservatives, synthetic colours and fragrances.
SBV: A lot of people, especially in this recession, just want to buy something that’s cheap, to save money. What is your opinion on that?
VE: I think people are becoming more discerning consumers and want to see good value for money. This doesn’t mean only buying products that are cheap, but buying products that work! They are also more aware of where their money ends up, and we’ve noticed a growing trend for consumers to liaise directly with small producers, like ourselves, and we benefit from their greater desire to spend on quality, local (UK made) produce.
Are your products available to buy in stores or just from your own website?
VE: Our Skin Foods are available from our website www.livenative.co.uk, as well as from Scottish health stores and ‘Content Beauty and Wellbeing’ in London. We have a number of internet suppliers, as well as specialist living-lifestyle suppliers such as Detox your World and The Fresh Network. We even have distributors in Germany, Sweden, Belgium, Holland and Luxembourg and are soon to be available in Greece.