Interview With Weleda's Commercial Director Jayn Sterland

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Weleda’s commercial director, Jayn Sterland, talks to Secrets Of A Beauty Addict.

Beauty Addict: Thank you for agreeing to do this e-interview, I understand you must be very busy. Your brand is over 90 years old how has the cosmetics industry changed in that time? 

When Weleda was founded in 1921, cosmetics as we know them today didn’t exist. It was all about functional products – soap, cold cream, hair and skin ‘tonics’, many of which were perceived as having health giving or medicinal properties – in fact there was no clear distinction between cosmetics and medicines, and some toiletries then would be considered ‘health products’ today, and some medicinal ‘tonics’ then would be classified as cosmetics or health supplements today. I guess this partly explains how original brands such as Weleda, and other brands like Kiehls have maintained a more pharmaceutical approach to cosmetics. Now the very nature of cosmetics is all about style over substance, highly fashion influenced and innovation based on science and promises.

Beauty Addict: You choose to use organic ingredients, why do you think it is important to do so? 

 Believe it or not this is a difficult answer to put into words for Weleda, because the choice to use only natural ingredients is so embedded in our company ethos it is almost instinctive. We use naturally occurring ingredients because our philosophy is about man working in harmony with nature. Beauty is really all about health, and at Weleda we believe that the healthiest plants and the most health-giving ingredients are grown without chemical fertilisers or sprays, and grown with respect for the environment. Our ingredients are pure, sometimes grown in the wild under certified cultivation as we believe plants grown in the wild (not forced) are the most powerful in terms of efficacy. Our ingredients are mostly organic, biodynamic where possible, but not exclusively so, as we investigate how sustainable the resource is.

Beauty Addict: A large number of people are turned off by the idea of using natural products, cosmetically or for cleaning etc, because they believe it will be less effective than brands that use artificial chemicals. As an authentically green brand, what would you say to those people? 

I would advocate they use the products! There is a misconception that natural = soft and gentle.  Of course some products may be, but more often than not they are potent and powerful. Take Arnica or St Johns Wort for example, serious medicinal plants that we use in licensed medicines. Our pomegranate facial skincare range has incredible – or should I say credible – efficacy results when independently tested, as does the Weleda Birch Cellulite Oil.

Beauty Addict: We see many products that claim to be natural, but are not. This ‘green washing’ is becoming more prevalent, what is your stance on this issue? 

Green washing is not only misleading it is frankly immoral. I advocate everyone to ‘always read the label’, according to EU law every cosmetic must have an INCI (International Nomenclature of Cosmetics Ingredients) declaration of ingredients on the pack. Do not think that because a product has  ‘organic’ on the label it must be organic or even natural for that matter – there is currently no legislation that restricts the use of the term. My advice is, if it says 95% natural on the pack, ask yourself what the other 5% is! The chances are you wouldn’t want it on your skin, which is in fact the largest organ in the body. My advice is if you aren’t prepared to eat it then don’t use it! It can be helpful to look for logos of cosmetics certification organisations – at Weleda we use the NATRUE kitemark for example, which is an internationally recognised label for products that are truly natural.

Beauty Addict: From looking on your site I can see you advocate a holistic approach to cosmetics, treating both the body and the mind. How do your products achieve this? 

Weleda is founded on a philosophy of not just treating the physical body but also the ‘etheric’ and the ‘astral’ body, also called mind and spirit. This is what holistic means to us. It is a difficult concept to grasp but essentially our products are formulated to work holistically. These are our most powerful products. For example our bath milks work physically on our tired bodies, easing aches and pains with the hot bath water, gently cleansing and warming, and the emulsified plant oils moisturising the skin. But the fragrance also works on the senses, soothing or uplifting the spirit, awakening or calming the mind.

Beauty Addict: Times are hard and people might not have the cash to spend on several products from your range. Can you recommend just one or two products that you consider most beneficial?  

Everyone should have a tube of Weleda Skin Food. Originally formulated in 1926, it’s is a really simple formulation of five key ingredients – sunflower, lavender, rosemary, viola and chamomile. It is a functional product for dry or rough skin, it can be used situationally on chapped or problem skin, and it works holistically with the most uplifting scent. It’s a multi-tasking product for face and body, dry patches of skin anywhere on the body – great for dry hands, elbows, feet, little patches of flaky skin – and can double as a soothing balm for any little sore patches, or as a nourishing night cream. A product for the whole family which costs less that £10 and lasts for months.

Beauty Addict: How has Rudolf Steiner influenced your company?  

Weleda is Rudolph Steiner’s company, which he founded in 1921, with the Dutch doctor Ita Wegman, at a time when ‘modern medicine’ was quite brutal in the early 1900s – with advances in medicine including the early days of experimental x-ray, early chemotherapy drugs, experimental radiotherapy treatment, electro-shock therapy for mental health problems for example. Steiner and many colleagues did not feel that some of these new developments in modern medicine were the way forward; they re-assessed what was being gained and what was being lost. After his lectures and work with leading doctors, he created the company to make the natural medicines and holistic therapies his research advocated. Many of our products are made to his original formulations and have most certainly stood the test of time. Today we make thousands of products from skin creams through to cancer treatments, all holistic and natural.

Beauty Addict: You print on your products, ‘Weleda – in harmony with nature and the human being’. How do you manage to keep in harmony with nature, and be a large cosmetics company at the same time?

Sustainability is a real mission for Weleda, as a company we are constantly striving to monitor and improve how sustainable we can be, which is a challenge in the manufacturing industry. All around the world Weleda promotes biodiversity and supports certified organic and socially sustainable cultivation projects. All the while adhering to Weleda’s principles of naturalness, manufactured without synthetic ingredients or artificial additives. The company sets clear objectives and goals each year for environmental and social sustainability – not just protecting the environment and nurturing natural habitats for wildlife, but also protecting workers and supporting local communities. For example in 2012 we helped our farmers in Moldova to expand a medical centre, and we helped our Turkish growers construct a kindergarten.

We are continually tightening our ‘green belt’! For example, the certified organic content in our products overall has risen from 62% in 2008, to 74% in 2010, and now to 77% in 2012. This means we are well on the way to achieving our target of 80% for 2015. Our targeted reduction of energy intensity by 5% each year was again achieved in 2012. Our targeted reduction of overall waste intensity of 5% was surpassed, as this figure was reduced by 6.7%. which is very encouraging. We also reduced our water intensity (by this I mean the amount of water consumed in litres, per kilogram of product content manufactured) from 16.2 in 2011 to 13.3 in 2012.

Weleda recently joined the UEBT (Union for Ethical BioTrade) – demonstrating that the company uses sustainable procurement and fair trade in its ingredients sourcing and farming. We have now set about validating that all our suppliers meet UEBT fair trade standards – so far data from 60% of suppliers has been gathered and assessed and we are on track to complete this project by 2014. One recent development is that Weleda’s sesame oil from Uganda is now certified fair trade for example.

We are really thrilled to have won three great awards this year which acknowledge how much work we are doing in this area: a SUBLIME magazine award for Best Sustainable brand, a NATURAL HEALTH BEAUTY AWARD for Best Ethical Range, and the COSMETICS BUSINESS INNNOVATION AWARD for Eco-Sustainability.

For anyone wanting to find out more about our work, we publish our Sustainability Report annually and make this available from our website (http://www.weleda.com/90years/language=en/11196 or you can click through from www.weleda.co.uk via the ‘About Us’ page; previous reports can also be downloaded).

Beauty Addict: Which is your most popular product and why do you think that is?   

It has to be one of our baby products, which are our best sellers globally and here in the UK. When women are pregnant it is a catalyst for change in may ways, and an inspiration to choose more natural and organic products, prompting us to read those ingredients labels. Made from calendula flowers, they are simply the best (particularly the nappy cream and body wash) and have won dozens of awards and the respect and recommendation of baby health care professionals such as midwives. They are the reason I came to Weleda to work, after I used them with my children I simply had to join the business and become part of the company!

Beauty Addict: What is your company’s stance on the paraben controversy? 

At Weleda we don’t use parabens, we don’t use any artificial preservatives, because we have developed formulations that include a careful balance of ingredients that can preserve the product naturally. Essential oils, for example, contribute wonderful preservative properties. But they are expensive and it takes more care, more skill, more time and investment, and a lot of commitment to formulate products without artificial additives.

Beauty Addict: In the UK, we’re advised that just water and cotton wool are all that is needed to care for babies’ skin after nappy changes, yet the supermarket shelves are crammed with so-called ‘gentle’ products. This can be confusing! Do you have any advice for new mums, when they’re deciding what to use on baby’s delicate skin?  

When a baby is born, Mother Nature delivers them perfectly packaged with the skin having its own protective coating. And what do we do? Our immediate response is to constantly bathe the baby in bubble bath which contains synthetic detergents that strip the skin of its natural oils. Babies simply do not need it. All newborn babies need is a dab of barrier cream on their bottom, and a quick top-and-tail with water. Sometimes overdue babies have dry, scaly skin in which case an organic baby oil can be helpful – our Calendula Baby Oil is fragrance-free and mineral-oil free, and lovely for baby massage. My advice is: please read the label of everything you put on your baby’s skin. Increasingly we are seeing a direct correlation between using chemical-laden baby products and the increase in childhood skin conditions. Use a natural product if you have too use anything, but again do not be fooled – not everything that says ‘natural’ is all-natural. Check out the packaging for a natural accreditation label such as NATRUE.

Beauty Addict: What do you think about current low-maintenance, personal care philosophies, such as the ‘No -Poo’ movement? Do you think we all use too many products?  

Yes of course we do, we live in a world that is driven by growth and the way to sell more is to create more products, then tell us we need them. In my opinion, less is more. The World Wildlife Fund has published research on the large numbers of chemicals we are exposed to daily, and the longterm heath damage they cause. Women are exposed to 170 different chemicals a day! Why use a cocktail of products, when just a few natural ones will do the job? It saves you money and probably your health in the long run.

Beauty Addict: A lot of your products have such wonderful aromas, what do you think are the benefits of using such aromatic products?  

All Weleda products are designed to have an effect on the senses through smell, it is part of their therapeutic properties. Our pomegranate range, for instance, was designed for women in their forties and  beyond, and has a specific fragrance for that age group – a little more sophisticated than the girly florals.

Beauty Addict: As many of my readers will know, I am firmly against animal testing. Why in your opinion is this still going on? What can we do to stop it?  

Weleda has never tested on animals. It would contravene our ‘in harmony with nature’ ethos. We can stop animal testing by demanding transparency of our brands and the products we use. Again it is down to the individual to be informed – you won’t find a statement ‘not tested on animals’ on-pack these days, because no cosmetic products are allowed to be tested on animals in this country so it’s a given. But check out brands’ websites to see what the company policy is worldwide – do they assure customers that they are against animal testing?

Beauty Addict: What does the future hold for Weleda, are there any new products in the pipeline?  

We have lots of new products in development but as you would expect they take a long time to come to market. In September we are launching a brand new range of haircare products, it is 100% natural, and quite an achievement which has taken us over five years to develop. Likewise our body lotions launched last year took many years to develop. I guess it’s because when we create something new we start with the farmers planting the crops, and everything we create we hope will be around for years to come.

Beauty Addict: What is your opinion of beauty in today’s society? 

I am hopeful  that overtime we will begin to see true beauty, where we allow our soul to radiate rather than the manufactured identikit beauty we are so used to- fake tan, dyed hair, false eyelashes. What does this mean in practice? It means not covering up your skin with thick make-up but allowing it to breathe, and using the right skincare products to create a radiantly healthy skin. It means moisturising daily with natural skincare products to ward off deep lines, and rejecting Botox. It means looking after yourself, from the inside out, and being beautiful holistically – so looking after your soul and emotional health as well as your physical body. There’s nothing more beautiful than a smile!

Thank you for your time Jayn, and for your very thoughtful answers. It has been most informative!

love beauty

For anyone wanting to know more about Weleda go to their website www.weleda.co.uk

You can follow Weleda on Twitter @WeledaUK

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