Natural skincare products aren’t always as natural as they claim. Irene Forte Skincare creates thoughtfully researched and produced products in line with ethical sustainability.
When did your interest in skincare start and what inspired you to start your own skincare line?
After graduating from Oxford University, I completed a six-month development program at Brown’s Hotel in London. This experience allowed me to work with various departments within the hotel. From there, I joined the Rocco Forte Hotels’ central team as a quality standards executive. I initially helped determine the brand standards, which included a new service philosophy and values. I was then awarded £250k in government funding to create a careers and development tool for the hospitality industry, leading to the Map My Future app at Rocco Forte Hotels.
While still overseeing elements of learning and development for the hotels, I also noticed that there was no unified approach towards the spas, and so I was allowed to create Rocco Forte Spas, which included a new spa philosophy and fitness and nutrition offerings. I was always very passionate about wellness. Work for the spas then led me to come up with the idea to launch a skincare line. I saw the opportunity for natural and experiential formulations to be improved by scientific insight, and I started to think about uniting the group’s spas with a product range. I had the perfect base from which to start a natural line with our organic farm in Sicily, but I knew that I needed a brilliant scientific mind to help me formulate.
After a lot of research in Italy, I came across my formulator in 2014: Dottoressa Francesca Ferri, who had started formulating clean cosmetics and food supplements over 35 years ago. Her philosophy lined up with mine, and I thought that she was the perfect fit to help me bring a natural skincare line made better by the guidance of science to life. After a number of years of development, as well as then trying and testing them with elite spa professionals at Rocco Forte Spas, we launched:
- Natural, clinically proven formulations inspired by the Mediterranean diet, using ingredients grown at our organic farm in Sicily.
- Products that combine outstanding fragrance and feel with low allergenic potential (we use a lab-formulated allergen-screened fragrance, and the products are certified for sensitive skin).
- A brand with sustainability at its heart (we are B Corp certified and accredited by Positive Luxury).
A year after launching, I left my full-time role at Rocco Forte Hotels to focus on my brand.
Skin health has a big impact on overall health, can you talk about why it is important to take care of your skin?
I think the two are deeply intertwined — to have healthy skin, you need to look after your overall health and vice versa. In terms of how skin health impacts your overall health, although you may not typically think of the skin as an organ, it is in fact made of tissues that work together as a single structure to perform unique and critical functions. It is the largest organ in the body! It provides protection, allows for absorption, excretion, secretion, regulation, and sensation. The skin functions as our first line of defense against toxins, radiation, and harmful pollutants. This is why it is so important to not inundate it with chemicals, to boost it with antioxidants, to keep it hydrated, to maintain microbiome balance, and more!
Why is clean and ethical beauty so important to you?
For me, clean beauty means beauty products that are healthy for you. Clean beauty can be compared to clean eating, hence why I call my skincare the Mediterranean diet for skin. Clean eating rejects the idea of processed foods and focuses on nourishing, plant-based ingredients with a wealth of vitamins, fatty acids, and antioxidants. This is also true of clean beauty, and why it is so important to me.
In my view, clean beauty must also be ethical. Sustainability and ethics are incredibly important to me. We built sustainability into our company’s DNA from its inception; it was not simply an afterthought, and we consider environmental and social impact with every decision we take. People, community, and planet all fall under sustainability for me, and I’m committed to ensure all of our processes are as sustainable as possible. Our recent B Corp certification is testament to our sustainability efforts.
Can you talk about the meaning of “natural science”-based skincare?
Natural science is all about putting equal emphasis on nature and science. We believe that nature and natural ingredients are a great place to start, but that you need science to get the best out of nature. This is exactly what we have done.
Our range achieves outstanding results with natural ingredients in formulations shaped by 35 years of research and development. Thanks to the research of our Scientific Director Dr. Ferri, a pioneer in the medical use of plant extracts to treat skin conditions, we have shown profound results in independent clinical and user trials. The products are also certified for sensitive skin thanks to the lab-formulated allergen-screened fragrance that we have developed.
What are your top natural skincare health tips?
I think you need to have a 360-degree approach to have good skin. These are some of the pillars I live by:
- Sleep: I sleep 8.5 hours per night, and I never jeopardize sleep for work. For great tips on sleep, I read “Why We Sleep” by Matthew Walker.
- Diet: I believe having a healthy and balanced diet is vital for both mind and body. I’ve grown up on a Mediterranean diet, so lots of fruits, whole grains, and healthy fats. Hence why I also like to talk about feeding the skin and having the Mediterranean diet for skin. Processed sugars are certainly a killer for skin.
- Exercise: endorphins, blood flow, healthy joints. I exercise four times per week.
- Meditation: There are so many scientific studies showing the benefits of meditation, such as reducing cortisol and adrenaline, and replacing it with dopamine and serotonin. I did a Vedic meditation course (comes from the Veda, the source of yoga, meditation, and Ayurvedic medicine in India). I’m not great at doing this daily, but it’s a useful tool when I’m under high stress.
- Skincare regime: I, of course, have a great natural skincare routine (including regular masking), and do regular facials and at-home rituals. I believe in psycho-cosmetics, so if a product smells and feels amazing, it gives you an added benefit. This is part of the reason why I formulated such experiential products. I don’t like overly harsh products, I believe in maintaining skin microbiome balance, and I especially don’t like products with essential oils. Many natural products are fragranced with essential oils. Essential oils contain potentially irritating allergens like citral, linalool, and farnesol. Avoiding these common sources of irritation in “natural” products is a key objective of our product development process. That’s why our fragrances have been screened to trace levels for all of the 26 fragrance allergens that the European Union regards as potentially harmful. All 26 of these allergens are now required by EU law to be flagged on the ingredients panel, but you’ll never find any of them on our list.