Inspired by an autoimmune disease diagnosis when she was in her early 30s, Eleanor Olsen set out to find the most effective natural solutions and over time, with a complete overhaul of nutrition, lifestyle and personal care products, she was successful. This prompted her to re-train in biochemistry and nutrition, and to transition to natural skincare. After much research and hard work, she launched Robyn Skincare, specialising in formulas that combine only the very finest natural ingredients, with cutting-edge, clinically proven, plant-based science, to deliver powerful results and optimum skin health, without compromise. They don’t use artificial fragrance, colours or preservatives, and you’ll never find a PEG, phthalate or paraben in any of their formulas. Eleanor shares her business journey so far with The Natural Parent Magazine.
The passion: What inspired you to set up your business?
When asked where Robyn Skincare came from, it’s true what many people say, in that ideas are often born due to personal life experience, and the Robyn brand is a true testament to that. In my early 30s, I suddenly became ill and was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease. I was in a lot of pain and had two young children to look after. I was desperate to live a normal life again, so I spent hours researching every day to get to the root of the problem, and find the most effective natural solutions. Over time, with a complete overhaul of lifestyle, nutrition and personal care products, my approach worked. This led me to re-train in biochemistry and nutrition, and the transition to natural skincare formulation was instinctive.
The launch: How did you start out in the beginning?
I think it’s important to set the scene in regards to why I started out the way that I did. I had two goals in mind when developing the range. The first, to create ‘truly’ natural skincare that works, and the second, to solve a very common problem, which is the irritation, sensitivity and restrictions associated with retinol use.
I see brands everywhere that are marketed as natural, but they’re actually not, and it upsets me because customers don’t necessarily know what they’re using on their face and bodies. I wanted to create products that don’t just use ‘natural’ fragrance, then add in synthetic preservatives, or use beautiful natural oils, only to add in synthetic emulsifiers. I wanted the whole range from start to finish to be healthy for the skin, the body and the mind. For me, that means nothing toxic or even deemed as controversial is included in the formulas. It is doable – it just requires more research, creativity, and more expensive ingredients.
The second goal was to alleviate the problems with retinol. It is a hugely popular ingredient and I understand why; however, it’s not for everyone and there are a number of restrictions when using it. You can’t use retinol when pregnant, during daylight hours, if you have sensitive skin, and a number of people experience extreme dryness and irritation, especially at the beginning. The retinol mechanism works due to the increase in skin cell turnover, which makes way for new cell growth underneath, but it can be a fairly brutal way to achieve results, and can take between 6-12 months to be effective.
I wanted to change all of that, and not only develop a range of natural products that provide the same anti-ageing and regenerative results as retinol, but without the side-effects, and to optimise skin health in tandem.
Getting the brand out there involved sheer hard work, and going up against retinol did cause a few ruffled feathers in the industry!
I built the website and invested my life savings into the finest quality of ingredients. I sent free samples to magazines, friends of friends, and skincare enthusiasts. I lived and breathed informative content, participated in talks, and attended industry events. I also took part in the CEW (Cosmetic Executive Women) mentorship programme. It did and still does require a multi-faceted approach, but I love the fact that no day is ever the same.
The innovation: What was the biggest breakthrough for you with your business?
I think there are two aspects really that have helped the business develop. The first is that people who couldn’t or didn’t want to use retinol have now found a healthier alternative that actually works.
The second is winning industry recognised awards. We’ve won a few now in different areas, from ‘free from’ ingredient categories to ‘best facial oil,’ etc. and it allows people to trust us as a brand, especially in a time where greenwashing and ambiguous marketing is commonplace.
Yin and Yang: How do you balance work and family?
This has always been tricky, and I’d be lying if I said it didn’t come without drama! I have two children, and for many years I was a single mother which makes it even harder. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to the perfect balance, but I tried to teach my kids from quite an early age that if you want to focus on being a mother that’s absolutely fine, but if you want to focus on being a mother ‘and’ pursuing a career at the same time, that’s also absolutely fine. Everyone’s situation is unique, but I’d say it requires different compromises, lots of multi-tasking and being very organised. The more organised you are, the less stressful it is. As children get a bit older, I think if you can have a clear cut-off it definitely helps, so I agreed with mine that between certain hours I needed to work, but before or after that, I was all theirs! If you set the routine and expectations, and stick to them, then everyone’s on the same page.