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When you see a Neighbourhood Botanicals product, you won't forget it quickly. The glass bottles double as ornaments for your bedside table or bathroom display, as each product has a special illustration as a label that looks like it should be blown up as a wall print. But the brand is much more than Instagrammable packaging. Founder Micaela Nisbet works on the formulations from her small lab in Leyton in East London. Her motto is "pure skincare rock'n'roll," and she strives to use sustainable and ethical practices in all aspects of the business. The range is vegan and cruelty-free, and all the packaging is recyclable—"there’s no animal testing, no big-pharma, no crazy markups, and no unnecessary ingredients."
Here, Nisbet explains how she built her brand and how she is adjusting her business in the current climate.
Introduce our readers to your business. When did you start it and why?
Neighbourhood Botanicals is a natural skincare brand made in East London. I got into skincare formulation (later studying it formally) when I was touring with bands in my former life as a sound engineer. I wanted an “out” from the road… and just as well now live music has stopped.
What is so special about your products?
Aside from the regular stuff (vegan, natural, cruelty-free, eco-packaging, charitable causes), they’re all formulated in-house by yours truly. That’s quite unusual in the beauty world. NB is a stable of my creative works, complemented by packaging designed by super-cool artists.
Your packaging is so amazing. How did you develop this, and how important is it to help you stand out?
It was a leap of faith at first, as an unknown brand, to do something so visually different from any other beauty product on the shelf. I worked originally with an artist I knew from the hip-hop scene, then expanded to other artists for each new product. It’s important to me to do things differently to everyone else. They feel very matched creatively to the formulas. People remember the packaging.
Photo:Neighbourhood Botanicals courtesy image
How have social-distancing and stay-at-home orders affected your business? How have your priorities shifted?
We’re only two to three people in quite a spacious lab, which we have been able to keep open the whole lockdown, as it’s not work we can do from home, obviously. We’ve been really busy, what with everyone stuck at home. They’re less tempted to just pick something up from Boots on the way home from work and are looking at more skincare online instead.
Some people are finding joy in getting dressed and doing their beauty routine, even if they have nowhere to go. What do you think fashion and beauty can offer people right now? What has it done for you?
It’s a well-worn trope but so true… Especially if you’re feeling overwhelmed and anxious or just bored, spending time caring for yourself and your skin is really a necessity for mental health.
Photo:Neighbourhood Botanicals courtesy image
What are your top three favourite products you sell and why?
Face Off Oil to Milk Cleanser because it takes like five seconds to clean your face with no trace of grime or makeup and leaves your skin soft. Late at night, I need the least effort possible! The Daily Glow Facial Oil because its so silky and smooth, and a quick few swipes leave my skin healthy, plumped and prepped for the day. Then it’s gotta be Sunday Morning Dry Shampoo because the longer I don’t have to wash my hair, the better. It’s fast and easy and gives me an extra three days without build-up or itching like normal dry shampoos.
Is there anything else about your brand and products you really want our readers to know about you?
I’ve realised from the previous response that actually maybe all my products are accidentally formulated for lazy gals?! Anyway, if you’re someone who wants an easy healthy daily skincare routine and appreciates a pop of colour on the bathroom shelf, come join the Neighbourhood!
Shop Neighbourhood Botanicals:
This facial oil has calming anti-inflammatory properties and is perfect for dry, mature or sun-damaged skin. As for the smell, the brand notes that it smells like "a tall iced tea cuts the heat of the late afternoon, a light sea breeze fills the terrace with geranium and cypress."
This is one of the hero products and is a 100% natural oil-to-milk cleanser. "Oil-to-milk cleansers are the gentlest and most effective way to remove makeup and result in no pulling or dragging of the skin, especially the delicate eye area," the brand explains. "Most oil-to-milk cleansers, however, are not natural formulations, using PEGs and sulphates as their emulsifiers. These petrochemicals are able to penetrate your skin’s barrier, and often come contaminated with heavy metals and other toxins. They can be harsh and drying and known to cause irritation in sensitive and dry skin. Face Off does not use these ingredients."
A product called The Daily Glow instantly gets our attention. This light, citrus-scented oil is packed with antioxidants and vitamins to make it the perfect wake-up product. It's no coincidence that the bottle has a cup of coffee on it.
This is another hero product from Neighbourhood Botanicals. This dry shampoo helps when you want to put off washing for one more day, and it doesn't leave the heavy residue that can sometimes be the downside of dry shampoos. The site explains its formulation: "Made from a delicate balance of natural starches, minerals and botanicals. Cornstarch is a super absorbent base to soak up excess oil, and added Fullers Earth deodorizes partied-out hair. From the root of the cassava plant, Tapioca Starch provides gloss and a sleek soft touch. Peppermint refreshes, and has been shown to stimulate hair growth."
Neighbourhood Botanicals' product descriptions often have us sold, and the body oil's is perhaps the most tempting: "The Body features a genderless sunny green citrus and herb scent (no parfum or fragrance) to make you smell like the heavens opened and dropped you into a Positano sunset, prosecco in hand, weak at the knees." Sounds good to us.
This hair serum is for smoothing and adding shine and helps to protect against heat styling. It smells like something you've sourced in the garden, as the key notes are dandelion and honeysuckle.
The illustration on this overnight facial oil just might be our favourite of all. The oil contains phytosterols and vitamin C to promote skin elasticity and collagen regeneration while you sleep.
This foaming cleanser is formulated for oily and combination skin, with lactic acid to "gently sheds dead skin cells to brighten and even tone, and aloe vera soothes irritation."
In response to COVID-19, Neighbourhood Botanicals began creating a hand sanitiser from its lab for those who are "sick of using stinky drying toxic-smelling muck." The formula contains "75% alcohol, alongside botanicals of eucalyptus, fennel and sage, with added moisturisers to prevent your hands from drying out." Plus, the brand set the price low to only cover the cost of making it, so as to not profit from the demand for hand sanitiser.
This rich hand cream is designed to soften and heal and "return your hands to their former fame." The site explains: "The ingredients in this product make it helpful not only for binding moisture to dry skin, but for healing wounds, burns, sunburn, cold sores, nappy rash, tattoos… Those with eczema, psoriasis and dermatitis have also found some sweet relief from this balm. It’s a real over achiever."
This sponge can help to exfoliate your skin but is gentler than many scrubs. You soak the sponge for one minute until it is soft, and then move in small circles around the face, particularly concentrating on the nose, chin and and T-zone.