From Medik8 to Ren Clean Skincare, Pai and more, these are the best and brightest from our shores.
Like most people, we get excited when skincare exports eventually hop the pond and end up on British shores. From Murad to Dr Barbara Sturm, Sunday Riley, Summer Fridays and more, there’s something special about experiencing the products you’ve only ever spotted on Instagram and on celebrities’ bathroom shelves.
However, as exciting as these across-the-pond moments can be, the products that make up the majority of our skincare routines are actually British. Brilliantly effective, ingenious formulations that were made and thought up right here. Consider this your curated edit of the best and brightest British skincare brands currently in circulation.
Kelsey Raspberry Farms
The Kelsey family, leading fruit farmers in east Kent for five generations, made it their mission to cultivate conscious beauty from their award-winning raspberry farm nestled in the Garden of England.
With three concentrated super-serums, each is incredibly calming and nourishing on the skin – with focused ingredients helping to plump, protect, brighten and dramatically improve the appearance of your skin.
“We recognise this ‘superfood’ is rich in incredibly beneficial vitamins, antioxidants and fatty acids that are not just good for our health but for our skin too. Rather than discarding the raspberries the retailers don’t buy, we use them to create high-performance, thoughtful formulas for our skincare,” says founder Paul Kelsey.
Monday Muse is an award-winning line of skin- and scalp-care products created by founder Lune Martens, who personally experienced severe skin conditions including acne, eczema, rosacea and perioral dermatitis throughout childhood and into adulthood.
Each product within the range of multi-purpose products has a ‘made from scratch’ formula using intentional ingredients, each purposefully chosen to ensure the lowest risk of irritation whilst delivering the highest efficacy.
“We formulate everything from scratch, so there is no white label involved,” explains Martens. “It really allows for more unique, one-of-a-kind formulations and we can have control over the whole process. We decide exactly what ingredients we put in at which level and quality, so we can put out the best products for our customers.”
Marie Reynolds London
With over 35 years’ experience in the skincare and wellness industry, Marie Reynolds knows how to keep your skin in tip-top health. She’s trained in beauty therapy, homoeopathy, aromatherapy and so much more and is the go-to in healing for beauty editors, influencers and celebrities alike. (She’s also one of the loveliest women in the industry.)
Marie’s line of products, which includes skincare, supplements and body care, are each designed to support the lipid barrier, feed the microbiome and balance the skin from within.
Medik8 has remained of the most sensible and efficacious British skincare brands since its launch in 2009. Founded by Elliot Isaacs, the brand is frequently recommended by experts, professionals and beauty editors.
Based on its signature CSA theory, Medik8 works entirely on the basis that human skin needs vitamin C, sunscreen and vitamin A for optimal functioning and that these three tenets should form the basis of any routine.
“Years ago, my brother and I were looking in all the dermatology journals to find out if there was a way we could add some authenticity and demystify the noise around skincare, drawing back to what really works – which speaks to our scientific upbringing,” Medik8 director of research Daniel Isaacs shares with Stylist, referencing the pharmacy that his father, Elliot, owned and ran when they were growing up.
“We found out that ultimately, there is no secret – it’s about using these core, topical skincare strategies that have been proven time and time again: using vitamin C, sunscreen and retinoids (vitamin A). If you use those three, they are doing the heavy lifting of what you can achieve from a topical skincare routine.”
Famed for its retinol ladder (a series of retinol serums in multiple strengths depending on your skin type), the cleansers, moisturisers and SPF are well worth exploring too, especially if you have sensitive, acnegenic or easily irritated skin.
Imagine creating not one but two brilliant British skincare brands. For Rob Calcraft, founder of Ren Clean Skincare and Cultured Biomecare, it’s a reality.
Cultured Biomecare is an entire brand based on the health and maintenance of the skin’s microbiome and the friendly (and not so friendly) bacteria that live on the surface of it.
“When your skin is sensitive, it’s like it’s in a bad mood,” describes Calcraft. “When you’re tired and you haven’t slept, you overreact – that’s what your skin is like when it’s sensitive. Your microbiome is constantly sending signals and telling your skin to do this or react like that because something is happening; it’s in a heightened state of alert.
“The microbiome is very important in that process. The more you can make your microbiome calm down by making it more even and balanced, the less it tends to react. One of the main characteristics of prebiotics and probiotics is soothing the skin and minimising the triggers that keep your skin on red alert.”
Dizziak was founded by Loretta De Feo, a beauty journalist and former Stylist contributor, to “push multicultural hair products into the 21st century”.
“I created it because I needed it,” De Feo tells Stylist. “The shopping experience for Black hair care is still not on the same level, physically and metaphorically, as that for European hair and I really wanted to change that.
“I wanted to be able to pick out a contemporary and beautiful looking and fragrant product on the high street that really worked without relying on harsh chemicals,” De Feo continues.
“The answer came so simply to me – make a really great quality product that a retailer can’t ignore. For anyone with afro, curly or dry hair that needs moisture, this is the product for them.”
A three-piece range, the most recent launch is the Dizziak Body Conditioner, designed to soften, smooth and nourish the skin.
During the various coronavirus lockdowns, I was one of the many people who found comfort in an elaborate skincare routine, using masks and active ingredients like they might be taken away at any moment.
Then, when my skin reacted badly, it felt deeply unfair. Surely layering all these brilliant products couldn’t be a bad thing? Yes – yes, it could.
Marc Elrick, founder of skin-barrier focused British brand Byoma explains:
“There was a significant trend of people overusing, over-exfoliating, overtreating and overbuying.
“People were playing chemist in their bathroom. They were experimenting with super-strong, single-ingredient-led actives or products and it was having a long-term impact on their skin health. Basically, they were breaking their skin barrier in search of a short-term fix.”
Enter Byoma – a range of skincare products targeted at strengthening and improving the healthy functioning of the skin barrier using a patented tri-ceramide complex, fatty acids and cholesterol.
A skincare brand designed specifically for sensitive, hypersensitive and acne-prone skin, Pai is a potent choice for treating skin concerns in a holistic, soothing way. Created by founder Sarah Brown as a remedy for her own issues, the line of cleansers, moisturisers, toners, serum, masks and make-up all keeps the core element of Pai intact – efficacy without the ego.
Created by university friends Liha Okunniwa and Abi Oyepitan, Liha Beauty is inspired by the Yoruba tradition of making and crafting soaps, oils and lotions using natural, locally sourced ingredients and English aromatherapy. Centred around the richly nourishing ingredient shea butter, the brand has a small but curated range of cleansing balms, oils, candles and soaps, as well as the original gold and ivory shea butter pots. Plus, all the packaging is recyclable and reusable – we love to see it.
Ren Clean Skincare
Rob Calcraft’s first skincare brand, Ren Clean Skincare, has grown into a household name for pioneering potent, efficacious products that address skin concerns like acne, sensitivity, dullness, ageing and stress, using naturally derived, bioactive ingredients since 2000. Designed to respect and maintain the healthy functioning of the skin barrier, the brand uses only recycled, recyclable and reusable packaging.
Founded by Georgia Cleve in 2009, Oskia is based on bio-available ingredients and one special compound known as the ‘beauty mineral’, or, MSM. A naturally occurring form of organic sulphur, MSM works to reduce inflammation, promote collagen production and improve blood circulation.
Spanning the gamut of skincare, Oskia has a range of cleansers, oils, masks, lotions, sprays and SPFs, as well as a Renaissance range that’s packed with vitamins, enzymes and omegas to soften, brighten and renew skin.
The Inkey List
Easy to use and transparent on ingredients, The Inkey List has had meteoric success with affordable products that pack a punch in effectiveness. Launched in 2018, it has been compared at length with The Ordinary, another cost-effective, single-ingredient lead brand that champions hero products like niacinamide and hyaluronic acid.
Main image: Stylist