When Arabella Preston first started mixing plant oils at her kitchen table five years ago her goal wasn’t to launch a globally recognised skincare brand. But instilled with the confidence of friend and now business partner Charlotte Semler that’s exactly what she did. Within a year Votary was on the shelves of Liberty London – the British heritage department store with a ground-floor beauty mecca to rival any other. Now it ships worldwide.
“Before Votary I worked as a make-up artist and I did a lot of beauty writing for magazines on the side,” says Preston. “I was lucky enough to try so many different skincare and make-up brands and I became a bit of a product junkie but my skin wasn’t happy.”
“I started leaning towards using more natural products and so did a lot of my private clients,” she says. “It wasn’t long before I realised that oils create a clean, flawless, hydrated base to apply make-up to.”
Natural and vegan beauty
As a topic, natural vegan beauty that has been ethically sourced and consciously created, has gained momentum in recent years, and Votary’s ethos is compliant with all of the above. Its concoctions are bottled in beautiful green glass which act as a natural preservative and everything is made and packaged in the UK. Still a relatively small business, Preston remains heavily involved in the recipe creation.
For anyone looking to branch into all-natural skincare but resisting the change, she suggests taking things back to basics. “My own transition was quite gradual but it was when I first used the cleanser that my outlook transformed,” she says. “It’s the most important stage in your routine and if it’s going well everything else will fall into place.”
A self-acclaimed ‘lazy’ beauty buff, she recommends applying Votary’s hero product, simply named Cleansing Oil, to the skin and washing it away with a hot cloth, no double-cleanse required. Not only does it remove make-up more effectively than complicated cleansers but it puts natural oils back into the skin at the same time.
“The biggest myth is that natural skincare can’t be effective and that you won’t get the same results as you would a doctor brand,” she says. “But I really believe that products work the best in their purest, most natural form.”
The increasing interest around natural beauty ties in with the rise of awareness surrounding self-care. Using all-natural products is an easy way to transform an everyday necessity into an enjoyable, mindful ritual. Preston traces this approach back to her photoshoot days.
“The make-up artist is usually the first person that the model will see on a shoot,” she says. “I’d spend a few minutes massaging oils into their skin and I’d physically see them relax. It was a great way of calming nerves and inspiring confidence, and it was a mindful practise.”
It’s these original ‘kitchen table’ products that comprise Votary’s core collection today. Identified with a rose-gold label, Cleansing Oil and Facial Oil remain the non-negotiables for Preston but she’s excited about the newly formulated Lip Oil, too. “It leaves a gloss on the lips which is a nice reminder of my make-up artistry days,” she says. “It’s the first product of its kind and I’m very proud of it.”
Developments like this are what excites her about the way the industry is headed. “Brands are having to be much more transparent now because people want to know exactly what it is they’re buying,” she says. “With that comes an increase in awareness, more trials and experimentation and confirmation that natural products really do work.”
Liberty’s beauty hall is home to Votary’s full range of products as well as a host of other ethically-minded brands dedicated to changing the way we consume skincare and beauty.
Words: Sarah Leigh Bannerman