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The Sustainable Self-Care Brand You Need To Know About

"[...]the main thing that was repeatedly missing was plastic-free or a focus on sustainable packaging. "

Helena Nuttall

Beauty, Cosmetic & Personal Care

Natalija has been a close friend of my sister’s for years, and during lockdown she joined Networks Women Need, a project run by The Notable Blog (Mademoiselle London’s former name). NWN, (lead by the wonderful Kelly Koey), was when I really got to know Natalija, and she led me to an internship I did with HXN, a sustainable fashion NGO. She’s since remained a very supportive friend, and a very loyal follower to the blog! I was so excited when she first discussed her plans for launching The Ayllu Box business, and thrilled to now share her story with the blog. This is the sustainable self-care brand you need to know about.

@theayllubox

Can you tell us a bit about yourself, what you studied and how it led you to thinking about sustainability and creating these lovely boxes?

For my undergraduate degree I studied Business Management & International Relations at Oxford Brookes. But to be very honest I was more interested in IR…although all those business modules are coming in very handy now! 

After that I went on to do my masters in Globalisation and Latin American Development at UCL. I’ve always been very interested in the environment but during my masters I did a module called Sustainable Development in Latin America and the Caribbean, and it was here that I really started to understand the more technical and theoretical side of sustainability. 

After my masters I wasn’t really sure what to do as I was determined to do something linked to my masters, which as you can imagine wasn’t easy as it’s such a niche topic. But I was lucky to start volunteering at Hecho por Nosotros – an NGO that focuses on promoting sustainable and ethical fashion, particularly working with indigenous artisans in the Andes. So although I had no experience in fashion, the sustainable aspect and focus on indigenous communities was a win for me. But two years later and I’m still volunteering with them and have also gone on to do a few internships within the field of sustainable fashion.

How did you come up with the idea for these boxes, and what do they include?

I’ve absolutely loved working in sustainable fashion, it’s an industry I never thought I’d be in but I absolutely love it and hope to continue working in the industry. It’s really been an eye opener and made me change my outlook on the textile industry and also businesses in other industries. 

When I started working and learning about all the existing issues I just felt like I had to begin changing my fashion habits. But then I started to realise that there’s actually a lot of similar issues going on in the beauty industry.

And so I thought well firstly; it’s not really enough to just change one aspect of your lifestyle and secondly; it’s not that hard to start making small switches.

I think people put too much pressure on themselves that everything has to be eco-friendly in their lives. Yes, that would be ideal but it’s also probably impossible. Just making a few small changes is a great start!

So I decided to start making these changes to my beauty and skincare routine too, but I found it was not only hard but quite overwhelming. And while all of the sustainable beauty box brands were using terms like ‘clean’, ‘vegan’, ‘cruelty free’ (and yes that’s all great) but the main thing that was repeatedly missing was plastic-free or a focus on sustainable packaging. 

I was on holiday with my family and we were discussing this and they said well why don’t you start a beauty box that focuses on packaging as well?! I of course thought they were joking but next thing I knew I started my own business. 

The boxes are really based on my own and my friends’ experiences with beauty boxes and subscriptions, and we all said how 1: subscriptions aren’t necessary for us, 2. there’s always a product that you don’t like but cant switch it, so you don’t get the box. So being able to customise and choose options best suited to you was really the main thing for me and also the starting point in a way.

There are 3 different boxes:

  • The Everyday Treats Box
  • The Shine Box
  • The Self Care Box

In each box there are core skincare products like a cleanser, vitamin c serum, face mask, body scrub, reusable face pads. But then I thought, I don’t want to include just skincare products,  mainly because I know how I feel when I do my skincare routine and sometimes it’s all about a bit of self care and just making it a bit of a special occasion. So I then decided to add the option of a bath bomb or bath salt or soap, and wax melts or a candle. Ultimately, it all depends on your preferences and it means that each box will always have 6 different combinations/options…whether you want a bath bomb and candle or soap and wax melt, etc.

How do you go about sourcing products that are sustainable?

When I started making switches in my own skincare routine I found that there were so many amazing small businesses out there. But when we haven’t heard of a brand and also don’t have anyone to ask for recommendations we’re all a bit guilty of questioning whether we should buy from them or not.

On the flip side, working for and with small businesses has been an amazing experience and so I decided actually I’m only going to include small businesses in the boxes. 

I did my research, which was long and hard, as finding brands who also focus on sustainable packaging is actually quite niche. Once I found a few that I liked, I reached out to them, tested all the samples myself and then asked my lovely focus group  (i.e. my friends) what they liked best. But because they were all small businesses it also meant that I was actually able to communicate with people and sometimes even create custom colours and scents, which was really fun and kind of them. 

Are there any products that most of us use everyday that are particularly destructive to the environment, and how can we make more of a conscious effort to live more of an ‘eco-friendly’ life?

The main one that shocked me was face pads/make up wipes. If you use only 2 cotton pads a day that’s I think over 700 that end up in the bin each year. And that’s not even their final destination, they mostly end up sitting in landfill for hundreds of years! 

There’s really nothing wrong with reusable ones, they get popped in the wash and are super smooth and clean each time. And for those complaining that they go dirty from makeup, that’s exactly why I wanted to include black ones too. 

I’m fully aware that businesses are unable to be 100% sustainable: 1. Because of costs and 2. Due to lack of alternatives…and that’s fine when something genuinely can’t be fully sustainable. But with a lot of the products that we use, there are affordable and quality sustainable alternatives. Now, you may initially think it’s expensive (and yes sometimes they are) but how many times can you use it or will it last longer?

The main thing I would say is just start by making small switches. Don’t stress yourself out and make it an unenjoyable thing in your life, because you should be happy and proud that you’re doing your bit.

Do you have any long-term goals for The Ayllu Box?

I’m really excited to see how this first set of boxes goes. The initial response has been overwhelming! 

I would love to be able to include a greater range of products and include more amazing small sustainable businesses. But it’s still such early days. I’m just very happy with how it’s begun and it’s been so lovely meeting all the amazing people behind these businesses.

How can our readers purchase one of your boxes?

I am hoping that the website will be done soon and people will be able to buy boxes via the online shop. But being a one man band and also having another job it’s all about balance. So for the time being people have been purchasing boxes via Instagram. 

So if you’d like to get your very own Ayllu Box just send us a message on Instagram or even email us and we’ll send over all the information and get your box to you ASAP!

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