Despite the 2009 ban on testing beauty products on animals Europe-wide, some industry giants have recently had to remove their cruelty-free product labelling. L’Oreal, Yves Rocher, L’Occitane, Caudalie, and Mary Kay are among those chasing lucrative business in China (sales of beauty products there grew by 18 per cent last year), where, by law, products must have been animal-tested. But brand choice is also influenced by issues such as chemical ingredients used, and corporate environmental policy.
British-born Linda Nicolau – in the beauty business since she was 25 – was addressing issues such as these back in 1993, when she founded Ecologic by Linda Nicolau, on Mallorca. In the UK, she had gained commercial experience with Max Factor, then Estee Lauder – working her way up to management. After touring the Lauder UK headquarters – and seeing animal-testing – she decided she would one day create her own brand of natural products, but to Estee Lauder’s high standard.
When she first came to Mallorca, nearly 30 years ago, “there was nothing that I would say was a good beauty salon.” As a qualified beauty therapist, she later opened Salón Venus in Palma, which became highly successful. Accepting “a very tempting offer on the business” meant she could accompany her then husband, who was spending long periods working in the USA and Switzerland – where she furthered her beauty studies. Back on Mallorca, Linda started importing cosmetics and fragrances (the first to bring Dolce & Gabanna here), with a concession in 52 El Corte Inglés stores – which also became the first sales platform for her own brand.
In the early ‘90s, ecology was not widely understood in Spain: “When I went to register the name Ecologic by Linda Nicolau, the guy didn’t know what I was talking about,” Linda recalls. “I had to write the word down for him!” The brand would be environmentally friendly, and offer effective, sophisticated products made from natural ingredients – sourced locally if possible – and with minimal packaging.
What’s the first step in making natural cosmetics commercially?
“Find a good chemist, if you’re not one yourself,” Linda explains. “Our chemist shares our philosophy.” (A member of Pymes Sostenibles, he’s based in a village outside Palma). Ecologic owns the product formulas: “I bought some in New York and London, and our chemist had some too. We spent a lot of time putting things together, considering compatibility with the skin, and what was commercial.”
Ecologic is a brand that’s always evolving: recently, they introduced a new product preservative, derived from local rosemary. Their chemist has a permit to harvest rosemary from the Tramuntana twice a year, and distils it traditionally. “Our new preservative has made the product 100 per cent natural,” explains Alexandra, who came into the business in 2002.
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Products are tested on themselves, friends, and in the laboratory, for several months before launch. Being natural, there’s a low allergy reaction, but people with particularly sensitive skin or allergies won’t need to read Latin to understand the ingredients.
“The problem with ecological products is protecting them from exposure to sunlight and air,” Alexandra says, indicating a purple-coloured bottle made from recycled PET plastic. “This is our corporate colour, but purple – and blue – also offer the best protection against light.”
Packaging is minimal and as environmentally friendly as currently possible. Product labels are made locally by Amadip Esment – the non-profit organisation supporting people with learning difficulties; social issues are also important to the mother-and-daughter team.
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But these two attractive women (with beautiful complexions) are no fanatical tree-huggers: “You can have luxury, glamour, and sophistication without having to harm the environment,” says Alexandra who, like her mother ‘and best friend’, enjoys a good lifestyle.
Ecologic Cosmetics’ range of 34 body and facial products includes cleanser, toner, day and night creams, and cleansing bar, for three different skin types. I have some indulgent moments with testers – noting lovely natural fragrances and good consistencies. Prices for facial care products range from 5,95€ (cleansing bar) to 49€ for the Mimosa Tenuiflora 24-hour Anti-Stress Cream (this and their Eyebright and Aloe Vera Eye Gel are among the top sellers).
Other cosmetics with natural ingredients are being produced here on a smaller scale, but the pioneering Ecologic by Linda Nicolau has had a head start of almost two decades. It will continue to evolve and expand . . . but not into China.
Ecologic by Linda Nicolau
C/ Sta. Margalida, 7, edif. B, 1º izq.
07609 Sa Torre
Tel: (+34) 971 76 85 87