When I first started emailing Amanda Saurin, founder of the niche AS Apothecary natural skincare brand, I realised I wanted her life. On our first exchange she’d had just got back in from picking roses at Glyndebourne (where she has the license to harvest) and was in a rush to distil the mountains of petals in her alembic still. Further exchanges happened in between her nipping to Harris in the outer Hebrides to collect wild flowers and shrubs and gathering in the best of the chamomile in her Sussex plot, all for use in her small batch made products.
Amanda kindly sent me some to try. I really liked the gentle Face Cream, rich Body Butter and Cleansing Oil and the First Aid Kit fixing balm is a great dry skin/bust cuticles/shrivelled elbow reliever. I was keen to know more about this delightful little range, so asked Amanda a few questions…
So, A.S APOTHECARY, what’s it all about then?
A.S APOTHECARY is the culmination of 30 years of plant work, many years of working as a professional Homeopath and Herbalist and a total commitment to create a therapeutically rich set of products made with plants we grow on an organic farm in Sussex. We distil, enfleurage and macerate our plants ourselves. It’s about utter transparency, beautiful ingredients and positive intention. Everything we do is on a human scale, made by hand with care and attention to every tiny detail. We are a group of older women with the exception of Bell and we love our work. We know that by being small in scale we can be huge in benefits – both for our products and ourselves.
What you do sounds a bit like a combination of cooking and chemistry, how did you learn these skills?
I like to think that skincare is simply cooking for the skin, it’s about really knowing the plants and their properties and working out how to get the very best out of every plant we use. There is chemistry in it, particularly the distilling which is as much art as science. I learnt to distil with a Sufi friend in Cyprus who introduced me to the unbridled pleasure of picking orange blossom and transforming it into a perfect aromatic water and essential oil. The principles are easy but to really get a great scent is very difficult – it’s all about the conversation between the plant vapour and the copper and how you control that. It’s a never ending learning process – the more you know, the more you know you need to know.
I love the batch numbers idea, it really connects you further to the product, is this a way of emphasising the natural element of the product?
We use 2 numbers on our products the batch number on the back is for the traceability of all the products we make, it’s a legal obligation but the Edition number is different, it links the product back to a particular harvest and set of plants – I love that part of it.
The strong organic and natural angle to your range is very appealing, are customers becoming more concerned with what they put on their skin, do you think?
Yes I do think people are becoming more discerning, I think they are tired of ‘greenwashing’, they increasingly want products made with transparency and integrity. I also think that people like to be able to talk to the maker – I often get messages throughTwitter and Facebook asking which is the most suitable product for a particular skin type. It feels like an extension of the therapeutic relationship.
I love the sound of the aromatic waters, is there one you’d recommend for anyone suffering from menopausal symptoms! Or perhaps another product perfectly pitched for us grown up women?
This is such a great question, at the farm we are all menopausal (except Bell) and it is joyful to formulate specifically with us in mind. Most aromatic waters are a by-product of the essential oil trade but we distil specifically for the aromatic water and so by being very gentle, we manage to keep much of the essential oil in suspension in the water – this makes for a therapeutically rich product which smells fantastic. The Sussex Rose Aromatic Water is wonderfully cooling and calming. We have almost finished picking and distilling this year’s crop which has been wonderful.
You need to make a perfume? When is it coming?
I teach perfume making at the workshop which is immensely good fun, we start by smashing up rose petals in a jam jar as a reminder of where most of our perfume making begins and then move onto actually creating a complex scent. I will be bringing out a perfume next year I hope, it’s in the pipeline…