Thanks to a landscape brimming with ingredients that benefit our skin, hair and body, Ireland — our neighbour across the Irish sea — is slowly emerging as a hotspot for beauty. In fact, according to data from market researcher Euromonitor, the country's cosmetics market grew 2.4% between 2013 and 2018. So what makes Irish beauty so special?
“Irish nature boasts an abundance of clean, nourishing ingredients,” Sonia Deasy, founder of Irish skincare brand Pestle & Mortar tells me. “We use an immensely calming Irish deep-sea extract which is rich in magnesium and Irish moss extract which is rich in potassium chloride.”
Sourcing locally is key for many Irish brands, new and old, that are making a name for themselves alongside the beauty giants that dominate our shelves. It also taps into an increased focus on sustainability for brands and consumers alike, as where we get our products from and the ingredients in them are more important than ever. According to Yolanda Cooper, founder of 90% plastic-free haircare brand, WE ARE PARADOXX, Ireland is a brilliant resource for haircare ingredients. The brand uses carrageen moss and kelp seaweed in its conditioners, natural volumising agents like hops and white nettle, and even finds another use for Irish whiskey — as a shine-boosting ingredient in its Hangover Hair Elixir.
So as we head into a new decade, here are five brilliant Irish brands to try to introduce you to the next big thing in beauty.
Pestle & Mortar
Not to be confused with the kitchen tool, Pestle & Mortar is a skincare brand born out of County Kildare, whose pared-back line-up has earned a cult following since its launch in 2013. Created by Sonia Deasy, the line features everything from a cleansing balm and gel, retinol oil, spritz mist, moisturiser, and eye cream housed in slick monochrome packaging at a mid-range price point.
With a focus on hydration, Pestle & Mortar's appeal lies in its simple approach, particularly for those too busy for the kind of complex layering routines often seen on Instagram and YouTube. The brand's most popular product is the Pure Hyaluronic Serum, a silky smooth, multi-molecular hyaluronic acid that hydrates and plumps skin. If you need more convincing to try it, Deasy tells me, “In the last year, it’s sold out over 5 times with waitlists of over 35,000.” Within just a few short days of using it, I can already notice a difference in my winter weathered skin. It’s fast-absorbing and sits nicely under makeup to ensure there are no dry, cakey patches.
We Are Paradoxx
With its commitment to sustainability and innovative inventions, Belfast-born haircare brand We Are Paradoxx is giving industry giants like ghd a run for their money. Its debut line of hair care products is housed in aluminium packaging, making the products 90% plastic-free. Founder Yolanda Cooper explained her eco-friendly ethos, saying, “I just couldn’t stand by using tonnes of plastic that would eventually end up in landfills or the ocean. Aluminium is infinitely recyclable and far more sustainable than plastic.”
However its Supernova styling tool is what first caught my eye — a cordless straightener, curling wand and curling tong in one. The plates can be locked together and the heated outer ceramic barrels heat up to 185 degrees to create loose waves using the wand or tight curls using the tong. And if you want straight hair, simply unlock the two barrels and switch to the the inner plates instead. It features a human touch sensor, so it will never accidentally turn on in your bag and you get 20 minutes of use per three-hour charging period.
I found it perfect for styling my hair in the back of an Uber on the way to the Christmas party, before popping it back into its vegan leather, heat-proof case and grabbing a gin and tonic.
Skincare brand Voya hails from Sligo in the Northwest of Ireland, with a luxurious line up of seaweed based products inspired by seaweed bathing. According to the brand, seaweed bathing is a 300-year old tradition and Ireland’s only indigenous therapy. Created by Mark and Kira Walton in 2006, VOYA's aim is to give customers the full spa experience at home through its range of home fragrances, body oils and serums. But if you want the full experience, they also have a seaweed bath spa in Strandhill where you can enjoy treatments too.
SOYA also uses sustainable seaweed farming in which the plants are cut manually to ensure their stems can fully regrow in the space of 12 months, thus minimising the damage done to the Sligo coastline. The brand's Nourishing Body Oil works wonders for dry skin, scented with notes of lime and mandarin, the rosehip and primrose-based formula is silky smooth, fast absorbing. Treat yourself to a bottle.
Nourishing Body Oil, £35
Waters & Wild
Ireland may not be your first pit stop when searching for a new perfume but consider adding a bottle of Waters + Wild to your fragrance wardrobe. Based in scenic West Cork, and founded by Joan Woods, the unisex and vegan perfume brand uses locally sourced ingredients like rosemary, lavender, seaweed and gorse in its four fragrances. Packaged in glass bottles with wooden lids, each scent is made in small batches to reduce wastage and also come in candle form so your whole home can smell incredible.
Best of all the scents last and last. I chose the Sweet Basil & Bergamot eau de parfum for its fresh, citrus aroma peppered with the sharpness of basil and soft wild rose and liberally spritzed it as I headed out the door. By the afternoon it was still lingering on my skin. The smaller, curated selection of scents to choose from is a welcome change to the tens of perfumes that emerge from the classical heritage fragrance brands.
Sweet Basil & Bergamot Eau De Parfum, from £31
Blank Canvas Cosmetics
Think of Blank Canvas as Ireland’s answer to Real Techniques, affordable brushes for both your everyday looks and the experimental makeup. Created by Una Tynan in Galway, the clue is in its name when it comes to what you can expect, you’re the blank canvas, how you use your makeup brushes is up to you, blending together art and makeup artistry for fun, experimental makeup that's accessible at every budget in a mix of natural and vegan friendly fibres.
While there’s over 150 styles of brushes to choose from, my go-to is the Most Wanted Brush Set, a bundle of essentials from two multi-purpose face brushes, an eye brush, brow grooming brush and blending brush. The style E87 is particularly effective at buffing in foundation and contoured cheekbones. They clean up well, don’t moult, and are outrageously soft.