In August's box: BUFF Natural Body Care

Jo Woolvett's childhood in Devon was shaped by the scents of essential oils and a curiosity about the properties they can offer our bodies. BUFF Natural Body Care is the brand she always wanted to create, but with the intention to also prove that beauty products can come without the wasteful packaging and can help protect our environment and our seas.

We find BUFF an inspiration as a truly conscientious brand and are proud to have them contributing to our August box. Here's our interview with Jo:

What does BUFF offer?

We offer handmade products that are 100% natural in 99% plastic-free packaging that's 100% recyclable.

Each aspect has been thoroughly researched from the containers which are British sourced to the labels which are made of polypropylene. It took me 14 months of research to find these labels which are water resistant and yet can be peeled off and added to your recycling bin. Other choices in labels were vinyl and plastic coated which means they can't be recycled. All the inserts in the lids of our bottles are made of cardboard, which we asked for especially to avoid using plastic. You can deconstruct all of our packaging and recycle it.

We support two charities campaigning for the banning of single use plastics in the UK. 2% of our sales profits go to the Marine Conservation Society and we give a monthly donation to the Surfers Against Sewage 250 Club which we're members of. As a brand, we're aligning ourselves to their work with the aim to be leaders in making great beauty products in 100% recyclable packaging.

Our five blends were made to support people in daily life - the recreation of a spa at home. My love of the sea is reflected in the nautical design of our products. The colours we use were taken from a photograph of my favourite beach in Devon.

Could you tell us more about your five blends?

When I came up with the idea for BUFF, myself and a friend talked about how I might create a capsule range of blends. We felt that they should be unisex. We looked at what a day in life is like.

I've been a single mum for six & a half years, since my daughter was just two, so I know a thing or two about feeling absolutely on your knees when you wake up in the morning and needing a little help to get going!! When I created the BUFF Up Morning Blend, I created it to refresh you, wake you up, clear your head and sinuses, but most importantly, make you feel incredibly uplifted and positive for your day ahead. I love the combination of refreshing Lemon Eucalyptus, Spearmint with Rosemary for focus and Cedarwood to keep you grounded.

Then, you might work out. Here in Devon people run, cycle, swim, and participate in many outdoor sports. They also love yoga (who doesn’t?) I wanted to create a blend for after working out, hence BUFF Body Post Workout Blend to cleanse and detoxify your body, whilst soothing and relaxing your muscles.

A lot of people think that BUFF Nuit is about sleep, but it's more than that - it's for after your working day to help you draw a line under it and prepare you for an enjoyable, relaxing and chilled evening. It’s a warming, uplifting and soothing blend, perfect for autumn and wintertime. We sell lots before Christmas - particularly the bath salts. It's a strong blend with five essential oils – I love the warming Ginger and soothing Palma Rosa.

BUFF Naked is exotic and sensual with rosewood, ylang ylang and clary sage on top. It's ideal for couples to scrub each other down and good for you alone when you want to feel sensual. Instead of perfume, I'll have a shower with this blend and the scent stays with me.

Last I thought about blends suitable for my friends and ladies becoming pregnant and breastfeeding. BUFF Mama is for them. Mandarin is really good for mothers, as is lavender and frankincense in small quantities. It's also good for relieving anxiety. Lots of customers say they use BUFF Mama candles for a good night's sleep. You know what you intend your blend to do, but you often get feedback and find people are using it for much more!

How did you come to found BUFF?

There were quite a lot of drivers. Going back to my childhood in Staverton Bridge, I grew up by the river Dart, surrounded by stunning countryside and nature. My mother was into naturopathy and treating common ailments holistically. She became a horticulturalist specialising in organic herbs and is now a respected medicinal herbalist. We both share a fascination with the Human Body and if my Maths had been stronger I would definitely be a doctor by now!

I had a good voice and went on to train as a classical singer. Studying for many years and needing to take care of my body I relied a lot on complementary medicine and this was when I really discovered the huge benefits of massage and aromatherapy. One day, as a student in London, I entered Liberty's Apothecary and was blown away by the most glorious olfactory experience, I just knew that one day in the future I would create a brand of products based around a key range of natural perfumes. I became a teacher and used some of my salary, weekends and evenings to retrain as a Massage Therapist and then an Aromatherapist, which I love.

Put together, there were a series of key moments that made BUFF. One spring morning I was on the beach with the kids running around. I thought, what am I going to do differently? I realised that my difference would be not using plastic packaging and choosing to support marine charities. I came across the Marine Conservation Society with my little girl at Plymouth Aquarium. I am a massive sea lover. Once I'm in you can't get me out! I love diving. I wanted to combine the range and BUFF with something I really love.

What's it like running the business?

It can be amazing and then very stressful at times! It's a mix of exhilaration and a white-knuckle ride, especially without a partner. It's an enormous risk on all fronts. The truth is that you have to have unwavering self-belief if you're going to make it, like all entrepreneurs!

All problems have a solution, though it may not feel like it at the time. The absolute best thing about running your own business is making a beautiful product that people love and feel helps them in some way. It also attracts like minded customers who care about the environment and what they put onto their skin. It’s a wonderful feeling.

Our profit margin is low because we're not using plastic; we use glass, aluminum and card. Furthermore - we're making by hand and using natural ingredients. Some of it goes to our charities. We sometimes have to explain to people that the plastic-free packaging makes products much more expensive.

Jo Behind the scenes on a film. Photograph by Oak Before Ash

What's the process of inventing and testing a blend?

With each blend, I'll look at the benefits and properties I want to offer to customers. Let's take BUFF Up which is my favourite. It's a wake-up morning blend to help people feel focused, fantastic and happy - but not in a crazy way! It's to support wellness and give a positive start to the day.

To create this, I researched and compiled lists of different oils. I read through aromatherapy books and finally created sample blends which I dipped perfume cards into to smell. There were ten or twelve different combinations by the end, but the one stood out.

I let the blends settle then in bottles for months. The ingredients in a blend are like notes in a piece of music - there's a base note, a mid note and a top note. The top note will wear out, then the mid note and finally the base note will linger. I tested the blends like this for months! I had to get the ratios right.

Once these were settled, I sent the formulations to a company to make the blend in large quantities. I then tested these blends in my products. The product formulations themselves were then tested by me for many months and tweaked, with the finalised formulations being sent to our chemist to create the Cosmetic Safety Report.

Creating the Sea Salt Scrub by hand is exactly like creating a sorbet by hand, with the refined organic coconut being melted down and the completed formulation being placed in the freezer for 30 minutes. It’s our most labour intensive product!

Lastly, I send the products in well tested and researched boxes to ensure BUFF’s safe journey to it’s recipient. I never stop learning.  I always try to improve BUFF as a brand by listening to and making improvements based upon customer feedback. It took at least a year to get the blends and recipes right before going on sale and over a year to get the candles right. There's a science to it. It's challenging when you don't have artificial additives and preservatives. Products containing artificial ingredients are easy to make beautiful. Ours have to be naturally so.

What advice would you give to someone wanting to live more sustainably?

First of all, ask yourself if you need all the packaging you're going to buy your product in. If the packaging is going to landfill, think about how you can use it at home. I do this. If I have to buy plastic, it stays in my house in some way.

Try to be organised. Keep extra bags and containers in the car. Take a tub to local butchers and fishmongers. Just think things through. We'll get better as we go. We've all become complacent because single-use plastic is offered to us all the time, so we go into Tesco and buy chopped up mango with a cellophane top. How crazy is that? If we put pressure on suppliers they'll stop.

I don't get it right every day. Just let's do our best and be responsible at every one given time. I have a card from the Marine Conservation Society on how to reduce plastic in businesses - advice like ditching disposable coffee cups, having a centralised recycling point, carrying out a waste audit. If every business took inspiration like this to heart, we'd be off to a great start.

Thanks Jo!

Two of the blends by BUFF Natural Body Care are featured in our August Home Box - get yours here. To explore the full range of BUFF blends and see how beauty can truly be zero waste, you can visit the BUFF website here or follow Jo on Instagram. For more inspiration on self care without the waste, we recommend you follow Jo's blog, Beauty Without Plastic.