In February's box: Old Faithful

At the heart of Old Faithful is a simple reminder that our skin and our bodies can be cared for by age-old ingredients that remain as effective today as always. Based in Merthyr Tydfil in the South Wales Valleys, Gareth Daniel began a step-by-step journey to learning about natural living years back. Old Faithful is his way of sharing this knowledge, alongside the benefits of therapeutic-quality skincare.

Here's my interview with Gareth:

Tell me about Old Faithful.

I've always been into natural living - everything from cooking from scratch with seasonal organic products to doing yoga. I prefer to live naturally. I'm not fond of synthetics in any shape or form, especially as I have an allergy to these and harsh detergents.

An ex-girlfriend got me into high-end skincare when she bought me a bag of Dermalogica shave products. My skin did get better. I have combination skin though, which can be both dry and oily. The products would leave my complexion looking paler and my skin dry. Then my face would have an outburst of oil at two in the afternoon. There were a lot of synthetic chemicals in there which can fight against the natural processes of the skin, rather than work with them.

The same ex-girlfriend also gave me around that time a half bottle of aromessence ylang ylang serum. Just a bottle is worth £40 so it's pretty expensive. I tried it on my skin though and it worked way better than any of the products I'd tried before. This demonstrated that products made from oil were much better for my oily skin. It balanced out my complexion and my skin looked better. I was an account manager for Right Move at this time.

When I became ill with a prolapsed disc I started looking for ways to help me sleep. Essential oils popped up again in my research. I was home bound mainly in bed for 3 months. I ordered a box of 100 essential oils and started burning them to help me sleep and bathing in them to help with the pain.

I made my first shave oil after looking on YouTube. It was great - a really good way to shave.

My homemade shave oil was better than the expensive branded skincare I was purchasing at the time. I made beard oil for friends around then too. Finally, I signed up to an aromatherapy diploma. It was fascinating.

My first experience of treating skin problems was when a friend came to me about her son. He was suffering from molluscum contagiosum, a virus related to shingles and chicken pox that young children can suffer from. It creates an itchy rash that can last up to 18 months. Doctors find it hard to treat.

With a bit of research I found a formula by an aromatherapist called Rhiannon Harris. I bought the ingredients and made it. The formula got rid of the rash in two weeks. It was at that point that I realised essential oils were even more powerful than I had first thought. I finished the diploma and kept reading extensively.

It was with the encouragement of a friend that I started Old Faithful. The name is a nod towards the trusted ingredients in the products - ingredients that have been around for hundreds and thousands of years. They're more relevant today than ever in a society where we've lost the way of natural living. We rely too much on our doctors and medicine made by pharmaceutical companies.

I've continued to make products for the skin. It's mainly skincare from therapeutic-quality ingredients. When I say therapeutic quality, I mean base oils and butters that are unrefined and not treated with chemicals or heat which kills their properties. Most of the creams and skincare products on the market use highly refined oils and ingredients. Much like processed food, the ingredients can be ‘naturally derived’ but whether they are good for you is another question. All the essential oils I use are organic. You'll only get small artisan makers using the quality of the ingredients I use - I'll pay much more for my essential oils than others would and I source my chamomile products and lavender straight from farmers.

Is there a signature scent to Old Faithful?

It would definitely be described as gently masculine, earthy and woody. My preferred scent profile is earthy base notes, floral middle notes and woody high notes. Apart from some of my beard oils where the essential oil blend is created primarily for scent, all my products are blended primarily to treat the skin therapeutically. And then I tweak the essential oil ratios to create the best aroma. My Hammam Moisturising Serum is for combination skin. Its properties include; anti-ageing, sebum balancing and cell rejuvenation. I know some of these descriptions can sound far-fetched but the essential oils and base oils actually have these benefits.

What are your values around Old Faithful? How do you take an ethical approach?

One of the driving forces behind the creation of Old Faithful was to challenge the misinformation and lies within mass market goods. You're probably better off using water than most of them - it'll do less harm. I like to take apart the skincare ingredients I see on the shelves, like with food at the supermarket. I've found irritants and carcinogenic chemicals. All the good stuff like oils and butters are usually low on the list, but the ingredients that are advertised first.

All Old Faithful products are made 100% from the good stuff. Oils, butters, essential oils and botanical extracts. There are many Argan oil products in the department stores which will have less than 5% Argan oil in them. All my products contain argan oil. My ethics are honesty, transparency and making the best products I can for their intended use. I support good farming practices around the globe by buying organic. I'm against crop spraying and genetic modification.

I think it's just socially irresponsible for big brands to be ripping people off. I don't want to say I sell a great product when it’s not and full of synthetic filler ingredients.

I've always used glass bottles. I let customers decide whether they want tin or plastic lids on the hand and foot balms.

Moving forward, I'd like to support men's mental health and homelessness causes. I think homelessness is a horrible thing - the fact that we can walk past homeless people and see it as normal. I've touched on being homeless myself in the past, sofa surfing... I know how awful it is to be on the fringes.

I'd like to support men's mental health because, while rightly so there are women's initatives, where I come from in the South Wales Valleys men under-perform women at school and university. There's a huge macho ego problem with youths that affects their lives forever. I want to make my business sustainable first and then make this a staple of what I do.

What's your favourite product?

It changes all the time. My favourite now is the Reunion Cleanser because it has achieved amazing reviews in a short amount of time. People love it and my skin is much better when I clean my face with this. Also, a good cleanser is the basis for good skincare. If we use a cleanser made with surfactants that strip the natural oil from our skin then our skin will be on the back-foot from the get-go, trying to replace the lost sebum and this can result in an over production or an underproduction of oil. I use the Hammam Moisturising Serum the most. It's a toss-up between the two.

This month we're talking about small acts of kindness. Is there someone who's been kind to you along the way, and how do you pay it forward?

In all honesty I don't think about it in that structure. I'm always helping people out - I enjoy it. It gives me a natural feeling of wellness. Basically helping others builds happiness for yourself. It builds relationships with people.

People are nice to me too. I just heard that my next door neighbour, a 27-year-old woman, brings my bins to my gate each week. It's an ongoing act of kindness by the looks of it. She's been doing it for everybody. On the other hand, she's always popping around my flat to print stuff out on the printer! As long as you're kind, things like this happen all the time.

Thanks Gareth!

We've been working with Old Faithful this February to fill our Valentine's Day box. If you haven't reserved yours yet, you can subscribe here or give a box as a gift.

If you'd like to keep up with Old Faithful, you can visit their website or follow Gareth on Instagram.

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