We chat to Green People founder and natural beauty pioneer Charlotte Vøhtz
In the 20 years since Charlotte Vøhtz launched her own organic skincare brand, Green People, a lot has changed in the world of natural beauty. When she started out, products made using solely natural and organic ingredients were far from the norm and the then 37-year-old faced a real challenge in convincing both retailers and consumers that this was the way forward, not to mention starting her own business from scratch in a fairly unknown domain. Two decades later, Charlotte has proved everyone wrong and built one of the most successful brands in the industry, changing perceptions and accumulating numerous achievements and awards along the way.
My daughter Sandra was my initial inspiration for starting Green People. She had very sensitive skin and was plagued by eczema which led me to begin searching for natural products that didn’t contain harsh chemicals. Despite various marketing claims, I found that there weren’t any truly natural and organic alternatives available, and this kick started an exciting journey of researching and formulating my own products that would help Sandra and others suffering from skin sensitivities.
I believe that it is really important to eliminate chemicals from our diets and skincare regimes as far as is possible. I am passionate about using only the best ‘hard-working’ ingredients, and our products don’t just feel great on the skin – they are made using 90 percent active ingredients, so they really make a positive difference to our bodies. Switching to organic skincare is an easy step to take if you want to avoid the toxins found in mainstream toiletries, and with 60 percent of what we put on our skin being absorbed into the bloodstream, choosing natural ingredients can really change how we look and feel.
In the beginning, one of my biggest challenges was finding good quality, organic, raw materials to make my products with. Ingredients that met these standards were expensive and difficult to get hold of. The next obstacle was convincing retailers that natural and organic skincare would, in time, need more shelf space in their shops – they didn’t realise that what we put on our skin is as key for good health as what we eat. I spent a long time trying to educate health store owners by going from shop to shop with a box of products and attempting to persuade people to sell them. I discovered that hardly anyone was aware that skincare could be made up of less than one percent natural ingredients and still be classed as ‘natural’. I took it upon myself to spread the word about the benefits of adopting a natural and organic lifestyle and luckily it paid off – there is far more awareness nowadays. I feel a lot of pride when I see people educating themselves about what goes into mainstream skincare and swapping to chemical-free alternatives.
It was one of my founding principles to donate 10 percent of profits to charity. Over the years we have worked with many different organisations and donated almost £300,000. We like to try to collaborate with local charities where possible and are currently supporting Chestnut Tree House, a hospice for terminally ill children. We’ve also raised money for Penny Brohn Cancer Care as our products are suitable for cancer sufferers and the Marine Conservation Society in light of the fact that our sun care products are marine life and coral-friendly.
My proudest achievement in terms of both the business and the industry as a whole is getting products certified. When I launched Green People back in 1997 there was no certification, but a couple of years later, after repeated calls, the Soil Association decided to set up a committee with the aim of creating standards for organic health and beauty products. They were formed in 2002 and the first items were certified!
By far the most rewarding aspect of running Green People is all of the positive emails and letters we receive from customers who have experienced great improvements to their own health and that of their children by using our products. It is also wonderful to be recognised by people when voting for their favourite brands and products in awards – it’s thanks to them that we have won a range of prestigious accolades over the years.
My top three natural skincare ingredients would have to be shea butter, rosehip and calendula. As for my personal beauty routine, I think a body brush is a very worthwhile investment and I recommend dedicating a couple of minutes to using it before getting in the shower. I like to recycle avocado skin by rubbing it over my face when I’m showering and I apply the Green People Age Defy+ Cell Enrich Facial Oil and Hydrate and Renew Serum every morning.
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