In the heat of summer, there’s nothing quite as refreshing as a cool shower. Using bar soap is more environmentally friendly than the liquid form, and also it's creates less plastic waste. We talk to Mona Alyedreessy, founder of Azara Beautique, which offers a range of exquisite handmade soaps created from secret recipes and the purest of ingredients.
Sublime: What inspired you to create Azara Beautique?
Mona Alyedreessy: From an early age I was passionately interested in my mother’s work, and her study of the medicinal benefits of herbs, plants, resins and honeys, especially those native to the Middle East. I was familiar with homeopathic medicines and with Middle Eastern herbs, as my mother used them to treat me and my siblings whenever we became ill.
My mother is the first female Saudi homeopath to practise in Saudi Arabia, and is a member of the Homeopathic Medical Association in the UK. For the last four years, I have worked as a volunteer in her homeopathic clinic, formulating a collection of organic cosmetics using the finest of natural medical ingredients from the Arab world to help her patients, who suffer from a variety of skin and scalp problems. After seeing many successes with the patients, I decided to start a professional, high-quality boutique brand so that we could reach out and help more people around the world.
S: How did you go about setting up the company? Where there any start-up issues?
AM: I used my business skills to set up a limited company, and hired professional designers to help me create a beautiful website and packaging. I drew up a tasks schedule and started making the products straight away. I built the brand from ‘ground zero’. It was better for me to start small, rather than get investors involved at this stage, as the idea is not to mass-produce but to make products of extremely high value and quality by hand. It wasn’t easy doing most of it alone, as I did, but I’ve managed to establish a decent foundation for the brand, and I’ve had some strong product reviews.
S: How do you select your materials, and how are the products made?
AM: Our secret recipes all derive from the beautiful tradition of mothers passing their knowledge on to their daughters, so that wisdom is never lost and travels down the generations. We are a trusted business, because my mother’s knowledge has been collected over more than twenty-five years, and spans all of the practices and the history of natural medicine. Her knowledge has inspired our selection and combination of ingredients.
Our soaps are all handmade in small batches using a cold process method – there’s no heat involved – and are left to cure and dry for six weeks before being wrapped. The soaps take the longest time to make out of all the products we have, which include creams, lotions and face masks. Scrubs are coming soon!
S: Why do you choose to support small, local businesses?
AM: Among many, the main reason we encourage local enterprises is to foster traditional handicrafts and skills. Also, we support organic crop growth. We pay all of our suppliers upfront, so that they have the means to continue financing larger requests from customers. Small, local businesses are often run by families, who depend solely on their business for their income, and being in that position myself, I know how difficult it can be. I believe too that small businesses put more love, passion and care into what they produce, and they help to bring a community together.
S: Where do your recipes and ingredients come from?
AM: Together, my mother and I have dedicated time and effort travelling across the mountains, deserts and lustrous valleys of Oman, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Morocco, the United Arab Emirates and Yemen to find the rarest of jewels: extra-virgin olive oil from Palestine and Syria; mineral-rich Zamzam water from Makkah, the holiest city in Saudi Arabia; the finest royal green hojari frankincense from Oman; fragrant pink roses from Saudi Arabia’s second holy city, Medina, and from the mountainous city of Ta’if; and rich sidr honey from Yemen. These are just a few of the pure, refined ingredients used in our products.
S: Do you have a story you can tell us from your trade trips in the Middle East?
AM: Our trips are mainly to Saudi Arabia, Morocco and Oman. We trade with local suppliers in the desert and on mountain farms, as they have the cleanest and most organic products. We go to all of this effort because the cleaner the products are, the more effective they are, both medically and as cosmetics, so we need to see and choose them personally. As I am an Arab myself, and an Arabic speaker, I am already familiar with the best places to go to get these ingredients.
We have a lot of fun travelling, and we have learnt so much from the farmers, who explain to us what many of the ingredients have been used for for hundreds, if not thousands of years. We include this information in our product and ingredient stories on the website, blog, Twitter and Instagram pages, so that everyone can benefit.
S: If we had £30 to spend, what would you recommend we buy from your shop?
AM: We have soaps for every skin type and condition, so I would say try one these soaps. And prepare to be amazed!
S: Name one of your favourite accessories from the shop, and tell us why you love it.
AM: It has to be the soap dish that is made from organic Moroccan clay by Moroccan craftspeople. They manage not only to make it fulfil its purpose by draining the soaps to keep them dry, but they have also artistically created it in the shape of our logo. It took them a long time to do, but it was so worth it!
S: Do you see organic and natural beauty products gaining more of a market share in the cosmetics industry?
AM: Yes. I believe that people are becoming more aware of the harmful chemicals being used in modern-day skincare and haircare, and are choosing to find healthier and more natural alternatives that are eco-friendly and that can produce the same results, if not better, than products with chemicals in them.
S: What’s your favourite hashtag?
S: Finally, what are your plans for the future?
AM: We would love to have our products stocked in international department stores and boutiques that promote a healthy lifestyle, and we hope one day to have our own store.