Last month I travelled up to Derbyshire for the annual Weleda insight day, a chance to meet fellow bloggers, chat all things natural beauty and get inspired by the beautiful surroundings. I rarely attend many blogger events, but I have always had a fascination with all things Weleda and these insight days are like no other events I have attended, they really are something I look forward to every year.
The Weleda UK headquarters is based in Ilkeston and the biodynamic gardens are a short drive five minutes up the road. Weleda is a global brand, with a presence in countries around the world. Founded in 1921 originally as a pharmaceutical company, by Rudolf Steiner and Ita Vegman, Weleda today has an extensive range of certified natural skincare, body care and medicines designed to enhance our wellbeing. There are so many things I love about Weleda, the interesting history of the brand, the philosophy behind it, but most of all the fact the products are authentic and no nonsense, they do what they say they will and without breaking the bank.
We started the day with a tour of the bio-dynamic gardens, where many of the plants used in the medicines and some of the skincare products will be grown. The UK is still one of the smaller sites and Weleda has larger gardens in countries such as Switzerland and Germany that grow many of the plants needed. Where the ingredients cannot be sourced from their own sites, for example for climate reasons, Weleda strikes up fair trade partnerships with farmers around the world to meet that demand. As the largest producer of natural and organic cosmetics in the world, Weleda takes responsible sourcing very seriously and is one of the first brands to be awarded UEBT (Union for Ethical Biotrade) certification. The brand was also one of the pioneers involved in founding NATRUE (True friends of Natural and Organic cosmetics – Read about the certification here) a third party certification that certifies many leading brands in the industry such as Dr Haushcka, Trilogy and of course the entire Weleda range.
As a biodynamic setting the site has many unique characteristics, one of those being that the garden is viewed as a whole and as such spaces for wildlife, such as wildflower meadows are considered important for the health and vitality of the plants that are grown. If you are new to the concept of biodynamics, this wonderful feature in Psychologies called A Year in the Garden is wonderfully informative.
Claire Hattersley the Head Gardener at Weleda, showed us around the site and was a font of knowledge. The relationship that the brand has with the plants by growing them on site is very different to that of a brand buying on the open market. The gardeners are involved with not just the growing and harvesting of the plants, but also the first stages of preparation for use, so the plants are as fresh as possible.
Whilst some of the plants are grown in what would be considered classic beds, many of the plants onsite have strong ideas about where they like to grow and some will be harvested from the meadow or hedgerows. Claire described some of the challenges of dealing with this and how they had to have a flexible approach at times.
Soil health is very important to Biodynamic farming and there is specific preparations that are used in place of fertilisers and pesticides used in conventional farming. The compost heap is an important part of this focus on soil health. Claire told us that they often have adders living in the gardens and specifically around the compost area.
The gardens are a truly special experience and I always feel privileged to be able to be able to explore them. There are so many different plants growing across the site, I always discover something new that I hadn’t seen before, but some of the main herbal plants such as chamomile and calendula are always a highlight.
After the garden tour we returned back to Weleda HQ for some lunch as a sit down, followed by the afternoon talks and activities. First we were given a talk by Evelyn on the topic of plant oils vs mineral oils and we got to experience a mineral oil based body oil vs a Weleda body oil. The difference was really incredible, the mineral oil based product had a really unpleasant skin feel and the synthetic fragrance was quite overpowering. On the other hand the Weleda body oils all felt really nourishing on the skin as well as being naturally scented with essential oils.
Mineral oils are a by product of the petrochemical industry, so are a non renewable resource. Many cosmetic companies have relied on mineral oils for years, as they are incredibly cheap as an ingredient, meaning better profit margins for the company. Plant oils on the other hand have a host of benefits of the skin that mineral oil cannot provide, as they are full of vitamins and minerals rather than just having an occlusive effect. My favourite of the Weleda oils in the Pomegranate body oil, especially good for really dry skin like mine and smells divine!
We finished the day by learning how to do a simple hand and arm massage with a demonstration from the lovely Caroline. This was lots of fun and a great way to experience the oils in a treatment. Weleda really is such a unique brand leading the way in the natural beauty and wellbeing industry. If you are interested in attending an open day, I recommend looking at the Weleda UK website as there is usually an opportunity to attend in the summer months.
Have you got any Weleda UK favourites? Have you ever visited the gardens?