Plant-based skincare has been a huge success for this Wilmslow aromatherapist

Lisa at work in her workshop
Photo: Lisa Johnson

Lisa at work in her workshop Photo: Lisa Johnson - Credit: Archant

Lisa Johnson of LJ Natural is celebrating ten years of supplying pure and natural skincare to people around the UK, all from a tiny workshop in Wilmslow

LJ Natural's Scratchy Balm, Lisa's first and still best-selling product

LJ Natural's Scratchy Balm, Lisa's first and still best-selling product - Credit: Archant

LJ Natural was launched in 2010, by Wilmslow resident Lisa Johnson, partly as a result of a need to help her stress-related eczema and partly as a result of intense career-related unhappiness.

“I was working in sales and marketing and, for me, it was awful, I hated it. The stress of it caused me to develop really bad eczema. After I had my second child, I just knew I couldn’t go back to a job I loathed and I really needed to sort out my eczema. Nothing the GP could offer had ever helped and some things had actually made it much worse, so I decided to look at natural treatments. I just kept thinking there had to be a simple, natural thing I could do myself.

“I did a diploma in aromatherapy and just started messing around with natural ingredients. I created one balm that really worked, just from using a few very simple plant oils blended together and popped in the fridge. That became my Scratchy Balm, a name my daughter chose, and which is still my best-seller today.

“At the time my daughter was two and suffered from eczema, as a lot of small children do, in the creases of her arms and legs. The doctor had prescribed a horrible, smelly ointment, made out of petrochemicals and I kept looking at it and thinking it was so disgusting and did I really want to put this on my child’s skin? It wasn’t really helping and it was flammable, as well. I used shea butter, cocoa butter, avocado oil, sunflower oil and evening primrose oil and came across a combination that worked really well on both me and her and thought ‘I think I’ve got something here.’

Calendula officinalis, which grows easily in all gardens and flowers right into late autumn, can be

Calendula officinalis, which grows easily in all gardens and flowers right into late autumn, can be used to make a lovely bath oil. Photo: Natalya Vilman/Getty Images/iStockphoto - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

“Before I could make it for retail there were a lot of health and safety hoops I needed to jump through, of course, the legal side of things and how to get it certified. Then I started off with a really simple website, a bit of activity on Facebook and a stall at Alderley Edge Farmers Market. I wanted to be able to go out and speak to people face-to-face – market research the product, the packaging and the pricing.”

In 2011 Lisa took the decision to quit the job she hated so much and throw herself into working full time on LJ Natural. The year that followed was a tough one and there were a couple of months when she seriously doubted her decision, but then, in 2012, it suddenly all took off.

“Red magazine wrote about me. They contacted me out of the blue, for an article about four women who had set up their own business based on a health problem. My story of course was based around my own experience with my eczema. Literally overnight everything just turned around. I realised that there was absolutely a market for what I was doing and I had found my customers. That was eight years ago and I would say that most of the customers that bought off me then are still buying from me now. Since then I have created more products and have really found my niche.”

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Make yourself an aromatic and healing bath salts mix with Lisa's recipe - the perfect gift or treat

Make yourself an aromatic and healing bath salts mix with Lisa's recipe - the perfect gift or treat for yourself. Photo: Stefanie Keller/Getty Images/iStockphoto - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

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Lisa’s niche is those people who want really clean, natural skincare with no chemical, manufactured or unethical ingredients. All of Lisa’s products are organic and all but three are vegan. Every single product is free from sulphates, parabens, methylisothiazolinone (a preservative that can cause horrible allergic reactions), petrochemicals, artificial colour and fragrance and indeed any and all synthetic ingredients. Her packaging is 100 per cent recyclable or compostable, a recent innovation made possible through moving some items to a solid from a liquid – shampoo and body oil bars, for example, can be wrapped and posted out in paper.

“I make everything myself in small batches, so it’s easy to tweak the ingredients and react to what’s happening in the marketplace. Products made using plant-based ingredients materials are going to work better with the body than synthetic chemicals. A lot of customers come to me initially because they’ve had a problem with a product, a brand that they have always used but that has suddenly caused a reaction. Often this is triggered by a change in ingredients, using a different preservative for example that can cause nasty reactions. You wouldn’t know this unless you read all the ingredients and did a comparison every time.”

Since lockdown Lisa has seen a big increase in sales volumes, as people have had the time to stop, think and do some research into natural alternatives. It’s something Lisa applauds and supports through regular blog posts where she writes about skincare and common ingredients and helps readers to really understand what they are buying into when they buy from the big brands.

“I just want to help people understand their options,” she says. “my customers are all so lovely, posting feedback and sending me little stories and I love to hear all their views and in return to share my knowledge and learning . In fact, when we’re not in lockdown I run workshops to teach people how to make their own products. I find it all absolutely fascinating.

LJ Naturals Skin Drink

LJ Naturals Skin Drink - Credit: Archant

“At the moment we’re in the process of moving house so I can have a bigger garden to grow more of the ingredients I use for myself. There’s so much we can use and the knowledge has been lost over the years. Calendula, for example, makes a lovely ingredient for a bath oil. Or steep thyme and add honey to make a drink to help coughs and sore throats. There’s so much and it’s so easy and I just want to share this.”

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