The Interview: Rebecca Hopkins and Clare Hopkins, Founders and CEO, Balance Me

Multi-award-winning skincare brand Balance Me has built its reputation on totally natural products backed by serious scientific credibility. Founded 15 years ago by sisters Rebecca and Clare Hopkins, Balance Me combines therapeutic fragrance blends with high-performing ingredients to restore skin vitality at every age. Its award-winning products are created with the ethos that five minutes of self-care can have a dramatic effect on daily wellbeing. Founders Rebecca and Clare Hopkins tells TheIndustry.fashion’s The Beauty Edit more:

Could you tell us a little bit about your background?

Back in 2005 long term stresses and 21st century fast paced living had taken its toll on Rebecca and Clare’s health and skin. They had developed skin reactions over time from sensitive to hormonal breakouts, where previously they could use any skincare without consequence. They turned to natural skincare to solve their own skin concerns at a time when it wasn’t highly regarded by consumers or the beauty industry alike.

Rebecca was working for an international beauty giant and Clare was a management consultant. Both were travelling extensively, and their work/life balance was out of sync. Rebecca retrained as a reflexologist while still working and Clare took a year out travelling, undertaking yoga teacher training around the world via a five-month freelance position with a mobile commerce start-up.

When Clare returned to the UK the sisters discussed the gap in the market for more wellbeing in the work place and they formed their first business venture, Balance being which was a service-provider of wellbeing (holistic and beauty treatments) to corporate clients. Their services ranged from in-house company spas, press launch/retail partner wellness animation to corporate client entertaining with a wellbeing twist at a house they would hire in central Knightsbridge. They would market and gift their clients with aromatherapy-inspired natural products that they made at their kitchen table in London.

Following interest from their growing client base to bring their natural, results-led products to market they found a UK manufacturer who would support their fledgling brand and secured a Pop-up store with a leading fashion retailer on Oxford Street in September 2005. They wanted to effect change in the beauty industry through natural skincare and Balance Me was born.

You launched back in 2005, what was the response like and what has changed since?

In 2005 natural beauty wasn’t highly regarded by the beauty industry or consumers. There were less sophisticated actives available and we had to search out suppliers of innovative bio-actives to blend with our plant and essential oils. Plus we wanted to avoid certain ingredients such as sulphates, parabens and mineral oils but without compromising the efficacy and safety of the product. We believed in the power of natural, John Lewis gave us nationwide distribution in 2006 and we also launched in Denmark the following year.

Fast forward 15 years and the demand for natural/clean skincare is huge, clearly indicated by retailer interest in stocking vegan, cruelty-free, planet-friendly, sustainable, natural, clean beauty brands.

We can now harness the power of a growing number of cutting-edge natural formulas from peptides, hyaluronic acid, retinol alternatives, pre/pro-biotics, squalene and so many more.

What is the brand’s core philosophy?

To bring a moment of balance into the lives and skin of everyone we touch. We solve skin concerns and bring skin back into balance naturally, without compromise.

What sets you apart from other skincare brands?

Balance Me use cutting-edge natural ingredients, aromatherapeutic blends, delivered in sophisticated textures to restore skin vitality at every age and life stage. We are honestly natural without compromise. In addition, we are looking closely at our product literature, education and marketing to ensure we are openly inclusive and address all skin colour too.

The recognition that just five minutes of self-care through skincare can have a dramatic effect on daily wellbeing is what has driven product innovation since day one.

We’re easy to shop by result, skin benefit and mood, the ranges of cleansers, mists, serums, creams and oils are formulated to solve a skin concern and bring skin back into balance.

We take sustainability seriously, with each piece of packaging from glass bottle, post-consumer recycled tube through to outer FSC card-approved carton clearly displaying how to recycle according to your local facilities.

How do you come up with ideas for new products?

We believe in creating products for all ages and life stages. We have an ever-evolving range and as we’ve hit different milestones from first signs of ageing, through motherhood, teen children and our own hormonal changes, we’ve innovated accordingly. We are also led by innovation in natural chemistry, customer demand, cutting edge ingredient availability and market trends.

What do you think have been the most important skincare trends of 2020 so far?

In our opinion it has been self-care (as a result of the pandemic and lockdown), stress relief (we’ve created a beauty sleep range and have a CBD concentrate), diversity (both in product offering and brand representation), cost-effective and sustainable beauty (we want cruelty-free, vegan, planet-friendly beauty) and multi-tasking skincare that avoids too many steps and unnecessary spend.

Who is the Balance Me customer?

We cater from teens through to 60+, through early adulthood, parenthood and all the stages in between. Our mission is to solve skin concerns whatever the skin type, gender, colour or tone, and bring skin back into balance, naturally.

Balance Me products contain ‘clean’ formulas, could you tell us what this term means?

Lots of products on the market say they are ‘natural’, ‘eco-friendly’, ‘safe’ and ‘non-toxic’. Even parabens are ‘natural’ in so much as they are a by-product of the petroleum industry and that comes from one of the world’s natural resources. But it doesn’t make it good for your skin, or for the world.

When we say ‘natural’ it means it’s a sustainable, renewable ingredient that is kind to your skin – and to the earth. We clearly label all our products with our percentage of natural for our customers to understand.

Our customers want the best products that truly deliver results. To achieve this, we use natural, nature identical and naturally derived ingredients that are all proven in both efficacy and safety.

But Why Natural? The simple answer to this is to liken your skincare to your clothes. Would you wear a nylon jumper when you could wear a cashmere one? No! Natural skincare, like natural fibres, has a different feel on the skin. It lets it breathe, it can be absorbed without worry, it won’t make you feel hot, bothered and irritated.

The longer answer to this is that when Balance Me was founded, our co-founders Clare and Rebecca, both found their skin and health to have taken the toll of twenty-first century living. Long term stress had prompted them to take stock of what was important to and living well was key. Both had developed skin reactions over time – incredibly sensitive and red where previously they could slap anything on without consequence. It made sense to take care of their skin in the way we take care of our hearts through healthy eating and exercise.

We’re constantly pushing the boundaries as to what is possible in natural beauty innovation. Our formulations are sophisticated, and our bio-active ingredients deliver exceptional results. Our trailblazing Tri-Molecular Hyaluronic Serum is a brilliant example of where cutting-edge science meets powerful botanicals thanks to the three weights of natural hyaluronic acid used.

Meanwhile our award-winning Vitamin C Repair Serum is formulated with an enzyme that releases vitamin c over a sustained period for optimal results. When bio-actives are so powerful and deliver exceptional results, why would you want to use synthetic?

Sustainability is becoming a crucial focus for the skincare and beauty industry, in what ways is Balance Me incorporating sustainability into its business model and brand identity?

We take sustainability seriously. In 2019 we undertook a full rebrand and assessment of our packaging and sustainability credentials. Each piece of packaging from glass bottle, post-consumer recycled tube through to outer FSC card-approved carton clearly displaying how to recycle according to your local facilities.

Balance Me uses simple, effective packaging. We’re on a journey to close the loop on all our packaging, to extend its life and keep it out of oceans and landfill.

We’ve adopted our bespoke recycle loop that comprises 6Rs: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Remove, Replace, Renew.

We don’t sit on our laurels and we’re always looking for ways of improving our packaging so it’s not only sustainable, but looks good on your shelf too, and can withstand the rigours of postal delivery.

We use clear and white glass because these are infinitely recyclable unlike coloured glass and plastic. It isn’t a perfect material though, due to its weight there can be higher carbon emissions associated with shipping it. Balms and gels are safer to transport and more convenient to our customers when packaged in plastic.

We use 50% PCR (post-consumer recycled plastic) which means we are using reusing plastic already in the system, much like recycled glass.

We use renewable resources where possible including FSC card for all our cartons and boxes. Our online orders are delivered with corn chips which can dissolve in water, put on your compost heap or put into your recycling.

Pumps can’t be recycled yet, and we don’t know of any on the market that are currently fully recyclable. We are working on this with our suppliers.

After extensive research, its this mix and breadth of packaging options that we feel is the most consumer and planet friendly at present. It is an ongoing process, and we will keep updating when new developments happen in the industry.

What are your top 3 Balance Me product recommendations?

Our Vitamin C Repair Serum because it has multiple benefits. It upgrades hydration, boosts collagen production, brightens, evens tone and targets pigmentation.

Our Pure Skin Face Wash because cleansing is the most important first step in any skincare regime and this cleanser works on all skin types, colour, age and gender.

Our NEW PHA Clarifying Mist because it balances, brightens, tackles shine and effectively exfoliates hormonal, blemish-prone skins without causing sensitivity.

What are your top tips for healthy and glowing skin?

Effective and regular (twice-daily) cleansing.

Active mists to inject moisture and chemically exfoliate.

Treatment skincare – think highly active serums as these will penetrate to the deeper layers of the skin to deliver more potent ingredients where they are needed most.

Sufficient moisture through creams and/or oils to protect the skin’s barrier from environmental aggressors such as pollution, UVA/B rays and blue light.

Spf protection every day.

What were the biggest challenges you faced setting up your own brand?

Funding the business from start-up through UK and international growth. We are still self-funded and work full time in the business today We still founder-led, self-funded so we have to be resourceful as to where we focus our time and budget.

What are your greatest achievements to date?

We’ve won over 65 consumer, industry and media awards to date and each one is a pinch me moment. We are still growing, innovating, expanding into new territories 15 years after launch despite economic recessions, a global pandemic, a surge in competition and rising raw material prices. Our customer feedback is what motivates us to keep innovating and pushing the boundaries on what is possible to achieve in natural skincare.

What is next for Balance Me?

Further expansion overseas. We’ve recently rolled out across Scandinavia and we’re about to focus on the US.

What advice would you give to anyone starting up their own beauty/skincare brand?

Cash is king. Digital first. Tell your story. Know your customer. Be authentic.