This week we managed to grab a coffee with Kate Protopapas, founder of Isla Apothecary, to find out more about her lovely range of products and her daily inspirations. Here's what she had to say about the importance of natural and organic ingredients, her aromatic tour of India and making a commitment to herself to nourish her wellbeing.
Q. Let's start with wellness. How do you look after your own wellbeing? Any top tips for anyone looking to improve their wellbeing?
Looking after my own wellbeing has really been about making a commitment to myself and honouring that commitment on a daily basis. I know that sounds obvious but if we ask ourselves honestly, what do we do each and every day to support our wellbeing?
I like to pepper my days with small but meaningful rituals that feel good and are grounding i.e. herbal teas, lighting incense, salt baths, DIY lymphatic massage with a body oil, aromatherapy.
These are simple things to get started and I would also recommend finding exercise that you like, for me that happens to be yoga. Yoga is of course more than just exercise; it does wonders for the soul too.
Wellness for me is also about moving forward, having things to look forward to, and making space for new and enriching experiences, and I usually find I can achieve these with travel.
Q. This must have been what inspired you to create Isla Apothecary?
I was lucky to find my passion in this area, after some years of positive experimentation with natural ingredients and aromatherapy for personal use. I reached a point in 2014 where I wanted to explore it on a bigger scale, and so I started slowing moving towards that, eventually launching at the end of 2015.
Q. Your products are all hand crafted in small batches. Is this something that's important to you?
I think this mode of production celebrates the freshness and potency of making products with only natural ingredients. The nature of using natural ingredients without synthetic preservatives is such that there’s also a necessity to produce in regular and small batches.
Ingredients chosen with intention and products made with care are becoming increasingly sought after by people that not only appreciate artisanal products, but also those that care about what goes in to their personal and self-care products.
Q. Should we all make sure that the products we use are made with organic and natural ingredients?
It’s of course a personal choice, and I love sharing my own experience of using organic and natural ingredients. Synthetic chemicals we put in our bodies are ultimately burdensome, and I take the same approach to my skin.
I found that with some patience, and trial and error; natural and organic ingredients were gentler and far more effective for my very sensitive skin. Natural also offers simplicity, which my skin thanks me for. My mantra is "less is more" and this is such a relief!
For anyone considering reducing their use of and/or eventually phasing out chemical-laden products, I understand that it can be a leap in the dark. For me, there really is something special to be enjoyed and experienced in the purity of natural products that just can’t be matched by synthetic replications. They also offer sensory and olfactory experiences too, which is where self-care comes in.
There is greater transparency in natural products, and this way people can really know what they’re using and why.
Q. We were very jealous to hear about your recent trip to India. Why did you go and what did you discover?
Thank you for asking! I love an opportunity to talk about my trip to India!
I went for an aromatic tour of the Kerala and Tamil Nadu regions with the Middlesex School of Complementary Medicine. (My interest was piqued after I did an Indian essential oils course with them a few years ago). Very simply, I wanted to understand more about that seed to bottle process if you like.
As to what I discovered… where do I start?! The main thing was witnessing natural ingredients being used in small-scale and time-honoured traditions alongside modern, industrial-scale, commercially driven ways.
I visited a small but exquisite organic farm owned by one man, and at the other end of the spectrum, I saw huge crops being sprayed to perfection by pesticides. But who wants perfect? The fact is, using natural, organic ingredients means that your products won’t always be consistent. They are sort of a mirror reflection of what’s in them, and that is nature in all its perfectly imperfect glory.
On a general level, India seems to me to be a microcosm of all humanity. There is this harmonious co-existence of every extreme. What’s fascinating to me is that I only touched the tip of the iceberg. I’m already planning my next trip back!