For International Women’s Day (March 8) we’re speaking to the female founders of five of the UK’s beauty brands, all of whom have passion, resilience, and a commitment to making a positive impact on the lives of other women.

Scroll on to read their stories and learn how these women came to start their brands.

‘My brand grew out of personal experience of hair loss’

Gail Waterman, co-founder of Watermans Hair

‘My journey to becoming a co-founder of Watermans, a globally recognised haircare brand, began with a deeply personal struggle. Like millions worldwide, I faced the daunting challenge of hair loss.

‘The experience was not just physical but also deeply emotional, impacting my confidence and self-image. The market was flooded with products promising results, but none seemed to deliver the effectiveness I desperately sought. Fuelled by frustration and a determination to find a solution, I embarked on a mission.

‘This wasn’t only just about regaining my hair; it was about reclaiming control and helping others facing similar struggles. That’s how Watermans was born. Driven by a passion to create products that genuinely work, we delved deep into research, exploring the science of hair growth and hair health.

‘Our goal was clear: develop a product that’s not just a temporary fix but a source of long-lasting confidence. After countless trials and tribulations, we achieved our breakthrough. The first bottle of Watermans hair growth shampoo was more than a product; it represented hope and resilience.

‘It was a solution crafted from personal experience and made with care. The response was nothing short of phenomenal. Word spread rapidly, as did the results experienced by our customers. What started as a solution to a personal problem resonated with people worldwide. We now sell a bottle every 30 seconds!

‘Today, Watermans is more than a brand; it’s a community. We’ve empowered so many individuals to face their hair challenges with confidence and pride. Our journey from personal struggle to global success isn’t just about selling products; it’s about transforming lives, one bottle at a time.’

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‘All our products are effective, ethical and pure’

Cheryl Thallon, founder and MD of Viridian Nutrition

‘My career in the natural products movement began when I started working in independent health food stores at age 21. Later, in the 1990s, I became editor of Natural Food Trader magazine and visited hundreds of health food stores and natural product manufacturers in the UK and around the world.

‘I fell in love with both the kindness and the knowledge of the independent health-store staff, as well as the healthy, cruelty-free, environmental products they sold. But over the years, as I dug deeper into the ingredients and the manufacturing processes, I became more concerned with the supply network.’In 1999, I set up Viridian Nutrition with three fundamental principles: purity, environment and community support. These core values have since evolved into effective, ethical and pure.

‘The purity of supplements is rarely considered, with many products having the words “natural” and “healthy” on them. However, the majority of vitamin, mineral and herbal supplements include a wide range of “junk” additives, i.e. ultra-processed ingredients that are used to speed up and cheapen the process, which are otherwise useless and have negative health impacts.

‘To drive change, we’ve commissioned a body of research called Viridian Dejunk Your Life and launched a national campaign to encourage people to rethink their diets and lifestyles, read labels, and dig deeper into their nutritional choices.

‘We not only sell supplements but also skincare, including herbal balms to soothe skin, including one with horse chestnut to revive heavy legs, one with arnica to soothe aching muscles, plus a lip balm and nail and cuticle oil.

‘We have also just launched our Organic Repair 5 Serum, containing black seed, flaxseed, lavender, chamomile and safflower, which is great for any areas of dry skin.

‘Being founder and managing director of Viridian, in an industry where our main competitors are owned by mega food or pharmaceutical companies, I can control the ingredient and supplement journey, from the seeds to the recycling bank, ensuring our products are 100 per cent active and ethical standards are met.

‘My daughter, Holly, joined Viridian in 2021, and together we are on a continued mission to help make the world a kinder, healthier and happier place.’

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‘Our brand started from our perimenopausal struggles’

Siobhan McCarthy, co-founder Living M

‘The inspiration for Living M came during lockdown when my friend and business partner Caroline and I both realised we were perimenopausal. We hadn’t even heard of perimenopause before then, but the psychological and physical changes we were experiencing became so disruptive, we knew we had to do something to make a difference.

‘At that time, we were both noticing changes in our skin. Mine has always been dry but was increasingly so, my facial eczema was getting worse, and I was experiencing hormonal acne. Caroline experienced loss of radiance and increased dryness almost overnight along with becoming sensitive for the first time ever.

‘All these changes to our skin were a result of perimenopause, yet we were totally unprepared. ‘Products that were targeted at us, women in our 40s, were all focused on anti-ageing. Research tells us that 30 per cent of collagen is lost in the first five years of menopause and these hormonal changes can affect our skin far more than simply ageing.

‘As a society we talk about hormonal skin changes in puberty, pregnancy and in relation to our periods, but when it comes to menopause we are told to “anti-age”. It just isn’t right, and we are on a mission to change this for the millions of women just like us.

‘Our expertly formulated products provide a total skincare system for the unique needs of menopausal skin. They contain clinically proven active ingredients that work together to effectively target the visible signs of oestrogen and collagen loss, and are designed to be used individually or together as a total skincare solution for maximum results.

‘If there is one skincare product to switch to in menopause, make it Collagen Boost Moisturiser. All our products are also vegan, cruelty-free, and free from fragrance, essential oils, drying alcohols, sulphates, parabens and silicones.

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‘I wanted to embrace the ethos of mother nature’

Diane Nettleton, founder of GAIA Skincare

‘Launched in 2016, GAIA Skincare was my brainchild, born from a deep-seated vision to create a brand centred on connections, experiences, open hearts and consideration for others. My journey began after the loss of my spouse, propelling me into a quest for personal wellbeing through holistic treatments.

‘This quest ignited a desire to share a higher level of wellness with others, leading me to develop products and spa treatments aimed at offering guests an enriched wellness experience.

‘My expertise in the industry found a home at GAIA Spa at Boringdon Hall Hotel & Spa, where I spearheaded the launch of our product range and the development of the spa treatment menu. Drawing inspiration from Greek mythology and its natural approach to medicine, I turned to Gaia, also known as Mother Nature.

‘Embracing her ethos of maintaining harmony, wholeness and balance within the environment, GAIA Skincare was born, deeply connected to these energies. Mindfully crafted, the skincare range is meticulously formulated with natural ingredients, boasting certified organic plant extracts sourced from Fairtrade and small producers.

‘Utilising traditional artisan methods, we blend the finest ingredients, plant actives and essential oils with intention and integrity, ensuring each product is crafted to benefit both body and mind.

‘Over the past eight years, GAIA Skincare has become a beacon of knowledge and expertise in the spa and wellness industry. Partnering with more than 50 spa partners across the UK and Ireland, including not only GAIA Spa at Boringdon Hall but also Whatley Manor and Slieve Russell, our journey continues to inspire and uplift those seeking a holistic approach to wellbeing.’

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‘There was nothing similar out there’

Sharon Maughan, founder of beauty brand FaceWise

‘After years of toxic build up and worsening skin problems, I developed a life-threatening allergy to aspirin and ibuprofen. My doctor diagnosed a salicylate overload known as Samter’s Triad. I had itchy, sensitive skin that turned into full-blown eczema patches on my face.

‘After my diagnosis I decided to adopt a new lifestyle controlling my exposure to salicylates. Your skin is your largest organ and what goes onto it goes into your body.

‘Salicylates are a cheap preservative used liberally in many beauty products and household cleaning products, so we are extensively exposed to them.

‘When trying to find suitable products for my sensitive skin, I couldn’t believe there wasn’t a range marketing itself as low salicylate. One day a friend said: “Why don’t you launch your own line?”

‘I’ve always known about the importance of health, fitness and a good diet, but this journey has been a new process of learning what works for my body and my skin health. My desire is now to educate others and show a new way to approach skincare, with kind-to-skin ingredients.

‘This is how FaceWise was born. It offers gentle and nourishing alternatives that are suitable for all skin types, including menopausal skin. Using amazing natural ingredients, FaceWise offers people with sensitive skin gentle alternatives that are naturally low in salicylates.’

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