Is Natural Beauty Actually Effective? Irene Forte Skincare Says Yes
We sit down with Irene Forte, founder of the self titled organic skincare line to discuss the story behind her line, whether natural organic beauty really works and what sustainability means to her.
How did the idea for starting a skincare line come about for you – did you have a background in beauty or was this a passion that evolved for you?
I was interested in wellness from a very young age. This started with fitness, healthy eating and developed into beauty a little later.
As an Italian who grew up in the UK, I’ve always wanted to create something that connected me back to my roots. I also fell in love with Sicily, and wanted to do something that tied me back to this magical island. I first stepped foot in Sicily in 2003 to visit the site that would soon become Rocco Forte’s Verdura Resort. Six years later, the resort opened its doors and I spent almost a year working there. I was living in the resort, and didn’t have a car, so I spent evenings testing lots of different things in the spa with the Spa Manager Ana Coelho (now my area Spa Director for Italy), and from that point I got into beauty. I also fell in love with the people, the culture, the food and the breath-taking nature of the island.
Later in 2014, when I started overseeing the spas for Rocco Forte Hotels, I decided to create small line (Forte Organics) that unified all of our spas with signature Rocco Forte Rituals. I knew I wanted to use ingredients grown on Verdura’s Organic Farm, so I set about looking for a lab in Italy that would be able to formulate with them. After meeting with a number of labs, I came across Doctor Francesca Ferri of EffegiLab in Trento; I immediately knew was the perfect fit to help me bring the line to life. The immediate positive reception to this first line made me want to learn more, create more and launch an even better and bigger line that was my own. Therefore, I worked with Ferri and tested formulas in our spas over three years, before finally launching Irene Forte Skincare. You can, therefore, say that I became an entrepreneur a little ‘by chance/ organically’.
With my line, I want to share my holistic approach to wellbeing and the opportunity to nurture yourself from the outside in, with scientifically proven, nutrient-rich, natural skincare that works.
From concept, was the brand always going to be sustainable and organic – if so, what inspired you in this decision?
Yes, definitely. As someone who has been working in the wellness space since 2014, sustainability is very important to me. I strongly believe that in today’s world, if you’re going to launch a business, sustainability needs to be at the heart of it.
A lot of the ingredients come from your own organic farm in Italy – tell us a bit more about what you are growing there and how you are keeping things natural?
Verdura Resort is set on 230 hectares, so there is lots of space to plant. We have over 2000 olive trees, 3000 Sicilian orange trees, and 20 lemon trees. You can walk through the acres and find pomegranates, almonds, aloe vera plants, prickly pear cacti and a plethora of fresh vegetables in our 2600 square metre vegetable garden. Everything is grown to traditional standards, free from chemical enhancements and taking advantage of the seasons as they change. Verdura’s produce sits at the heart of our skincare line, diffusing the very essence of Mediterranean wellness into every bottle.
Can you highlight some of your hero ingredients?
We have 75 active ingredients across the line, so it’s hard to pick just one or two. However, here are some of my favourites:
Prickly Pear: harvested from the juicy leaves of the Sicilian cactus Prickly Pear, this extract moisturises and helps calm and protect the skin. Also known as the Mediterranean Aloe, it is said to have Hyaluronic Acid like properties due to the specific polysaccharides found within its leaves.
Olive Oil: Rich in fatty acids, its composition enables the skin to retain vital nutrients, which thereby improves skin hydration. Olive Oil also contains high levels of antioxidants, such as Vitamin E and polyphenols, which help to protect the skin against free-radicals and promote cellular renewal.
Hibiscus Seed Peptides: A patented Oligopeptide Complex extracted from Hibiscus Esculenta Seeds, also known as the ‘botox’ plant. These dual action plant peptides target expression lines, helping to smooth the appearance of laughter lines and crow’s feet, whilst its antioxidant properties help protect the skin.
Aloe Leaf Juice: A nutrient-rich juice from the succulent heart of the Aloe Leaf that helps deeply hydrate, whilst calming and soothing the skin.
Do you think that natural ingredients have the ability perform as well as chemicals in creative truly effective skincare? For example, anti-ageing?
Yes, definitely. I think if you use high-quality natural ingredients, extracted in the right way to preserve their active substances, and combined with other ingredients in the right way, you can achieve amazing results. Aside from all the ingredients that we use that you can eat, we look for actives already naturally present in the skin or biomimetic ingredients, making them biocompatible and exceptionally skin-friendly, such as multi-molecular weight hyaluronic acid, Ceramides, and Sodium PCA.
It’s noted that we as consumers are currently going through about 120 billion plastic packages a year within the beauty industry – how are you at Irene Forte doing things differently?
Sustainability was the starting point for our packaging. 90% of our products are housed in glass. We use plastic for 10% of our products that cannot be housed in glass. Bioplastic and post-consumer recycled plastics are a more costly option and the minimum quantities are still incredibly high. For our first production run, these quantities were not a realistic option, but I’m looking into them for the 10% for our second production. Our spatulas that are currently in plastic will be in olive wood for our next production run. I’m also working on refillables for our second production. We do not use plastic wrapping on our retail boxes, we do not add additional paper inserts, and our boxes are made from 100% recycled fibres, with vegetable and soya-based inks. You are never fully sustainable, but we are constantly striving to find new and more sustainable solutions.
Has creating such a sustainable brand changed the way you are living your life in a wider context of consciousness?
I’ve been as conscious as possible for a while. Obviously, every year, I strive to do more/ improve. Some silly little examples include: carrying a Chilly’s reusable water bottle everywhere I go; carrying a collapsible coffee cup from stojo when I go to the office; using ecover washing materials in the house; using clean and sustainable beauty brands and bathroom products; being vegetarian, and only buying local, in season, and organic produce when I shop for food. I love vintage clothes, handed down from my amazing grandmother. I don’t shop fast fashion anymore; I prefer to buy nice pieces that last a lifetime. I get lots of my clothes handmade in Italy (my mother designs a lot of my clothes). I’m also always re-hashing existing clothes of mine; given that my mother has a dress-maker, I’m always fixing or re-formulating existing clothes. I carbon-offset my flights, given that sadly I have to travel like crazy for work.
Your farm is in Sicily and we know you have a strong connection to Italy, do you have any green hot spots that you can share with people heading there?
One hot spot is definitely Verdura Resort in Sicily. However, I think the beauty of Sicily is not so much that there are specific green hot spots, but that their way of life is still very much in tune with nature and the environment. There is such a richness and authenticity to the island.
Finally, what does sustainability mean to you?
My brand is accredited by Positive Luxury, so I’ve had the pleasure of meeting Diane Verde their CEO on a number of times. She defines sustainability as meeting the needs of today without compromising the needs of future generations. In essence, this is exactly what sustainability means to me.