Tell us about the origins of ishga and your role within the business.
The origins of ishga can be traced back to 2010 when Blythswood Square in Glasgow first introduced detoxifying seaweed baths to the spa menu using fresh Hebridean seaweed. Developed by local entrepreneurs, the raw ingredients are sourced by a team with years of hands-on experience working with seaweed under the direction of Martin Macleod.
The range is formulated by Malcolm Macrae, a marine biologist who specialises in chemistry, and the products are inspired, tested and refined by his wife Joanna, a professional beauty expert. ishga also draws on the expertise of spa insiders and luxury hoteliers across Scotland, ensuring the brand is perfectly positioned for continued global expansion. We spent three years creating the brand, refining the products and finally launching with Antioxidant Marine Cream In 2013.
Me and Malcolm look after the running of the business. As we are a small team I am involved in most aspects of the business from the discussions around new product launches, ingredients onto packaging, branding and commercial strategy. I also liaise with our growing portfolio of spas which now includes: The Berkeley, Coworth Park, Seaham Hall and Ribby Hall (to name just a few).
Your products are organically sourced from the hebrides - tell us about the ingredients you use and why?
Our products are sustainably sourced, formulated and manufactured in the Hebrides, ishga blends a mineral-rich potent seaweed extract with organic ingredients and essential oils. We source and harvest our seaweed by hand, sustainably from the pure pristine waters of the Isle of Lewis in the Hebrides. Respecting the natural environment, ishga has a licence to harvest seaweed throughout the Western Isles and works in conjunction with Scottish Natural Heritage and SEPA (Scottish Environment Protection Agency) to ensure the harvest (both manual and mechanical) is sustainable and environmentally friendly.
We feel it is important to treat the natural environment with respect and take great care in all aspects of our business. The line is COSMOS certified organic by the Soil Association.
Our hero ingredient is seaweed. Hebridean seaweed extract is the cornerstone of ishga; it’s extracted directly into Hebridean spring water using a low temperature extraction process, which protects the beneficial compounds and enzymes. Rich in polyphenols the extract provides protection against environmental damage to the skin by neutralising free radicals. Used throughout the retail and professional range, the mineral-rich extract is blended with organic ingredients and essential oils to create each individual product.
How has lockdown impacted your business? Any pivots you had to make and any changes to how people have been buying your products?
Lockdown has certainly had a huge impact and like very many businesses we have had to go through a process of continuous adaptation. At the beginning of the pandemic we donated our skills to create much needed sanitiser for front line services, this then instigated the development of our very popular organic sanitiser. Other key developments have been our Spa at Home and Facial at Home kits, these products have been very popular as online activity has grown exponentially.
As suppliers to the Spa at hotel industry we created initiatives to keep engaged with our customers like online training, our new YouTube channel and a live weekly Pilates class for all our team and partners.
We also found more engagement with the press and influencer marketing during lockdown, this has really increased awareness of the brand
These pivots will make sure we are in a good position looking forward to 2021.
What’s your best-selling product and how would I use it?
Our best-selling product is our Anti-oxidant Marine Cream, which was recently awarded Best Moisturiser in the Top Sante Awards. This was the very first product in the ishga range and continues to be a firm favourite with guests and press alike as it is a light non-greasy moisturiser that can be used in the morning or evening after your cleansing routine. It is described as “a revolutionary organic moisturiser, full of natural goodness, and will transform any skin type or stubborn problem, while brightening, freshening and smoothing any wrinkles”
I have five minutes of downtime (between the business, Bramble, Finty and Mr Smith!) Can you give me your top tips for a five minute at home spa treatment?
I can give you two, Mr Smith can join in too. For the face - In the morning apply the exfoliating face mask on its own or combine with the cleaning lotion to cleanse and exfoliate the skin. Leave the mask on for a few minutes and rinse off, it brightens the skin removing dead skin cells. Skin is then re-energised, once cleansed, apply our wonderful Anti-oxidant Marine cream. (top tip; you can apply the serum before the cream using the fingertips to tap the skin and aid the absorption)
For the body – Very simply, take the Salt & Oil scrub into the bath (if you have more than 5 minutes 😊) or in just into the shower, after using your body wash apply the scrub all over your body to reinvigorate your skin and let the oil soak in to leave skin feeling smooth and silky for the day ahead or use at the end of day to relax. (top tip: if you do get time for a bath make sure you light the Hebridean Dreams Candle and drift off).
Downtime and wellness have never been so topical, what are your wellness rituals that have got you through lockdown?
Wellness is all about balance, not putting yourself under too much pressure and speaking positively to yourself.
Like many families our house has become an office, an exercise studio and a classroom during lockdown. I have tried to focus on doing little things that make me feel good, having a hot bath with a scrub, looking after my skin, long walks (I have never walked so much). Exercise has been a regular part of the routine along with trying to focus on healthy eating. I am also a big fan of red wine (this has helped a lot too).
Where do you get your inspiration from?
My career in the wellness industry started when I was 17 as a lifeguard, since then I have worked in many different parts of the industry and the world. The constant in all of it has been the desire to make people feel good either through a structured exercise program, providing wonderful hospitality or creating results driven skincare.
I try to have a positive outlook (this last year has put this to the test). When I ask my two children what is important in life they reply with “enjoy the journey”. This is my inspiration - enjoy what you do as life is precious and there are lots of opportunities out there.
What do you do to switch off?
Exercise works very well for me to switch off, I either head out on the bike, go for a swim or go to the gym and switch off my phone. When and if you can, I also love to sit in a steam room and hide, it is a great place to escape.
Where’s your happy place?
I have a few 😊 We are very lucky where I live as we have an outdoor door salt water swimming pool that sits on the edge of the river and looks out across the mountains. You get the luxury of swimming in a pool with the connection with nature and sea (When feeling brave I do take part in some wild swimming)
My other happy place is with my wife and kids enjoying the simple things like a family movie on the couch with a glass of wine.
What’s next for you, what are you working on at the moment?
We have learnt a lot this year as a business and the outlook is very positive, during lockdown we moved into a new facility in the Hebrides to ensure we had space for increased production and extensive research and development.
There are a number of new product launches planned for 2021 including a project that combines the true essence of ishga with very advanced technology.
Our new premises, new launches, developing key partnerships, continued focus on growing the brand through PR and Marketing will hopefully see a positive 2021 and beyond.
A huge thank you to Leon for his time, tips and inspiration. Visit ishga.com and follow them on Instragram and Facebook for more organic Scottish skincare, beauty tips and stunning products.
Womens ishga x Fenella Smith Gift Set
Sets to make her smile. Working with our friends at ishga, we’ve created this complete spa set full of little luxuries for both the mind and body.
Mens ishga x Fenella Smith Wash Bag Set
For his daily ablutions. This set is spot on for the man in your life… Our friends at ishga have filled our Vegan Leather Wash Bag with everything he needs.