Lockdown, Herbal Alchemy and Green Beauty with Tracey Ryan of Codex Beauty
Codex Beauty recently launched on The Clean Beauty Edit, as a clean and green, organic beauty brand with an admirable ethos and commitment to all things natural and sustainable. While Codex Beauty is an international brand, its heart and soul are rooted here in Ireland. Recently we chatted to Tracey Ryan, the brand's Managing Director and Master Formulator, to get her take on sustainable beauty, the power of plants and the best piece of advice she has ever received.
You are a herbal alchemist who has spent many years studying the powerful properties of plants. Can you tell us a little bit about your life-long love of plants and how it all began?
Sure! I have always been passionate about plants and the environment. From an early age I was foraging and making potions. I loved finding a plant, looking it up and figuring out what I could make from it. As I grew up, I wanted to learn more about plants and how to use them. I first studied Organic Horticulture when I was in my early 20s. I adored this course, the college was in County Limerick and I was living in a cottage nearby with a half-acre garden and a polytunnel so I could put into action everything that I was learning. I learned how to grow plants from seed and I learned so much about the organic way of farming. But most importantly to me I began to learn plant identification – I would walk in the woods or countryside and know how to identify native trees and plants. I started really experimenting with making things, basic medicines, foods and cosmetics. I knew then that my real passion was herbs and so I went and did a 4 year degree in Herbal Science in Cork. On this course I got a real grounding in science. I learned how to read research papers, I began to explore the constituents of plants and what effects they could have on the body, especially the skin. I really concentrated on experimenting with skincare products and herbs. In my final year we had to create a business plan as part of an Innovation Module, and I created a small skincare line and also a supporting business and marketing plan – Bia Beauty was born! I ran this as a small business for 7 years until we were purchased by Codex Beauty in 2018.
You are the master formulator (and mastermind) behind the Bia by Codex range, which features locally harvested, botanical ingredients from right here in Ireland. Can you tell us more about the key ingredients used in the range, and how you are able to harness the power of those botanical extracts to create high performance skincare?
The Bia line is based on both native Irish ingredients and the tradition of herbal medicine in Ireland. I not only wanted to use native ingredients but ingredients that are grown here in Ireland. As a herbal scientist I understand that where and how a plant is grown contributes to its efficacy and the potency of its constituents. So, I reached out to local organic producers to source our materials. We use native Irish seaweeds like Serrated Wrack and Bladderwrack which are hand harvested off the west coast of Ireland for us. We are starting to work with Bord na Mona who have converted 55,000 hectares of land to organic to grow native Irish herbs and we continue to look for producers that can supply us with organically certified Irish herbs. We use beautiful native ingredients like Bog Myrtle, Heartsease, Comfrey, Calendula, Mallow, Chickweed, Plantain etc. I choose plants that contain constituents that have beneficial effects on the skin and most importantly I choose the correct extraction methods so that the intended constituents are present. Everything we do at Codex has a scientific focus. We only choose plants and extracts that are backed up by research, we make sure we extract in the correct manner and all our products are sent for clinical trials to prove the claims that we make. Plants are potent sources of medicine and skincare, but it has to be tackled from a scientific angle in order for it to be truly effective.
Codex are deeply committed to sustainability, from your ingredient sourcing and manufacturing processes, right down to your sugar-cane packaging. Can you tell us more about your dedication to all things green?
I studied Sustainable Development alongside Organic Horticulture back in the early 2000s, so this is something I have always been passionate about. Our CEO Barb is also dedicated to sustainability – we call it Seriously Sustainable. We are not about green washing or ticking a few boxes we are deeply committed to sustainability and like with our product efficacy claims we have the data to prove it.
Our product tubes are carbon-reducing polyethylene from renewable sugar cane and our cartons are PEFC-certified. Everything is fully recyclable. We use biodegradable inks, tamper seals, glues etc. We are totally uncompromising when it comes to sustainable packaging, we prefer to use truly sustainable packaging rather than very wasteful luxury packaging. We’ve minimized our carbon footprint in shipping and distribution too.
We also love to create zero waste products like our recent Earth Day soap where we used the shavings of previous soaps to create a brand new bar!
In terms of ingredients we choose organic ingredients but also ingredients that are ethical and sustainable.
And to prove all of this we have COSMOS Organic Certification, Leaping Bunny, Vegan and Program for the Endorsement of Forest Certification amongst others.
What does your daily self-care routine look like?
I am skincare obsessed! As I work in R&D I am constantly trying new products and looking for inspiration and ideas. In the morning I use either our Codex Bia Wash Off Oil Cleanser or a gel cleanser I’m experimenting with and then I spritz with floral waters. I go straight out for a 5k walk after getting up. I love to be out walking on my quiet countryside road in the morning listening to podcasts, it gets my head in the right place for the day!
The rest of my skincare takes place after my shower. My Bia Eye Gel, an amazing elixir we have in R&D, Vitamin C based products I’m researching, Bia Day Cream and a little makeup depending on what I’m doing at work that day.
The day ends again with another 5k walk – I started this habit during lockdown and it’s the best self-care habit I’ve ever brought into my life. Night-time skincare is a lovely routine of a double cleanse featuring our Bia Exfoliating Wash and Wash Off Cleansing Oil. I follow that up with floral water spritz for hydration and a retinol-based night oil I’m working on and then I slather my skin in our Facial Oil and Skin Superfood for overnight hydration. I try not to take my phone to bed and instead flip through one of my many, many plant books!
What is the best piece of advice you have ever been given?
The best advice I have ever been given that applies both to business and personal life is to value yourself and your time. In business I think its very important to put the correct value on your product or your service considering the quality that you bring to it. I see so many new businesses that are craft or small based trying to compete with huge market leaders on price, trying to be the cheapest or the best value. When they would be better off competing on quality and offering a beautiful product or service that is full of quality and charging the appropriate price for it. Commanding a higher price point allows you to source better materials and source from other craft people and pay them a fair price, you can source materials closer to home, you can support organic, fair trade etc and you create exceptional products that last, give results and cut out the need to buy more and more. I try to keep this in mind when I purchase and support other small businesses.
You can shop Codex Beauty with us here and learn more about the brand here.
In 2020 we have pledged 1% of every sale to the Marie Keating Foundation, to raise funds and awareness for cancer support and prevention.