Norwich vegan beauty brand beats Chanel to top award
- Credit: Juni Cosmetics
When working as a model and make-up artist, Madeleine White found she was prone to suffering reactions to ingredients in the products.
“Sometimes even if I didn’t have the product touching my skin, just being in a room with lots of hairspray, for example, would maybe trigger a bad skin reaction or migraine or something like that,” she says.
“I was working in film and doing lots of really big, exciting jobs, but found that everything that was being used around me was causing these reactions.”
Madeleine started researching the ingredients and discovered that a lot of people she was working with would also have reactions to products.
“They weren’t necessarily particularly severe, but perhaps they would wear a product and by the end of the day their skin would feel a bit itchy and dry, or perhaps they’d develop a little bit of eczema or something like that.
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“I made it my mission to find the best products that worked really well, but also would be gentle enough for people with very sensitive skin.”
The initial idea for Juni Cosmetics (the brand is named after Madeleine’s grandma and her birth month, which are both June) came about in 2018, when Madeleine experienced a low point with her health.
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And little over a year since it launched, the vegan brand has become a favourite of beauty editors and has just won an international award for its innovative 100% plastic free packaging, beating Chanel and Jimmy Choo.
“I decided that I would like to try something different and there was this gap in the market for products that worked and were suitable for people with sensitive skin, whilst also containing really lovely ingredients," says Madeleine.
“I was just chatting with my mum [Suzanne], and she’s always been very supportive of my ideas, so when I said that I’d like to start my own business she said that it sounded like a good idea.
“We didn’t really fully understand what it would entail I don’t think, we kind of had this dream and we started talking about it and developing our ideas and it just snowballed really.”
The research and development process for Madeleine and Suzanne’s first products – a capsule collection of five lipsticks which was launched during the first coronavirus lockdown – took two years.
Madeleine wanted the products and their packaging to be totally vegan and sustainable without compromising on luxury and sophistication, and they are 95% organic.
And determined to be 100% plastic free meant being innovative with their packaging.
The vintage-inspired bullets which the lipsticks come in are made from aluminium and are recyclable.
“We designed and manufactured the bespoke aluminium lipstick bullet ourselves and going forward all of our products will be 100% plastic free,” says Madeleine.
“We’ve been sure to make sure all of our boxes and all of our secondary and tertiary packaging don’t have any laminate coatings either because sometimes there are hidden plastics there.”
What is particularly eye-opening is that it’s not just the plastic that you can see which is a problem.
A lot of people think that it’s just the packaging,” says Madeleine.
“But actually, a lot of cosmetics contain microplastics in the ingredients.
“A good example of that would be the silicones that you find in shampoo and conditioner that create that really soft, smoothing effect. That’s actually microplastics.
“So that’s something we’re tackling as well and we are certified as being 100% microplastic free by an organisation called the Plastic Soup Foundation.
“It’s easy to visualise your plastic straws, and stuff in the ocean, but these microplastics, they’re not really visible to the eye, but they still have a very detrimental effect, not only on our health but on marine life health.”
Madeleine, 24, who was recently named one of the Eastern Daily Press’s Norfolk and Waveney 30 Under 30, speaks with real passion.
And that commitment impressed judges at the Paris-based annual PCD Awards, which recognises the most innovative new beauty packaging who said that the brand was “making a name for itself by demonstrating that change is possible at every level.”
“We’ve won two awards now for our bespoke packaging,” says Madeleine.
“The Pentawards and then the PCD Innovation Awards. We were up against really big names, for our most recent one we beat Chanel and Jimmy Choo, which as a local Norwich brand is a very big achievement.”
Their lipsticks have also won plaudits from industry insiders including the beauty teams at style bibles Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar.
Madeleine and Suzanne wanted their products to have long-lasting benefits as well as making the wearer look good, so the lipsticks contain botanical hyaluronic acid, which conditions, plumps and hydrates the lips a little more every time you wear it.
Their second product, the Rejuvenating Lip Treatment, is available to pre-order now and will be available later in the month.
“It’s an overnight mask, but actually it helps to improve the health of your lips over time, so it’s quite sophisticated. It’s not just another hydrating lip balm, it actually transforms the condition of your lips,” says Madeleine.
The next product in development is a range of versatile lip and cheek tints, which will hopefully launch by the end of this year.
Juni Cosmetics is a true Norwich brand – many of the people Madeleine and Suzanne work with are also from the city.
“It wasn’t actually our intention,” says Madeleine.
"We wanted to work with the best of the best so we were looking at suppliers and factories and creatives all over the world and it just so happened that our favourite people turned out to be in Norwich.
“We’re based in Norwich, our product designers are based in Norwich, we’ve worked with photographers, models, hair stylists, our website designers, our marketing and PR team, a lot of the people we work with are based in Norwich.”
Juni Cosmetics is available online and they are starting to build a physical presence in city stores too.
They’re available at Atwin in Bridewell Alley, and they’re set to be stocked at Jarrold. Plus, they’ve got a pop-up at John Lewis planned for September.
For Madeleine, helping people with sensitive skin enjoy the simple pleasure of wearing make-up again is the best part what they do.
“Being featured in magazines like Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar has been wonderful, but I’m most proud of the customer feedback that we get.
“We have so many customers actually make the effort to email us to say that they just love our products and they haven’t been able to wear lipstick for a long time because their lips were too sensitive or too dry or too sore and our products are the first that they can actually wear
“So when we get emails and messages like that it’s really lovely and we always celebrate that.”