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The mother of holistic skincare

Introducing the UK’s only cosmetics company to certify its entire range organic and Fairtrade
Katie Hill - Editor-in-Chief, My Green Pod
The mother of holistic skincare

This article first appeared in our COP28 issue of My Green Pod Magazine, published 30 November 2023. Click here to subscribe to our digital edition and get each issue delivered straight to your inbox

Sam Thurlby-Brooks was on a winning streak when she did something the business world needs to see a bit more of: she gave up on her first invention – when sales were strong – because she could see it would have a devastating long-term impact on the environment.

Sam, an advanced specialist in pregnancy, labour and postnatal massage, had created a unique self-inflating pregnancy pillow.

‘Just before I was going to place an order, the climate crisis became really apparent’, Sam remembers. ‘I couldn’t bring myself to make more plastic inflatable pillows knowing they would end up in landfill.’

It’s hardly surprising that when Sam refocused her Mumanu brand on organic balms – evolutions from the pregnancy-safe massage balms created to complement her massage treatments – she did so with a holistic approach that took in everything from the impact of the ingredients to fairer pay for farmers.

Just like that, Mumanu became the UK’s only cosmetics company to certify its entire range organic and Fairtrade.

Avoiding greenwash

There are no laws regulating the terms organic, natural or fair trade on cosmetics products in the UK. A 99% synthetic product with 1% organic ingredients can still be labelled organic.

‘That’s not cool with me’, Sam says. ‘We need the same regulations for cosmetics, wellbeing and cleaning products as we have for food and drink.’

For Sam, third-party certification is the only way to guarantee a product is ethical. ‘Being Soil Association certified COSMOS Organic means people can trust my products to actually be organic – and to the highest standards’, Sam explains. ‘Some organic certifications are not as strict as COSMOS, and some are not third party. I don’t see that you can trust certifications set up by the brands that are using them.’

Sam also chose to certify all Mumanu’s products with Fairtrade so that farmers and producers are paid a fairer price for ingredients, with slavery and other human rights violations prohibited.

‘Many ingredients in skincare come from lower-income countries in regions of Africa and Asia where there can be limited regulations protecting the safety and rights of workers’, Sam tells us. ‘As far as I’m concerned, beauty should never be at the expense of someone else’s happiness. Farmers should never live in poverty just so I can have soft, moisturised skin.’

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Snot and sex

Sam’s approach has resulted in a diverse range of Mumanu products, each with its own special place in the market.

The two bestsellers are the Decongestant Balm and the Personal Lube. ‘Snot and sex seem to sell!’, Sam jokes, but she’s clearly tapped into some underserved markets.

‘The Decongestant Balm is different in that it doesn’t contain petroleum and has safe, gentle and effective essential oils without feeling like it’s burning’, Sam explains. ‘The Personal Lube is also really special’, Sam says. ‘It’s solid at room temperature so it won’t spill if you leave it open to avoid fiddling with the lid in the heat of the moment. With no petrochemicals, silicones or harsh ingredients, it’s basically food – and safe for all sorts of antics.’

The cost of organic

Organic is the gold standard for therapeutic value, and beneficial to our own health as well as that of the wider environment. ‘We need to protect nature and certified organic is the best way to do that’, Sam says.

But now more than ever, affordability is a very real concern for most. ‘Not all certified organic beauty products are that much more expensive’, Sam asserts; ‘it’s about making choices and minimising the products we use. Most Mumanu balms have multiple uses, plus a little goes a long way. If cash is really tight, even moisturising your skin with certified-organic sunflower oil would be better than buying a non-organic product.’

Certification also costs money; is it realistic to expect it for all beauty and wellness brands? ‘Yes absolutely!’, Sam exclaims. ‘I started Mumanu on a shoestring, but I immediately got the products certified with Soil Association and Fairtrade. It was important to me to have both certifications for health, environmental and ethical reasons.’

‘It’s about what’s important to you’, Sam continues; ‘if you want to have a planet to live on – a planet with diverse wildlife and healthy food and ingredients – then certified organic is the best way to achieve that.’

The everyday mother goddess

The name ‘Mumanu’ combines Mum (mother) with Anu, a Celtic fertility goddess; the intended meaning being ‘the everyday mother goddess’.

‘Now I don’t focus exclusively on maternity Mumanu leans on the other meanings of Anu’, Sam explains; ‘the divine mother goddess who nurtures and protects, overseeing the quality of the land and prosperity of the people. She’s the embodiment of feminine energy.’

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