From the maker of Dr Jackson, Modern Botany harnesses the extraordinary benefits of active natural ingredients
- Who is it? Pharmacognosist Dr Simon Jackson (of natural beauty brand Dr Jackson fame) and his partner and CEO John Murray
- Why do I want it? A slow-growing West Cork-based beauty brand creating 100 percent natural and mostly organic skin products that simultaneously boosts its local economy
- Where can I find it? At organic emporium Content Beauty, Marylebone, as well as online at modernbotany.com
Who is it? “I think I’m one of the last pharmacognosists,” Dr Simon Jackson explains from his office-cum-shed tucked at the back of his burgeoning garden in Schull, West Cork. We’ve just narrowly escaped a summer rainstorm after a tour of his flower and herb-filled garden and plant-trial field peppered with chamomile, calendula, borage, flax and evening primrose. These are, unsurprisingly, the cornerstone ingredients of Jackson’s new and second beauty brand.
Having launched his first, Dr Jackson, in 2008 with its ubiquitous brown glass bottles and Dymo-style typed labels, Jackson had sold his namesake label by 2015. In 2016, he and his partner in life – and now business – had created a new one: Modern Botany. It’s almost an ironic name since, as Jackson tells me, his breed of study is dying out, what with King’s College’s closure of its pharmacognosy department and the industry’s increased focus on genetic modification. But that’s exactly what the pair intend to change, bringing an elemental focus back into the modern beauty landscape. As well forming the basis of a new line of products, these humble herbs Jackson and Murray are lovingly watching over in their rural idyll are the foundation of Ireland’s wild plantlife – easily, but until now rarely, sown and grown in the vast but often difficult soil of Ireland. And it’s with these plants that the couple are starting a whole beauty movement.
Why do I want it? For now, the brand consists simply of a deodorant and a multipurpose oil which can be slathered onto face, hair, body or nails – both of which brim with the pair’s carefully researched ingredients. The brand’s maiden voyage began with the former, the antibacterial antiperspirant created in response to a growing call for paraben and aluminium-free deodorants (traces of parabens, widely used cosmetic preservatives, have previously been found in cancerous tissue; though no direct link between the two has been proven they’re increasingly being treated with caution). Inevitably, the natural deodorant market is already booming but what’s intriguing about this one specifically – beside its elegant and more eco-friendly glass bottle; its synergy of 11 antibacterial essential oils (the effervescently herbal-scented combo of witch hazel, lavender, sandalwood, eucalyptus, vetivert, coriander, lemon tea tree, clove, cedarwood, frankincense and chamomile); its use of tannins (harnessing the dry-mouth effect one experiences after a night of red wine which is full of the stuff) – is its impact on its local environment.
Now set up in their cottage of two years in West Cork, the pair, both keen botanists, spotted bounties of medicinal herbs growing wild in the countryside while acres of farmers’ land laid bare. Jackson and Murray have since been campaigning for local farmers to turn over their empty fields to these crops and reap the financial rewards. “Farmers wouldn’t turn a good field over to plant chamomile – they’d laugh at you,” Jackson explains. “But a farmer with poor soil will try anything: flax and chamomile will grow anywhere.” Having already secured numerous acres of their neighbouring farmer’s plots, their multipurpose oil – a delicious, skin-feeding concoction – will soon be able to boast a whole roster of traceable, organic ingredients, an achievement which has until now been impossible given the limited attention paid to many of these unassuming ingredients.
A body wash and cream emulsion are set to follow suit but for now, the botanists have their eyes turned coastwards, scanning the beaches for the region’s famously pollution-free seaweeds and kelps as they plot their next sea plant-based range.