Behind the Brand: Sarah Brown // Pai Skincare
PAI Skincare's cult success is grounded in a couple of principles - the highest quality, organic and natural ingredients and effective formulas that heal the most sensitive skin. We wanted to hear about the brand and what inspired the founder - Sarah Brown to create it.
What led you to create Pai?
My inspiration for starting Pai was actually a really bad rash! In my mid-twenties I developed a condition called chronic urticaria; overnight my skin went into total meltdown and became hyper-reactive.
Numerous visits to hospital provided no real solution and, in desperation, I turned to natural and organic products. It proved a shopping minefield—most products weren’t nearly as natural as they claimed and my skin couldn’t tolerate those that were! I hit a brick wall.
I finally took matters into my own hands—after keeping many product and food diaries, I started to learn what my triggers were and how to manage my skin better. I knew there must be other people in the same boat as me, so I set about to create a line of truly organic products that was backed up by certification and underpinned by a brilliant customer support service. I started creating my own products from a converted garage.
Twelve years later, here we are!
What is Pai’s philosophy?
We're a proudly British brand - but borrowed the Maori word "pai", meaning "good", as it sums up how I wanted to run the business. I’m dual nationality so the name is a little tribute to my (kiwi) Mum!
Our philosophy is simple. We’re help to help you feel good about your skin. And to do it with integrity. Our customer is always in our hearts but that ‘good’ mantra stretches beyond them to how we treat our environment and local communities too.
Tell us a bit more about the ingredients you use and why they work?
We’re passionate about ingredients and very discerning in our sourcing and selection of them.
There’s an extensive list of things we avoid, such as detergents and certain preservatives, but we also put a lot of thought into what we do include – and how we get the most from our ingredients when they work in combination.
We use lots of soothing organic extracts like German chamomile, which is bursting with matricine and chamazulene to calm irritable skin. We also use plenty of Omega-rich oils like rosehip and echium. They’re packed with essential fatty acids like alpha linolenic acid (ALA), gamma linolenic acid (GLA) and stearidonic acid (SDA), which help to rebuild and strengthen the skin’s barrier to prevent moisture loss and reduce flare ups.
It’s really important to include ingredients that actively help to actually repair sensitive skin and not just soothe it.
What should those with unpredictable skin be wary of when buying their skincare products?
The rules around labelling skincare as organic or natural are open to all kinds of false claims and many still contain synthetic irritants. Look out for products that are independently certified as organic by organisations such as the Soil Association (the UK’s largest organic trade association) or USDA to be sure what you’re buying stands up to scrutiny.
Also, be wary of words like ‘hypoallergenic’ and ‘made for sensitive skin’! Before I created Pai, I was dealing with my own skin issues and had a bathroom cabinet full of products bearing these claims - but they still caused irritation. Always turn the bottle round and read the ingredients list before you buy. There's a host of ingredients you might want to avoid, but key culprits include phenoxyethanol, sulphates, alcohol (denat.) and 'parfum' - the latter can be used as a labelling loophole to conceal up to 200 ingredients.
What’s the product you recommend the most?
I would always get people started with our Camellia & Rose Gentle Hydrating Cleanser. As it’s the product that is likely to have the biggest impact on skin balance and clarity. It’s super gentle and detergent free and shifts make-up and dirt in the right, non-disruptive way. It also smells divine so is a lovely sensory experience and bookend to your day.
What are you most proud of at Pai?
Keeping all of our R&D (research and development) and manufacturing in-house - it’s so hard to do as you scale. Everyone told me to contract it out and that I was bonkers to try and do it.
I passionately didn’t want to lose connection to our products though or control of the ingredients going into them.It has been a huge commitment to the cause but the best decision I ever made. We are one of only a few beauty brand manufacturers left and it really sets our products apart
What is your beauty routine?
In the morning I keep it quite simple, because of limited time, and because when you have sensitive skin less is definitely more. I rinse my face with water and then apply our Geranium & Thistle Rebalancing Day Cream. It provides the perfect level of moisture for my skin whilst being a great non-greasy base for make-up.
I spend a bit more time in the evening. I use our Camellia & Rose Gentle Hydrating Cleanser to remove my makeup and get rid of any other impurities. I'll follow that with a spritz of our Rice Plant & Rosemary BioAffinity Tonic - it really helps to calm and rebalance skin after a long day. Then I tend to switch between our Rosehip BioRegenerate Oil and our Echium & Aramanth Age Confidence Oil for a little overnight nourishment.
What is your favourite Pai product and why?
It would have to me our Rosehip BioRegenerate Oil. I just love its simplicity and purity. The ingredients are of such high quality and they’re not adulterated or diluted – so they really sing on the skin. Plus it’s really versatile, it can be used on all manner of ailments - dry skin, blemishes, scars, sun exposure...
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