Ella McLachlan has made a business out of her “Zen zone”. Like many Scillonians, she makes her living from the sea.
She founded the UK’s most westerly luxury beauty and well-being brand Phoenix and Providence.
Beauty aids come by the bucket and wheelbarrow load on St Martin’s, one of the five inhabited islands that make up the Isles of Scilly, 28 miles from Land’s End and the tip of Cornwall. And an hour flight from Exeter with SKYBUS.
“When I had two small children, I would find a moment of peace swimming in the sea. My mind and my skin always felt clearer. This sowed the seed of an idea to bottle the feeling you have after a wild swim and create a range of natural skincare products. I studied for a diploma in Organic Skincare Formulation between toddler naps and nursery runs.
“After three years of studying and formulating I had four skincare products ready to launch. During the 1700s seaweed was collected by islanders on the Isles of Scilly and burnt in the kelp pits (some of which are still intact). This was used for soap making. I loved the idea of this old seaweed heritage being brought into the modern day. Thus, the name.
“HMS Phoenix was shipwrecked in 1680, when the kelp burning began, and HMS Providence was shipwrecked on the islands in 1833, when the kelp burning ended!”
All the products are hand-made and infused with seaweed foraged from the shores of St. Martins and the unpolluted Atlantic waters. The products are available at the Hell Bay Hotel Spa on Bryher. the UK’s most westerly luxury hotel.
“Our ethos is that your skincare ritual should provide a moment of calm and connection. I wanted to capture that sense of calm and security swimming in the sea gives. That tingling feeling. After a sea swim, my skin always looks brighter and clearer. Seaweed is deeply hydrating and detoxifying, as well as being high in vitamin C and amino acid.
“My holistic approach to skincare also means using Phoenix and Providence products is a good reminder for me to practice what I preach and take a mindful moment to connect with myself! Each product has a ‘ritual for use’ breathing exercise you can follow. I encourage my customers to create a little time for self-connection when using Phoenix and Providence skincare. Each product, suitable for all skin types and genders, has a ‘ritual for use’ breathing exercise, providing a little moment of calm in our busy days.”
Ella studied law at Exeter University and after graduating spent some time travelling.
“I got a job at Churchtown Farm, a postal flower farm, on St. Martins. My intention was to save some money and experience island life before heading to London to pursue a career. After a couple of weeks of being on the island I met my now husband, Barney, and never left!”
Barney runs The Island Bakery on St. Martins. He had been holidaying on St. Martins since he was baby. His grandfather made a trip over to Scilly in 1950s on a bird-watching trip and loved it so much he brought a house.
“I actually gave birth to my son Marcus (my firstborn) on board a Royal Navy Sea King helicopter! We were being transported to Treliske Hospital as he was four weeks premature. My daughter Olivia was born in our lovely cottage hospital on St. Marys, a much calmer experience!”
Ella’s favourite swimming spot is Little Bay on St. Martins.
“It is a slice of heaven. We have a ladies swim group that meet on Wednesdays.
“My favourite product is our Nurture Face Oil. It took a long time to get the right balance of organic cold-pressed oils. The face oil sinks straight in, softens and hydrates skin whilst the antibacterial properties of the seaweed also help balance the skin.
The face oil also comes with a facial massage and tension release exercise devised exclusively by my yoga teacher! 10 percent of all sales are also donated to the marine conservation charity, Blue Ventures.”
Kevin Pilley is a former professional cricketer and chief staff writer of PUNCH magazine. His humour, travel, food and drink work appears worldwide and he has been published in over 800 titles.
Photograph courtesy of Phoenix and Providence