Skin Care

Catching the zeitgeist

- the ethical consumer, vegan skin care and the creation of The Linseed Cream

Many people these days are not only choosing food for health, they are increasingly looking to take a more natural, ethical approach to skin care, Here, at The Linseed Farm, we've been on a similar journey. And as we launch a new ‘skin food' range, we thought it was worth looking back to see how we got to this point.
When the first oil emerged from the press 20 years ago, using seed grown on our own farm, it was a kind of miracle. We'd first produced the oil for animal consumption because, as most farmers knew, linseed made their coats shine with health! But lots of reading and research revealed that this ancient plant had many, long-forgotten properties that had been used by our ancestors for our benefit, too. That led us to sell linseed oil to the public for human consumption for the first time. It was a huge challenge for a small, family farm, as we had been, and it proved to be life changing.

Finding bottles and labels and encapsulating the oil into our famous Linseed Pods, wasn't easy but, eventually, the first product was posted out. Farmers markets and London shows at Earls Court and Olympia were attended. And soon we started to receive feedback. People claimed their aches and pains were lessening and even their thinking was clearer! Women in particular were saying they'd noticed how their skin, hair and nails had improved. And, best of all, vegetarian and vegan customers came to us in their droves.
Reaching out to more of the public required lots of initiative, with events being held at the home farm, and talks elsewhere, helping to spread the word. Over the years, various advertisements were also run - including one campaign featuring Egypt's legendary Queen of the Nile. Every school child seemed to know that Cleopatra had bathed regularly in asses' milk. Why? Was the question we asked. The answer is that milk from the ass contains 38% Omega 3 - more than any other mammal’s milk, including human. We don't know how much, if anything, Cleopatra understood of the science of oils and fats, but what those clever ancient Egyptians had observed was that asses' milk worked in an anti-aging regime to keep wrinkles at bay.

While asses' milk is an animal by-product rich in Omega 3, Linseed contains more Omega 3 than any other plant-based source – 60%, in fact. And, so, the queen famed for her natural beauty wisdom became part of our campaign to sell linseed oil. Posters and postcards featuring Cleopatra were produced and another marketing idea was added to the repertoire.
Some years later, a chance discussion with a fellow stallholder at a farmers' market resulted in the first linseed skin cream being jointly produced. The lavender-scented cream joined the other products in our online shop and at shows and markets. Over the next two or three years, without much advertising, many pots were sold with plenty of repeat orders. But as the cream contained Vaseline and lanoline, which some people were allergic to, we decided a much more natural product was needed. After a two-year break, we brought a new, vegan Linseed Cream to the market in September 2019 and Cleopatra was once again chosen as the ambassador. It seemed the perfect match. The ancient Egyptians were great growers and users of linseed. As well as asses’ milk, Cleopatra might well have had a similar cream to ours, made by macerating beeswax, lanolin and other essential oils, to use as part of her radiant beauty routine. This is the ancient and modern link.
As we age, our skin changes, losing some of the beauty and elasticity of youth. It shrinks, fine lines appear and it is less supple. Linseed rehydrates the skin, smoothing out those wrinkles and restoring its natural glow.

Why is linseed so good at this? Because the essential fatty acids – mostly Omega 3 – in linseed rehydrate stressed skin, sealing in moisture and making it more resilient against the drying effects of modern environments – such as air-conditioned offices, centrally heated homes, and stuffy airline cabins. Recent research has also confirmed what many of our clients had told us: that Linseed can help calm irritated skin.
Not only does linseed produce a luxury face and body cream but combined with daily linseed in the diet, it will keep your skin looking young and healthy all through life.The pictures that we've used to promote our new vegan Linseed Creams were taken in our linseed fields in 2019 by drone and with some extra magic produced our wonderful blue planet. The portal looks through into a field of flowering linseed that is the raw ingredient for all our skin food. You could also see it as being a portal to the past – to when Cleopatra was wisely reaching for a natural way to keep her famously good looks. All these strands came together just as people are contemplating a more natural approach to their skin care.
This is serendipity for us and a super luxury skin food for you. Click on the link to shop the skin food range.

Durwin Banks

The Linseed Farm

October 2019

The Magic and Mystery of Soap

Keep clean, green and be environmentally friendly the naturally soapy way.

The Magic and Mystery of Soap 

Keep clean, green and be environmentally friendly the naturally soapy way.

When we set out to make soap using linseed grown on the home farm, we had no idea what an historic path we were on.

We knew we wanted to keep the ingredient list short and animal-free, and we didn't want to use harsh chemicals or production processes that meant that while it was removing dirt, it was also stripping natural oils from the skin - that 'dried-out-after-a-shower feeling' that makes you reach for the moisturiser.

But when we started researching, we found that there is a lot more to soap than meets the eye. For a start, it has a very, very long history – there's evidence of a soap recipe written on a Babylonian clay tablet dated to around 2200 BC! And soaps may have been one of the first home products to transition into a fully industrial process.

Various soap-like materials, it seems, have been made for millennia, in the early days mainly using animal fats and ashes from burning various shrubs. As time went by and the process became big business, large factories made soap in huge vats. When this happened in the UK, the wily old chancellor had his eye on it for raising money and taxed it. In 1632, the levy was £4 per ton. By 1712 it was up to £25 a ton, almost equalling the cost of production. In 1852 the soap duty was abolished, and the government took a hit of £1,126,000 in lost tax revenue. But at least it was cheaper for people to stay clean! Today, the tax is back up 20 per cent - still, you might think, a considerable sum for the right to good hygiene.

In the early days of industrialised soap production, imported linseed oil, along with palm and cottonseed oil, were used. But we believe our cold process linseed soap is unique today. Here's how we produce our luxurious lather bars.

Natural Linseed soap bars during the 4-week curing process

Traditional cold-process soap making

Unlike most large-scale manufacturers, we make our Linseed Soap in small batches, using a cold process. It is engineered by us to be five per cent super-fatted. That means it will leave one per cent residue of the precious, moisturising linseed oils on your skin, gently restoring softness after each use. Compared to commercial soaps, Linseed Soap is less alkaline, so it's much closer to neutral pH, putting it in harmony with the needs of the body. There are no added perfumes that risk irritating your skin. Instead, it is carefully formulated to release a delicate scent of pure, high-quality, home-grown linseed. The soap makes a natural lather - there are no harsh chemicals added to make it artificially bubble. And your skin feels silky smooth after washing because we focus on producing a conditioning effect, balancing the mix to maximise the beneficial linolenic (Omega 3), oleic (Omega 9), lauric and linoleic (Omega 6) fatty acids that naturally occur in linseed. Unlike the hot process of commercial soap making, which means bars can be used straight away, we have to leave our soaps to cure for four weeks, and, like us, they get better with age!
There is a widely used metric for rating the various properties of soap (no, we didn't know that, either, until we started researching!). See how ours compares to the bracketed figures in the graph below. You can see Linseed Soap is not too hard, it comes near the top for cleansing, and its way out in front for conditioning. When it comes to being bubbly and creamy two elements that are generally increased by the addition of unnecessary chemicals to soap ours displays its natural character. We will never add anything that takes away from its natural properties.We mentioned some seriously good fatty acids earlier. Now those are something we do know a lot about having spent years learning more about them in relation to linseed. There are 25 fatty acids found in the body but we're just going to focus on four of the most important for a healthy, happy skin, all of which are found in abundance in our soap (see graph below).Linolenic acid, (known as Omega 3) was called Vitamin F, (although it's not a true vitamin but really a fat). This provides moisture and 'plumpness' without weighing down the skin; it fortifies and protects the skin's barrier, thereby helping to fend off UV rays and air pollutants, such as smoke, both of which cause free radical activity that can result in wrinkles and signs of aging.

Linoleic acid, (known as Omega 6) was also referred to as Vitamin F-a bit confusing but it was because both this and Omega 3 are known as essential fats. Generally, our diet and skin creams contain far too much of this Omega 6 type, which is the precursor to an inflammatory pathway. As you can see from the graph, our soap is low in linoleic acid and high in linolenic acid, making it balanced – just what the skin needs. This is what we mean when we say our soap is engineered for the best balance of fats for the skin.

Oleic acid (Omega 9). This one is a godsend for dry, aging skin since it penetrates easily and deeply into the skin's surface, replenishing lost moisture that naturally comes with age. It also helps prevent the moisture from evaporating.

Lauric acid This fatty acid one might ring a bell because there has been a lot of talk about it recently. Lauric acid is found in, among other places, coconuts from which it's extracted to make a substance called monolaurin, an antimicrobial agent that's able to fight pathogens, such as viruses and bacteria. A 2009 study found that lauric acid could reduce the number of Propionibacterium acnes bacteria, which are found naturally on the skin, but when they overgrow lead to irritation and acne. Researchers found lauric acid worked even better than benzoyl peroxide, a common acne treatment, in calming the skin.