Sustainable; natural; organic – these buzzwords of the moment can be bandied around, often with little authenticity. Unlike the food and drinks business, which is fiercely governed, the multi-million-pound organic beauty industry is largely unregulated. This allows brands to freely slap au naturel claims on packaging, often without validation.
One high-tech, holistic brand with a clean conscience, however, is Albiva. Housed in handsome wooden packaging, as appealing to men as it is to women, Albiva specialises in highly-concentrated, plant-powered skincare that promises to nourish, hydrate and repair. The lightweight Lift & Firm Moisturiser has been referred to by those in the know as ‘botanical botox’ and the brand has just launched two signature facials in partnership within Urban Retreat, which has recently unveiled a palatial new standalone location in Knightsbridge.
Founder Ivana Iesini’s interest in plant-based healing began as a child. Her grandmother Albina was a herbalist and together they would forage for ingredients in the rural surrounds of former Czechoslavakia, where Iesini grew up. Keen to understand the science behind skincare, she studied biomedical sciences, before spending five years on the trading room floor analysing and trading essential oils.
At the age of 28, she was diagnosed with a spinal tumour and underwent extensive back surgery. "Conventional medicine was making me ill", says Iesini, so she drew on her knowledge of science and homeopathy to help heal her scars and began to think about how this could translate into a skincare line. “It really made me reevaluate my life and think about what I was putting into my body.”
Thus Albiva was born, so-called after her grandmother. Iesini partnered with a laboratory in Slovakia, providing an extensive cachet of ingredients that she did and did not want in her products. “They thought I was crazy. I was adamant that when I brought my company to market, it had to have something different. I wanted it to be as natural and green as possible, but it also had to be efficient and effective.”
Albiva launched in 2018, following ten years of research development. Each product partners centuries-old ingredients with cutting edge technology, and Iesini's radiant, line-free complexion is the perfect advertisement for the brand. “New advances in biochemistry allow us to really know how and why certain herbs work, and what they contain. If you don’t eat a balanced diet, you will get sick, and it is the same with skincare. It needs to be balanced and formulated to work together.”
Unlike many brands, Albiva does not use what Iesini refers to as ‘filler’ ingredients, such as water. “I was adamant not to use any plain water within my products. Instead I use certified raspberry water, which is distilled directly from the fruit and acts as a skin softener. The laboratory thought I was mad – replacing water, which is free, with one of the world’s most expensive ingredients.”
Further rare inclusions include rosehip and jasmine oil, which is bought at £10,000 per kilo from Spain. “The jasmine oil contains benzyl benzoate, which is often considered a synthetic chemical. In this instance however, it is a natural constituent of the oil.”
Key to Albiva is Gemmotherapy, an emerging and advanced natural medicine that uses the buds and young shoots of trees and shrubs, thus capturing the essence of the plant in its purest form. It is something that Iesini is keen to explore the potential of further. "My dream is for the brand is to have my own spa, which incorporates gemmotherapy and focuses on overall wellness."
For now, a signature facial at Urban Retreat sounds like a good place to start.
The Albiva Advanced Lift and Firm Facial and Advance Repair Nourish and Heal Facial are both priced at £120; Urban Retreat at The White House, 2-4 Hans Crescent, London SW1X 0LH