Naturally . . . cosmetics that are good enough to eat

Cork-based Bia Beauty is a range of natural skincare made with edible ingredients

I’m not sure if it’s the delicious creams and cleansers, the sunny tubs and tubes they come in, or the down-to-earth, homegrown spirit of the brand, but I’m a big fan of Bia Beauty, a natural skincare range from Cork, made with edible ingredients.

The woman behind the brand is Tracey Ryan, a Cork Institute of Technology (CIT) graduate in herbal science who became more concerned about what she was putting into and onto her body when she was pregnant with her first child five years ago. Using fruit extracts, herbs, butters, spices and nut and seed oils, she began making her own skincare products and nappy creams at home.

Bia Beauty was born out of a homework assignment. As part of her course at CIT in 2011, she was required to develop and market a natural product. As someone who occasionally suffers from dermatitis, she developed a handcream and began selling it at farmers’ markets.

The product was such a hit that she didn’t stop there. After a bit of legwork, Ryan moved production from her kitchen to a manufacturing unit, hired a staff that now includes six employees, and developed a range that extends from lip balms and body scrub, to nappy cream for babies and moisturisers for mothers. Her products are available in more than 100 stores in Ireland.


“Herbs play a big part in our products. Every ingredient is edible … and where we can, we buy local ingredients,” says Ryan.

She uses castor oil, immortelle and herbs such as calendula and mallow for their anti-inflammatory properties; vitamins E and A, neroli and myrrh for their anti-aging effects; and other quality oils such as sweet almond, thistle, coconut and evening primrose to protect, soften and moisturise the skin. Sweet almond oil has even been shown to improve skin tone and complexion.

An ingredient she is particularly keen to keep out of her products is sodium lauryl sulfate, or SLS, a harsh surfactant commonly used as a lathering agent in personal care products such as shampoos, soaps and toothpastes.

“I don’t put anything that foams or lathers on my face. It’s incredibly drying for the skin,” says Ryan, who uses an organic base made from coconut oil instead of SLS in her hand wash.

The range also excludes synthetic fragrances and parabens, opting instead for essential oils and plant-based preservatives. They do not test on animals and the only animal derivatives they use are honey and beeswax, provided by a local beekeeper in Cork.

It’s important to remember though that natural doesn’t necessarily mean better – many natural ingredients can irritate the skin. To make sure ingredients work for you, always do a patch test before rubbing something everywhere.

With colder weather on the way, Ryan says “it’s time to up the moisturiser, and we always say exfoliation is key, even for people with sensitive skin.”

The Orange & Grapefruit Facial Exfoliant & Cleanser (€16.95) should do the job. It combines thistle and castor oil with jojoba grains to cleanse and exfoliate the skin. It’s gentle yet very effective, and smells divine.

Follow it up with Skin Superfood (€12.95), a creamy moisturiser packed with sunflower and sweet almond oil and a number of herbs, including heartsease, which is believed to help with skin problems such as eczema and psoriasis due to its anti-inflammatory properties. It’s easy to spread, and a little goes a long way.

And parents, check out the gentle Baby Cream (€10.95), which combines calendula, aloe vera, evening primrose, shea butter and antiseptic zinc oxide for nappy rash and all over use.

So what’s next? Ryan hopes to have a serum and a travel set in shops by the end of the year and a men’s range out in 2016.