Immerse yourself in the wild beauty of Scotland through the journey of Dr. Sally Gouldstone, the founder of Seilich, as she harmonizes skincare with nature. In this interview, discover how her East Lothian-based company crafts sustainable, award-winning skincare products from handpicked botanicals, nurturing biodiversity in their own wildflower meadow, while positively impacting the conservation of Scottish wildlife.
Hi Sally, how are you? Tell us a bit about yourself and introduce your brand to our readers.
I’m good, thanks! My business Seilich (pronounced shay-lich) makes award winning natural skincare products which are made from powerful Scottish botanicals handpicked from our wildflower meadow here in the Lothians. I like to say our products are natural in the truest sense of the word as our ingredients have grown-up freely in a pure and wild place! As well as being the source of our unique ingredients, the meadows provide sanctuary for a variety of pollinating insects such as bees, butterflies and beetles and as a result we are the only Wildlife Friendly Certified company in the UK. We use our profits to create further wildflower meadows for the benefit of nature so our customers can be confident that when they buy our products they’re supporting the conservation of Scottish wildlife too.
Take us back to where it all began, what is your background and what made you start Seilich?
I’m a fanatical botanist and have worked in the nature conservation sector for over 20 years. Although I’ve worked all over the world I was most recently working as a research scientist at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh monitoring rare lichen species in our remote west coast rainforests. However, during my career I frequently found myself frustrated by the lack of long term funding available for conservation work, so I decided to start a limited company that used its profits to conserve nature. I wanted to prove that nature could pay its own way!
Where did the name Seilich come from?
Seilich is the Gaelic word for Willow which is my little girls name – it was whilst on maternity leave that I cooked up my plans for Seilich so it seemed only right that I named the business after her! You’ll see it in some Scottish place names too, particularly those of woodlands in the highlands.
A tough one, but can you pick a few of your favourite Scottish botanicals and tell us where you find them and how you like to use them?
My all time favourite plant is wild carrot, it’s the last plant to flower in the meadow and marks the end of the season, often being harvested in the last throws of the summer… its beautiful frothy white flowers form a sea that floats above the meadow; it’s feel like the meadow is having a final hurrah before it retreats underground for the winter. We have to wait until the flowers have turned to seed before collecting them and using to make a beautiful moisturiser (combining it with locally harvested Sea Buckthorn berries from the East Lothian coast). It’s one of my favourite products as it reminds me so much of the meadow at its absolute best!
Wild carrot can be found throughout Scotland though, anywhere with dry sandy soil (e.g. coastal areas), it looks a lot like cow parsley but has a tiny pink flower in its centre making it impossible to confuse!
Can you tell us a bit about the process behind creating your beautiful natural skincare products?
It all starts in the spring when our meadow wakes up from its winter slumber. As the natural year progresses, plants start to come into leaf and flower, and the meadow begins to buzz with life! At its height the meadow is an incredible sight and we begin our daily wanderings, hand picking botanicals that are perfectly ripe, from juicy plantain leaves to sweet smelling clovers. Back in the workshop the plants are either distilled to make essential oils (we use a traditional copper still for our distillations), infused to make glycerites or dried to be used in our oils. We then combine these ingredients together to make our beautiful unique products.
Where in Scotland are you located, and what’s it like in your community? Are there many other small businesses nearby?
Our workshop and meadow is located on the Prestonhall Estate which lies around 12 miles south of Edinburgh. The estate owner recently converted an old steading into a collection of small business units (called Rosemains Steading), so we’re part of an amazing community of artisan makers from potters and picture framers to coffee roasters and beer brewers!
What is your favourite Seilich product at the moment and is there anything new in the pipeline?
We’ve just launched a new product ‘Nature’s Secret Serum’ that is based on ‘Myrica gale’ (aka Bog Myrtle), an incredible aromatic shrub that grows in wet and wild places alongside sphagnum mosses and heather in the Highlands. Last summer we headed out to collect armfuls of the shrub before bringing it back to the workshop where we spent the next few months experimenting; distilling, infusing and macerating until we were finally happy we’d made the most perfect extract…. We named the serum ‘Nature’s Secret’ as I really feel this plant is one of nature’s finest secrets, being known for its amazing ability to treat a whole range of skin concerns from dry, sensitive, hormonal to ageing skin, although it’s rarely used in the skincare industry as it’s difficult to grow on a large scale.
INTERVIEW BY Eryn Inglis