Meet the Maker - Making Skincare Magic with Anna Halsall - Founder of The Witchery CPH
We caught up with Anna Halsall, the founder of natural skincare line The Witchery CPH to learn more about her journey and products.
Anna was born in Poland and after living in the UK, Switzerland and the Netherlands now calls Denmark home. At the Witchery CPH Anna aims to make sustainability sexy with her natural skincare brand built around cold-pressed seed oils, made from local raw ingredients like plum, tomato and onions. Anna makes sexy skincare that's great for the skin and great for the planet.
Hey Anna, Tell us a little bit about you..
Growing up, my two passions in life were arts and herbs. Before setting up The Witchery I worked in a few startups, then a stint in advertising and even had a corporate job working in a large Danish Bank. Corporate life brought a great salary, however I started to develop a variety of health problems, such as psoriasis.
I’ve always been very creative and after university I applied my creativity in illustration and design. But my passion for art and herbs never faded and I returned to this when looking for healing. I wanted to heal myself, initially by learning how to create my own skincare products to help with my psoriasis. A year and a half later, I took a leap of faith and quit my job to launch the Witchery CPH.
What inspired you to set up The Witchery?
The lack of local, unprocessed face oils from "everyday" plants. Everything in shops, even when marketed as natural and pure, was refined. All natural botanicals were gone, so oils could last longer on shelves. It reminded me of the juice business from twenty years ago, where everything was concentrate-based with lots of added colouring, sugars, etc.
I got started when I literally came across a laboratory by chance who allowed me to press a tiny amount of oils. At first it was just for my own use to cure the skin issues I was suffering from at the time. It very quickly turned into a proper business idea. And now at the Witchery CPH we aim to use local, boring plants to make sexy and sleek products. At the moment we are pressing beetroot seeds to make face oils.
What’s behind your brand’s name ‘The Witchery’?
Witches knew their plants and had the knowledge of their benefits. They were female healers, doctors and the first beauticians. Also, as the patriarchy has used the term to discredit women over the years, I decided to name our company just that.
Where do you find creative inspiration?
Food markets, travel and even in my local grocery store. I spend a lot of time thinking in the vegetable section…. Leeks? - what can I use them for? ... Onions? Bring it on!
Do you have any creative pastimes or hobbies?
I love to spend time in nature with my family. I am a forager and mushroom picker. My partner refuses to go mushroom picking with me because my obsession scares him! When I get obsessed, I get obsessed. There is no limit to my obsession or stubbornness. Once he had to stop me from jumping over a fence and picking a gorgeous specimen from somebody's garden. In my defence, there was nobody there and the house was a holiday home!
What does success mean to you?
Success for me means proving that you don't have to destroy the world to produce incredibly potent skincare and we do it in style. We only use local, fresh seeds to cold press our facial oils. Most of them are byproducts of food production, such as berry seeds and tomato seeds. This way we not only guarantee the highest quality of our raw ingredients, but also a huge CO2 and water usage reduction. Think of our oils as freshly pressed juices that have not been transported from across the world.
You’re passionate about sustainability - why is this so important to you?
Sustainability is the only way forward. We always look for new collaborative partners to make beautiful things together. Our packaging is very important to us. It is always glass, brown bottles. Our ethos is products brimming with local, unprocessed magic from nature.
How would you describe The Witchery in 3 words?
Pure, fresh and natural.
What’s your favourite product from your range and why?
Right now my favourite is our Good Morning Day Facial Oil with Tomato + Cucumber. It’s an Ultra light and nourishing oil packed with vitamins. It brightens, adds glow, protects the skin from the environmental factors, helps with sun damage and it works really well with makeup (if you use it). A summer superhero and can be used year-round.
Tomato Seed Oil is a rich source of antioxidants including tocopherols, lycopene, phytosterols, flavonoids and other carotenes/carotenoids. It is a great source of omega-3, 6 and 9 & amino acids including lysine. It offers a mild, natural UV protection (we always recommend using a good sunblock on top).
Cucumber Seed Oil is rich in vitamin E, is incredibly light and adds a beautiful sheer to the skin. It also adds a brightening and cooling effect. The both of them work really well together. We recommend the oil for all skin types, especially dry, oily and combination skin.
What are your favourite ingredients at the moment and why?
I believe that food and skincare are different sides of the same coin. Our products are made from the plants we eat. They are full circle.
A few months back we came across an amazing study, which proved that a mix of dill and blackberry extracts improved skin elasticity wonderfully. 25-27% to be exact after using it for 3 months in the lab setting. My thought was: let’s press some dill and blackberry seeds and make a neck and face oil! The following day I was on the phone with our lab scheduling the production and after months of sourcing, harvesting and pressing - we had our Blackberry & Dill Face and Neck Oil.
It’s a light yet velvety oil that smells like licorice. It’s packed with vitamin E and is a beautiful antioxidant for the skin. It moisturises it, softens it and helps fight free radicals. It also helps restore skin elasticity. Scientifically proven, this winning combo encourages elastin to work.
Which is your most popular product? Why do you think that is?
Plant retinoids are always popular (carrots, tomato, broccoli, rosehip), because we all want to maintain youthful skin.
Pure and beautiful vitamin A (retinol) to help your skin renew, heal, soften and glow. If you’re over 30 you should probably be using a retinol. Plant retinol is a lot more gentle than the synthetic one. It will not cause your skin to peel or dry up. And it smells a little bit like carrots.
Our Super Healer Broccoli+Carrot Face Oil, which is the best source of natural retinol for the night. I cannot live without it! Also our newly distilled face tonics. A lot of herbs were wild grown and are simply divine. A nice tonic such as our Rose Hydrosol and a face oil is all you need. Oils are pH neutral and protect your skin barrier. You will never go back the moment you start using one.
What’s new to your range?
Our newest products are our hair oils, Onion Seed For Hair Loss and Strawberry Seed Nourishing Hair. As we age, our hair becomes more brittle, thin and weak. Often it’s due to drop of estrogen (women), stress (cortisol), hard water, over processing the hair (dyes, styling) and weather.
Adding silicone laden hair products on top of your hair is guaranteed to look unhealthy. Silicone makes hair look nice initially, but since it coats the hair, it makes it weak in the long run.
I’ve never been that loving towards my naturally thin hair. Years of highlighting, using hairdryers, getting older (I’m 38), postpartum, all of that made my hair even thinner. But this year I vowed to be more loving towards myself and less judgmental. Because if we don’t show love to ourselves, nobody else will.
The results for me are that my hair is more shiny and strong. I see a ton of little hairs growing near my hairline and fewer hair in the shower drain. I was a bit skeptical about onion oil but it really works due to its high sulfur content. Sulfur makes keratin (hair protein) and it is also a staple hair treatment in Ayurveda.
Onion seed oil is your absolute must. The more you take care of the scalp, the stronger the hair will grow. It takes only four pipettes of oil and roughly 10 seconds to coat the scalp. Just apply to your scalp. I tie my hair in a loose bun and go to sleep then wash my hair in the morning.
Do you enjoy working as an independent maker - what are the joys, and what are the challenges?
I love working and collaborating with others. It's such a joy to meet like minded people, from designers to farmers and growers. I am very flexible yet somehow very structured, so working with a blank canvas that being a founder is, suits me well. Then there is always something to chase, pay, hide from, pack, ship, repack, re-post, forget and and cry about, but there is also a lot of pride in what I do. I like the idea of changing the world one step at the time. Plus if we don't make skincare I won't have anything to use myself....
What have been your business highlights so far?
I left my well paid corporate job a few weeks before lockdowns started in Denmark. In November my little popup shop got closed, and I thought I made the biggest mistake of my life. Since I only had five products, I packed the stock into my backpack and cycled home. It was cold, I felt stupid and numb. Then I checked my phone and saw an email saying that The Witchery CPH got backed by the Danish Innovation Fund who are similar to Enterprise Ireland. It felt surreal. And of course, getting our products to our customers in Ireland through our partnership with Faerly! ; )
Any advice for makers who are just starting out?
Enjoy the ride. Don't copy others, just express yourself.
What failure have you learned from?
If you run a production, failure is a daily thing, so you grow a thick skin and change the narrative from "I failed" to " I am not there yet"
A Peaky Blinders quote: "Why? Because we fucking can! Because we fucking can, and if we can, we do." Somehow it really speaks to me.
Do you have a favourite quote that inspires you?
Knowing what you know now, what advice would you give your 18-year-old self?
Things will improve, you will find yourself.
What does the next year hold for you and The Witchery?
Hopefully a new shop and collaborations with more retailers and we’re currently working on a new range of amazing oil-based soaps.
Describe your work in three words?
An organised chaos.
Mountains or sea?
Sea, I live in Copenhagen, very close to the beach, and swim daily from May until October. It helps to keep my anxiety down and makes me feel alive. There is nothing more magical than an early morning swim, then cycling back to the office with your hair still wet. Ok, it's also a bit of a flex and a statement.
Texting or talking?
I still cannot believe that there are people out there who call others!
What does a person need to be happy?
A few good friends, a place to call a home, somebody to miss, something to care about and health.
What are you reading?
Since I gave birth 10 month ago, and have not stopped running my business, the only thing I read is scientific herbal studies and the news.
Night owl or early bird?
Naturally an early bird, however since my son Leo was born, I wake up earlier than I'd like to.
The Witchery CPH skincare line is made entirely with natural ingredients that are by-products of European food production. The oils are extracting using the cold press process which preserves the oil’s unique properties. The vast array of products comprise face oils such as plum seed oil, face & neck oil with blackberry + dill and super healer facial oil with broccoli + carrot…and more to come!!! All packaging is rigorously minimalist in brown glass bottles that protect the contents from UV damage. See the range here.