What do mayonnaise and facial cleanser have in common?

Your first instinct might be to answer: nothing, a condiment and a skincare product couldn’t possibly have any connection. But that’s not necessarily true.

Well, not from Yvonne Naughton’s perspective anyway.

You see, Yvonne was a chef before she trained as a beauty therapist and then went on to design and manufacture her own skincare line.

When she first began tinkering around at home making skincare products, she found many similarities between the two careers.

Yvonne Naughton is from New Quay, Co Clare. \ Sean Lydon

“I was always making things at home, trying out different waxes and emulsifiers,” Yvonne says. “After being in the chef world, making a cleanser is kind of a bit like making homemade mayonnaise. You’ve oil and water. You need something to make them stick together and you need something to preserve it. Then keep it at a temperature where it’s going to be happy for the intended shelf life.”

Simple as, except you can eat one and not the other.

At this point you might be wondering, how exactly did Yvonne go from food to beauty and beyond?

Well, let’s find out.

Starting out

Yvonne grew up on her family’s farm in New Quay in north Co Clare. Today she lives just a mile down the road with her husband Gerry. They’ve two grown-up children, Seán and Katie.

“My husband is now a farmer. He wasn’t a farmer when we got married, but he’s a farmer now,” Yvonne laughs as we chat over a cup of tea in The g Hotel in Galway.

Yvonne Naughton making the Mervue Natural Skincare products. \ Sean Lydon

After school, although she wanted to train as a beauty therapist in Dublin, Yvonne ultimately ended up going to catering college in Killybegs, Co Donegal.

“In 1987 you’d be in New York as quick as you’d be in Killybegs,” she quips.

Yvonne came back closer to home and finished the course in what was then the Regional Technical College Galway, now Atlantic Technical University (or GMIT to myself and yourself). For a long time she worked in catering, before falling in with a local business, which would ultimately set the trajectory of her next career.

The Burren Perfumery makes natural perfumes (exactly what it says on the tin) and cosmetics. The opportunity to work there came about organically one day as Yvonne chatted to the owner.

“She said to me, ‘Can you cook?’ I said, ‘I can.’ She said, ‘If you can cook, you can make soap.’ So she gave me a recipe book and a stick blender. That’s how I started making cold-pressed soaps. That was just the way it went and I was there for about 14 years,” Yvonne recalls.

“That would have been the foundation for what I went on to do. I would have gained knowledge of the natural skincare world there. I went to Neal’s Yard [a natural and organic health and beauty brand] in London to do a good bit of training. I still go on training courses just to keep up with what’s going on.”

During this time Yvonne also trained in candle making with a man who makes candles for the Queen. And eight years ago she went back and trained as a beauty therapist, achieving what had been her dream in school.

In this course, Yvonne had a very influential lecturer, who encouraged her greatly.

“When I was in the beauty therapy training course, I had a lecturer who was just a gem. She used to say to me, ‘You’re really passionate about what you do. You should keep driving on until you get something you like.’ She’s now a lecturer in the Technological University of the Shannon (TUS/formerly LIT). She invited me down to have a chat with her second year business degree students recently about starting your own business.”

The wheel has gone full circle.

New horizons

Mervue Natural Skincare has been trading for the past year, but it’s over three years in the making. Yvonne has an investor in the business, who wishes to remain anonymous, and she is the head product developer.

Always one to look on the bright side, Yvonne says that the pandemic coming as she was starting out on this journey wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, as it gave her extra time to study markets and research and develop products.

The line has seven skincare products, as well as candles and diffusers. All the products are natural and some are organic. Yvonne says she loved designing the range, working with the raw ingredients and formulating them. In creating the skincare line, Yvonne developed a superfruit blend that is used in the products. It’s made up of cold-pressed organic essential oils. These are bought from a company that source the oils ethically.

Yvonne Naughton worked in the Burren Perumery before starting Mervue Natural Skincare. \ Sean Lydon

Mervue, in Yvonne’s view, is about more than just functional skincare. It’s also about wellness, about taking 10 minutes to yourself with essential oil infused products to look after yourself, physically and mentally.

The name Mervue is a nod to the area in Galway where the products are produced. There is a small team involved in the packaging and website design, but Yvonne is by far the most hands on. She manufacturers and packages all the products by hand in her lab.

“They’re very simple formulas and they’re very effective,” Yvonne says. “They’re gentle and they’re good for your skin in the long-term. There are no nasties in there. I think people like quick results and all that, but in the long-term if you are to invest in skincare products it would be well worth it.

“If you go into a chemist, for example, there’s just a huge market there. You can get a cleanser for €3 or you can get a cleanser for €40. It’s all about choice, but I think people do really inform themselves before they make a decision and they do a lot of research.”

All of the products are sold through retailers, mainly health food stores, chemists and gift shops both in their stores and online.

Less is more

As well as being natural and organic, another integral feature of Mervue is sustainability.

“For us, it was important that we were sustainable from the beginning. It’s not something that we have to start off with now again and put a whole amount of research into. While at the time going for all the accreditations like the Soil Association and Leaping Bunny (cruelty free standard)was very admin heavy, once it’s done, it’s just a matter of maintaining it.”

Waste-free living

Sustainability in general, Yvonne acknowledges, can be construed as something of a buzzword of late. She feels that people had sustainability down to a fine art years ago, before the term was ever in vogue.

“We had neighbours and they made everything themselves. They blanched fresh vegetables and made butter. We didn’t even know ‘sustainable’ was a word then. They were sustainable ever before it was a buzzword,” Yvonne says.

Yvonne Naughton making the Mervue Natural Skincare products. \ Sean Lydon

“At home when we were younger, we didn’t have a rubbish bin. It was very seldom things came in glass and there’d never be any waste. My mother, she appreciates nature. For me this is a natural brand and you have to respect nature, because otherwise you don’t get the raw materials to create products.”

Multipurpose products

All of the packaging, from the box to the bottle and the pump top, is recyclable. Interestingly, Yvonne actively encourages people to cut down on the amount of products they use. In that vein, she designed the products to be multipurpose and complement each other.

“There’s nothing worse than wasting. That’s why I make these products to be multipurpose. You put organic sugar into your balm and you have a scrub. Put a bit of rock-salt into it and you have a foot scrub,” Yvonne explains.

“If you need that extra bit of moisture, use the moisturiser and serum together. You can use serum and the balm together. I think sometimes as well, it’s about paring back on the amount of products you have in your bathroom.

“They say you could use up to 18 products in one day between your hair, skin and body. I mean that’s absolutely huge. The amount of bottles and materials being used, when I’m sure some of those products you could go without or double up and make them multipurpose.”

Yvonne is working on a spa range and hopes to get into more retailers, growing Mervue Natural Skincare as she goes.

“Who would have thought a few years ago that I’d be sitting here in The g with a little skincare range?” And it all started with a home cleanser, made just like mayonnaise.

Yvonne’s skincare tips

  • Skin works from the inside out. The first thing is to have a healthy gut. Drink plenty of water to hydrate your skin.
  • Products won’t perform well unless your skin is clean. Start with a blank canvas and make sure it’s clean. People who wear 24-hour foundations and heavy makeup like that, they’ve got a lot of oils in there, so you might need to double cleanse.
  • Try and get rid of any surface dead skin, because your skin sheds every 30 days. You don’t want to use anything that’s harsh and coarse. If you’re starting from scratch, you’d be better off to exfoliate twice a week gently, rather than going in heavy handed once a week.
  • Oils are hugely beneficial for your skin. Oils get absorbed by your skin straight away. Obviously skin is waterproof, so it takes a little bit longer for the products with water to penetrate. You want the ingredients to work at cellular level. Your skin is a bit like building a house, if you have a good foundation you’ll see the results.
  • Invest wisely in products. Look for your logos and look at the ingredients.
  • Try and pare back on the amount of products you use. Buy less, but buy better.
  • Let your skin breathe. Putting layers and layers of product on top of skin that’s compromised is not going to help it.
  • Keep your mobile phone clean.
  • If you can, invest in a silk pillowcase. They’re hugely beneficial for your hair and skin.
  • For more information and a full list of stockists see Mervue Natural Skincare online.