Wander into the back streets of Marylebone, past the hidden Moroccan café and the glinting shop window crammed full of feathers and beaded bonnets, letting yourself be led by the smell of fresh ginger and lemongrass until you find Content Beauty –a discrete treasure trove of natural health and beauty products.
Owner and manager Imelda Burke first became interested in alternative medicine when conventional medicine proved inadequate for her. She quit her job in fashion and began researching what other options were available. After curing herself and gaining a wealth of knowledge, Imelda was set on a journey that led her to open a store unlike any other in London.
Content Beauty has the range of a department store without the pushy sales girls. I am one of those people who regularly haunts the beauty aisles of health food shops and wonders what I am supposed to do with patchouli oil. But even with my vast knowledge of the beauty options available out there, I wasn’t prepared for the wide range of organic or synthetic-free beauty products on hand at Content Beauty. The boutique stocks everything from eyeliner to cotton wool pads, as well as handy travel-sized kits, to ensure you’ll be ethical abroad too.
This is very much a hands-on shop where you can test whatever catches your fancy. The shelves resound with the scent of niche British organic skincare brands like ila, Laidbare and Inlight, as well as international brands such as Dr Hauschka, Suki, and Dr Alkaitis. Content avoids big corporations and tries to source local products as much as possible, including the gorgeous Scent System perfume of natural fragrant oils at over £200 a bottle.
This may all sound a bit indulgent but when products like lead are used to make your eyeliner stay put, or talc (which has been linked to ovarian cancer) is found in everything from foundation to baby powder it really makes you think twice before you reach for your cosmetics. The majority of products in the store are all very reasonably priced, and when I passed by Liberty’s makeup counter on my way home, I was quite smug that my natural, organic (and rather jazzy) eye shadow cost less than big brand names that were jammed full of chemicals.
Burke is keen to point out that natural components to human life like oxygen and hydrogen are in fact chemicals, but what humans must avoid is an onslaught of synthetic chemicals. When, as Burke says, “an estimated 100,000 synthetic chemicals are currently registered for use in the US, and fewer than ten percent of them have been tested for their effects on human health”, we really need to know what we’re putting on our skin. What’s more, according to Burke, a staggering 89% of the 10,500 ingredients used in personal care products have never even been evaluated for safety by the Food and Drug Administration. The good news? You won’t need a scientific dictionary to understand the ingredients on any Content products.
Little quirks like the 1920’s hand mirrors or retro customer book as well as Imelda’s friendly and knowledgeable service, all make it a distinctly pleasurable place to shop. This feeling is carried across to the website where they even offer free samples by post so you can try before you buy. And if you can pull yourself away from all the tempting products, they also have a friendly naturopath downstairs who will help you with any skin or body complaint by reassessing your lifestyle with a holistic healthy approach.
14 Bulstrode St, Marylebone