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My light bulb moment: beauty innovator Sarah Brown

My light bulb moment: beauty innovator Sarah Brown, reveals the inspiration behind her organic skincare brand

  • Sarah Brown, 44, lives in London with her husband and their two children
  • She revealed that her inspiration for Pai came from hypersensitive skin
  • Sensitive skincare brand is now sold in John Lewis and Bloomindale’s in the United States

In 2008, Sarah Brown, 44, founded Pai, an organic skincare brand for sensitive skin. She lives in London with her husband and two children, seven and four.

I was in my twenties when out of nowhere I broke my skin into hives and became hypersensitive.

In a dermatology department at the hospital, I was told I had chronic urticaria, an autoimmune disease, and I was receiving high-strength antihistamines.

Trying to control my skin was a daily struggle. I woke up and thought, “Is it going to be a good or bad skin day?”

After I started working in the wine industry in the United States, I got a huge flare-up during a stressful meeting. My boss said, “What happened to your face?” I was mortified.

Sarah Brown, 44, (photo) who lives in London, revealed that the inspiration for Pai came from her experience with hypersensitive skin

Sarah Brown, 44, (photo) who lives in London, revealed that the inspiration for Pai came from her experience with hypersensitive skin

I started keeping a diary of what I had eaten, how I slept and, crucially, what skin care I used, and noticed a pattern in the ingredients I responded to.

Unlike the food industry, there is no regulation in the beauty industry that governs the use of terms such as ‘natural’, so there is a lot of mislabeling. I got a bathroom with products that claimed to be ‘hypoallergenic’ and ‘organic’ in the front, but their ingredient list was full of known irritants.

Back in London in 2007 I started mixing creams in my garage with good restorative properties such as rosehip and chamomile. Concentrating on a few core (but pure quality) ingredients was better than 94 in one formulation.

It took me two and a half years to get the bank to lend me £ 25,000 to buy ingredients, build a website and start with six products. Natural skincare had a somewhat homemade reputation at the time, so I wanted the packaging to be refined. Pai means ‘good’ in Maori (I’m half Kiwi) and that sums up what I wanted the brand to be.

The good life: paiskincare.com

The good life: paiskincare.com

The good life: paiskincare.com

Today, we have a 12,000 square foot factory in West London with 53 employees and are stocked in John Lewis and Bloomingdale’s in the United States.

Our single ingredient hero ingredient is rosehip oil, which has amazing regenerative properties. Our products are certified organic, cruelty-free and vegan and we won a Queen’s Award for enterprise in 2016.

Fifteen years ago, I just wanted effective skin care that I could trust. The last antihistamines I took was on my wedding day. I thought, “This is the last time I use this crutch.” And it was. Creating Pai was my way of taking back control.

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