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The Organic Pharmacy Founder Margo Marrone on 20 Years of Natural Evolution

July 31, 2022
July 31, 2022
The Organic Pharmacy

The Organic Pharmacy, co-founded by homeopath and pharmacist Margo Marrone, has been fusing a “nature with nurture” approach to health, wellness, and beauty since 2002. Beginning with an outpost on King’s Road in West London, the company has been bringing a nature-fueled approach to products and beauty treatments.

Marrone’s Iranian upbringing played a pivotal part in launching the enterprise. “As a child, I remember my mom used to take me to the bazaar. There was an apothecary that had all these different-colored herbs and spices, where the owner would mix everything up onsite for you. I very much grew up assuming that natural treatments are always the first course of action before seeing the doctor,” she recounts.

The vision beyond The Organic Pharmacy was to offer homeopathic remedies for health ailments, with products (containing trusted ingredients) presented in an aesthetically minded, modern way. “All of those visions came together to create this place where you could come get a facial, speak to a homeopath, get your remedies dispensed, and do some beautiful skincare shopping, knowing that everything was organic, safe, and great to use. But also feeling really good while doing it,” she adds.

Since then, the push for organic has seen seismic growth, and with it, The Organic Pharmacy’s offerings, be it a new retail spot or a publication offering a host of health and beauty solutions for customers at home. In the UK alone, the certified natural and organic beauty products market is worth £138.23 million. In 2027, the global market value for natural cosmetics and personal care products is expected to reach $50.5 billion.

Beyond products and its own spa services, The Organic Pharmacy also currently works with 40 different hotels globally on their service offerings, which makes up roughly a quarter of the company's business (the rest is on the consumer side). "We've seen a massive increase in demand in the last year. The industry obviously suffered terribly, but coming out of lockdown, almost every single spa is asking for wellness. We're thrilled because that's how it should be," Marrone states.

She admits that diving into ingredient safety and transparency isn't always a simple endeavor. "It is like a grieving process. You find out that there are toxic chemicals in the products that you have been trusting and using for years. First, you're shocked and in disbelief, then you become angry. Then comes the different stages of acceptance and what am I going to do about this? How am I going to change it? Start within your own life and then once you're in there, share that with others."

While today many people are reaping the beautiful benefits of such an approach, two decades ago it was a different matter. “When I first started, I used to get all sorts of awful comments, it’s been a huge challenge to get this message across over the years. The fact that the whole industry has changed and all these products are available is even better. That was always my desire: people should be given a choice whether they want to use the fully chemical synthetic or the more natural option, but it should be an informed choice,” she states. Marrone found a fellow companion in Dr. Philippa Darbre, who published a landmark study on parabens in breast tumors, but both encountered threats when trying to spread their findings to the general public. “People were getting very aggressive and my answer to them would be: ‘Listen, this is not me, creating this information out of my head. These are peer approved scientific journals that are published by professionals, doctors, scientists, and PhDs,” Marrone states.

An ingredients-focused approach to skincare soon evolved into The Organic Pharmacy’s expansive product range today, incorporating everything from supplements to color cosmetics. “I was treating people with skin ailments and making different formulations for them to help with problems like acne and rosacea. The results were so good because I combined that with the internal. Now we all understand that you can't separate the skin from the rest of the body, that the health of the body is a reflection of the skin. Combining all of those together was what I did from the start,” Marrone recalls. “The challenge was to explain that to people. Yes, using a skin cream is phenomenal, but it's not going to replace taking antioxidants or eating well and cutting out sugar. It’s about bringing that whole process together.”

One of the current offerings of the brand that brings these worlds together is a detox kit which combines supplements with a dry brush, cellulite-reducing body oil, and a guided meal plan. “We've been using it for the past 20 years and it's interesting because I always see the market go in full circle. Four years ago, detox was a taboo word. Nobody was allowed to talk about it. Nobody was allowed to use it. People felt that it was a derogatory term. But during COVID, it has really become highlighted as such an important and fundamental cornerstone of well being,” she explains.

Indeed, the pandemic has perhaps been one of the most single biggest drivers towards a more holistically minded lifestyle and increased interest in efficacious yet natural remedies, be they for cosmetic or nutritional purposes. “The very fundamental nature of us as humans is that we need to be putting things in our body that are good for us. That's why I felt so passionate about the body being the cornerstone of it. As The Organic Pharmacy, we help people understand what a difference that can make to their lives. It's identifying what that person needs and prescribing it for them,” she explains, citing factors such as intense exercise and work stress as lifestyle examples that can sway nutritional needs in one direction or the other. An emphasis on high percentages of natural ingredients, with true ingredient transparency and proven efficacy, have been key drivers in The Organic Pharmacy’s success. “We are drawn to nature, it’s fundamentally who we are. Companies and brands utilize that love and desire for nature, but for something to be truly natural, it needs to be between 80-100% natural,” she explains. Given Marrone’s background, the formulations are also based on homeopathic medical medicinal principles, using 5% of pharma-compliant standard herbs. “On top of that, everything else in it works towards it. So the smell is essential oils that will add to the activity of it. The oils and plant-based waxes and butters all have their own beautiful activity. The whole formulation works in synergy together,” she says.

The mission goes beyond the mere physical body and into the spirit. “Doing work on ourselves as human beings is fundamental, becoming aware of what we can do in unity, for other people and for ourselves. Simple things like yoga, meditation, positive thinking are so important,” Marrone comments.

While there has certainly been much debate around product safety and efficacy in recent times, what is undoubtable is the vast growth of ingredient-focused, nature-derived product lines. As a frontrunner of the genre, The Organic Pharmacy still stands strong amidst the large influx of brands, remaining steadfast in its ethos since day of inception. “The Organic Pharmacy is still about wellness of the skin, mind, and body. The most important thing is to be open and authentic, because otherwise you're just a brand trying to sell as much product as possible,” Marrone says. “We want to be able to really make an impact on someone's life. One of the things that I enjoy the most is listening to that. I've heard countless people who've gone through chemotherapy, cancer, and all sorts of ailments share some beautiful stories [of recovery] with us. That's what makes us tick.”

Throughout its evolution, some immediately embraced The Organic Pharmacy's approach, while others have understandable hesitation. "We have two [consumer] camps: the very passionate and the extremely skeptical, who thought organic is rubbish, it smells, and doesn't feel good. And you know what? They were right, and that was one of the things that we wanted to change. That was the first five years and then, as it became more accepted, we found that we were attracting more like-minded customers. Word-of-mouth was very powerful for us," she recounts. The past decade has been the most pivotal for the company, with a shift towards preventative medicine proving crucial. Especially, a younger audience is embracing The Organic Pharmacy's holistic, organic, and sustainability focused mindset.

As for future plans, the company recently introduced a spa-only professional line, as well as a collaboration with British fashion designer Serena Bute consisting of a limited-edition body product set packaged in a vibrant neon orange and pink bag. The company is also expanding into wellness fragrances come October. In short, The Organic Pharmacy is finding creative new ways to spread its message of mind/body/spirit wellness, one nature-focused offering at a time. "Our hardest critics are the ones that are the best comebacks," Marrone notes, "because as soon as they see the results themselves, the biggest skeptics become the most loyal fans."

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