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Haeckels is using seaweed to change the tides of luxury beauty

Words by Philip Mak
Photography by Haeckels

Man walking on the beach with seaweed

July 02, 2019

Cleansing the cosmetics industry. A sea change is a profound transformation in perspective, often one that affects society at large. As humanity becomes more aware of our collective impact on the ocean, sustainable practices are often seen as such a wave — one that Haeckels is both riding and reinventing.

Founded by Dom Bridges in Margate, a coastal town in South East England, Haeckels innovates fragrance and beauty products using sustainably handpicked seaweed; the company has one of only two licences to harvest it in the country. The United Kingdom has around 700 species of the macro-algae, where it has been utilized for centuries as food, fertilizer and thalassotherapy (the use of marine elements for cosmetics and wellness).

Bridges’ former career as an advertising director made him realize he was helping sell products neither people nor the planet needed. Leaving that life and London behind, he and his young family moved to
Margate where he used his free time to clean the town’s shores. Seeing the clash of modern and marine life was a catalyst for Bridges to focus his values into a vision — and action.

"We are at a pivotal point in history where it’s make or break for our planet. We need to be doing better for our species’ and our planet’s future," says Bridges.

Knowing seaweed had beneficial properties for skin, he decided to bring some home from the beach and try his hand at soap-making: "You have to begin somewhere and soap was a good place to start — the range grew very organically from there. Everything was made with function and from a real need for a solution to a particular problem" says Bridges.

Lab with Seaweed
Man taking Seaweed in his hands

He continues, "I am definitely driven by watching the mistakes made by other brands and wanting to do better. Many create without purpose or function; their focus is on profit through the sale of products with enticing, non-recyclable packaging and poor, ineffective formulations. This has to stop."

"We are at a pivotal point in history where it’s make or break for our planet. We need to be doing better for our species’ and our planet’s future."
A deep dive into sustainability

The company has grown like a (sea)weed since those early days, with offerings across the fragrance, beauty and wellness spectrum that can be enjoyed at its Haeckels House shop and spa in Margate. Even as it’s getting bigger, the company is committed to staying better. It keeps its seaweed harvesting sustainable by handpicking within a tight quota.

Materials travel less than 20 miles to Haeckels’ lab and any marine life accidentally collected is gently brought back to the shore. The seaweed itself is rich in antioxidants and vitamins that soften and rejuvenate skin. Each product uses a highly effective algae extract, with customers reporting improvements in everything from eczema to psoriasis.

"We are passionate about educating and implementing solutions to make those changes. It’s not just about buying a product, it goes beyond that — it’s investing in a better future."

Getting noticed as a niche beauty brand can be rough sailing, though Haeckels has received coverage in GQ, Vogue and more. Bridges says it comes down to performance and purpose: "I believe it’s a combination of having those effective products and formulations, a genuine passion and dedication to make change without it being a marketing tool and having something that no one else has access to: our unique algae extract."

Haeckels additionally hosts beach cleans and incentivizes clients to do the same through its Rubbish for Products program.

"We are passionate about educating and implementing solutions to make those changes. It’s not just about buying a product, it goes beyond that — it’s investing in a better future," notes Bridges.

As concerns about plastic in the oceans washes across the zeitgeist, Haeckels has made packaging a focus — hiring a bio-designer to help it create and research better ways to house its products. It will soon launch mycelium wrapping for its candles and skincare that goes beyond sustainability by actually benefiting the planet when it breaks down.

The next wave

Looking forward, Bridges hopes to expand abroad: "We want Haeckels in seaside locations all over the world, building jobs and futures for communities, creating unique products using indigenous resources and showcasing the brilliance of our planet and the ocean without harming it."

"We want Haeckels in seaside locations all over the world, building jobs and futures for communities, creating unique products using indigenous resources and showcasing the brilliance of our planet and the ocean without harming it."

No matter how large the company gets, it is committed to keeping its footprint as small as possible. Partnering with a global platform like GOODEE will also help Haeckels reach new global audiences. For Bridges, there was no question in joining the purpose-driven platform.

Man working at Haeckels

"We are inspired by other creatives and brands that create for the good of others, so to be part of a community of like-minded people is brilliant. Byron and Dexter have built this amazing platform and we feel very excited to be part of GOODEE. We hope to use it as an opportunity to educate and inspire a new audience!" he elaborates.

Together, we can create the change we want to see — and sea.

Philip Mak photo
About Philip Mak

Philip Mak is a London-based freelance copywriter and journalist. His work usually covers sustainability, culture, and fashion and beauty though he will try anything once. When not writing, Philip is probably shopping, travelling or doing nothing to save for the first two.

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