WHEN Latvian-born Alise Maurina experienced skin issues, she was advised to try seaweed baths as a solution. Not only did it help her, she has now turned it into a new business, selling Slánú seaweed bath soaks which promise a luxurious spa experience at home.
“I had a few skin problems myself, like eczema and rashes,” she recalls.
“Back then I started using seaweed; that’s what a supplier told me, that I should try it and see how I get on. I completely fell in love with seaweed itself. This is only from my own personal experience, but I didn’t have any problems with my skin since really. After lockdowns and having a bit of time for myself, I just said maybe I should spread the love.”
Although Slánú was only launched in August, it would seem fate was pointing her in this direction for quite some time.
“I worked in the health food industry for a few years. My main job was researching products and looking for new trends. This was maybe six years ago. We would have been selling edible seaweed and some other seaweed products.
"I was always amazed even back then about how many seaweed varieties there are in Ireland. Living inland, away from the sea, I kind of felt that I wanted to bring the sea a bit closer. So that’s how I got to know the products,” she explains.
The inland location she speaks of is the Ballyvourney region, where she has lived since she was 12 years old. And she has even picked up the Irish accent perfectly.
Explaining how she arrived there, she says: “My mother and I came on holiday here and that week on holiday she met another Latvian man and we never left! I’ve made this my home now. It’s been an adventure!”
She has now firmly put down her own roots, having married her husband, a freelancer for TG4, last July. Even on honeymoon, seaweed came into the conversation.
“Myself and my husband actually took one of those seaweed baths and he was saying wouldn’t it be great if we had something like this at home all the time. That’s how the idea was born. I thought, ‘I might do it’.”
Alise’s Slánú product uses the Fucus Serratus variety of seaweed. It is sourced in Connemara, where she buys it in bulk after it has been dried, and then she takes care of the packaging and marketing.
Speaking about the process, she says: “They harvest it in March. They sustainably cut it so that next year it grows again. There are a lot of places that rip it out which would be the wrong thing to do.”
Sustainability is important to Alise and she carries that environmentally conscious ethos through to her packaging, with Slánú sold in glass jars.
“When I worked with health foods, I saw that there were bath soaks already but I was always amazed that they’re packaged in plastic. The sea and plastic… it’s not really a good environmental combination. So back then I thought if I was going to do it I’d probably do it some other way.”
Glass jars may not be the cheapest items to post and Alise was keen to find pouches that could easily biodegrade when chucked in a compost bin, but so far she hasn’t been able to source any she would be happy to use.
However, she has now reduced the postage price of the jars to €3 and it’s free shipping when three or more jars are purchased together.
“The product is completely zero waste. You can re-use the jar. And after you use the seaweed you can re-use it in the garden,” she says.
“Seaweed has a natural growth hormone. If you were into gardening, there’s a powder to put in cuttings to help them produce roots. That powder is made from seaweed.
“Even seaweed that is washed up by the sea is brilliant to bring home to your own garden as a natural fertilizer.”
However, her Fucus Serratus variety is the one she recommends for skin, as it is rich in natural oils, sulphur, iodine, Vitamin A and Vitamin E, useful for relieving psoriasis, eczema, acne and dry skin. It is said to relieve aches and pains, while it is also believed to help against the signs of skin ageing.
The seaweed should be soaked in a bath of hot water, which will cause it to hydrate and release its mineral- rich properties in an oily serum. Squeezing the seaweed will help to release more serum and nutrients.
“You have to allow a lot of time to relax and enjoy it, so bring a book or a glass of wine,” advises Alise.
“I’d have a lot of anxieties myself so that is how I spend my ‘me time’. I do a lot of walking and hiking, so even when you come home from climbing a mountain and you’re freezing cold, just to get into the bath and experience that refreshing feeling and relieve the aches and pains from your feet and muscles, I find it great for that.”
And where does the name come from?
“Slánú means ‘Afterbirth’ in Irish. It’s that feeling of being born again, full of energy,” she explains.
Although a very new business, the feedback has been great so far.
“Most of the people who first bought from me gave them away as presents and now people who received them as presents have got onto me to buy more,” she says.
Alise has just wrapped up an eight-week Local Enterprise business course and she already has ideas for next year, including working with Irish sea salts and possibly combining seaweed and salt in products.
Clancy’s Fish Shop in Macroom is already stocking Slánú and she hopes more outlets will follow suit. She takes orders on Instagram and Facebook, while she has also joined the shopinireland.ie store. Watch out for her at local markets too.
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