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Behind the Brand: Margo Marrone’s The Organic Pharmacy

By Robin Tolkan-Doyle, Beauty Editor

It wasn’t enough for clean skincare pioneer and pharmacist Margo Marrone to co-found one of the most successful wellness dispensary chains in London. Or to formulate a certified-organic line of beauty products that is so sought after, it can be procured everywhere from Anthropologie in Beverly Hills to Galeries Lafayette in Doha. Over the last couple of years, the brain behind The Organic Pharmacy also added the titles Co-Founder of Charlie&Co. Naturals pet grooming collection and Co-Founder of House of Roxy fine jewelry, a magical collection of fine jewelry she designs with her daughter, to her CV.

When she’s not juggling her entrepreneurial empire, Margo works on her spiritual side; she recently became a shaman and a yogi. How does she juggle it all? Coco Eco had the pleasure to catch up with this ultimate renaissance woman from her home in London, England to find out.

How was The Organic Pharmacy beauty brand born?

I studied pharmacy, specializing in herbal medicine. I had a passion for herbs and how to treat the human body naturally. Whilst I was working as a pharmacist, I leaned towards the natural side. I always thought, "Okay, what can I give the person to get them through their situation and their illnesses as naturally as possible?" We're talking 30 years ago. Then, I came across Dr. Bach’s The Bach Flower Remedies. It's about homeopathy, and it was then that I first discovered all the chemicals that go into our skincare. I thought, "Wow, this is really surprising. I'm so shocked." And again, this is way before all of this became mainstream, and clean became the new way.

Most people back then didn’t really think about what they were putting on their bodies. You were a pioneer!

These chemicals actually impact our health, and some are carcinogenic, some cause mood swings, some affect our nervous systems, and some can be related to feelings like depression, anxiety, panic attacks, all sorts of things. Working in the mainstream, it was very difficult to educate people about this because the tools were not there for me. The Internet didn’t exist then. So the idea of an organic pharmacy came to me. I was pregnant at the time with my daughter, and I really wanted to make sure that everything I put on her was clean and toxin free. So it really became a lifestyle and a passion for me.

Was it hard to convince people that organic skincare was the way of the future?

Back in those days, it was really difficult explaining to people what organic meant. People knew why they should eat organic food, but most people didn't understand why they should use organic skin care. It took a lot of education explaining what these chemicals do to our bodies and our minds. Also, the facts about natural ingredients being high in nutrients and vitamins and phytochemicals and how they can really make the skin healthy.

But my ambition in those days was that the whole industry would change. I wanted everyone to be able to choose what they put on their skin, knowing that if they choose to put something on that has chemicals, it's their choice and they're aware of it. It makes me really happy today to see that there are so many clean brands and retailers taking the initiative. It's for the greater good.

Where do you think your fascination with natural medicine came from?

From my growing up in Iran. My grandma and mom always took me to the bazaar. There were always herbs and flowers and essences. I remember a potion that my grandma would give me when I wasn't well. I was very much in tune with nature and what nature has to offer. That's really what I inherited from growing up in Iran. I left when I was 11.

So, I know you sold The Organic Pharmacy, but now you’re working for it again. What happened?

Yes, I sold The Organic Pharmacy two and a half years ago to a really wonderful family-owned company in Italy called the Ganassini Corporation. They are the biggest skincare brand in Italy. I left for a year and a half, and then they asked me to come back. So it's been a really lovely journey because in that year and a half, I went off and did other things, which was really nice.

What kinds of things?

I pursued my spiritual side. I went on to become a yogi and a shaman, which was one of my passions. And, I started a natural dog grooming company.

Ok. Let’s take one thing at time. You certainly are a do-er. First, tell me about becoming a yogi and a shaman.

I had the great fortune to meet a wonderful lady who agreed to teach me. Her name is Esther Lim. She's been my mentor and my guide for the past year and a half, and she is teaching me how to heal others. I've always been in the healing sphere. With Organic Pharmacy, I explored the potions and the lotions side of witchcraft, for lack of another word. But that was very scientific because of my pharmacy background. With the shaman work and homeopathy, that is healing through vibrational energy. And even though a lot of people still don't understand it, it is healing. With the shaman work, it takes it even one step further, where you can heal, really, without any tools. So it goes into more of the psychology of healing.

And you’re a yogi too?

Yeah, I'd say that yoga was one of the things that really saved me. Having left Organic Pharmacy, there's such a huge gap in an entrepreneur's life. When you've built something, for me it was almost 20 years, so it was such a huge step. It was really the end of an era for me, and the beginning of a new one. Through Esther, I learned shamanic yoga, which means you incorporate all the aspects shamanic healing into your yoga practice. My yoga is like meditation.

How did the dog grooming company come about?

Charlie&Co. I have a very dear girlfriend called Shirin, whose dog is Charlie and she would scratch until her skin was bleeding. Shirin asked me if I could make Charlie a shampoo that would soothe her skin. I've never done anything like that before, but it can't be that difficult. I Googled the difference between dog skin and human skin. I realized that the product has to be more alkaline to suit dogs' skin. I put in the different herbs that I'm used to using for human skincare, but also replacing all the detergent so they don't strip the skin. And then I put pharmaceutical-grade oats in there. I said to Shirin, "Try this and see if it works." And it worked beautifully, and she's used it ever since for Charlie.

And it caught on?

We had so many people asking for it that in the end, we decided let's give it a go. We launched around a year ago and it's doing really well. And then, I started a little thing with my daughter called House of Roxy. She's got a jewelry line.

How many children do you have?

I've got two children. My son is 18 and wants to be a professional boxer. He loves it. And funny enough, he's also doing a lot of shaman training. He's got that side in him. Roxy, my daughter, has got more of a witchy side. She does all the crystals and the incense and burning sage and the ceremonies.

What are some beauty tips you’ve passed on to your daughter?

When she was 12, she really wanted to start wearing makeup. And I was like any other mother, thinking that's far too young. But I realized that there's no way that I can actually stop her. She'll do it whether I let her or not. So I sat her down and I said, "Okay, if you're going to wear makeup, this is what you need to do. Always cleanse, both of them, actually. They basically have a three-step routine, and I taught them that, which is cleanse, tone, moisturize, mask. My daughter’s skin is so beautiful because she invests in it and it shows.

I read somewhere that you spend 20 minutes every day doing skin care. What’s your routine?

I have to. I've got no choice. I'm not a spring chicken. I'm 54 now and I have to spend time to look after my skin because otherwise it starts to get gray and dehydrated. You need to exfoliate a lot. One of my favorite things is a mask in the morning. I find it so easy. Mine is the Enzyme Peel Mask. I cannot tell you how many people's faces I touch, and I think, "Oh, my God. You don't exfoliate?" If you don't exfoliate, the skin gets really thick. Once it's thick, nothing will penetrate. So you've got to exfoliate to get that glow and youthfulness going. Every morning I exfoliate with the mask. As soon as I take it off, the skin's just so smooth. Then you put all your serums and your creams and everything else.

What are some of your favorite Organic Pharmacy products of all time?

My two favorite always are the Antioxidant Face Serum and the Antioxidant Gel. Those I formulated 18 years ago, and they're still our number one best sellers. I also love the serums that I launched in 2018; the Hyaluronic Acid, the Vitamin C and the Retinol. Those are really amazing. And then, I'd have to say the New Antioxidant Cleansing Jelly is my new favorite and so is the Honey and Jasmine Face Mask – it’s so good for my skin because even though I have oily skin, it tends to become dehydrated. When you get to a certain delicate age, your skin needs an extra boost. I love to put it l on for 20 minutes and then when you take it off, your skin just looks so plump and glowing. It's just fab!

What was the best advice you've ever been given?

The best advice that I've been given was through a book called The Way to Love by a Jesuit priest named Anthony de Mello. He explains that all of our anxieties and all of our depressions and all of our pain and sorrow comes from expectations. Once you let go of expectations, life just becomes so easy. It's a difficult thing to put into place because we're constantly giving ourselves expectations. But once you actually let go and you realize that you have no control over anything or anyone life is so simple, and so beautiful.

Photo Credits: The Organic Pharmacy, Charlie & Co Naturals, House of Roxy


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