By  on September 30, 2005

LONDON — Liz Earle and Kim Buckland may look like wholesome English mums, but underneath those bright smiles and creamy complexions are two renegades. The co-founders of Liz Earle Naturally Active Skincare have taken an unconventional approach to the beauty business, and with annual sales of $36 million, their strategies are clearly paying off.

In the 10 years since it was founded, Liz Earle Naturally Active Skincare has become a cult brand in the U.K., although it has never advertised, never made any antiaging claims and never been sold over a department store — or drugstore — counter. Instead, the brand is sold through QVC, mail order and the Internet, and its only brick-and-mortar outlet is Browns, the high-end designer clothing retailer in London.

Earle and Buckland set out to create the sort of skin care they felt was missing in the U.K. market. "When we started out, there was an explosion in hair care products in the U.K., but no skin care brands other than the department store Lauders and Rubinsteins — and faceless products at Boots," said Buckland, who was formerly director of sales and marketing for John Frieda.

Earle, a health and beauty writer, book author and former television host, said the two were fed up with paying a lot of money for beauty products. "We were always hoping that if we spent more we'd get better results," she said. "So we wanted to create a mass market brand that would offer customers expert advice along with the product. We wanted it to be accessible, affordable — and pampering."

The Liz Earle Naturally Active Skincare line started out with Cleanse & Polish Hot Cloth Cleanser, which is now the company's best-selling iconic product. In August, Earle and Buckland threw a cocktail party in London for the product's 10-year anniversary.

The cleanser, which retails at 10.75 pounds ($19.50 at current exchange), is sold along with two muslin cloths (which help exfoliate), and contains almond milk and rosemary, chamomile and eucalyptus essential oils. Three million units have sold over the past decade, and this year it won U.K. In Style's Best Beauty Buys award.

Since the launch of Cleanse & Polish 10 years ago, the line has expanded to include everything from body creams and gels to self-tanners to essential bath oils and body sprays. All of the skin care products are infused with botanical plant oils, including rosemary, eucalyptus, rose hip and argan.

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