At Skinfull Affairs, our mission is to support unique, natural and organic brands to coincide with our conscientious ethos. One brand that we sell in-store is Kotanical, Ireland’s best-selling organic essential oils founded by Ireland’s first artisan distiller, Karl Murray. A true entrepreneur with a passion for organic beauty and the great outdoors, we caught up with Karl to discover the inspiration behind Kotanical, and why the Irish need to invite these innovative essential oils into their homes.

What initially triggered your passion for creating essential oils?

I became interested in natural remedies when I discovered a balm I used for my muscles in Thai kick-boxing contained essential oils. This interest grew, so went on to complete an aromatherapy and kinesiology course. During my studies, I was surprised to learn that no one in Ireland distilled essential oils, considering our history of distilling alcohol! I soon realised the cost and scale of resources that would be needed to develop a range of Irish essential oils, so for the past four years I have honed my craft. Alongside this, it’s been my mission to source 100% pure quality essential oils from native countries and to establish my network of growers for my own distillations.

What’s the difference between Kotanical and other essential oils? 

Essential oils, when made organically, are made from the essential part of the plant and are cold pressed or distilled. Kotanical oils are made completely organically and are sourced from around the world. I distil some myself with the intention of expanding the Irish element of the range. Many oils on the market today contain synthetic components and harmful chemicals such as alcohol to strengthen their aroma. You really don’t want to be burning synthetic oil with flammable alcohol content! Essential oils can also be adulterated and diluted with cheaper oils to maximise profits at the expense of customers.

What are the benefits of using essential oils? 

Essential oils have been around for thousands of years and are in most products today- something I think many of us don’t even realise. However, Kotanical essential oils for personal use are mostly used for stress relief as they have a very therapeutic effect on the mind and body. They also help with poor physical and mental performance by improving concentration levels, they help with sleep and they’re a great addition to mopping and hoovering. I use peppermint for house cleaning, which is also a great one to relieve migraines. Essential oils are also popular for massage, but I personally get too agitated having a massage myself!

Are Kotanical oils safe for pregnant women and infants? 

Firstly, like I said above, the purity of the essential oil is of utmost importance when you’re pregnant or if they are children present. All essential oils should be diluted, especially when used by pregnant women or when in contact with infants, and diluted to 0.2% at least – but consult your doctor prior to use, just to be sure! I dilute with a jojoba carrier oil.

What’s the importance of Irish society using essential oils? 

People at the moment are very tense and need to relax! They’re worrying about careers or other people’s lives on Instagram, when they really should just be focusing on themselves. Using essential oils might make the people calm down a little bit. I also urge more Irish people to support local. We have tremendous independent businesses, shops and entrepreneurs and Ireland is very capable of being self-sufficient.

Will you stick to only essential oils or will you release candles or cosmetics? 

For nearly a year I have built up the Kotanical brand and the single essential oils, so I think the next push will be for my range of roll-on blends for the oil enthusiasts on the go. I don’t think I’ll go into candles- I like being unique in the business I’ve chosen. I wouldn’t rule out an exclusive collaboration with an Irish brand to have a bit of fun with aroma profiles, but we’ll see- I have one or two other concepts in the pipeline. We have given samples of my hydrosols to customers in Skinfull Affairs and so far the reviews are that they make a great beauty water and skin toner, so that might be the next product available but the beauty market is very competitive and fickle.

Would you apply for Kotanical to be certified with a cruelty-free or vegan certification?

I don’t really foresee a certification at the moment, but I can confirm our products are vegan and cruelty-free.

Do you want Kotanical to become a global brand? 

I definitely wouldn’t be getting involved with a country that requires animal testing, that’s for sure. Kotanical has the potential to go global, but I would have to ensure the quality of the products would remain pure and in accordance to our ethos.

What are your top tips for choosing and using Kotanical? 

Each essential oil has beneficial properties and you would have to listen to your own body’s needs. On the website, I have listed what ailments a particular oil might be useful for. Personally I’d recommend trying out the Peppermint oil, it’s great for breathing and it’s just a good all-rounder essential oil to have on-hand. Lemon is like spring in a bottle. They’re both really good for household cleaning and they’re uplifting, and while customers gravitate towards lavender, bergamot is a great essential oil to diffuse for a relaxing environment.