In the first chapter of our brand new entrepreneur series, Stripped Skincare founder, Urmston-born Sinead Hughes, reveals how she cured her chronic acne and how her business is helping others do the same.
One afternoon in 2014, Sinead Hughes looked in the mirror and decided enough was enough.
She’d had yet another acne breakout - a bad one - and she was tired.
Tired of the red blotches. Tired of the swelling and pain. Tired of feeling anxious about her skin during every conversation.
Her acne - which reared its head during her twenties - just wasn’t going away; but Sinead had a plan. She was going to bin her expensive, collector’s-style range of failing skincare solutions and start from scratch instead. It was time to tackle acne herself and find a magical combination of all-natural ingredients.
Fast-forward to today, Sinead is acne-free and operating a beauty business that helps people over the UK find a cure for their own persistent skin problems.
Her company, Stripped Skincare, offer affordable, all-natural products that give people the power to feel confident in themselves once again - resulting in a fiercely loyal customer base.
Sinead is glowing as she enters the offices for our interview - visibly comfortable in her own skin and enormously passionate about her growing brand.
But how did she get here?
I was really fed up, and it was also really painful! Dealing with that can be a very depressing place to be.
“I started having an issue with my skin in my early twenties, when I developed quite severe adult acne,” Sinead tells us.
“I’d never suffered with anything like that before. I know that skin problems can happen due to stress, significant events in your life or chemical changes. But I didn’t really know why it was happening to me.”
As anyone with skin problems can relate, Sinead was left out of time and out of pocket by her acne. She’d spend hours every morning layering on makeup to hide the blotches, and invested a small fortune on supposed miracle cures that only served to exacerbate her skin.
“I went to the docs regularly but nothing worked,” she sighs.
“A lot of this medication doesn’t take effect for six months or so, and there are often problems including some really severe side effects which can even lead to mental health difficulties.
“When my skin was as its worst, I was really fed up, and it was also really painful! Dealing with that can be a very depressing place to be.
“One day I thought I needed to find a different way to solve the problem. I decided I should stop, reset and go back to basics. I’d spent so many years destroying and drying out my skin - and I thought a new approach would help.”
This is what led Sinead to stop attacking her acne, and find a way to treat her skin instead.
“The food revolution was happening at the time, with organic products proving popular,” she says.
“More people were turning to natural diets. I thought it'd be interesting to see if I could make my own products for my own skin - and maybe that would make things a bit better!
“I decided I only wanted to use natural ingredients, and that led me down the path of doing a diploma in natural skincare. I thought it would give me some guidance about which products to use.”
We set up Stripped and immediately I began to recognise myself in my customers. They’re me! I know what they’re going through.
Sinead’s brainwave proved to be a masterstroke. Within 12 months her acne had vanished - and that’s when she realised she had the opportunity to help others just like her.
“I thought: ‘If this has worked for me, there must be others out there looking for something similar,’” Sinead explains.
“I started to pick out the ingredients that would solve the problems I had like acne scarring, redness, hormonal imbalances and sensitivity.
"We set up Stripped and immediately I began to recognise myself in my customers. They’re me! I know exactly what they’re going through.”
But Stripped hasn’t just worked for women. It’s also proven a God-send for men, teenagers and older people.
“I have mothers getting in touch asking me to help their daughters struggling with acne, and we’ve got customers from teenagers right through to their seventies," Sinead tells us.
“The properties in our products can work for all sorts of people. My husband uses it, our designer uses it, even my mum uses it and she’s 74!”
Sinead is still using the same five base products that launched the business: A cleanser, exfoliator, makeup remover, lip balm and moisturiser. There's also plans to expand into serums, face mists and hydration products in the future, as well as a men’s-specific collection.
The existing range has already scooped three beauty awards - including one accolade that Sinead is particularly proud of.
“We’d been going three months before we won our first award,” she tells us excitedly.
“But we won one for our whole range this year. It was a “value” award - which is particularly important to me. What I found when I was spending money on beauty products was that I could spend forty or fifty quid on a cleanser that had been hyped up in a magazine… and it just didn’t work.
“Our products offer a solution that makes a difference and is affordable.”
We’re such a small brand, and what’s most important to us is complete honesty and transparency
It’s clear that Stripped is unlike anything out there on the skin market right now - offering a much-needed alternative to the major solutions that are rarely worth the money.
“It’s very difficult as everyone’s skin is different, but it’s true that many products just don’t work,” Sinead reveals.
“With natural products, the laws for calling stuff organic are not always that rigid, so you can be fooled. But I do think there are a lot of people turning away from the big brands and looking for something more authentic - which is what we always wanted to be.
“Every single thing that’s in our products is on the back of the packaging. It’s really important to tell people what’s in the solution so they can determine whether they want to give it a go and make an informed decision.”
Sinead and co are always there to help customers make the right choice - even if that isn’t necessarily a Stripped product.
“We’re such a small brand, and what’s most important to us is complete honesty and transparency,” Sinead says defiantly.
“It’s really empowering for people to be using a product that they have full confidence in.
"We’re always available on Facebook, Instagram and email to help our customers. If we don’t believe our product is right for them, we try and point them in a different direction, rather than sell something that won’t work for their needs.
“We don’t want our stuff to look like the beauty products already out there with old-fashioned labels - which is why we’re using a Bolton-based designer, Dom & Ink, to create these fantastic images.
“We’re also big on sustainability. That’s another thing with a lot of beauty products - there’s always a bottle inside a box inside another box.
"All our packaging is glass bottles only, and our lip balm comes in an aluminium tin. We never use any excess packaging, and we ship using recycled paper and brown paper boxes - it’s important to us.
It’s easy to see how Stripped has gone from strength to strength over the years, with a radiant future ahead for Sinead’s skin company. But before she departs us, the Urmston entrepreneur has a few words of wisdom for anyone suffering with adult acne.
“It is important to reflect on diet and lifestyle,” she confirms.
“I would suggest going natural - the right oils are so effective at balancing out the sebum levels and getting your skin back to normal, and they will also treat the acne and the nourish the skin.
“What I found was sticking to a routine really helps. Cleanse really well in the evening and just wash your face with water in the morning. That worked for me. Our skin repairs itself during the night, so layering on lots of solutions in the morning can cleanse that goodness out.
“If anyone has any questions they can always get in touch. As our name suggests, we’ve tried to strip back everything and make it as simple as possible.
“Preventing acne really doesn’t need to be that complicated.”
Read more about Stripped Skincare online.