Meet the Maker

Meet the Maker: Tania Wedin of SHADE

Summer is in full swing. It’s important to stay safe in the sun and keep in the shade during the hottest hours of the day. The NHS recommend spending time in the shade between 11am-3pm from March until October. 

To help you stay safe and plastic free, Shade™ have invented a brilliant natural sunscreen, which comes in an aluminium tub, and is made using only four ingredients! This week we interviewed Shade founder Tania to find out more…

When did you start your company?

I started as a Sole Trader back in 1999 with £35 to my name and a 6 month old baby, and incorporated as Not the Norm Ltd in April 2003.

Tania, founder of Shade

How many people work in your team?

There’s myself (full time and then some!) and my friends and colleagues Kate and Sian who are part-time but absolutely indispensable!

How long have you been using natural sunscreen?

I actually didn’t use sunscreen myself for years apart from when skiing because I have never liked the idea of chemicals on my skin. I prefer being in the shade and covering up, only going out in it when it’s not the height of the day, so before making Shade™, I simply avoided the need! Since making Shade™, I am happier if I have to expose myself to the full sun, but sadly these days I spend most of my daylight hours in the office!

What inspired you on your journey to reduce your plastic waste?

When I was travelling in Asia in 1997-8 I was shocked by the build-up of plastic bags and bottles just disposed of in the woodlands around the villages and along hiking trails in the middle of nowhere, where there was no provision for recycling so throw away plastic items have always sat uncomfortably with me. Then when my kids were little I really disliked all the plastic toys on the market, and would opt for wooden ones or ones in boxes rather than plastic packaging. Now that there are so many more alternative options out there, it’s so much easier to choose plastic-free, and with a little planning ahead there really is no excuse now, is there?

What ‘ingredients’ are used to make your sunscreen and why?

Shade™ only has four ingredients – essentially I was just looking for nourishing ingredients as carriers for the active ingredient which is the zinc oxide. I wanted to take it down to basics to avoid anything that could irritate sensitive skin. Also the more the ingredients used the greater the carbon footprint – just think of all those individual ingredients in other sunscreens having to make their way around the world from their sources or being manufactured themselves just to reach a factory for formulating into a sunscreen and you’ll see what I mean.

Amazing ingredient #1: Organic unrefined Coconoil™ coconut oil, chosen because Garry Stiven the company director started importing coconut oil from Sri Lanka after the 2004 tsunami in an effort to support the farmers and growers there, who had all but lost their livelihoods after the tragedy. He was one of the rescue workers who witnessed the suffering first-hand and vowed to support the people affected and help them get their lives back on track. Coconut oil was just beginning to become recognised as an all-round healthy oil back in the UK at the time. I could source cheaper coconut oil, but it would be lower quality and not necessarily have the benevolent impact on the farmers. Coconut oil is incredibly good for skin and  has a low melting point which helps the cream become soft an easy to apply in warm weather.

Amazing ingredient #2: Organic unrefined shea butter which is a wonderfully nourishing butter that gives the product a rich texture, moisturises the skin and again supports growers in Africa. Both are organic to avoid pesticides and fertilisers and unrefined to get as close to nature as possible and avoid unnecessary processing.

Amazing ingredient #3: Unrefined pure beeswax which helps to keep the cream from melting too much and getting too runny whilst also giving it a certain amount of water resistance.

Last but by no means least #4: Non-nano zinc oxide. I chose non-nano zinc oxide as there’s concern that nanoparticles can be potentially harmful when it’s absorbed into the skin (not enough research has been done to prove otherwise), and it’s on the HEL (Haereticus Environmental Laboratory) list of sunscreen ingredients which are toxic to marine life. It sits on top of the skin and acts as a barrier reflecting the harmful UV trays off the skin. It’s broad spectrum, so protects from UVA1 UVA2 and UVB, and is widely considered to be the safest and most effective active ingredient for sunscreens, but is often overlooked as it can leave a white cast, so many sunscreen formulators don’t like to use it as people don’t like to show off their sunscreen. Personally I choose healthy skin over vanity – after all skin cancer is incredibly ugly to look at, I know because my father had it.

Do you have a favourite ingredient?

Yes! Non-nano zinc oxide. It has to win, it’s safe, broad spectrum, soothing and the very best sunscreen active so protects you from ageing and skin cancer – it can be applied as an after sun, and I use the product on chapped lips, insect bites and rashes and if you eat it by accident it won’t harm you! What’s not to love? Coconut oil comes in a very, very close second!

Do you have any plans for a vegan version?

Yes, we already have had one tested but it came in at an SPF10 which makes it a secondary sunscreen, not a primary, so we’re working on another formula currently which we hope will come in at a similar level to Shade at SPF25. We’re very optimistic – we already have the labels designed!! I developed Shade before I turned vegan in 2015 after watching Cowspiracy, but I’ve been vegetarian since I was 15 (I’m 47 now…).

Some sun creams can be harmful for marine wildlife, is your sunscreen safe for sea creatures?

As mentioned above, one of the reasons I chose non-Nano zinc oxide was because it is not on the HEL list of marine toxins, and all the research about zinc oxide being detrimental to marine life points to Nanoparticles. However, absence of proof is not proof of absence, and so we don’t specifically claim it to be marine safe, the studies simply haven’t been done, but many people do consider the lack of Shade’s ingredients on the HEL list being proof enough that it’s one of the safest sunscreens for use in the sea.

Why do you use aluminium pots?

They are safe for cosmetic use, they do not leach into the sunscreen, they are lightweight which is ideal for carrying around and cheaper for shipping than other options and they won’t break if dropped on rocks or a stone floor for example as glass could. They are not plastic, which is the main reason, and the cream is not too fluid so it doesn’t have to go in a pump or tube. It also means you can access all the cream to the very last smudge, so there’s no waste and they can be recycled indefinitely or reused time and again for other items.

How many pots of sunscreen do you usually make in a month?

Well, these last few months have been extraordinary – we have made an average of 5,000 100ml tins and 2,500 15ml tins since March.

What are your top tips for someone starting a zero-waste lifestyle?

Oooh, well, personally I don’t do much shopping at all – that’s the easiest way to avoid pointless plastics – don’t go shopping! I try to have reusable bags in the car or ready at the back door for when I do head out but have been known to walk down the street juggling my purchases because I forgot my bag (it’s also a good way of not buying unnecessary items, you only have so many hands…!) and I always refill my EcoTanka water bottle to take with me. I keep glass jars to refill with dry goods from my local refill shop when I pass by to go to our storage unit, and I try to avoid processed foods which are invariably packaged in plastic. Personally I think going zero-waste and making ethical food decisions should go hand-in-hand.

What are your personal highlights as a sustainable business owner?

The feedback! Knowing that what I do is making a difference to people and the planet as a whole. That’s just amazing and makes me a very happy and contented business owner!

Do you have any dreams or goals for the company?

Hmm, that’s a tricky one. I’m not a bread-head, and my kids are growing up now and finding their own paths, so I’m happy just ticking along, paying off the mortgage, giving my friends some employment and working from my home office so reducing my carbon footprint, having enough money to enjoy some special times with the family and my boyfriend, I’m really very content and don’t need huge amounts of success to make me happy, I really live quite a simple life. I think if it were to get too big to handle I would look at selling the business for someone else to step in and take over – I don’t need a stressful life, I just want to be able to make an impact on people’s lives for the better while I am working, otherwise what’s the point?

Describe a typical work day at Shade:

Freshly ground COFFEE ….then (and only then!) prioritise orders and customer enquiries, work on product development and managing supply lines and the factory, managing social media accounts, have a little break for lunch if possible, in the spring and summer there’s barely time to even take a lunchbreak if we want to get orders off with the courier in time, then there’s the postal orders, then we breathe again and plan for the next day, week, month, year…! We may end up in the garden with a bite to eat and a gin when the day is over!

Tania’s journey is a really inspiring one, it shows that as a woman and a mother, we can run successful businesses that can make a truly positive difference. Thank you for this Tania, I am sure that you will (and have) inspired other female entrepreneurs to pursue their own dreams!


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