Women We Love (and Men!) is always a popular post on The Beauty Shortlist – probably because it reveals the humans, passion and philosophy behind the products we shortlist and showcase throughout the year. On the man front we’ve covered yoga and ayurveda (with Yogi Cameron), music (a thought-provoking interview with Ahmed Soultan about life, music, tolerance and no boundaries) and two weeks ago personal trainer Alex Marks shared his philosophy with us (it’ll inspire you NOT to cancel your March gym membership!)

Today it’s Scottish holistic therapist Gail Bryden’s turn. Creator of JustBe Botanicals, she also creates the most delicious aromatherapy chocolates (so good that they won a Beauty Shortlist Award this year), and tea blends in addition to her refreshingly  “decluttered”, nurturing skincare range. (Her new lemon Hand + Body Lotion is a lovely, zesty mid winter pick-me-up, by the way).

A year in Gail’s life includes a fair amount of travel to beautiful spas – including Hawaii, the island that has played a big part in her life. And she’s working on new tastes for summer 2016 (sneak peek below)…!


1) Gail, balance, clarity, wellbeing and slowing down were all big themes on social media for this brand New Year, and they seem very much what JustBe is about, too. What was the “lightbulb moment” that made you launch JustBe Botanicals?


Having made a life change and re-trained in a range of holistic therapies, it was while working on a Mind Detox retreat in Turkey offering Hawaiian style Lomi Lomi massage that the inspiration occurred. I was explaining to one of the guests that I enjoyed working with coconut oil and struggled to find a blend that I liked – to which she suggested ‘why don’t you make your own?’

I immediately thought, why not! It was at that moment that I realised that my clients wanted to simply ‘just be’: the sense of wellbeing where there’s no-where to go, nothing to do, all is well – a feeling that’s often experienced during a massage. On returning to Edinburgh I started work on a range of blended aromatherapy massage oils.  The first four blends were JustBe Loved, JustBe Energised, JustBe Happy and JustBe Sweet. Coconut is still one of my key ingredients – another big theme at the moment.


2) How do you unwind after a particularly busy week, how do you switch off?


I’m grateful that I’ve found something that I genuinely love. Over the last couple of years I’ve taken a ‘busman’s holiday’ working as a guest therapist, albeit in some pretty amazing locations. On a daily basis, I believe in active meditation or mindfulness – of being present and reducing attachment to thoughts.

The ancient Hawaiians practice Ho’oponopono is a simple practice of saying 4 simply statements when you become aware of an over mind (we have on average 100,000 thoughts each day). On days and weeks that are exceptionally busy, I remind myself of my choices – whether to continue with what I’m doing, pause and make a cup of herbal tea and ‘phone a friend’ or stop for a while and go out for a walk.

As I work from home, it’s equally important to know when to stop for the day.  Cooking and catching up with friends relaxes me (as does going for a massage) – and interestingly enough, it’s often during these times that the inspiration for new products or projects come.

gail choc with award

Beauty Shortlist Awards winner 2015

JustBe Energised Milk Chocolate with geranium, cardamom and infused with coconut sugar


3) What’s the story behind your (divine!) award-winning aromatherapy chocolates?  Any plans for a new blend or food-related launch this year?


Thank you. The development of the chocolate was actually quite unexpected.  As a qualified Clinical Aromatherapist, I’d been asked to invigilate the practical element of the exam, and was surprised when afterwards the teacher shared some chocolates that she’d made. I had never heard or indeed tasted chocolate containing essential oils before. On the drive home, I thought about the blends of the JustBe oils and botanicals that could work and phoned to ask if we could work together. As I wanted to use a blend of oils rather than single notes, I decided to call it ‘aromatherapy chocolate’, which I don’t think has been done before.

The aromatherapy chocolates has caught the imagination, and the new mini bars have been incredibly popular. I’m delighted to share that JustBe Loved ice-cream is being launched in time for Valentines. I’ve been working with the award-winning Arran Dairies on a decadent double cream ice-cream that’s got a refreshing botanical ripple of JustBe Loved – rose, hibiscus and jasmine.  It taste great, even if I say so myself!


4) What’s “a day in the life of an artisan beauty entrepreneur” like? 


My day often starts with 20 minutes of HIIT exercise either at home or in the gym.  I signed up to The Body Coach 90 day SSS plan and can honestly say that it’s one of the best things that I did last year, so much so, that I’m looking forward to giving Joe Wicks a JustBe Loved award later this month for his incredible contribution to health & wellbeing.

Then it’s onto making up orders from the on-line shop or from the spa, salons, shops and tea shops that stock my range. I always schedule time to catch up with therapists, answer emails and respond to requests from journalists and bloggers. I really enjoy posting on social media and sharing some of my day, whether it’s training or visiting new potential outlets across the UK. Whilst I still offer massage and facials to loyal clients, my focus is now on training other therapists in the JustBe range of treatments. The latest addition is the JustBe pregnancy massage which is available at Armathwaite Hall Spa in the Lake District. So in summary busy, varied, fun and rewarding.


Gail’s treatment (massage) candles are 100% natural, made from soy, coconut, jojoba and JustBe Loved’s blend includes mandarin, ylang ylang and rose. 

5) Ancient civilisations were very tuned into natural healing, phytotherapy, herbal remedies and aromatherapy, more than we are, but are you seeing a rise in aromatherapy as a way of coping with modern life – and if so in what way(s)?


Natural remedies have never been more relevant. In a time of excess and 24/7 culture, awareness of the mind body connection, our mental health, is greater than ever. Whilst I believe that we all have the capacity to heal ourselves (as intuitively our inner being knows what we need) our mind or ego often chooses to ignore these ‘early warning signals’. A reason aromatherapy is increasing in popularity is that our sense of smell is directly linked to the limbic system, the part of the brain where memories and emotions are stored. Aromatherapy bypasses the conscious mind and allows us to access what our body actually needs, rather than what we ‘think’ it needs.

At the start of a JustBe aromatherapy massage for example, the therapist will offer a choice of two blends based on how you’d like to feel. Similar to perfume, aromatherapy oils interact with the top layer of skin to create a unique scent. As we’re often searching for a deeper meaning, the aroma-journey allows the treatment to be tailored to meet the individual’s needs. In addition to the therapeutic benefit of aromatherapy oils, the oils remain active in the system for 24 hours. JustBe is a botanically based range that’s been created to allow everyone to access the benefits of ancient wisdom as part of an everyday modern lifestyle.

I believe that nature and natural remedies have so much to offer and my hope for JustBe was that the bright colours, use of positive words – such as Happy, Active and Tranquil, and wide range of products from organic herbal tea to bath salts would provide a modern twist allowing aromatherapy to be easily understood and enjoyed by many.


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