Beauty business shells out to help victims of typhoon

Oxford Mail: Clare Anderson, left, and Alison Gibbs Buy this photo » Clare Anderson, left, and Alison Gibbs

A BEAUTY business near Bicester has turned a commercial problem into vital aid for the typhoon-struck Philippines.

Shared Beauty Secrets supplies lava shells used for massage in spas, hotels and health clubs.

The shells come from a factory in the Philippines but after the islands were struck by Typhoon Haiyan last month, the Chesterton firm feared for the safety of workers there.

Fortunately, they have since heard the factory is still standing and all the employees are safe, but co-directors Clare Anderson and Alison Gibbs are determined to help.

After sending a donation, they contacted all 1,500 of their clients, encouraging them to offer customers lava shell massages at a special price and donate the proceeds.

The response from their client base, which includes The Sanctuary in Covent Garden, Ragdale Hall, Harrods, Bannatyne health clubs and Bicester Hotel, Golf & Spa has been “amazing”, according to Ms Anderson.

So far, the pair have raised more than £3,000 but are aiming for £10,000.

Almost half of their clients have donated, including Bicester Hotel, which pledged five per cent from treatments last month.

Up to 13 million people in the Philippines were affected by the typhoon and thousands killed four weeks ago.

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Ms Anderson, who lives in Clifton, near Deddington, said: “We couldn’t get in touch with the workers and, for a while, didn’t even know if the factory was still standing.

“It absolutely floored me and we contacted all our salons, asking if they could help. It’s empowering to feel we have done something.

“We want to raise enough to feel we have made a difference.”

Shared Beauty Secrets was bringing about 200 shells a month into the UK before tragedy struck.

The islanders harvest the tiger-striped clam for food, before throwing the shells away.

They are matched by size, polished, then bonded together to form a massage tool.

It may be several months before the firm can once more obtain shells from the Philippines, so it is using substitute porcelain moulds.

Ms Anderson, 38, had the idea for the hot lava shell business four years ago, while on holiday in the Philippines, when she saw them being used for massage.

She and Ms Gibbs, 48, have exclusive UK distribution rights from US parent company Spa Revolutions.

They also train beauty therapists how to use the shells, which are heated using an exothermic reaction.

Ms Anderson said: “I got this life-changing moment when I decided to bring these shells to the UK.

“The more successful we have been, the more wealth we have created for the people in the Philippines.

“As little as £100 can transform someone’s life out there.

“The shells have allowed us to do some amazing things but now, it’s our turn to give something back.”

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