When Lula Balmond was a toddler, she suffered with eczema so bad that she had to be bandaged to go to sleep and would regularly cry in pain.
Lula’s parents had tried everything on her skin, but the pharmaceutical emollients and steroid creams prescribed by her GP only inflamed the sores that covered her body and face. Her eczema was so bad that the whole family was affected by her daily flare-ups; the distress caused by the pain she was in touched every part of their life. Her mum Natalie tried herbal medicine, homeopathy, every natural and unnatural cream she could get their hands on… nothing worked.
Facing the prospect of her three-year-old being admitted to hospital, Natalie started experimenting with making cream herself. She had been given a book on herbal medicine from a friend and wondered if she could create a moisturiser that didn't contain anything unnecessary or that might trigger an allergic reaction.She cooked up traditional salves, trying combinations of herbs and oils like hemp, calendula, nettle and olive, that had been used for centuries in traditional herbal medicine for their skin-healing properties.
Eventually, she found a recipe that worked on Lula: an ointment that used no preservatives, unnecessary fragrances or chemical emulsifiers, and instead used beeswax, oils, and tinctures to protect and nourish her dry, cracked skin.
Amazingly, it calmed her redness and itching overnight and the family got their first full night’s sleep for months.
When friends and family loved the product too, Natalie started selling the cream, calling it Skin Salvation. She could see from her own experience that the commercial world of skincare was letting people down, so she began creating other products that delivered results and were as pure and natural as can be.
Her company (formerly Purepotions) relaunched as Balmonds, and almost two decades on, Natalie and Lula work together, sending that same Skin Salvation cream created on the family stove all over the world.
“My mum is my best friend,” says Lula Balmond Nightingale, now 22. “I’m so proud of her. She’s the most amazing person I know. Her strength is incredible.
“The fact Mum took things into her own hands because she was so worried about the long-term effects of steroids and had tried everything else, inspires me every day. I’m so grateful to her.”
Lula says she’s been extremely close to her mum, a former actor and NCT antenatal teacher, for as long as she can remember.
“The hob was always covered with saucepans and spatulas and there were always pots of potions on the go. While some parents argue about who was going to cook the dinner that night, mine argued about who was going to cook my eczema cream! I’d literally be on her hip as she worked, she’d be bouncing me as she stirred her potions at the hob.”
And they still spend a lot of their time together since Lula joined Balmonds three years ago. The company was looking for new staff - Lula applied, was given a trial run and landed the job. She now works as dispatch supervisor, packing and sending Balmonds orders to suppliers including Holland and Barrett (with whom they won a contract after Natalie’s appearance on Dragons Den in 2012.) And Natalie’s other daughters also work at Balmonds - Ellis, who’s dispatch assistant, while youngest, Ida, helps in production during the holidays.
The original, oil-based ‘Lula balm’, Skin Salvation, is now Balmonds biggest seller. Free from nuts, soya, gluten and palm oil, it’s now much appreciated by other parents, for the relief it brings to little ones with itchy skin.