13 Aug 2018
Amman, Jordan
Sustainable Cleaning Products and Cosmetics

In bygone days, Jordan’s pharmacies provided only generic, mass-produced skincare products. Fed up with her children’s stubborn eczema, one local mother decided to invent her own recipe for organic soap that would offer a more mild alternative. Fast forward almost two decades, and Amina Mango presides over a thriving, environmentally sustainable business specializing in skincare and cosmetic goods. Now, she has ambitious plans to tap into the European market.

Eczema will drive a kid crazy. Few know this better than Amina, whose son and daughter were both splotched with angry, scarlet rashes during childhood. This frustration is playing out in homes across the Middle East, where a 2016 study found that an increasing number of young people battle eczema. Twenty-three percent of children suffer from the skin disease in Qatar alone.

In 2000, Amina could not find a soap that would soothe rather than further irritate her daughter’s condition. Mainstream brands used harmful chemicals. Locally produced, olive oil-based soaps existed, but they varied in quality.

A typical parent would return, exasperated, to a dermatologist. But Amina went into a makeshift workshop at her sprawling olive farm outside Jerash, Jordan.

“I thought to myself that, if all of these traditional societies can make olive oil-based soap, it can’t be that difficult,” she recalls. Amina is an artist, trained in Florence an enviable skill set, but a far cry from having studied pharmacology. Nevertheless, she started tinkering with different recipes, eventually striking on a solution for her eczema-ridden daughter.

Amina’s self-taught craft has flourished since she made that first bar of organic soap, 18 years ago. Two years on, when her son suffered from severe eczema due to food allergies, Mango went straight back to the workshop. She used aloe vera grown on her property to develop new soothing cream products for her son, which succeeded once again in knocking eczema on the head.

“Basically, that is how the story started me trying to find a solution for my children,” she reflects.

Turning professional:

In 2004, Amina built a factory for her new business Amina’s Natural Skincare. The company’s product range expanded to the current total of 28 different skin cleansers, hydrating oils, and moisturizing creams.

Three years ago, Amina’s Natural Skincare received organic certification from COSMOS, an EU-based, non-profit association that sets requirements for organic and/or natural cosmetic products. According to Amina, while Jordan has increasingly embraced the concept of organic farming, her business is the first Jordanian manufacturer to receive the certification.

Amina’s Natural Skincare needs to satisfy a range of minimum eco-friendly standards in order to maintain its standing with COSMOS. These range from stringent rules about production practices to incorporating a waste management plan for efficient recycling and composting. Certification rules also prohibit the use of harmful plastics in packaging, which would render an item unacceptable even if the product inside is entirely organic.

“The entire ethos is about using less, making more,” says Amina. “For [every] product, it’s like they have put a magnifying glass on it.”

Women to the fore:

While these obligations might sound onerous, Amina takes pride in the positive social contribution that her business makes in Jordan. Her key priority is the empowerment of women, whom she sees as a chronically underused resource in the Jordanian society. “I believe that women are the solution to a lot of problems in Jordan,” she firmly adds.

Amina’s Natural Skincare backs the entrepreneur’s conviction with its business practices. Six of the company’s nine permanent employees are female, including two industrial engineers and one graphic designer.

This female contingent swells even further every Fall, when harvest time comes to Amina’s olive groves. For several years, Amina’s Natural Skincare has hired female farm workers from a nearby refugee camp to pick the olives by hand. The arrangement gives the women an independent stream of income and fair work conditions.

Mischievously, Amina says that she has motives unrelated to charity for preferring female farm hands over their male counterparts. “For empowerment, it is very important to employ women, but I also benefit a lot from them,” she chuckles. “Women can pick olives and talk at the same time; the males I have experienced, they either pick olives or they talk!”

Ambitious plans:

For now, Amina’s Natural Skincare sells to Europe in the online market only. But Amina is involved in ongoing negotiations with distributors based in Finland and the United Kingdom, while she also reports commercial interest from the United Arab Emirates and Japan.

The business owes a good deal of credit for these commercial opportunities to obtaining organic certification. The company can now export to the EU without needing to pay tariffs meaning that, from a business perspective, Amina feels “ready to go for Europe.”

These promising signs have Amina setting her sights on greater things. Within the coming few years, Amina’s Natural Skincare will move into a new, bigger manufacturing factory to meet with an anticipated increase in demand.

If the rosy predictions about the future of Amina’s business prove correct, she will need all of the dedicated, enthusiastic help she can get. But she has no doubt that the company can maintain its meteoric trajectory. “In 2004, I started building my workshop and we have not stopped building since,” she says. “Every year we are expanding and expanding.”





Learn more about Amina’s Natural Skincare through the website, Facebook, and Instagram.

Photos: Courtesy of Amina’s Natural Skincare.

Since getting his MA in Middle Eastern studies, last year, he has worked as a freelance journalist based in Accra, Ghana, and Cairo, Egypt.David Wood
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