• Madeleine Bonser

Spotlight on - Isobel Perl

At Spotlight, we got the opportunity to talk to Isobel Perl founder and CEO of PERL Cosmetics. We chatted about what goes into starting a business, her inspiration and the drive and determination it takes to succeed.

Business background

After I graduated from university, I felt tremendous pressure to follow suit and find myself a job in London and move there. So, I did just that. To me, the job didn’t matter. It paid my rent, paid my bills and I just waited for the weekends to come. Living my life this way saw me become really quite miserable. It hit home one day at work when a colleague told me I’d lost my spring in my step. I’m usually a very positive, upbeat and outgoing person, however, I was struggling to find my purpose in life.

It all came to fruition in November 2019 where I felt totally despondent and lacked any drive or motivation. I realised I was doing a job I wasn’t passionate about, and this really affected my mental health. It was difficult for me to see my friends who all seemed to have it together in careers they were flourishing in, whilst I was seemingly miserable in the job that I realised wasn’t a career path I wanted to be on.

I decided that something needed to change, and I needed to find my passion and drive in life again. I sat down and thought, ‘what are my passions in life?’. I’ve always been a lover of skincare and cosmetics and having worked for Benefit when I was younger really fueled my addiction. At the same time, I remember reading an article about the popularity of pink clay masks over in Australia. This inspired me to begin researching the benefits of clay masks and their popularity in the UK. To me, it appeared there was a gap in the market in the UK for a natural skincare brand that specialises in clay masks.

From this, my business was born – perlcosmetics.com. However, I knew setting up a business would be a full-time job and I wasn’t in a position to leave job security to pursue. The idea got parked and I found myself back on the hamster wheel of the corporate world.

Fast forward to May 2020 and the world is in the grip of a global pandemic. It also saw me lose my job as my firm was making financial cuts. After the initial panic that comes with losing a job, I decided to see it as an opportunity to follow a dream of mine. As such, I’ve been working tirelessly on bringing my brand to life and honestly cannot believe my idea is now a reality!

Using my degree in Biology and experience of working in a lab, as well as my love for all thing’s skincare, I formulate and hand-make the pearl powder clay masks with illuminating oil. Whilst I was doing my market research, consumers told me they found clay masks the wrong texture, too drying or too oily. That is what my product solves. By being able to alter the amount of oil, you can create a mask to suit your skin’s needs. You can also alter the texture by altering the amount of water you add to your clay. The instant glowing results say it all!

Not only can you customise the mask, but we use pearl powder which has incredible benefits for brightening and illuminating tired and dull complexions.

As our mask is a do-it-yourself clay mask, it brings the fun back to your skincare routine. It’s like your own mini science experiment to get involved in and the best part is seeing the powder turn from white to this gorgeous deep pink.

Why cosmetics

I’ve been obsessed with makeup and skincare for as long as I can remember. This was further fueled by my time spent working at Benefit on their counter at my local department store. I’d learn about all the different ingredients used in their products and loved seeing customers feel more confident in their skin after they used the products.

As well as my love for beauty and skincare, I was also busy formulating my own products for friends and family to use. These ranged from hair and facial oils to pressed glitters. Anything I could make myself; I’d try my hand at.

Having spent my days at University in a lab, it was only natural that I combined my love for skincare and cosmetics with formulating my own products in my own lab!

Overcoming setbacks

One of the biggest challenges I’ve faced is my own imposter syndrome. I can be my own worst critic at times and it’s down to the love and support I’ve had from friends, family and strangers alike that has given me the confidence to keep going.

Aside from this, I’ve actually been quite fortunate that so far there have been no major challenges or setbacks. Aside from the odd botched order, or that time I spent £100 on labels that never turned up. Then turned up the day of launch and was not to my liking…nothing like cutting it fine and then having to delay posting orders out by a week. That was STRESSFUL ha!

Having an incredible support network around me has been instrumental in being able to overcome any challenge I face. Being able to talk through problems and ask questions has been so helpful. Not only that, but it gave me the confidence to bring my idea to reality.

I’ve also been so fortunate to be able to connect with other women who are starting out their own skincare brands (@purity, @scrubbee, @jessicamarieskincare), where we can ask each other questions and share our knowledge with each other. I’m a firm believer that incredible things can happen when you share your knowledge and support other women.


Sustainability is a huge part of what my brand is about. The beauty industry is notorious for wastage and plastic use which is unnecessary and upsetting. Our products come in glass containers, which can be reused or upcycled. There is a wooden spoon and a silicone brush which can both be used time and time again. In addition to this, as I hand make every mask I know there is no product wastage, or any harmful factory emissions produced that occurs with mass production.

As well as sustainability, natural ingredients are incredibly important to me. Our product is 88% natural, with 6% being our pigment which is nature-identical and 6% being tetrasodium pyrophosphate which is used at a concentration of 0.2% in our kaolin clay. Our product is also free of preservatives, parabens, palm oil, alcohol and artificial fragrance. As the customer mixes the mask themselves, they know what they are using is fresh and hasn’t been sat premixed on a shelf for months that require preservatives to keep it stable.

Drive and determination

My passion for what I’m doing has definitely given me the drive and determination to make it a success. Which is crazy, because if you met me back in November 2019, you’d struggle to believe as I got myself into such a rut with my career and not knowing where my life was headed.

Knowing I’ve created a product that my customers are loving, seeing their pictures and reading their reviews is what keeps me going. Being able to give my customers a product that fits seamlessly into their weekly skincare routine and gives them an excuse to slow down and take some much-needed time to do some self-care is what gives me joy.

Lessons and advice

Don’t leave things to the last minute. Note label-gate above…having to delay sending out pre-orders for a week after launch as I decided to leave ordering my labels till the last minute.

Why do I leave things to the last minute? Fear. 100% it’s fear that stops me from doing things. The fear I’ll do it wrong, it’ll be a waste of money, it won’t be right and so on and so on. Sometimes we’ve got to look fear in the eye and say, ‘nope, not today’.

Remember research, research, research!

You might have a great idea, but do your customers want/need it?

Trial the waters with a lot of market research, make sure you know who your user will be and what their demographic is. Once you know your idea will land, just do it – take a chance! Be willing to work hard, put in the hours and be flexible to change. It’s unlikely your vision will come to life in the exact way you’d imagined which is why being flexible to change is so important.

Highs and lows

I absolutely love the creative side of my role such as managing my social media channels, creating new content and marketing my product. I also absolutely love seeing happy customers, seeing their unboxing videos and seeing them make their own awesome content using my mask. I light up each time someone tags me on Instagram. My idea is now a reality on people’s skincare shelves. It’s crazy. Pinch me!

I also love being in charge of my own time, with no one dictating to me what needs to be done and when…but this also feeds into the worst part of my job.

I love being organised, however, it’s another level of organisation when it’s you managing your own time and your own deadlines. I end up making to-do lists that hardly ever get ticked off because realistically no one is coming after me if I haven’t done it.

Another difficult part of running your own business is never being able to switch off. Some of my best ideas come to me at 1 am when I’m trying to sleep. I literally live and breathe skincare with almost every waking minute of my day spent thinking about what I can create, new content and how I can promote and get my name out there as a new skincare brand. It’s certainly something I need to master, being able to switch off from the hustle.

If you enjoyed this blog check out more just like it here. Check out PERL cosmetic’s website.

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