All-natural soap forged in one of Donegal’s most popular beauty spots is helping to clean up the skincare marketplace with all-natural ingredients.
Marble Hill products are made in Derry using natural spring water from Marble Hill in Co. Donegal and a variety of pure plant oils known for their healing properties.
The company was founded by Derry-based medical practitioner, Dr Maria McGee, who started making soap as a hobby to relieve the skin conditions suffered by members of her family.
Using the “delicious water” from a family well in Marble Hill, Dr McGee - with the help of her husband Henry, an orthopaedic surgeon - began making her own soaps and skincare alternatives in 2002.
Today, Marble Hill’s soaps, skincare products and CBD oils are sold all over Ireland and the UK, with a growing army of fans feeling the benefit of the Donegal-Derry creations.
“It all started off as a hobby driven by a desire to ease my son’s skin condition, ” Dr Maria explains.
“We had the farm in Marble Hill and wanted to put it to good use. We had looked at number of ways of doing that, including breeding deer, making salt and vermiculture (breeding worms). While driving back from the farm one day, Henry famously said, ‘do soap, it’s cleaner’ but, at that stage, I knew that delivering premium skincare was the way to go. Our son had developed a skin condition from using poor products as a child and I wanted to ensure all the ingredients in our soaps were toxin, allergen and irritant free. You wouldn’t believe the number of products on the market that contain one or more of the Dermatitis Society’s ‘allergens of the year’.”
Dr Maria says she firmly believes that free samples of liquid baby bath she was given for her new-born son “set off a skin irritation pathway that is neverending for him.”
“There has been a huge surge in people suffering from the dermatitis as a result of allergens and irritants contained in hand washes and liquid soaps. Our aim was to produce soaps and skincare products that nourish and protect and that’s what we did. We don’t use perfumes in our products.
“There are no artificial additives, preservatives or chemicals in any Marble Hill products. All of our creams are completely edible, they may not taste particularly good, but they’ll certainly do you no harm. We’ve even got baby bum cream you can eat!”
Dr McGee and her team spent years developing a range of soaps which are particularly beneficial for those suffering with Eczema, Psoriasis and Acne - “because they moisturise as they cleanse.” The most popular Marble Hill soap uses neem oil which has been traditionally used in many parts of the world to treat various conditions.
Dr Maria explains: “Neem oil soap fuses a blend of plant oils including neem oil, shea butter and vitamin E. Neem is very popular in India where it is revered for its healing properties - apparently neem twigs were traditionally used as toothbrushes. A consultant anaesthetist from Pakistan, who worked at Altnagelvin Hospital, once told me that children with chicken pox would be laid on neem leaves to bring healing and relief.”
Dr Maria also developed a ‘three-in-one’ health scrub bar for shaving, showering and shampooing. This is an acne-busting, skin-friendly soap containing organic seaweed powder and antiseptic tea tree oil.
“We made thousands of bars of soap and trial and error allowed us to perfect the products. In the early years, I had made enough types of bars of soap as testers to wash my entire family for all of their lifespans.
“The products were in high demand very quickly. We were selling from Aberdeen to Cork both online and to local stockists.”
In 2006, Dr Maria became the primary carer for an elderly family member and production at Marble Hill all but ceased.
“I made soaps only for home as everyone has dermatitis issues in our house.”
They were inundated with calls and orders, but Marble Hill did not resurface publicly until 2010.
When it re-entered the market, the company was revitalised - it increased the number of products and the scale of production.
Taking the same care to protect and nourish skin, Marble Hill has more recently developed a whole range of premium creams including PediSalve™, which is recommended by specialists in diabetic footcare and Euventol, a blend of oils which boost concentration, improve memory and heighten confidence.
Dr Maria adds: “We have developed Sheasalve for babies’ bottoms, fungal infections and sunburn, Pedisalve for foot care; Surgisalve to bring relief to tender areas of skin following radiotherapy, Lipsalve for lip care, Moisture Veil for face and neck care and Q24 body oil for dry, itchy skin, stretch marks or scars - this was referred to as a ‘Skin Saviour’ in Vogue UK.”
A range of hemp products - which have been rigorously tested, are fully legal and produced from cannabidiol extracted from industrial hemp plants under controlled conditions - has also been developed at Marble Hill. These include CannaFlex™ hemp oil, CBD capsules and CBD oil.
Marble Hill products are currently sold online at www.marblehillonline.com, locally in Belmont Pharmacy at the Da Vinci Complex, Above & Beyond The Warehouse at Guildhall St., Carlisle Road Foot Care, Carlisle Rd., and Feet First at Glendermott Road, and in Healthwise Pharmacy stores in the Republic of Ireland and other selected stockists in Ireland and the UK.