People Behind the Products - VOYA

Founders of VOYA Mark and Kira Walton explain how seaweed from Ireland's pure west coast inspired them to create a product range which harnesses the power of nature and is changing spas worldwide...

Q: What sparked your family's interest in the healing powers of seaweed?

Images: Courtesy of VOYA. Above: Brothers Mark and Neil Walton hand-harvesting seaweed


A: Well we've been surround by it all our lives, it's an important part of our local culture, it was used for food primarily, as fertiliser, as a pigment for clothes and, of course, for his it's health and wellbeing properties.



Q: You must feel very proud re-opening the Strandhill Seaweed Baths at Sligo after 100 years - did you ever envisage this when you started harvesting seaweed all those years ago?


A: To be honest no, we inherited a business and more importantly a tradition. What we feel very proud about is that we are maintaining it, in a world that is so fast paced. I think we lose small pieces of our history and heritage daily. We take great pride that we have introduced this tradition to people all around the world.



Q: Where do you harvest the seaweed and can you explain the exact process of how you hand-harvest the seaweed?


A: All our seaweeds are harvested by my family and will continue to do so. All of our products contain seaweed. All of our seaweeds are harvested by hand and treated within two hours. VOYA is the world's first harvester/producer of certified organic cosmetic seaweed. VOYA has an exclusive marine harvesting license granted by the Irish government. Only two licenses have ever been granted by the State. Our licenses are in SAC's (Special Areas of Conservation) that have been identified at an EU level as areas of unsurpassed natural beauty where heavy industry cannot operate. VOYA sustainably harvest the seaweed in order to ensure the seaweed re-grows and that we don't damage the marine eco-system we only harvest the top third of the plant. This ensures that the seaweed re-grows to its original size in an eight-month period. Coincidentally the seaweed also contains a higher level of minerals and vitamins.



Q: Why is the West Coast of Ireland a prime location for seaweed?


A: Well firstly we are based in Sligo and that is where VOYA and the original Seaweed bath house are situated. Predominantly the west coast waters are more unpolluted than the east. The areas that we harvest from have pristine waters and there is no coastal population. There are nearly 800 species of seaweed on our coast. One reason for this diversity is that Ireland is located between 51 and 55deg N, occupying a range of latitudes that straddle both the northern limit for some warm-water species and the southern limit for some cold-water species. Ireland is the least densely populated country in Europe and the west coast of Ireland is the least densely populated part of Ireland. There is no major/heavy industry on its west which, it leaves probably the most unpolluted waters in the Atlantic.




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Q: Do you have any celebrity clients who are happy to endorse VOYA?


A: Katie Tunstall had a fab time experiencing our therapies and even sang on stage about it.



Q: Why is bathing in seaweed so good for the body?


A: My brother, Neil Walton, who was a professional triathlete, discovered that the alginate gels that export from the seaweed and the heat of the water causes something called a process of osmosis where by the goodness of the seaweed alginate is absorbed by your body and the over acidic quality of your body are expelled. This therapy for all athletes and himself had a significant result for them post training or event. It was also great for different types of ailments stress being one of them as you can imagine in this time. This seaweed bath therapy also has a beneficial effect on forms of arthritis, eczema, psoriasis, and cradle cap on children. My Niece has been taking seaweed baths since the day she was born and she is now three years of age.



Q: Where are the VOYA products made and why do you think there has been resurgence in the popularity of more organic-based products such as VOYA?


A: All our products are made in Ireland and the UK, but mostly here in Sligo. I think there have been so many scandals and scares in a variety of industries, including cosmetics, that people just want to be reassured, that the products they are using is good for them and good or the environment. What is interesting is how organic products are now challenging conventional synthetic products on their functionality. It was easy to dismiss organic products as being nice but they don't work. Modern green chemistry means we don't have to sacrifice results for ethics.



Q: Please can you explain how a product is deemed truly organic?


A: Did you know there are currently no laws to guarantee that health and beauty care products labelled as organic are indeed organic? EU organic regulations only cover farming and food production. That's why we have sought or are seeking organic certification for all of our products. This means when you buy our health or beauty products or have a VOYA therapy, you can be sure that it has been independently verified as organic. Many of today's beauty products are made up of synthetically produced chemicals and they can penetrate the skin. Some are absorbed in small amounts, while some easily reach the blood vessels below the skin and are transported around the body. What is a concern for us and many others is the cumulative effect of applying various products regularly.



Q: Can your products be used by both men and women?


A: We feel that our product is a very unisex product. In the initial phase of the packaging design we made certain that it appealed to both men and women.



Q: Do you think more men are today taking a more active interest in their own appearance?


A: Heaven forbid we might admit we liked to look after ourselves and look good. I think men have always been interested - it's just now it is socially acceptable to admit!

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About VOYA

• Treatments can be enjoyed outside of Ireland

• VOYA are in 35 countries worldwide, Europe, Middle East, Asia pacific and the USA.

• Will soon launch a retail sized Night cream, clay mask and facial oil.

• Per week VOYA would collect about one to two tonnes of seaweed.

• The team go out harvesting through the week depending on the tides etc.

Do you know where the name VOYA comes from?

• The seaweed baths in Strandhill have been open on and off for more than 100 years. It was originally known as Celtic Seabaths. This was a bit of a mouthful, so the YOYA team had to come up with a name for the business.

• They asked their customers, in one word; what does a seaweed bath mean to them? A seaweed bath treatment was their personal voyage. They liked it so much; they adopted the name and shortened it to VOYA.

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