The Local: Crete’s Farm-to-Skin Pharmacy for Your Face

The Local: Crete’s Farm-to-Skin Pharmacy for Your Face

In our new series, The Local, we celebrate the independent shops selling souvenirs worth making space for. This week, we head to eastern Crete in search of a gift from the skincare gods. Inspired by ancient wisdom and powerful island herbs, Bioaroma’s shimmering concept store offers self-care, Cretan-style

shop designed to echo the wildly rugged beauty of its
surroundings, Crete’s Bioaroma experience store in Agios Nikalaos deserves
to be as much a place of pilgrimage for eco-skincare devotees as
the Greek island’s Minoan temples are for archaeologists.

Founded in 2007 by native son Manousos Pediaditis, who combines
a chemistry degree from the University of Crete with a reverence
for the therapeutic powers of his island’s wild herbs, the
pioneering label distils 40 centuries of Cretan heritage into its
organic, vegan and cruelty-free products, none of which contain
water. Ancient methods of preparation and preservation – some of
which were figured out in collaboration with historians – are
behind the small-batch production of everything from a smoothly
strokeable Cold Process Mint and Olive Oil Soap to the Theangēlis
24h First Wrinkles Facial Emulsion – cosmetics that are, as the
company’s catchphrase goes, “so natural you can eat them”.

Bioaroma products in the shop
A handful of dried rosehips at Bioaroma

Cretan skincare products made on site, left, and a handful
of dried rosehips.

Drawing beauty junkies from near and far to a verdant oasis
where facilities include an oil distillery, herbal extractor, seed
press, fragrance laboratories, museum and butterfly-favoured
botanical garden, the 240sq m interactive concept store was
designed by a team of architects at the Athens-based KAAF and
opened in 2019. Just a few months later, it scooped up Golden
Novum’s Most Sustainable Design of the Year award and, in 2020, was
named Project of the Year at Greece’s Interiors Awards.

Visitors can expect a cutting-edge space: clean, contemporary
lines; filigree metal panelling in shades of honey and treacle
chosen to mimic those that pepper the landscape outside; tactile,
undulating raw-stone walls; warm wooden flooring; and acres of
shelving that, for any space-poor city-dweller, is highly covetable
in itself.

A green garden surrounds the Crete skincare store
A plant in the garden of Bioaroma Store

A garden packed with medicinal flora surrounds the Cretan

But it’s the products you’re here for, spanning a beeswax bruise
balm for toddlers to sun protection, dedicated ranges aimed at a
stable of different skin types’ needs and the bite-beating natural
mozzie repellent that is citronella essential oil. The glossy
wrapping might look like plastic, but is actually made from sugar
cane sourced from responsibly managed farms, with all other
packaging made from recycled paper. The products’ ingredients are
harvested from the 150 different species of plants and herbs
cultivated on Bioaroma’s 40-hectare farm, around a 20-minute drive

A hero of these is dittany. Traditionally seen as a symbol of
love and gift from the gods, the king of Cretan herbs is packed
with healing and anti-ageing properties.

“It’s an antioxidant and it’s great for healing and energising
the skin,” explains sales associate Constantina Doudoulakis.
“Injured animals will instinctively eat it and then lick their
wounds… It’s powerful. Nature is very wise.”

A terracotta pot out in the sunshine at Bioaroma
Architectural entrance to Bioaroma

Details from the arid gardens, left, and the dramatic shop

As well as retail therapy, visitors can watch a video
presentation narrated by a hologram Minoan beauty and take part in
a selection of workshops, allowing them to create a bespoke
fragrance, concoct a does-what-it-says-on-the-tin face cream or
craft a stack of olive oil soaps.

“While our technology might be new, our recipes are not,” says
Doudoulakis. “They’re collected from the older people on the
island, from the grandmothers, and they’ve passed through
generations. All that knowledge goes into our products today.”

Trust us, it’s a knowledge you’re going to want in your armoury.
The Mālaxis Relaxing Feet Oil with horse chestnut, juniper and
mint? The Kirós Cold and Muscle Rub Ointment with arnica and
eucalyptus? Souvenirs that keep on giving.

The Lowdown

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The white-washed exterior of Minos Beach Art Hotel villas viewed across the water

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Minos Beach Art Hotel, Crete, Greece