From bamboo charcoal to Brazilian gemstones, every ingredient in a Herbivore Botanicals product is included for a specific therapeutic reason. Founders Julia and Alex challenge traditional misconceptions about natural skincare and prove them all wrong. Bearing in mind that everything that we put onto our bodies directly impacts our health, Herbivore Botanicals offers a healthier and more effective (and definitely more visually appealing!) alternative with botanical solutions.
Words: Meri Frig
Beautifying the Body and Soul: Herbivore Botanicals
Founders Alex Kummerow and Julia Wills
The Herbivore Botanicals products are truly natural: all ingredients are plant-based and organic. Every ingredient in a product is there for a specific therapeutic reason. What does #TheNewNatural entail?
Julia: When we started Herbivore, there were a lot of misconceptions out there about natural skincare: these products weren’t effective, they smelled weird, they never looked as good as unnatural ones with artificial colours and textures etc. We wanted to challenge these traditional misconceptions and prove them all wrong. We wanted people to understand that natural, botanical-based products are not only healthier, but more effective than their chemical-based counterparts. We also wanted people to understand that natural ingredients are really beautiful and can smell amazing. The colours found in nature are truly unique and incredible and for me, there is nothing in the world that smells better than pure Jasmine Sambac Oil.
I think people are waking up to the fact that what we put in and on our bodies directly impacts our health. Young people are getting sicker. The food and cosmetics industry isn’t nearly as well regulated in the US as it should be. So many common ingredients found in our food and skincare products are now linked to cancer and other illnesses. We want to educate people about this and, most importantly, offer a healthy alternative. We really feel that this should be the standard in the industry. It’s really encouraging to see this change start to happen and for major retailers to introduce natural beauty sections.
Herbivore Botanicals ingredients range from Bamboo charcoal to Brazilian gemstones. Hawaii is a major source of inspiration for the products. What are some of your favourite wonderful nature-based ingredients that you have discovered?
Julia: We spend a significant amount of time in Kauai. We really love it there. We use it as a getaway-from-it-all place, but also find it really inspiring, so we do the majority of our formulating for new products here. We do use a lot of tropical ingredients in our products, because I’m really drawn to them: coconut, hibiscus, jasmine, orchid, pineapple, etc. So I think it helps to be surrounded by such lush and vibrant plant-life, when we are creating new products. We also look for new ingredients while we are on the islands. Kukui Oil was a Hawaii discovery and we now use it as a key ingredient in our Lapis Facial Oil.
"You can calm your mind and convince it to relax because, hey, you’re still being productive by gently resurfacing your complexion."
Herbivore Botanicals was first created out of your own Seattle kitchen. It then became a successful Etsy shop and, now, the products are available at Sephora. You still create and test the products yourself and conduct exhaustive research to prepare them. How do you find the best ingredients and their combinations?
Alex: We love plants and are fascinated by the planet's wealth of natural remedies. From traditional to obscure, we are constantly on the lookout for botanical solutions to improve the appearance and health of our skin. When we discover such an ingredient, we design a product that harnesses and highlights its beneficial properties. Anytime we travel, we always explore the local plant conservatory and/or botanical gardens, plus we have a greenhouse of our own featuring some of our favourites, such as Jasmine Sambac, our signature Jasmine scent, and another floral favourite called Tahitian Gardenia.
For example, Blue Tansy was an oil we discovered a few years back in 2013, before it had hit the mainstream. When we began researching and working with it, we quickly discovered how soothing, balancing, and clarifying the oil was, so we put it into a facial oil and Lapis was born. In 2015, we decided to put the oil into a facial mask for the same reasons and the Blue Tansy Mask was the result.
"From traditional to obscure, we are constantly on the lookout for botanical solutions to improve the appearance and health of our skin."
Beyond being truly natural and effective beauty and wellness products, Herbivore Botanicals do good for the soul with the therapeutic natural ingredients and the beautiful scents. How did the concept of Herbivore Botanicals first come about?
Alex: We started Herbivore back in 2011. Julia was feeling burnt-out at her hectic counselling job and decided it was time to take a leap and try something new. I bought her a soap-making kit for $50, and that turned out to be the best $50 I have ever spent. Julia’s background as a graduate from Bastyr, a college of natural medicine, is peppered with natural healing and psychology. At the time, I was new into the film scene in Seattle and was happy to help with designing labels and photography/web design. Back to the soap making kit: she had 12 bars the first day and we had set up an Etsy shop three weeks later.
Julia: Once we discovered our shared love of creating, we had more soap and bath soaks than our kitchen could possibly accommodate, so we began selling our creations at a handful of farmer's markets around Seattle. Shortly thereafter, I left my job to pursue Herbivore's future on a full time basis. Everyone thought I’d lost my mind for at least the first year, but I was happy. I knew I’d found something I loved doing, so I never looked back. We opened our Etsy shop and launched our website in the following year.
"Once we discovered our shared love of creating, we had more soap and bath soaks than our kitchen could possibly accommodate."
Crystals and gemstones appear frequently together with the Herbivore Botanicals products in your images. Which healing stones make a great combination with some of the products?
Julia: I think people are drawn to gemstones and always have been, ancient civilizations show us this. I don't want to get too out there and say that gemstones have magical powers, but in a way I think that they do. I think they draw us in with their beauty and then they also benefit us in energetic and physical ways. For example, the tourmaline gemstone we put into our Brighten Mask is really brightening to the skin. We tested it and when you rub raw tourmaline powder on your skin, it literally is a whole shade brighter within seconds. We were so impressed by this we knew we had to make a product with it and Brighten mask is that product. On a more subtle level, I think holding a rose quartz in your hand while meditating is incredibly calming. So I think gemstones are really a complete package. They are really all quite special and healing in their own ways. I think Rose Quartz and Clear Quartz both have strong energies that are easy to feel.
Alex: I am especially drawn to Clear Quartz. I always have my quietest meditations when I palm a quartz or two. All stones have unique attributes and I have heard that the stone picks you, and not the other way around. So when you find you have put a gemstone in your pocket, then you've picked the right one for you.
How can some of the products help to carve out some downtime in our daily hectic routines? What are some great tips for ways to find calm and indulgence?
Alex: My personal favourite is the Blue Tansy Mask. Living in such a go-go culture really inspires me to make time for myself to be mindful and present on a daily basis. A great opportunity to take advantage of some quiet time is to mask. You can calm your mind and convince it to relax because, hey, you’re still being productive by gently resurfacing your complexion.