Potent and Healing, Organic Beauty

Ava's Blog

Is Earthwise Beauty the Right Fit for You? April 06 2017

Yarrow Infused Oil 1

Green beauty has expanded so much in the last few years that today there is a huge range of companies and brands to choose from. We have tiny companies, perhaps operating Etsy shops; small to medium companies operating like small businesses (that is us); and large corporations that create cleaner product lines to satisfy the customers who read labels and avoid certain ingredients, whether because they are considered unsafe or unnatural, or because they cause them allergic reactions. 

One problem we are running into is that the term "green beauty" is loose and broad. Different product lines can be in different places when it comes to the natural ingredients they use (whether, say, they are organic or wildcrafted versus "natural" but conventionally grown; whether they are labelled by law as natural cosmetic ingredients but are fully lab-made nature-identical, or nature-close ingredients such as different vitamins and preservatives).

I could write a book on this topic alone. 

But since you would have to wait for several years for the book, let's cut to the chase and rather than give you an overview of all the ingredient options in the market, I will focus on the way we approach ingredient sourcing and the process of developing and making our products.

Ingredient Sourcing


Everybody will tell you they seek out the "highest quality" ingredients, but what does it mean? For us, we never just order ingredients from an unfamiliar online herb, soap-supply, or cosmetic-supply store. Many new, small, often one-person companies start this way in their full innocence (I admit I started this way 13 years ago). A beginner does not realize how much adulteration can happen to an essential oil or carrier oil, or how much proper handing, inventory management, and storage conditions can vary on the supplier end (we know whether ours use refrigerators or cold rooms, how often they get a new batch, how much they order at once, whether they know the best seasons for sourcing, and whether—horror!—they use a microwave). Good suppliers will happily brag to you about the amazing care that they provide for the precious ingredients and will want you to adopt their techniques to take good care of the "babies" you buy from them.

A beginner does not realize that some suppliers do not have a system for monitoring inventory freshness—we have even come across suppliers that do not take care to inspect each new batch of oil that arrives from their regular source. This means the oils could be old or, not uncommonly, rancid. A beginner will not know the full range of geraniums or lavenders available, which countries produce the nicest ones, and in which seasons, and what solvents are acceptable to produce absolutes that are safe to use topically (absolute extraction is an art that requires particular, extensive expertise, and sourcing absolutes requires knowledge about the processes and solvents available).

Someone just starting out cannot visually tell the difference between dried chamomile flowers that are fresh and were picked at the correct stage and those that were not, and might even end up with a pound of crushed herbal dust (albeit certified organic) from a few seasons prior, not whole intact flowers. A person with little experience may not even know what some plant oils should look and smell like, and how to check whether their sample is fresh, unrefined, unbleached, and unadulterated. 

We are obsessing about every step of ingredient sourcing because in the world of long-distance ordering of exotic oils, where we are not usually able to visit the suppliers in person, a very thorough evaluation is a must.

All our suppliers make a legally binding promise that they do not test on animals or commission animal testing. We interview suppliers to get an idea about their procurement and storage practices; how nice, knowledgeable, and honest they are as people; and how they organize their work environment so we can get an idea of how the employees are treated. Then we ask them detailed questions about the unrefined and fresh status of the ingredients and evaluate their samples. We need to know the countries of origin and processing and the year of harvest.

We focus our product formulas on botanical ingredients sourced in this way, particularly herbs, essential oils and absolutes, resins, hydrosols, and carrier oils and butters. Also, as much as possible, we responsibly harvest wild locally growing herbs; we make our own flower and gem essences, tinctures, and infused oils; and we work with local organic gardeners to grow flowers and herbs for us as well. 

In addition, we use a small handful of ingredients for the cosmetic formulator that we cannot replace with straight botanicals or extractions we could make fresh ourselves, such as preservatives and emulsifiers. When selecting these additions, we try hard to select the safest, most well-tested, ideally ECOCERT or "approved for use in organic formulations" options.

Unfortunately, though, sometimes such products suddenly become blacklisted because in our country, cosmetic ingredients are sold without prior vetting by any government body, and often it is only with time that research studies find a particular chemical hazardous; at other times, let's be aware, it is a competitor that is the source of such blacklisting. A competitor may even go as far as commissioning studies to prove its point, all in an effort to replace a commonplace ingredient, even an herb, with their own alternative. When such a blacklisting happens, we do what is necessary and work on replacing the offending ingredient with a safer one.


Yarrow Infused Oil 2

Ingredient Processing

It may seem a little intense, but we laboriously transfer most ingredients upon arrival to give them light-proof, natural storage vessels. We use Kraft paper bags for herbs and glass containers for oils, butters, and powders. Our ingredients are labeled with the dates of arrival, so we always know their freshness level. Many of them are stored in our refrigerators for maximum shelf life. Our flower and gem essences are stored in a quiet, dark cabinet surrounded by clear quartz pieces. Oil infusions of herbs and herbal tinctures are also stored in a dark cabinet or refrigerated.

What I have learned over the years is that our ingredients, which are often rare or very expensive, get the proper care and respect if we hire employees with values and a world view similar to ours. We have found that employees with backgrounds in herbalism, naturopathy, holistic nutrition, homeopathy, gardening, mindfulness, flower essence healing, and gem healing love to take care of the ingredients, products, and your orders with the utmost care and respect.

Developing the Product Formulas

Our development process is slow. We start out with an idea, such as a goal for what the new product should deliver, and then we test a range of ingredients that show promise in this direction (in terms of healing properties, but also scent and texture) one at a time. We often even test a few suppliers for a particular new-to-us ingredient. Then we move on to testing sample formulas in a few ambient temperatures and on a few skin types the product is intended to serve. If it is a product that requires emulsification or preservation, we test a few options for each and then use challenge tests to make sure the formula holds the emulsion and is well preserved yet nonirritant to volunteer testers. Each test formula is recorded carefully and ingredients are measured out or weighed. Weighing carefully is particularly important with the so-called active ingredients and preservatives, as mistakes could render the test run irritating, potentially causing an allergic or burn-like reaction. Measuring out or weighing essential oils and CO2 extracts is also critical to use each in safe amounts: We follow the guidelines of established authorities, namely Kurt Schnaubelt, Ph.D., and Robert Tisserand. 

It may appear simple, but what goes into each formulation is years of studies, hands-on experience, and consulting various reference books and sometimes our teachers and gurus during the process. Experience and knowledge about a wide range of botanicals allows us to select a new set for each new product where the various components will complement one another and enhance one another's contributions in terms of healing properties (one oil may be selected for the betacarotene components, and another one to add emolliency and B vitamins), but also in terms of texture, feel, absorbency, and scent. During such tests, we often have to pause to source a new ingredient that we’ve found is a missing link in a formula.

What Else Differentiates Earthwise Beauty from Other Green Beauty Lines?

Based on sampling what others are doing admirably, I have developed a clearer idea of what we are offering versus other beauty brands. In general, I think that our formulas tend to be richer and earthier than many others. We think that there are enough products out there that serve customers who seek out the lightest feel, many of whom have skin types ranging from acne-prone to oily. This does not mean that we do not have anything to offer to this group (examples here are our bestselling Nap in the Meadow Face Serum, Carrot-a-Day Serums, Ambrosia del Cerrado Liquid Moisturizer and Toner, and Green Leaves & Co. Facial Oil), but the strongest core of our customers are women over 30 or 35, ones with very dehydrated, dry, damaged, mature, or eczema-prone skin. We get phone calls and e-mails from women in their fifties stating that they cannot find anything out there that is rich enough, hydrating enough, healing enough, wrinkle-reducing enough, and they want more in this vein from us. Signs of aging, insufficient firmness, skin dehydration, and wrinkles are my strong focus and interest when developing every formula (one example: even with formulas for acne-prone skin, I will work on including ingredients that repair and add glow and moisture). 

What I mean by our products being earthier is that we include some deeply healing ingredients that other lines sometimes stay away from because the scent intensity cannot be extinguished, or because their colors are darker. The earthy ingredients do not work in formulas that are meant to smell very ethereally of neroli or cucumber, and their colors lend rust, warm brown, orange, or olive green hues to the oils and butters (hues whose richness and complexity we adore, and nutrients whose range I could not do without when formulating). While some formulators start out with the goal that the new balm be a clean white or pale pink, I don't impose such tight restrictions on myself because this would greatly limit the number of reparative, antioxidant-rich, superingredients I could add to a formula. Our products tend to be soft brown, orange, golden, honey-hued, or green. 

Our scents are often (but not always) deeper than those of our competitors, reminiscent of or including frankincense, copaiba resin, tamanu, vetiver, moist-soil-like bacuri butter, and powdery-dusty-sweet ucuuba butter. Ours are by no means stinky, never old-fashioned, and not even what one might call apothecary-herbal scents. We use exquisite Moroccan and Indian rose absolutes, pink lotus, white lotus, tuberose, mimosa, jasmine, mandarin leaf, pines, cedars, and firs. But in every formula, you will have a tiny bit of the earthy and mossy, that is all.

The scents are in part a matter of personal sensibility on my end, but there are other factors at play as well. I am convinced that the reason why several incredibly effective botanicals are almost never used in green beauty lines is that they have stronger earthy scents. Copaiba balsam, carrot seed oil, and spikenard have intense herbal scents, but they are my top skin-firming ingredients (much more powerful and effective than hibiscus or tomato). Neem is incredible for acne, rosacea, and other infective skin conditions but its scent, again, is harder to work with and impossible to suppress.

What we are also doing, which may be harder to notice if you are experiencing just a sample and not a full jar, is using techniques from the fine natural perfumer's toolbox when composing the scents, so they evaporate more or less quickly by design, depending on the formula, and they have, I hope, a roundness and completeness to them because they are made up of base, middle, and top notes, as well as fixative notes. (Mind you, I have only been practicing this difficult art for about two years, so I have more to learn and more books to read).

And one last point, which I am not sure I should bring up: Many categorize our line as "luxury green beauty," which has come to mean something along the lines of, "carefully designed natural and organic formulas, with attention paid not only to the quality of the ingredients, but also to ensuring that they are utterly luxurious to the senses; often utilizing rare or less-common botanicals." There is also the term "niche green beauty," which I quite like, and which I believe means "small-batch, handcrafted, and unique" among the clean beauty lines. I agree with the above; I think we are all those things. But I have recently been told that we are not "high end" because our bottle and jar appearance is not "high end" (oh well!). 

Anxiously looking forward to your comments.

(Note that some of the information above will soon be copied in bits onto our other informational pages, to make sure that readers who venture elsewhere to read about our ingredients, for example, have the specific information they are seeking.)

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End-of-Winter Resurfacing Skin Care Routine March 15 2017

Blackstrap Molasses Face Mask

After a long, snowy winter for us here in Washington, we are beginning to see signs of spring. My ultra-dry winter skin, from all the indoor heating and not enough fresh juicy vegetables, is naturally changing and, miraculously, showing less dryness. The stronger, sharper sunlight on one hand makes me happy in anticipation of green meadows and wildflowers, and on the other hand remind me that this is a very good time to exfoliate the skin in preparation for spring and summer.

As you may be able to tell from browsing our product descriptions and, especially, after trying our products, I am not a huge proponent of ongoing resurfacing, as I believe that our skin stays the healthiest and youngest with the natural protective mantle intact if we support it with potent nutrition internally and externally, and resurface only periodically, such as with a weekly (well, maybe biweekly) facial scrub or mask left on for no longer than 30 minutes. 

But if you have not attended to regular exfoliation for one reason or another throughout winter, and have sun spots, scars, or you have a feeling that the top layer of the skin just does not feel fresh and able to breathe freely, then the end of winter is a perfect time for a week or two-week long resurfacing course of treatment, before sun rays get very intense (for many of us, depending where you live), as some people are very prone to brown spotting on the freshly revealed skin.

Here are a few products to consider for the resurfacing treatment: 

Blackstrap Molasses Face Mask:

  • Detoxifies and removes and heals scars with the Hungarian Moor mud

  • Removes brown spots and improves scars new and even old with carrot seed oil

  • Removes buildup, discolorations, and firms with active vitamin C

  • Rejuvenates and nourishes with geranium oil

  • Firms, tones, beautifies in every way with a generous dose of authentic Damask rose hydrosol

We normally recommend using this mask regularly once to twice a week, but if you are doing a resurfacing treatment, you could use this mask every other or third day for a week or two and observe the progress: if the resurfacing is too intense, use the mask less frequently and leave it on for a shorter period of time. Feel free to mist your face periodically with a quality hydrosol while you have the mask on to prevent it from fully drying, making it easier to remove at the end.  

Nap in the Meadow Facial Serum:

  • Exfoliates slowly over time and promotes skin cell renewal with highest quality French lavender

  • Removes brown spots, heals scars, and promotes firm, vibrant even complexion with Italian helichrysum

  • Heals acne, scars, even wounds with galbanum and Brazilian copaiba balsam

  • All the above while soothing and hydrating with the many other ingredients such as yarrow and blue chamomile oils

Many customers like to use Nap in the Meadow twice a day as the first hydrating step after washing and optionally misting the face. Use a more generous amount if your skin tolerates it well, while more sensitive skin types usually do well with a single pump or two mixed with a favorite moisturizer or facial oil. 

Carrot-a-Day Face and Eye Serum (Classic or Sensitive):

  • More carrot seed oil for skin cell renewal, firmness, and scar and spot reduction

  • More helichrysum

The amount of carrot seed oil in this product is relatively high (quite a bit higher than in Blackstrap Molasses Mask and in a product that you leave on) and it serves as an amazing compliment to the set of ingredients in Nap in the Meadow. Many customers alternate or layer both of these aloe-based serums on a daily or twice-daily basis.

Ambrosia Del Cerrado Liquid Moisturizer and Toner:

  • Buriti palm oil is excellent for sun damage, sun spots, and scars, and it promotes a very supple skin

  • Pequi oil for a high dose of natural vitamin C and more betacarotenes

Ambrosia del Cerrado does not promote resurfacing at a fast pace but I love to include it because it benefits all skin types and promotes skin tissue renewal, only more gradually. Most customers use Nap in the Meadow layered or alternating with either Carrot-a-Day or Ambrosia del Cerrado, and then they top this lightweight layer with a facial oil, rich moisturizer, or a balm. 

One example is Tangerine Skies Facial Oil, which will make a contribution toward the gentle yet steady exfoliation and resurfacing efforts thanks to its betacarotene-rich virgin red palm oil (orangutan habitat safe) while adding brightness and promoting firmness. 

Also consider adding just maybe two drops of a flower essence to your mask or an aloe-based serum. Calendula Flower Essence promotes healing on all levels, Red Clover Flower Essence serves as a nutrient boost, Wild Rose Essence enhances beauty and is lightly astringent and firming, and Yarrow Essence enhances protection from environmental factors. 

Feel free to add any of our other products to your morning or evening routine even while you are doing the resurfacing treatment, as none of the others will cancel the effects of the above ritual. 

Wishing you all the best. 

Price Increases of January 2017: An Explanation January 26 2017

Winter in Spokane Washington

Many of you have been our customers and often advocates for our brand for years and years. (We are entering our 12th year in business!) You know that our passion and focus lies in sourcing the best, freshest, often very rare ingredients chosen for their healing benefits, but also for their energy, textures, and scents. 

We don't just press a button to order an oil from a supplier's web site, we test several suppliers before choosing a particular, unique tamanu oil for one product, a different tamanu for another product. As much as possible, we often connect directly with distillers to obtain the freshest, unfilluted, unadulterated hydrosols and essential oils with a scent from a particular terroir. 

We don't like to run with current trends but prefer to make products for you that are concentrated, deliver deeply reparative results, and that are something different, something special. We want to continue offering you products scented not just with a rose but with a Turkish or Moroccan rose absolute, pink and yellow champaca flowers, a range of frankincense resins, Haitian and Javanise vetiver, and Himalayan cedar. 

We want to continue the labor-intensive practices that are not all that feasible for a fast-paced business, such as brewing and straining herbs for our facial cleansers, gathering flowers and herbs from forests and meadows, and infusing select products with the energy of the Pacific Northwest forest surrounding us and with raw gems. And of course, we fill and package your products by hand using recycled-content cardboard boxes and starch fill peanuts.

In order to continue to maintain our focus and to pay our employees fairly, we have decided to increase prices on our products in January. The new prices will be implemented gradually and will take effect by January 31, 2017

Warmest wishes,

Ava and the team at Earthwise Beauty

Choosing Skin Care Products by Instinct October 19 2016 1 Comment

We get lots and lots of e-mails from customers and prospective customers asking us about a recommendation of a regimen for their skin type and skin concerns. Let's address a few points to help you choose products from our collection for yourself based on the descriptions of colors, textures, and scents, and based on the mentions of plants involved in each one. 

This approach is similar to choosing food to eat: most of us have not lost the natural instinct when it comes to choosing foods that our body wants or needs. In the heat of the summer, we crave cooling tropical fruits and cooling and water- and electrolyte-rich foods, such as watermelon and juice from young coconuts. In the fall and winter, we want warming and nurturing broths, roots, and squashes. 

Until the rise of green beauty, skin care products were formulated mostly by chemists who are fascinated by chemical makeups, good at creating balanced formulas to address a specific concern, and who are comfortable with the lab environment and chemical compounds without much worry over the plants' spirits getting bleached out or deodorized in the refining process. We used to get stark white, seamless lotions that did not require shaking to remix but for those among us who wanted to feel energetically or spiritually connected to anything in the jar, that was not possible. Even a very intuitive person would not be able to follow their instinct to choose a product for their skin type, their energetic body, temperament, or for the current season. 

But if a product is formulated with a special attention to preserving the plant's freshness and integrity, its scent, color, and constituents, and the whole formula is created with the energetic and medicinal qualities working in concert with one another toward a precise goal, then if we allow our intuition to be the guide, we should be ok. Don't let cold marketers convince you that you need to rely on them to teach you how to take care of your own skin, the skin you know inside out, to tell you the steps from one to four. Well, unless we want to believe that the next brand we try will use a top-secret ingredient that will erase 20 years from our face (the phrases I have been coming across a lot lately such as "the world's most powerful antioxidant" or "the world’s most nutrient rich botanicals"; really, can someone from a vantage point of one city in America think that they know all the worlds' plants and knew how to choose the "best" ones? I beg your pardon but the herbal healers who lost their hairs studying herbs for 30-50 years would be insulted, so would the botanists who are still discovering new plant species in the Amazon region). This is a separate topic, but "erasing" ingredients that force the skin to recreate its top layer at an unnaturally high speed, in my opinion, result in a short-term gain but long-term accelerated aged appearance; I know a few top green beauty formulators with the highest efficacy standards for their luxury products who will not use acids in their formulas for this reason.

But I digress. Here are a few examples of our products describing not so much the effects they promote (you can find that on each product's page), but the energetic qualities that you can consider when choosing products and creating your own routine. 

Catharsis Face Cleanser and Mask is a deeply cooling product with a slightly bitter scent (bitter taste corresponds to the heart in Traditional Chinese Medicine and it cools excessive heat). Its green color should attract the attention of a person whose liver may be stagnant (irritable, easily angered, often late, or with liver-type acne). For a person with a hot constitution or someone who is in need of bitter principle (difficulty concentrating, lethargic, eating too many sweets, insufficiently motivated, drowsy), it may benefit them all year long. Some signs of internal heat are red breakouts, rosacea, psoriasis, rashes, itchy skin infections, often feeling hot, and sweating easily. Then, someone with a colder constitution may only crave Catharsis during the hotter months. 

Being aware of our cravings can be helpful in two ways: on one hand, we can understand why a particular product lost its appeal with a change of season, and on the other hand, we may knowingly choose to ignore the instinct sometimes if our skin's appearance benefits from a product we started using. For example, Nap in the Meadow is a strongly cooling, primarily spring-summer product that will develop a sweeter fragrance in the warmer months (the geranium will come to the forefront some more) and will for many feel very satisfying, quenching, cooling, and refreshing. While during the colder months we may not have the swooning feeling over Nap in the Meadow in the same way, the anti-inflammatory, skin regenerating, renewing, and hydrating ingredients will still be beneficial to most of us and the results will be noticeable. It will be your choice whether to heed the instinct or the expected benefits. 

One example of a nurturing product that many customers are very drawn to during the colder months is Ferns and Moss Face Serum, and my intention when formulating it was indeed to make a product for fall and winter. Even the amber color and darker label to me say: use during the months of going deeper within, or during winter hibernation. Several of the oils in this formula are derived from pods and seeds collected in the fall, and there is the nurturing, warmer-scented copaiba resin and the ancient wound-sealing, balsamic, bark-like galbanum. The serum is thicker so it takes a bit longer to be absorbed which on one hand protects us physically from wind and cold air, and many of us resonate with the protective element on a spiritual level. The deeper scent, from tamanu, galbanum, copaiba, andiroba, and more is also what many of us enjoy during the colder, introspective months. 

Speaking of textures, when it comes to skin care products, I am a texture person first and scents person second. I do want the products to address my skin needs and concerns but if the texture and scents are unappealing, I won't stick with the product. For the texture-sensitive customers, we strive to show you photos of the products in the making or in a jar with the top off, so you can get an idea about the texture, and texture-color combination, and find your best fit. I don't believe that an emulsified moisturizer is the best way to moisturize or that an oil is the best way; pick some water or aloe containing products to supply the skin-compatible water elements and then pick some oil-containing products to make sure your skin is getting a range of healthy fatty acids for optimal moisture seal, smoothness, and softness. We recommend layering products from the fastest absorbing ones to the slowest absorbing ones, and using a physical SPF as the last skin care step (before makeup). 

For those of you who would like a cheat sheet to show examples of routines for different skin types, we hope to post one on our web site very soon, but whether you follow the cheat sheet or not, keep the above points in mind. Follow your gut instinct and choose by color or the image a product creates in your mind, but then decide to sometimes override your instinct for a good reason. 

Problem Skin: Is Green Beauty the Answer? July 27 2016 6 Comments

I came across a recent Instagram post from a lovely, honest, straightforward beauty blogger, who made a controversial announcement that she was no longer going to be using just the so-called green beauty skin care and makeup products but a mix of conventional and natural products. This was based on the advice of a dermatologist whom she had consulted because while using exclusively natural brands, her skin suffered from ongoing sensitivity and acne breakouts (which she developed when she switched to natural products). The dermatologist's suggestions were to avoid certain potentially irritating ingredients, namely several essential oils. 

Some felt threatened or betrayed by this blogger's change of heart, but I found it thought-provoking. It made me realize that I would like to share a few beliefs I have developed about skin care ingredients and the state of affairs in the green beauty world, based on my 11 years of experience formulating for Earthwise Beauty and studying herbalism and aromatherapy (plus flower essences of late), but also based on my reading, testing various ingredients and their different ways of processing for the skin care manufacturers, interacting with ingredients manufacturers, and based on observing what other brands are doing. Until now, I have not made these beliefs public because I didn't want to seem that I am "fighting" competition in this "impolite" way. But perhaps it is the right time to talk about a few of these beliefs to help the innocent customers our there make the best choices for themselves for optimal beauty and health.

1. The natural beauty business is highly underregulated in the United States. While it allows small, unique brands to create their formulas and immediately start selling them to customers, it also means that many formulators, while talented, well-intentioned, and studious individuals, they are not required to pass any tests or show any degrees or certificates. Anyone can place an order for a fruit or other acid from a cosmetic supplier web site, follow the manufacturer's recommended use percentage or not, bottle the product and sell it. The same goes for preservatives: while there are many natural options, these are highly concentrated, natural (or nature identical) yet processed ingredients whose goal is to inhibit bacteria, mold, and fungi when they are used in tiny amounts, 1-4%. This is often strong stuff. Formulators are not required to post anywhere what percentage of this antimicrobial products they use in their formulas, and the finished formulas are not tested by any independent body such as a lab. 

2. I have come across facial care products that contain ingredients such as oregano essential oil. The blog review was favorable but mentioned some degree of tingling. Well, when you read books by medical aromatherapists or read the cautions on reputable essential oil supply sites, you would learn that oregano oil is so irritating that it is only recommended to use it on one's feet, nowhere else on the body. Responsible formulators will consult such sources when creating a formula for the face rather than just follow their creative idea. 

3. Authoritative books and web sites on topical use of essential oils or herbs also discuss which oils and herbs should be avoided during pregnancy, on babies and children, on the eye area, and which might cause photosensitivity. A responsible, experienced formulator will spend a lot of time learning these rules and will post relevant warnings on their labels and on their product pages. 

4. I keep coming across incomplete ingredients lists, or ingredients lists with strange errors making it impossible to figure out the actual ingredients used. It is so because unless informed customers demand it, there is no pressure on the small manufacturer to provide a complete ingredients list. Sometimes an ingredient is abbreviated ("hibiscus"-but is it a dry flower, alcohol tincture, a bleached extract from a cosmetics supplier with a preservative built in?), sometimes essential oils are not fully disclosed but listed as a proprietary essential oil blend. I also come across products that do not list any preservative even though they contain water and oil, which means without a preservative they would spoil very quickly. 

5. Some suppliers sell essential oils that are adulterated, either stretched with lab produced components, or "standarized," which also means lab-produced components have been added to them. Some companies also choose to use as "natural" fragrance "linalool," "chamazulene," "cineole," and similar chemical compounds, and claim these are natural ingredients (or "occurring naturally," which to me reads, occurring naturally elsewhere), such isolated parts of essential oils, even if they are derived from essential oils rather than easily manufactured and still bearing the same chemical name, they are much more likely to cause irritation or allergic reactions than the essential oils that smell similar. (They also do not have the aromatherapy benefits of the oils they resemble or may even be derived from.)

6. Customers seem to seek a major transformation of their skin when investing in expensive beauty products. Many wise and responsible formulators learn the need to educate customers about the risks and limitations of all beauty products, but the truth is that many customers do not want to hear these messages. Rather than spend time laboriously, messily exfoliate with ground oats or say almond meal, customers opt for all-night, every-night exfoliation with enzymes, salicylic acid ingredients (such as willow bark), and high concentration naturally derived acids in the form of a lotion or serum. To me, overexfoliating in this way interferes with the skin's natural cycle of renewal and replenishing, and using such products beyond a single treatment of up to 2-3 weeks, can not only cause irritation and make the skin more allergy prone, it will accelerate aging of the skin and may result in an aging, stripped-off skin appearance. 

7. As a frequent visitor of cosmetic ingredients supplier web sites, I am the first one to tell you that there seems to be a relaxed rule in place when it comes to INCI ingredients names. When I started my business, by law, a cosmetic manufacturer was obliged to list every ingredient in the INCI format. For example, chamomile essential oil would be listed as Matricaria recutita (German chamomile) oil. In recent years, the FDA seems to suggest listing the English name as the first priority: German chamomile oil, the Latin name being optional (if it fits). I agree with this idea because if space on the label is limited, it benefits the consumer more to have the English names there.

But there is a second trend with ingredients listings that is bothersome: the required INCI name on a cosmetic ingredient often sounds all natural (such as "cranberry extract"), but as we learn from the web site description on a diligent supplier's site is that in actuality there are two other ingredients in this product (usually one or two preservatives). I have now seen it often enough to conclude that something must have changed in the law (in all honesty I have not gotten to the bottom of it on the FDA web site) and the INCI names that get transferred onto product labels sometimes conceal some important truths.

8. There is also controversy as to what types of cold-press, carrier oils can be comedogenic (pore clogging, or causing breakouts). While there are comedogenic scales circulating online, based on my own experience and a discussion with a supplier who is also a chemist, there is no reliable comedogenicity scale. Experienced formulators learn to blend oils to balance some richer, potentially comedogenic tendencies with anti-acne additions to their formulas. In my own experience, based on helpful reports from customers in part, I find that freshness of cold-pressed oils is a huge factor, and their unrefined status. There are also individual tendencies: my pores get clogged from petroleum ingredients and from products with a relatively high percentage of waxes (other than unrefined beeswax). And I break out like crazy from bleached, heavily processed natural ingredients, with rash-like, sometimes itching blemishes. 

Now returning to the blogger's dilemma whether natural products could be responsible for increased sensitivity or clogged pores or breakouts, yes, it is certainly possible. However, for me, returning to main-stream cosmetic products would not be the answer. Most green beauty enthusiasts did not turn to natural skin care products just because they hoped for a more beautiful, more radiant skin. There are aspects of conventional products that for me are not acceptable no matter what the effectiveness might be. I choose green beauty products, as well as green cleaning products for my home, because of the green manufacturer's assurances about cruelty-free sourcing and manufacturing, no animal ingredients except for consciously gathered gifts from bees, biodegradable status, environmentally friendly repurposed packaging materials, no artificial fragrances or colorants, and in general, it is very important for me to support the growth of companies that are on a larger mission to protect the natural world and our natural resources, and to compensate their employees fairly. 

Once again, I want to assure you that I am not here to condemn anyone or any companies, just to offer some hopefully illuminating truths about the state of affairs in the Unites States cosmetic industry so you call can make the best selecting decisions for yourselves. I will welcome your comments below!

Guest Blogger: the Radiant Brigid from Create.Love.Heal April 21 2016

Brigid Sandell, the Australian blogger behind Create.Love.Heal, whose posts on Instagram I have been following avidly for a long while, covers a few topics close to her heart: sorting out ghosts of the past, finding quality green alternatives among cosmetics and personal care products, securing spaces for contemplation, reflection, self-care, self-knowledge in a busy day as a woman, mother, wife, and professional.

While many thoughtful, responsible women I come into contact with struggle with generalized guilt over their purchases in the domain of beauty products, it seemed to me that Brigid embraced such products in an entirely different way: as something essential, necessary, something performing an important function in her life. So I had to ask her the following question: What is the role of beauty products in a contemporary woman's life? Is there anything beyond vanity to this common, irresistible pull?

Here comes Brigid's answer: 

To be a woman in this modern society is to be many things: a career-driven woman, a mother and all of the endless duties associated, a partner, a daughter, sister, a provider, a presence in the community. These are identities that consume us. There is pressure today to be the best at each of these professions, and, yes, I think social pressure has left little room for failure, and each role we possess is viewed as a job.

We are exposed to much more ongoing pressure from outside sources, such a social media, financial constraints, and open competition between women, that our perception of our own expectations are demented. Our idea of who we are and what we must achieve is heavy with burden and saturated with the risk of failure. 

It is time to stop and look in the mirror; appreciate all that you are, all that you are worth, and grant yourself the pleasure of no pressure. No pressure to love anyone but yourself in this moment, no pressure to be anyone but yourself right now, no pressure to fulfill chores or deadlines or be anywhere but right here with yourself.

Self-love and care is the cornerstone for self-worth and peace. It enables us to identify our boundaries and enforce them in our lives. When we do this we infiltrate little pieces of happiness throughout our daily schedules which blossom in moments of laughter, happiness, and self-awareness. 

Self-awareness lifts the heaviness of the daily grind. It enlightens us with the knowledge of our inner beings, what we need, deserve, and want in order to remain balanced.

One of these important components is taking the time to invest in the one thing we see every single day, the one thing we analyse and feel compelled to cover up on occasion. Our skin. 

What is your skin self-care ritual? 

This is something we do daily, a moment in time to invest all of our energy into. We are so blessed to have an abundance of nontoxic skincare products to choose from. There really is no point in denying ourselves such indulgences when every woman cares enough about herself to rub a little something on her face each day. 

Let it be an experience every single time. Let there be life and energy to serve us for the day ahead, or the day that has been.

The ingredients that comprise amazing nontoxic skincare are alive, they reek of natural life forms that invigorate and heighten all senses, stimulating our souls' core and lighting the fire in our belly, which evokes love for oneself, endlessly.

This is what a few minutes of self-love each morning and night can achieve, a sense of worth and presence. This is what we should strive for and expect not only from our skincare, but from ourselves. 

Imagine feeling cared for, pampered, and nourished every single day. Imagine giving yourself that gift every single day. What an act of true love.

With the pressures that surround us, the unrealistic expectations to push on and stay afloat, hiding our disappointments or our stress, let us give a little back into that inner goddess. Let us build her up to be brave enough to step back and change her own self-expectations in order to incorporate love and self-worth.

Something as simple as a skincare routine can serve us in this way. Be excited by the process, not burdened by the time it takes or the expense it brings. It doesn't have to be a difficult process. It just has to be fed with love. Suddenly you won't know life without that little outpouring of self-love each day, and you won't ever take You for granted again.

Value yourself and your time enough to be in these small moments each day. Because they serve you in deeper ways that just better cellular appearance on your face and body. They fuel the soul and lift the spirit. These acts of love invigorate your mind and fill your heart with abundance and love so you can serve in your other duties with more presence and centered energy.

Grant yourself these moments in your day, and let it enrich each moment of the the day that follows. Rejuvenate your mind, your skin, and your soul. It begins with care for yourself, enough to choose wisely with your beauty routine both in product and time. Love yourself and radiate from within.

Interviewed by Australian Blogger Create.Love.Heal March 17 2016

I felt rather shy when Brigid, active, passionate, smart blogger from the tight circle of green beauty bloggers, asked me if I could do an interview with her for her blog. I am not exactly a celebrity, and the general public's interest in my insider knowledge about the indie beauty niche and my philosophy is still relatively new. (Now all of a sudden young women want to talk babassu oil, carnauba wax, and calendula CO2, but that was not the case when I was already obsessed, like 12 years ago.)

Bridget Sandell

I could not refuse because I have a lot of respect for Brigid who devotes tremendous energy and time to supporting women around the world via Instagram and her blog (that is the slice of her activity I am able to glimpse from the vantage point of United States): conflicted mothers-career women, women lacking confidence in their beauty, women who feel guilty about their past, women who feel weak.

She tells these women: wear red lipstick, take a selfie and show it off to the world, take the time to journal, take care to heal yourself (whether it is hyperpigmentation or emotional wounds), put on some pink blush, wear a dress, go and buy yourself quality organic beauty products, go work out. This may sound simplistic or funny (I often laugh out loud after reading her posts because of the dynamic combination of her brains, heart, and her love for skin care products-but, mind you, not just any  products but ones that heal on every level, from the physical to metaphysical). 

Here is one snippet of what she wrote about Ferns and Moss Face Serum:

Ferns and Moss takes me places, hard to explain, but somewhere back to true African desert where some form of ritual is taking place. Applying Ferns and Moss is part of that where awareness of the earth healing you is at its highest, and you become one with the earth.

She is also a poet, you see.

Here comes the interview, now published on Brigid's blog, where she covers ingredients sourcing, formulating uniquely, and environmental sustainability, among other topics:




Creating Tangerine Skies Facial Oil March 22 2015

It took me four months this time to get this new product to a place where I would be ready to share it with others. I could have an amazing idea for a potion I think my customers would need and want, and then, as I start mixing the ingredients, things often do not go as smoothly as I would have liked. 

Sometimes, a few wonderful and, frankly, very expensive, ingredients add up to a shine-inducing, oily something that takes forever to absorb. There are also those times that ingredients that should moisturize don't, or moisturize for only three to five hours, and that is not good enough for me either. Then there are the (more infrequent) times when I test a gently processed plant-originated ingredient sold by a high-end ECOCERT cosmetics supplier only to discover that it causes me (the first tester) burn and crazy redness. 

After each test round, I ponder, and ponder, and research some more, and then a new idea for an adjustment eventually strikes. Or, sometimes, I end up with an invention that may not be what I set out to make but somehow it works together as a new idea: the properties, the color, the scent make a coherent whole. 

That was the case with Tangerine Skies. I set out to make a facial oil for redness-prone skin, particularly with eczema or rosacea. The end result, a bold orange oil with a soft, nonoily feel and an interesting melissa-tangerine-coconut scent, is a universal (for all skin types and all seasons) lastingly moisturizing, nourishing, "vitaminizing," and pampering oil whose secret is a broad-spectrum antioxidant blend from virgin (first-press), completely unrefined organic plant oils. The aromatherapy effect is mood uplifting, stress reducing, smile-inducing, and anti-anxiety.

Go ahead and look it up among my products. 



Contemplating, as I Make a New Batch of Carrot-a-Day February 24 2015 1 Comment

Today my Carrot-a-Day Face and Eye Serum making process was meditative, and this delicate shot seems to reflect that feeling.

I have been making this serum by hand, in a ceramic bowl, for over 10 years now, and, like those nuns (or was it monks?) in France I read about, who make bread for 20, 30 years, with passion and new ideas for improvements from time to time, and never complaining of boredom, I too, the humble servant of real women who take care of themselves, respect and replenish themselves, in the small ways of a morning and evening lotions-and-potions time, don't mind the repetition.

Ideas for improvements do occur periodically, but for me the process is slow. While I am highly receptive to Jen's sound research and will gladly consider a new Ecocert preservative, what I mean by my own ideas for enhancements and revisions, these need to occur naturally, because only then will they allow the product to retain its personality. 

I view the carrot seed serum as the hard-core skin healer that revitalizes, diminishes brown spots, helps acne (beta-carotene) and has a touch of anti-inflammatory action for all the undesirable redness in our skin (for which I have recently added Corsican helichrysum to the recipe). The scent to be honest is not sensational (although it now, finally, has a balance to it; it is a grounding, centering helichrysum-blue chamomile-spearmint scent), and the color rather blueish-greenish, but it has been reported responsible for some amazing makeovers, the biggest one yet I witnessed first hand in my former housekeeper (who stopped by today) with a minimum budget for fancy skin care products.

Her severely dry, sun damaged, neglected, Carrot-A-Day Eye Serumand chronically brown-spotted skin now looks 10 years younger, brighter, and all of a sudden firm. Her current routine: Carrot-a-Day Serum twice a day, Marshmallow Suds Wash, and she is now adding Marigold Fields Moisturizer for the night. When budget allows, she also gets the Black Tea SPF 20+ for the daytime. 

So today I think of her; I think of each person I have made this product for. Some of you have faces. Some of you are a little more black and white: names on shipping labels that pop in like old friends for tea every few months. But I love to imagine your womanly, real, earthy-beauty faces, the time and care you give yourselves each time you apply what I have made in my ceramic bowl. 



New Eye or Face Serum Development (Ava Way) February 18 2015 1 Comment

I set out to create a new lightweight yet not oil-free eye cream-gel, which may end up being eye and face serum depending how things go.

My goal is to achieve a satin feel to the finished product, for a pronounced smoothing and softening effect, yet without any heavy or hard to spread butters or waxes, and no sticky feel. It will be a vegan, cold-process product.

Version I, Round I, contains the thick green manketti mongongo oil, black acai oil, green coffee oil, and licorice, among others. No scent yet. It absorbs instantly, hydrates well but feels a tad sticky an smells rather overly vegetabley.

Version II also contains the eye area champions, green coffee oil, calendula, licorice, and edelweiss plus my current favorite oil, brazil nut, among a few others. Well, Moroccan blue chamomile (also known as blue tansy) that I added for soothing, anti-redness qualities overpowers the formula with its scent and dark blue color, but otherwise the formula shows some promise.

I will keep you posted on further development. Scent, name, final percentage of oils undecided.

Votes for essential oil or absolute based scent ideas welcome.

Why Refrigerate Our Products (and When It Is Not Necessary) December 29 2014

Most skin care makers on the market still do not ask customers to refrigerate their products even though we are now getting used to buying and storing the more fragile cold-press, unrefined plant oils, such as almond, avocado, pumpkin, and sunflower and food supplements such as probiotics and primrose oil in the refrigerator. We are coming around to understanding that by being willing to refrigerate these products, we are serving ourselves: their flavor and health benefits are protected and shelf life extended.

When investing in highest quality, organic skin care products made from alive, unrefined, plant-based ingredients, it is a good idea to think about protecting the aliveness, the life force contained within.

We think hard about it on our end and that is why we use only small amounts of natural preservatives and antioxidants to protect the product and not make it drying, harsh, or allergenic. We want the product to remain gentle and “alive.” While other manufacturers use up to 4% of preservatives in a product, we most often use from 0.5% to 1% only.

Still, we strive for our products to be stable at room temperature for shorter periods of time. You can keep your face wash, facial oils, and moisturizers at room temperature if you plan on using it daily and using it up within 3 to 5 months.

If you are taking a break from using a particular product, such as saving it for a different season, keep it in the refrigerator (for up to 3–4 months) until you are ready to start using it again.

We recommend that you store our face masks and face scrub in the refrigerator at all times between uses to preserve the consistency (you don’t want clay-based products to dry out). Close the lid tightly after each use.

In addition, to protect your products from microbial contamination, reach into the jar with freshly cleaned, dry hands.

It is also important to shield the contents of the jars from light. Most of our products are packaged in light-protective dark amber containers, and these are safe to leave on your vanity, but we have decided to use clear containers for some of the products to make it easier for you to see the consistency on a given day (which can change depending on temperature) and how much is left. Store all products in clear containers inside cabinets to protect the properties of the plant and essential oils from light damage.


Beyond Organic: A Word About Unrefined in Skin Care Products August 12 2014

I am not an aesthetician or a chemist. My approach is more holistic, based on years and years (twenty plus at this point) of reading textbooks on nutritional healing, herbal healing (Western and Chinese), and therapeutic aromatherapy—for internal and external use. If you have a keen passion for something, you often don’t need formal training as much as you might think (unless you want to become a doctor or an engineer). In herbal healing or homeopathy, years of experience treating individuals with an array of complex symptoms is what I want to learn from. That is why books with case studies by herbalist Matthew Wood or homeopath Paul Herscu have been more educational to me than my two years’ stint as an office manager for a (most charming and esteemed) NYC dermatologist or talks with aestheticians. Depth of knowledge is what I seek. After a while, connections become apparent among the understandings of say calendula by a homeopath, herbalist, and an aromatherapist. Then I come in and make up a recipe for a calendula face cream for particular skin needs.  

            Nutritional healing has become incredibly popular in the last two decades, with naturopaths and other alternative healers using mushrooms and dry apricots in cancer treatments and green tea for weight loss. Food manufacturers have responded to the customers’ sophistication by offering truly pure, unrefined, ingredients for food use, from virgin coconut oil to completely unrefined, unfiltered sesame oil that ships with an ice pack. At this time, the cosmetic industry seems to have gone as far as offering organic ingredients to skin care manufacturers, but those are of questionable freshness, most often bleached and deodorized, and often containing added ingredients such as vitamin D, that upon further investigation turns out to be derived from sheep wool, but how were the sheep treated, we will never know.

            So, in my skin care formulas, I resort to using carefully selected ingredients sold for food use as much as possible for my formulas, plus aromatherapy-grade essential oils, pure active vitamins, and a handful of natural preservatives.

            A lot of my recipes are based on my own experience with ingredients. A friend with eczema on her eyelids asked for help, and I managed to research and make a formula that ended up being effective (key ingredients here were comfrey root and allantoin, also derived from comfrey; had there been itching as well, I might have added chamomile, calendula, and zinc oxide). My own struggles with dark spots motivated me to test formulas on myself to help lighten them up and prevent new ones from occurring (my favorite ingredients in this realm are a physical SPF such as titanium dioxide, carrot seed oil or vitamin A, lemon peel essential oil, and active vitamin C). Someone else needed a facial toner for an extremely dry, reddened, and sensitive skin . . .  with severe acne (for this condition, I used a combination of German chamomile for soothing and moisturizing, witch hazel for disinfecting and cleansing, and sweet basil to help with the acne breakouts).

        I hope that you will find my approach refreshing and trustworthy, but if you disagree or have something to add to the discussion, I would love to hear from you.










Our Own Website Again -- Hurray! July 30 2014

What does everyone think? This is the Shopify platform for eCommerce. Should we take it or leave it? Free US Standard shipping for August as we evaluate this new platform! Code is GRANDREOPENING

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