Earthwise Beauty founder Ava Zhan was recently interviewed on Hail the Queen, a new podcast hosted by Rayna van Aalst. Rayna is the founder of the eco-chic beauty company Reina Organics, based in the Netherlands, which is now carrying Earthwise Beauty products. Following a new creative calling Rayna put on a hat of a radio broadcaster and started recording her own podcasts to chat informally with some of the bold and independent-thinking women she has met through her work in the green beauty world. Each podcast episode features an engaging, spontaneous conversation between Rayna and her guest. And her guests are driven, opinionated, and otherwise fascinating women. Rayna’s mission seems to be to remind women of the strong, free, unstoppable part within—the “queen” within us all.
On episode 6, Rayna and Ava discuss everything from how Earthwise Beauty was founded, how Ava formulates her products, and whether she favors wild-grown ingredients versus organic. They also cover the art of reading plant energy, motherhood, tiger moms, and growing up in Eastern Europe.
One topic they explore in great detail is the vibrational energy of plants, and how Ava reads this energy and uses it to help select the ingredients for her skincare and tea products.
Rayna: Reading energy—from my personal experience, I’ve made huge progress there, but I remember a few years ago, if somebody had told me something like this then, I would [have thought], ‘that’s such nonsense.’ But now the more I embrace meditation and spirituality, the more I realize that it’s just a lot unknown to me, and that’s why I react that way. Can you talk a little bit about this?
Ava: If you touch a stone with your eyes closed, and in your other hand you are holding a piece of plastic that is exactly the same shape and the same weight, and you close your eyes, I bet you, without any training, you will feel a certain aliveness from the stone, and nothing from the plastic. So, we all have this gift, but this gift could be naturally stronger in some people and weaker in other people, and for some people, it becomes buried, they no longer are connected to it, because they maybe live lives that are more detached from nature. But we all have a natural pull: ‘let’s go, let’s spend time in the forest,’ and we calm down [when spending time in nature]. Because we respond to the natural energy, the life force that’s circulating. The way I look at it is, the life force is the strongest in a wild, living plant. And it will be much stronger if the plant is growing in very healthy, natural conditions.
…If I touch a tree, I feel the energy. I feel a stronger energy from wild plants, in a very happy habitat, and a much weaker energy from houseplants. And even garden plants, it’s a weaker energy. So what happens is, if an oil extracted from a wonderful plant is fresh, it will have much stronger energy, like a fresh lettuce. And then if it’s old, the energy will become much weaker.
Rayna: And does this also help you when choosing ingredients for your products, being able to feel the energy of the plants, to get better-quality ingredients?
Ava: I focus a lot on the ingredients. That’s something that I have been evaluating for a very long time. When I test suppliers, I always prioritize those who have the freshest ingredients, and who manage that freshness really well. Price doesn’t even matter, I always buy the best and the freshest, no matter what the price. When it comes to the plants… my formulating process is not as much based on the energy. It’s more during the initial evaluation of ingredients that I think it comes into play. And then I trust that the ingredients I am playing with are vibrant and fresh and alive, and then I go through the formulating process.
And then, of course, there is the stress-inducing management of inventory, for that reason. If you are obsessed with freshness, then management of inventory is really challenging. That’s why I am working hard on creating a product line that maybe is a little bit narrower, but it allows me to manage the inventory better. For example, we had two facial steams, and one was more for dry skin and one was more for inflamed skin, but now I’ve decided, no, we’ll just have one, with the ingredients that I know I can harvest every year or I can obtain from really good sources every year, and it’s a little bit easier and I feel stronger about that product.
Rayna also asks Ava about the limitations of being an all-natural brand:
Rayna: Do you ever feel restricted by the choice to use only natural ingredients?
Ava: No…I don’t feel like I restrict myself upfront. I don’t censor myself upfront thinking, ‘oh, I can never use those ingredients,’ but the truth is, I am not attracted to synthetic ingredients. I just don’t want them to take up any space in my formula. In fact, somebody just asked me, ‘why didn’t you use some candelilla wax in this lip balm?’ Well, I tried it, and even though candelilla wax has some nice qualities, I can tell that it’s taking up a percentage of my formula that I prefer to fill with something that’s actually healing, that’s actually repairing. So I just don’t have space for those ingredients.
And there are other dilemmas… I saw a discussion this morning of, ‘oh, the lip balm doesn’t look perfect, how do other companies achieve this perfection of color?’ Well, our products are different, what can I tell you? They are going to be different, they are alive and they are ever-changing, but they work. So I can’t strive for perfection of color or appearance, and then sacrifice the healing power.
The interview also delves into how Ava and Rayna’s similar upbringings (Ava grew up in Poland, while Rayna is from Bulgaria) have informed their work and worldviews today:
Ava: When was I super-happy? I was only really happy when I was dropped off at my grandmother’s farm for two or three weeks at a time.… And what was the formula? Freedom. We woke up in the morning and my grandmother didn’t entertain me, didn’t ask me, ‘what do you want to do with your day?’ She went about her day. But what was important was that I had the freedom of roaming. I could go walk to another forest by myself… I could go explore [the] wild animals, and the fruit plants, and what the stage of the apples were. And with that sense of freedom and sense of adventure in the morning… you absorb how the grass is changing, and how the crops are changing, and what the bird sounds are. And you absorb it without any understanding of it, but that was happiness to me.”
For more, you can listen to the full podcast here. And we highly recommend that you check out Rayna’s full podcast series and subscribe for future interviews with other trailblazing and inspiring women in the world of green beauty and beyond.