skin deep

Beauty Uniform: Shannon of Noel Herbal Skincare

By Mary, CN Body Care Buyer & The Naturalist Contributor

The secret is out: beauty really does come from within. What we choose to eat everyday affects our health internally, and will be displayed externally (#nofilter). Hydration levels, the liver’s ability to cleanse accumulated toxins, and especially increased levels of inflammation due to diet and lifestyle all affect skin conditions. And it’s safe to say that most of us are looking for youthful radiance and resilience when we talk about our skin needs.

Shannon of Noel Herbal Skincare is a local aesthetician and practicing herbalist. She uses her knowledge of plants to help her clients find balance with topical, hands on treatment in her studio, as well as take home advice to apply once they leave the comfort of the spa treatment they’ve received.

There’s something really magical about using the plants around us both internally and externally to treat our body holistically, and Shannon does just that. Below is a recent interview with the skincare maven herself, including some invaluable advice and insight into her personal and professional practice.

You’ve been a skincare therapist for over 10 years, what has been the biggest change in skin care during that time?

Good question!  The skincare world is constantly evolving, and often times can feel overwhelming. For me the biggest change has been the advancement of new technology & machines that perform various actions for the skin.  They have their benefits, but I believe a personal touch is much more beneficial to the overall well being of a person resulting in happy balanced skin. Nourishing ourselves from within reflects how we look on the outside. I like to take care of the person as a whole, and create a space of healing & connection. I feel that nature is all the science I need, and that true healing begins from within.  In a world where computers and machines are taking over I want to stay true to personal touch and connection.

As plant lovers, we have a deep understanding that health and beauty start from the inside with what we put in our bodies. Do you have a few foods or plant allies that you have a certain connection to in this sense that you could tell us more about?

Yes I could not agree more.  I eat lots of fresh veggies, fruits, fish, & healthy fats.  Learning more about my skin over the years, I have found the crucial importance of healthy fats. Omega 3’s help to balance the production of sebum which is the oil in your skin.  Avocados are wonderful for this and happen to be one of my favorite foods.  I could eat them with every meal :)

For my plant friends I really love burdock root & marshmallow for their affinity to the skin.  Burdock root is a wonderful blood cleanser, which helps to clear those unwanted toxins.  This is extremely beneficial for anyone who is struggling with chronic skin issues like acne, eczema & psoriasis.  It is also loaded with prebiotics helping our gut flora.  Our gut health is so important to our overall health so anything to help support this is highly recommended.

I see so many individuals whose skin is compromised due to a lack of hydration to the skin. I love marshmallow for its extreme moistening effect to the body.  It is a demulcent meaning that it can carry water into many types of tissue in the body.  Marshmallow is wonderful for anyone who doesn’t hold on to water very well, myself included.  They may drink a lot of water, but do not retain it.  Marshmallow helps the water stick because of its mucilage and mineral content. Also really great for anyone dealing with gut inflammation, which is an all too common issue.

What is the most common skin complaint you hear from your clients and how do you address it?

The most common complaint that I hear about is; clogged pores (acne) and aging skin that has lost its luster.  Clogged pores can be a result from improper use of products, diet, & dehydration or all of the above.  I help clients learn about healthy anti-inflammatory foods, and herbs that can help soothe & heal the gut, & clean out toxins that may be resulting in skin related issues, and also educate on healthy products to maintain their skin with at home.

Aging is inevitable and also a very personal experience. As we get older, the skin’s natural shedding process slows down which causes a buildup of dead skin cells resulting in a dry, dull, even sometimes flaky appearance. A good exfoliation is important for our skin’s health.  It allows for better product penetration and gives you a healthier more vibrant appearance.

Do you have any special self care or skin care rituals you make time for each day, or each week?

When I am not running back & forth to Cambridge Naturals :) … I always no matter how tired I am, will wash my skin before bed and when I wake up in the morning.  I include a combination of serums & a moisturizer.  I love using hyaluronic acid, it’s such a simple but amazing ingredient that I find it really helps my skin stay healthy and hydrated.  I also love using Niacinamide, which is vitamin b3; it’s great for cutting & working through sensitivity. Once a week I make a mask with herbal tea.  I love French green clay so that is usually the base, and the tea infusion with a bit of honey is the rest. It’s really nice because I get to enjoy a cup of tea and also see how the herbs work on the skin.

What has inspired or continues to inspire your own beauty uniform?

I think herbs have really inspired me to take my skincare practice to the next level.  I have always believed in a holistic practice, but now having the foundation of being a practicing herbalist I am better able to guide my clients on a healthy path. Plants and helping clients find their own personal “happy state” is what continues to inspire me.

If you could offer one piece of advice to those inspired to adopt a natural skincare routine, what would it be?

I would say to anyone wanting to adopt a healthy regimen to become aware of safe ingredients vs. toxic ingredients.  A product label can market itself as anything, but after reading more into the list of ingredients you may find something that says it’s “all natural” may in fact be harmful to our bodies.  Lots of ingredients that are on the product shelves in my opinion are outdated and not safe.  Really familiarize yourself with reading a list of ingredients and not the headliner of the product that gets your attention.  Make a commitment to yourself and keep it simple ☺
 

And lastly, what are your top three favorite Cambridge Naturals products?

Ahh there’s so many making this is extremely tough!  I love the Evan Healy Wild Carrot eye balm, Sun Potion (Reishi), & the Bach flower essences.  I also really love Heart Grown wild face serums; the ‘Veil of Love’ is magical

Thank you so much for sharing your beauty uniform with us, Shannon! Noel Herbal Skincare is located at 689 Somerville Ave in Somerville and Shannon is now offering 20% off new customers first treatment when you mention this post! For updates follow @noel_herbals on instagram.

Monthly Muse: Evan Healy

By Emily, CN Second Generation Co-Owner

When I first came back into the business three years ago, my focus at the store was our body care section. There was a big learning curve with understanding the intricacies of buying: getting to know each brand's particular ethos and story, how to order the products, and how to communicate the value of each individual line to our customers. One of the first brands I worked with was evanhealy, a line we'd carried for over a decade. I was fairly familiar with the products, but I didn't know that much about their back story, the ingredients, and what truly sets evanhealy skin care apart.

Evan and her husband David launched their skin care company in 1999. Evan had been a natural skin care aesthetician for over 10 years, and had studied Ayurvedic medicine, homeopathy and aromatherapy in the US, Europe and India. She brought core tenants of these philosophies into her new skin care brand - as well as her own unwavering passion for authentic beauty and truth. What makes the evanhealy line so special is not just that their ingredients are impeccably sourced - they build deep relationships with women's cooperatives and small family farms around the world to ethically source the majority of their high quality, organic ingredients - but also that their plant-based products are formulated to highlight and embrace your skin. Rather than correcting "problems" or "challenges", Evan's products heal and harmonize with your skin's natural beauty. On every one of their shipping boxes is a sticker with the message "Who you are is enough." Using Evan's products feels like taking a deep breath of fresh air, drawn down into your belly, and exhaled slowly. The mixing of oil, water (and sometimes clay) is one of my absolute favorite daily rituals now.

We were lucky to learn more about Evan's own rituals, her quest for authenticity, and her passion for running evanhealy alongside David and their wonderful team. Read on for our interview:

All photos courtesy of Evan Healy.

Evan in a field of Sacred Tulsi in Trivandrum, India, 2009. Photo by Niika Quistgard.

Evan in a field of Sacred Tulsi in Trivandrum, India, 2009. Photo by Niika Quistgard.

Partnerships are very important to the evanhealy brand - when you source an ingredient like organic shea butter or fair trade argan oil, you're working closely with the communities that grow and harvest the raw material and you support their livelihood in deep ways. Can you tell us a little bit about why these relationships matter to you and to the company, and one particular partnership story that inspires your work?

Evan: Partnerships are the foundation of our business. Our relationships are what matter most. I prefer to deal with people I know and have met. We are very fortunate in our business that we work with families and folks devoted to the shared values of hand made and artisan, organic and holistic. We source from all over the global garden. We also value the profound knowledge of indigenous cultures. Traditional cultures and their regional remedies are often overlooked sources of wisdom. Traditional cultural remedies represent many generations of experience and knowledge of the natural world. This ancient knowledge is imbued with both simplicity and meaning, and I love learning about their historical context. I enjoy connecting with women who know the deep truths of the land on which they live. They exhibit such a generosity of spirit when they share their knowledge of their ancestors. This is true whether it’s the women of Kperisi in Ghana or the Berber Amazigh women of Tiznit, in the Atlas Mountains in Morocco. These women radiate the power, integrity and well-being of Place.

Meeting Urias in Mexico, 2007 - maker of evanhealy's clay bowls for the Clay Mask Kit. His sons and grandsons now work with him.

Meeting Urias in Mexico, 2007 - maker of evanhealy's clay bowls for the Clay Mask Kit. His sons and grandsons now work with him.

What does a typical day in the world of evanhealy skin care look like? What are your favorite daily aspects about what you do for a living?

I’m a creative person. I like variety. I don’t like to get up and do the same thing everyday. I'm not a nine-to-five person. I follow my energy cycles. In the morning I like to go outside almost immediately.

I do enjoy getting in to the office and talking to people. I enjoy their energy. More than anything else I appreciate the opportunity to exercise my creativity. I am our company’s Creative Director, so I am always scanning the horizon for new ideas, partnerships, products. Ultimately, it is the natural world from which I draw the most inspiration and value. In all settings, I work best in the moment, and often better alone. Those moments can often stretch out for months, or years! I like to take something that I’ve been tinkering with and give it life, take it to the next level. This takes time, and conversely, the process is also rather spontaneous. For me working with our nutritive oils, our various infused oils, nut and seed butters, sun dried clays, emulsions and hydrosols is an almost meditative experience. It deepens the connection to what I feel is best about myself. It both grounds me and expands me. I have been very fortunate in my life’s work.

I find the way ‘beauty’ is portrayed in the mainstream media rather shallow, and too perfectionistic. I have learned that, pared down to its essence, beauty lies in the cracks and crevices of our lives every minute of every day.

I love collaborating with our design and media team. I get inspiration from all avenues: photography, food and home-style blogs. I love picking up the camera myself. With or without a camera, I am constantly framing what I see, recording it, or making a mental note. I look for harmony, magical light and natural, unfussy beauty. I find it no matter where I am: in my backyard, on a trail, in a remote village, on the street, and of course, in the faces I see. During the years I spent in my skin care practice, I learned the valuable lesson of looking, observing and watching. All three of these actions convey the need to both soften the vision - while sharpening the focus. Attention to detail has always been my specialty!

Evan doing a summertime facial. 2016.

Evan doing a summertime facial. 2016.

Skin is constantly changing and evolving, reflecting thoughts and emotions, I find that fascinating. I am constantly looking to communicate a more authentic expression of beauty, in both word and image. I find the way ‘beauty’ is portrayed in the mainstream media rather shallow, and too perfectionistic. I have learned that, pared down to its essence, beauty lies in the cracks and crevices of our lives every minute of every day. The challenge these days is to slow down long enough to look and really see what’s there. When done right, it becomes a meditation. I love the idea that natural beauty is transitory and messy. Nature is not perfect, but it is enlightened. We place too high a value on perfection, and our nervous systems can’t handle this constant striving for perfection. All things are impermanent. The inherent lesson of our life is: learn to let go! Take a nap. Go for a walk. Take time to relax. Your adrenals will thank you. Expressed by the relative simplicity of our product range, we want to raise the conversation from one of a hyper focus on 'anti-aging' - to the appreciation of imperfection. The deeper truth behind our message is the fact that - who you are is enough.

Evan & David

Evan & David

You and your husband David work closely together to run evanhealy. As a (multi-generational) family-owned business ourselves, we'd love to learn how you balance the demands (and joys) of work life with your family life.

Oh yes! I struggle with balance every day. However, at this point, David and I have been collaborating for most of our twenty years together. It’s pretty seamless, it’s always rewarding, but yes, it’s not always easy. We like to remind each other of that analogy about stones in a tumbler, softening each other’s sharp edges. We’re pretty comfortable together, and with our business. It’s our life. It’s our child. And we are perfectly suited to it. We each exhibit the complimentary, but polar opposite of the other’s talent and skill. He’s organized and financial. I’m artistic and spontaneous. He works on Excel spread sheets. I scribble on thousands of post-its. We have taken the Yin and Yang thing to a whole new level. We have boundaries – day and night, work week and weekend – but they’re not strict. Neither of us are that good with boundaries. Ultimately, he is my most important relationship.

The never-ending barrage of internet ‘noise’ is so disruptive to our delicately balanced nervous system. It impedes access to the inner quiet life of our true self. To counter this we say: Slow down. Simplify.

Your products have a devoted following among our staff and customers - and not just because they are well-formulated and made with beautiful ingredients, but because they inspire a deeper sense of self-care. The word "ritual" always comes to mind: The daily ritual of slowing down, taking time for your skin, and therefore yourself. What are some of your favorite self-care rituals?

Evan:  Yes, I love the word ritual as it pertains to care of the skin. I like to ease into my morning. I get up and immediately go outside with bare feet on the grass, stretching or yoga, with a cup of hot lemon water, tea or coffee. I’m an introvert, so being quiet is my touchstone. I can only regenerate when I am alone and early morning is my time. I go from a sleep state to a slow, calm, natural state via our backyard. By standing under our ancient apple tree, I go within. And while I don’t mind getting up early, I don’t like to have to be somewhere, or for that matter, leave my house at all. I prefer to glide slowly into my day. As I get older, I notice my rhythms change. The stability of daily rituals matter more. They become deeper, slower and more infused with meaning.

A shell Evan uses for scooping clay, found on the beach of her childhood summer home in Scituate, MA, a place she feels a deep connection to. Her hands are also one of the main ways she connects with the world around her - both as an esthetician and as a healer.

A shell Evan uses for scooping clay, found on the beach of her childhood summer home in Scituate, MA, a place she feels a deep connection to. Her hands are also one of the main ways she connects with the world around her - both as an esthetician and as a healer.

Out of necessity, I’m driven to find what calms and relaxes me. I struggle, frankly, to get away from the internet. I do a lot of the writing, planning, and I find inspiration by scanning social media, but I don’t find it healthy to know what’s going on every minute of every day! You certainly don’t need to know I’ve just flossed my teeth, boiled an egg or blinked my eyes, for instance. A distortion of our natural rhythms results in an imbalance of the autonomic nervous system and all its attendant symptoms, such as higher cortisol. Adrenal depletion can often been seen in the area around the eyes. The never-ending barrage of internet ‘noise’ is so disruptive to our delicately balanced nervous system. It impedes access to the inner quiet life of our true self. To counter this we say: Slow down. Simplify.

I use our copper distilled plant Hydrosols and Facial Serums as remedies, not just for the skin but also to send a message to my spirit. Healers have to remain grounded in nature. It’s what connects us to our own inner physician. I love saturating my face with our Hydrosols, followed by massaging a few droplets of our Oil Serum (Blue Cactus Beauty Elixir is my idea of heaven these days!) into my skin. I use our Whipped Shea Butter, made with our own infused oils, to cure any and all skin ills.

Copper stills used in making the evanhealy Hydrosouls

Copper stills used in making the evanhealy Hydrosouls

The world has seemingly become more chaotic and our political scene ever more divisive. What people, books, media, or movements are inspiring you to keep going these days?

In my earlier years, and out of a need for answers, I spent years reading classics, philosophy and books about eastern religion. Books that encouraged my flights of imagination were often about women explorers such as Alexandra David-Neel, Gertrude Bell and Freya Stark. I was looking for answers to the age-old question of how do I live an authentic life? And for that matter, what is an authentic life? I was truly on a journey of self-discovery. My path took me to mystics and teachers like Joseph Campbell and His Holiness the Dalai Lama. My list of teachers and mentors is long and varied! There are so many sources of inspiration, and the search is always a deeply personal one.

Stepping outdoors for an afternoon walk in Big Sur.

Stepping outdoors for an afternoon walk in Big Sur.

These days, I am inspired by topics and books such as Dirt: The Ecstatic Skin of the Earth by William Bryant Logan. I loved the book In Praise of Shadows, by author Jun’ichirō Tanizaki. I have read and reread Leonard Koren’s books: Wabi Sabi – Further Thoughts, and his earlier book, Wabi Sabi: For Artists, Designers, Poets & Philosophers.

The books on Wabi Sabi share the profound and ultimate wisdom of finding true beauty in imperfection. Embracing the cycles and profundity of nature. It’s a beauty that is simple, slow and uncluttered. This is what makes the most sense to me.

Beauty Uniform: Jennifer Botto of Thorn + Bloom

By Mary, CN Body Care Buyer & The Naturalist Contributor

I remember when I discovered what I thought was my signature scent, and I remember clearly when I realized the effect it was truly having on me, which was what can only be described as “sensory assault.” The headaches, the skin irritation, all signs pointed to the designer perfume I insisted on spritzing myself with. Jennifer Botto, founder of the Somerville based perfume company Thorn + Bloom understands this experience all too well.

I first met Jennifer last summer at the annual Herbstalk event. The packaging and display of her products quickly reined me in and she gladly humored my eagerness to learn everything about her line. She patiently handed me sample card after sample card, walking me through the depth of each scent. There was finally a high quality non-toxic perfume on the market and I wanted to shout it from the rooftops of the Armory.

The “fragrance” that makes up synthetic perfumes is actually a combinations of hundreds of synthetic chemicals and are loaded with pthalates, known hormone disruptors. According to a 1991 EPA Analysis, 95% of those chemicals are derived from petrochemicals and are known to cause birth defects, cancer, asthma, and allergies. An alarming statistic we are privileged to be aware of. We at Cambridge Naturals are just as careful of what we put on our bodies as we are of what we put in them, and we want the same safety standard for you.

All scents in the growing Thorn + Bloom line are available for sale at Cambridge Naturals. I interviewed her this month to get the full scoop on how she got started in nontoxic perfumery and below she shares some tips from her own beauty uniform.

Scent is powerful in the sense that it can instantly flood you with specific memories and transport you to another time and place. As a perfumer, is there any scent or combination of scents that has that effect on you? Where does it take you?

My most nostalgic blend, Stranger in the Cherry Grove, reminds me of my father's cherry pipe tobacco. It is smoky, woody, leathery with the slightest hint of charred cherry wood and fruit. In a perfume, it's an unexpected and surprising combination (burnt cherries?) but it makes sense when you know the context behind it's creation. For me, it is one of my most favorite scents and memories.

You grew up on a farm in New York but now live in the city of Boston. Has the change of scents in the environment you work and live in had any effect on what you do?

Natural Perfumery has helped me reconnect to nature in the midst of a frenetic urban environment. Living in a city often robs people of natural aromas such as freshly cut grass, blooming flowers, tree bark, moss, animal manure, silage, wood fire, etc and replaces them with synthetic aromas such as exhaust, gasoline, industrial materials, car air fresheners and synthetic perfumes. The sense of smell is often underrated and neglected, especially in a city such as Boston.

Perfuming quickly became an obsession when I realized that botanical scents can rival the very best synthetic fragrances.

What initially drew you to natural perfumery?

I've always been very allergic to synthetic perfumes and could never find a natural perfume that met my expectations in terms of longevity, complexity and sophistication. I decided to experiment with a handful of essential oils and my passion grew into a collection of hundreds of rare natural essences. Perfuming quickly became an obsession when I realized that botanical scents can rival the very best synthetic fragrances.

Do you have a signature scent or do you change it up everyday?

I tend to wear perfume seasonally and developed the line with this in mind. I love wearing Bird of Paradise in the summer, as it evokes a luscious tropical paradise with night blooming Jasmine, lemon and ginger. During the colder months I choose Orange Blossom, as the cardamom, honey and cedarwood exude a sensual warmth.

What does your daily skincare routine from day to night look like?

Of course, Coconut Oil is a mainstay for full body and face hydration. I've recently discovered topical Magnesium oil which has been a godsend. I find it helps with lymphatic drainage and exfoliation, giving my skin a firmer texture and more rosy appearance. It also helps with aches and pains just as an epsom salt bath would. I love the idea that I can spray the Magnesium on my skin as a kind of mobile bath therapy.

Do you wear makeup?

When I wear makeup I tend to do a natural, minimalist face with Jane Iredale products. My favorite look is a neutral lip with bright rosy cheeks and a lot of lash. I recently discovered a fantastic new product called One Two Lash which relies on magnetic technology to attach false lashes effortlessly. I'm constantly on the go so the ability to apply lashes in a snap with no messy glue or expensive extensions has really upped my beauty game!

What has inspired or continues to inspire your beauty uniform?

The older I get, the more I try to look for ways to let my inner beauty shine through. This has meant clean eating and clean living, cutting down on synthetic chemical exposure and processed foods. I also rely heavily on drinking lots of water and getting a minimum of 7 full hours of sleep every night.

When do you feel most yourself?

I love spending time in rural settings, away from the maddening crowd. I tend to become overstimulated by all the sounds and movement of the city and so it's very refreshing to return to the countryside for reflection and slow living. It's also wonderful to be able to stargaze when the light pollution isn't so heavy!

Do you have a favorite scent in your collection or one that is particularly special to you?

My favorite is Evergreen. I grew up in norther NY surrounded by beautifully fragrant forests of pine, spruce and fir trees. My family makes maple syrup so the combination of sweet boiling sap and cool fresh evergreen needles always brings back fond memories of childhood.

Thank you so much, Jennifer! Visit us in store to try  Thorn + Bloom. To learn more about Jennifer and the line of perfumes you can follow them on instagram @thornandbloom for updates!

Monthly Muse: SantaLena Groves

By Mary, CN Body Care Buyer + The Naturalist Contributor

We’re celebrating love this month and the many forms it may take: self love, romantic love, platonic love, familial love. And then there’s the love that many have for what they do or create, for something outside themselves that causes them to look and learn with a childlike wonder felt by few.

The love that the founders of Heart Grown Wild have for the plant world is emulated by each one of their products. Working in natural skincare, I have smelled nearly all of the wonderful things our growing Body Care department has to offer. But the scent of the In The Trees body oil can transport me right out of the city and back to the woods I spent summers camping in, unlike anything else. And no wonder: it’s made with wildcrafted spruce and balsam fir.

At the heart of the line is a passion for plants and our deep connection to them. Lena, with some help from her husband Tom (recently featured in this month’s Beauty Uniform), has created a line using an herbalist’s approach to skincare with safety and sustainability always at the forefront. Below, I interview Lena to learn more about who she is and how she got started.
 

What is the last book you couldn’t put down? (Blogs and magazines count too!)

If I am not creating in my studio, I’m buried in a book researching information about plants and ingredients. As far as books go, the two that are my go-to right now are Body Into Balance: An Herbal Guide To Holistic Self Care by Maria Noel Groves and The Herbal Medicine Makers Handbook by David Hoffman. We have a huge botanical library in our home and apothecary. Books for me are more enjoyable because they’re tangible and accessible. Turning pages in a book for me is a visceral and cathartic experience much different than scrolling through my iphone. I also really love reading newsletters from fellow herbalists, some of my favorites are One Willow Apothecary and La Abeja Herbs.
 

There’s a strong outdoors influence to the line, is this influenced by any outdoor hobbies or your homebase of Vermont?

I would have to say that Heart Grown Wild is influenced by our outdoor hobbies and our location in Vermont. I found a strong connection to the outdoors in early adulthood. The outdoors is where I felt most at home. I love being outside, whether it be hiking, exploring, climbing over big river rocks, running my hands in ice cold river water or sitting in the comfort of big tree. Being in nature has always given me a sense of warmth and comfort very similar to a mother’s love or spending time with a dear friend.

When I opened the doorway to the world of herbalism, my love for the outdoors greatly expanded. Seeing and continuing to build the connection with the plants on a plant-spirit and medicinal level connected the dots for me as to why I had such an affinity for particular plants. I truly believe there is a strong connection between humans and the plants. If humans are willing to pay attention and listen- there is strong plant medicine accessible for everyone.

Vermont is the ideal location for Heart Grown Wild as it has vast areas of pristine wilderness and land to explore. Living in Vermont, I feel like I have a huge botanical canvas to work with. One of the reasons I wanted to incorporate plants into my self-care routine was so to continue to have the connection to nature - even when I lived in what felt to be a concrete jungle. The Heart Grown Wild line is influenced by the direct connection I’ve had with the plants on mist covered trails covered in vibrant green moss or sitting in a field of wildflowers under a painted sky. Often during these experiences plant combinations come to me - and I trust these intuitive moments. I am often pleasantly surprised to find that these divine, intuitive combinations magically go together. My time outside is highly influential in what Heart Grown Wild creates. In order to maintain our connection to the outdoors, we strive to create our products in small batches to produce ecologically sustainable, quality skin care products.

How did you initially start making the beautiful plant based products that grew into Heart Grown Wild?

There are two parts to this story. The first is that I have had my own skin experiences which molded how I treated my skin. When I was in my mid 20's I had a year-long, severe hormonal breakout that resulted in painful cystic acne along my jaw and on my neck. I went to a dermatologist, and was prescribed medication that was effective against the acne, however, the medication caused sun sensitivity, and my skin began peeling. I also began to notice some pretty intense wrinkles around my mouth and on my forehead that were very premature. Medication didn’t seem to be a solution for my problem. It was either, I can have acne, or I can have wrinkles and peeling skin. We live in a society, where problems of any kind are treated with medication that solves one problem but creates another. My need to find a better solution came at a time when I was starting to shed all the things in my life that were toxic. I became obsessed with reading labels on all types of products, from food to skin care products. I especially paid close attention to skin care products. At this point, I tried to find the most natural products possible, and fell in love with Lush. They were the first product I found that I could understand what the ingredients were.  At the time I was a social worker, so unfortunately it didn’t quite work with my budget. I began writing as a contributor for an online herbal school called the Herbal Academy in Bedford, Massachusetts. One of the first articles that I wrote for them was a DIY Gift Box tutorial for the holidays. I showed readers how to create a sugar scrub, a facial scrub, and a bath soak, all of which were completely natural, and plant-based. This was the start, and from this point forward I was hooked. I continued to tear our kitchen apart creating and formulating mostly for myself, when I had time away from my previous full time job. On any given Saturday or Sunday Tom, my husband, would be plucking away on his guitar, and would graciously would allow me to interrupt him MANY times to smell things.  We moved to Vermont in 2014 and I enrolled in two courses at the Gaia School of Healing, this experience took Heart Grown Wild to a whole new level. My final project included some of the products we carry to this day. For this final project, I created a plant beauty product for every chakra. I use a traditional herbalist approach to the crafting of the line. Our products are created by infusing solvents entirely with the plants versus relying on essential oils. The market right now feels very saturated with this process. Essential oils have high potency and they require a lot of plant material to create just a few drops. Tom and I know about this first hand because we distill our own essential oils and hydrosols when possible.  On a sustainability and safety level, it was important for me to stick to using a slower process that requires less plant material as the base of many of our products. There is also something very ancestral about sticking to traditional herbal roots and this was important to what Tom and I wanted Heart Grown Wild to be.

What are some of the highlights of founding a company as a couple? Any unforeseen or humorous struggles to this venture?

The love for plants Tom and I have has evolved together. When we first met he and I were doing very different things with our life. We both went through the process of shedding things that we didn’t feel fulfilled our lives. At these crossroads, we both became very curious about plants from two different perspectives. I came from a traditional herbal medicine perspective, and Tom came in from a botany/conservation perspective. Reminiscing on our walks in the woods together, they were fairly comical. I would be sitting with a plant, leaving offerings enamored by the plant’s magical spirit and Tom would note as a matter of fact, “It’s not Native” and continue trudging along the trail with his plant identification book. My plant dreams were crushed, but it was a learning experience, and relationships would be boring if partners didn’t challenge each other. Since then, we both have learned a lot from each other's botanical background and perspective. In many ways our plant worlds have collided and have since created a beautiful symbiosis. I think some of our highlights together would be our time spent together in the woods or at the ocean this past summer creating a traveling apothecary of sorts. We love exploring together and it’s really exciting when a product is birthed out of our communal experience. It’s like a photograph of that moment but with smell-o-vision. When I open a jar of our Stars of the Ocean face mask I immediately return to our trip to the Cape Cod National Sea Shore walking barefoot on a misty beach, looking ahead sweetly to Tom and our dog Cici’s silhouettes. When I open the Prism of the Sun body oil, no matter how cold it is outside, it evokes mid-morning moments spent in Green Mountain National Forest looking up at the sun’s rays sparkling through the trees.

I am a huge fan of the Nature’s Nectar body oil! How do you choose which plants and/or oils to blend together to make a new product?

I would have to say that Heart Grown Wild’s products are intuitive and inspired by that direct connection to the outdoors. Nature’s Nectar was part of my final project at the Gaia School of Healing for the Sacral Chakra. The Spruce Resin felt appropriate due to this deep, sweet, earthy energy that comes through every time I work with it. It combines perfectly with vanilla giving it a sensuous base. I paired it with floral earthy notes that are associated with the Sacral Chakra. With Sacral work, much of it is trusting your intuition and this emergence of creative passion that is flowing just beneath the surface. Nature’s Nectar encapsulates this sweet, earthy, deep rooted energy that is just below the surface, similar to the Spruce Resin of the tree. When I first came into contact with the raw, golden, infused oil it was like liquid gold! When I work with the Spruce Resin it’s like sparkling gemstones, so it felt appropriate that the oil have a natural shimmering quality to it.
 

Do you have a favorite Heart Grown Wild product? If so, what is so special about it to you?

This is a tough question! I have such a personal connection to them all. I guess I would have to answer that with my favorite combination of products. Hot baths are one of my favorite indulgences. I love combining making an evening of my ritual. I start by cleansing with Azul Face Serum, applying the Tree Song Toner, and then putting on the Release Face Mask while the bath water is running. When the tub is almost full, I pour the Root Soak under the running bath water. I love how it turns the water an earthy red hue. During my soak in the tub, I love to meditate or dream up new plant combinations. Once the mask is dry, I remove it with the warm bath water. When I get out of the tub, the Prism of the Sun Body Oil compliments the Root Soak bath ritual perfectly. The Root Soak has Balsam Fir and smoky, earthy notes to it. It is truly lovely with each of the tree associated body oils. Typically, I massage the oil into my skin and allow it to soak in while I practice restorative yoga. I highly suggest legs up on the wall, and Supta Baddha Konasana.

Many of the products described above conjure up a sweet memory of the plants or landscapes associated with them. I think what makes them special is the hand crafted piece. We know where these plants are coming from and what our relationship is to them. Our intention from the beginning has and always will be, to bring the connection of the outside world into your skin.

 

Thank you so much Lena! Come see and feel the Heart Grown Wild line in store for yourselves. We’re happy to make you a sample of a mask or two for you to take home and try. Be sure to stay in touch and watch for new products on their instagram @heartgrownwild

 

Beauty Uniform: Tom Groves

By Mary, CN Body Care Buyer + The Naturalist Contributor

I discovered the benefits of herbal medicine and green juice during a few formative years in Los Angeles, land of the macrobiotic diet and home to soul cycle devotees. My skin was glowing and my moods were balanced, all without harsh chemicals or prescriptions. It’s what led me all the way back to New England to work towards a degree in Nutrition. I didn’t expect a passion for food based medicine to lead to cleaning out my makeup bag and bathroom cabinet, but you can’t un-know all the things your skin is absorbing every day.

We live in a society that has unrealistic beauty standards and the skin care and cosmetic industry certainly targets women more than men. But we all have skin that needs love and attention regardless of gender. So this month I decided to get a different perspective on skin care.

Tom Groves, co-founder of Heart Grown Wild, had a similar indirect introduction to natural skincare. His background in wildlife biology and botany has given the line of organic, plant-based, skin and hair care products an edge on what often feels like a saturated market.

Below, Tom shares more about his background, his work with Heart Grown Wild, as well his own favorite skin care rituals.

 

You have a background in wildlife biology, has co-founding Heart Grown Wild and working with plants in the context of beauty and body care changed anything about the way you interact with or study plants in your research?

I was academically trained as a wildlife biologist. I was introduced to botany through a professor at Framingham State University and eventually through the conservation department of the New England Wild Flower Society (NEWFS). My work with NEWFS began as a volunteer experience and continued as a conservation fellow. Generally, we performed rare, threatened and endangered species surveys, seed collections, habitat restoration and educational offerings for the public. This work was taxonomically species based. It was common to be carrying around 3 or 4 books for species identification in the wild. The knowledge of botanical diversity I learned while with NEWFS has given Heart Grown Wild a unique perspective on product constituents, habitat conservation, and sustainability. Currently, I work for a forestry company which allows me to be out in the woods on a daily basis. For Heart Grown Wild to provide a quality product, it was invaluable to be able to knowingly select particular plants for wild harvesting and product inclusion.

When/how did you first become interested in using more natural beauty/body care products?

My wife Lena had the most impact on my interest in plants for skin care. Like most guys, I was reluctant to be anything but a “shower and go” guy. It began with the In the Trees body oil which originally was a beard oil Lena formulated for me that piqued my interest in using plants as products. The beard oil was liked so much we decided to change its categorization to body oil. The scent is really why it’s a best seller. The facial expression on people makes my day every time, when they inhale dank conifer base oil mixed with just a hint of orange and patchouli. It’s made with wild-harvested red spruce and balsam fir tips, and our own home distilled spruce/fir essential oil. It’s something special. This was the first product that I used on a regular basis. It clicked for me when I realized that I had a specialized set of skills for helping Lena to create skin, hair and body products that were honestly unique, creative and rooted in Vermont. (See what I did there?)

Herbal skin and hair care products also just made sense to me – why use products that artificially scented or chemically based when I could use products that I know are entirely plant based and have low levels of essential oils. Through the process of making our own essential oils and hydrosols, Lena and I learned the amount of plant material to make 10 drops of essential oil was quite a bit. We try to impart this knowledge to our customers that essential oils should be used in sparing quantities due to their potency and for sustainability reasons. In today’s market it’s difficult to really know where our products are coming from. Our skin is the largest organ, so making products that Lena, myself, and our customers could rely on to be good on so many levels was a big part of what we wanted our business to be.

What’s your daily skincare routine? Does this change with the seasons?

I use three products consistently at the moment. I begin my day with a shower and post-shower I start with a spritz of the Tree Song toner, which is another more masculine scented product, made with our own black birch infused witch hazel and black birch hydrosol – an invigorating way to begin the day. I use a dime sized amount of In The Trees around my shoulders, with a little on my beard, and a dime size amount of Sol Nectar hair serum I run through my hair before I comb it. I don’t use a mask on a regular basis, but I do try these products when Lena formulates them and they are quite the experience. I haven’t quite crossed into that level of skin care as part of my routine yet, but who knows…

How do your self care or body care rituals change while traveling?

Prior to my introduction into Heart Grown Wild and plant-based skin care I had no skin care routine. Since the beginning of my use of skin care/body care products, the biggest change to me when traveling is that I actually take skin care products on the plane. Lena and I recently traveled to North Carolina and we were able to take all of our individual products through the security checks in our carry-ons. I never check a bag and I like to travel light. This made continuing my daily routine, which I’ve come to love, easy to take with me.

What has inspired or continues to inspire your beauty uniform?

The thing that has inspired me and continues to inspire me in regard to my beauty uniform is Heart Grown Wild products and the use of more and more Vermont grown herbaceous and woody plants, whether that be from a farm or the wild. I also am excited about the substitution of related non-native species of plants for sustainably, locally grown, or wild-harvested plant based products. In my free time I’m researching the evolutionary connection between related genera of evolutionarily divergent plants in an attempt to find comparable skin care compounds that could be present in Vermont’s native plants which could be used in skincare products. At the moment I’m looking into a substitution for the Mediterranean native, Helichrysum italicum, for a New England native, commonly called Pearly Everlasting or Anaphalis margaritacea. I’m also looking into using Populus grandidentata and Populus tremuloides extract, commonly known as big-tooth and quaking aspen, as a natural skin care product preservative. Very exciting!

Tree Song .png

When do you feel most yourself?

I feel the most like myself when I’m traipsing through the woods hunting for plants I’ve never seen in the wild.

Last but certainly not least, do you have a favorite Heart Grown Wild product?

This might be the most difficult question. I’d have to say for an overall score, where the criteria was simplicity, improvement to my life, and it’s botanical cool factor, is the Birch Wisdom body oil. Betula lenta was historically used by native and early settlers to treat headaches and fevers and eventually it was used to make salicylic acid for aspirin. Many New Englanders are familiar with chewing a twig as a child and the sweet, minty taste. What many New Englanders don’t know is that black birch can be tapped like maple trees and the sap can then be brewed into birch beer, although authentic birch beer is difficult to find these days. During the early 1900s this species was pushed to the brink of scarcity for the extraction of methyl salicylate for flavoring of soaps, chewing gum and sodas. When it was possible to create the compound synthetically, the harvesting of the species dropped off and the species rebounded. Black birch will likely be the tree of the future here in Vermont. It proves to not have sap as sweet as sugar maples, or to grow as tall and stout as a red oak, and it is surely not as straight grained as the white pine, but it does show resistance to disease, warming climate, and out competes thick, regeneration-killing fern. The Birch Wisdom body oil for me mixes resilient botanical qualities, native wisdom and childlike nostalgia together to create the feeling I love each time I put it on.

Thank you so much for sharing your beauty uniform with us, Tom! And look out for Tom’s wife, Lena, who will be featured as this month’s Muse! To learn more about Heart Grown Wild you can come visit us at Cambridge Naturals to try the line yourself in store, or follow them on instagram (@heartgrownwild)

 

Scum Scum Go Away, Come Again Another Day (Or Not!)

By Bex, Supplements Buyer and The Naturalist Contributor

After an uncharacteristic drought in New England this year, the skies have parted and graced us with some splash-worthy puddles.  When you think of all of that rainfall accumulating (yes, we need more of it) hopefully you envision glistening lakes, cascading rivers and serene beaches. Mmmmmmm, water… Perhaps, if you are like me, you think of your Lifefactory Water Bottle, which you carry around with you wherever you go, like Linus with his blanket. Mmmmmmmm, blanket…

Vital for our health and oh-so refreshing, water is at its best when it’s crystal clear and pure; the murky news is that it can easily become contaminated. So if our water becomes contaminated, it makes sense that our bodies may very well also become contaminated over time. Oh no! A seemingly unlikely culprit, water can actually be quite dangerous when it isn’t properly purified.

Monthly Muse: Gianne Doherty

Photos courtesy OBC

Photos courtesy OBC

By Mary, Body Care Buyer and Blog Contributor

You may have noticed some new things around the store lately. New faces, new sales, and most exciting of all: NEW PRODUCTS! We recently stocked some of the shelves in our body care department with a line we’ve been eager to share with our customers.

Organic Bath Co. is owned by Gianne Doherty, a Medford resident, natural skin care aficionado, and all around wonderful human being. We now carry the OBC body scrubs, body wash, and body butters in both full and travel size. Each product comes in a variety of scents, using only organic essential oils, to suit any preference. Not only are you supporting a local company with each OBC purchase, you’re also supporting a bigger cause. With each and every purchase, 1% is donated to charity. As Gianne says, “true beauty begins with giving back.” But Gianne’s accomplishments don’t stop there. She is also the founder of W.E.L.L. Summit, an annual event bringing together and empowering the wellness community. Read on to learn more about Gianne, her work, and how all of this got started.

CN: What is your favorite place or thing to do in the Boston area?

GD: We just spent Sunday walking around and exploring different neighborhoods in Boston, sat on the Esplanade and I loved it! It doesn’t cost a thing, the people watching was great and I found myself seeing the same places with new eyes. The exercise I got from walking off and on for 3 hours was an added bonus! :-)

CN: What was the last book you read that you couldn’t put down?

GD: Ohh, I am a voracious reader and read a few books a week. The last book I read that I couldn’t put down was Natchez Burning by Greg Iles.  I love mysteries!

Photos courtesy OBC

Photos courtesy OBC

CN: Can you tell us about how Organic Bath Company got started?

GD: A  few years ago, when my skin began reacting (by way of hives!) to mainstream lotions I had been using, my boyfriend Jay and I ended up making a pure, unscented, shea butter-based body butter for me that my skin still loves to this day. As I learned more about the personal care industry and its lack of regulation, the more determined I was to make safe products for myself and family and friends. Organic Bath Co. began out of necessity with that shea butter-based body butter (now known as “Drenched”), and we’ve donated a portion of our proceeds to charity since day one!  

CN: What inspired you to found the W.E.L.L. Summit and where do you envision it going in the future?

GD: The W. E. L. L. Summit was created through conversations with our customers, friends & family. We are constantly asked for advice about questions that are often a bit outside of our scope such as: What natural deodorants should we use? Why should our products contain essential oils and not fragrance? Etc. Ultimately, we recognized that there was a need in our community and a larger community to bring the best of the wellness industry together in a space of empowerment and learning for all!  

CN: We love that OBC donates 1% of each purchase to those in need! Which organizations are you currently working with?

GD: We donate to Charity Water which we love because they build wells and provides access to clean water across the globe to others who may not have had it. What's amazing is that 100% of the donations go to funding the water projects.

Photos courtesy OBC

Photos courtesy OBC

CN:  What are your top three essential products from Cambridge Naturals?

GD: This is a hard question because I can and have spent hours browsing Cambridge Naturals shelves. I LOVE that there is something for everyone and all aspects of your life... from beauty, home, gifts & to your kitchen. We always pick up a few packets of 2 Dogs Treats for our dog Bruschi. The tea selection is fantastic and you carry my favorite, Rishi Tea. My sweet tooth demands that I pick up some bars of Taza Chocolate or some [Apotheker's] Mallows. YUM.

Thank you so much to Gianne for taking the time to share her story with us. W.E.L.L. Summit will be taking place next month in New York City on October 21-22. If you’re interested in learning more about this year’s speakers or attending, visit www.wellsummit.org. Let us know in the comments what your favorite Organic Bath Co. product is!

Gray Hair, Don’t Care

While we have some excellent and effective natural hair dye kits, a rising number of mature and younger women are choosing to let their gray roots grow and their silver locks show. And, it’s hard to find great information on how to manage and even enhance your natural greys - most Google searches result in tips on how to darken, color or hide them! Below, some tips for unleashing those sterling strands and letting them shine...

Not Just Skin Deep: Five Favorite Sunscreens For Glowing Summer Skin

By Mary, Customer Service Specialist & CN Blog Contributor

If the last heat wave was any indication, the sun remains strong even as summer’s end looms ever near. Like most health conscious consumers, we at Cambridge Naturals are especially careful what products we use on our body’s largest organ: our SKIN! I don’t think I’m alone when I say the scent of SPF-laden sunscreens I remember from my childhood has no place in my current beach bag. I guess with age comes a higher standard for skincare, among other things.

A fully stocked shelf of sunscreen can be intimidating when all you want is one bottle to get the job done. I’ve narrowed down our collection to a few favorites from skin-brightening to toddler-approved.