Coconut Milk Baths and Tourmaline Masks: A Chat with the Couple Behind Herbivore Botanicals
Be it lemon juice in your locks, yogurt facials or cucumber slices on your eyelids, most of us have dabbled in natural beauty remedies—to varying degrees of success.
Thankfully, husband and wife team Alexander Kummerow and Julia Wills will do the researching and formulating for you. Their company, Herbivore Botanicals, has quickly gone from an Etsy shop to the darling of glossy beauty editors, and for good reason. Their ethically sourced, cruelty-free, all-natural and lovely packaged products appeal to our finer sensibilities—but more importantly, their oils, bath salts, face masks and soaps really work, often quite quickly.
We spoke with the cute couple about their growing business and how they source ingredients, which they were doing in Hawaii when we caught up with them.
You first formed your company in your kitchen in Seattle. Tell us how that happened.
Julia: We started Herbivore during the summer of 2011 from our apartment kitchen in Capitol Hill. After graduating from Bastyr Natural Medicine College with a degree in health psychology, I had been working as an addiction counselor for about four years. I was getting burnt out and felt that I really wanted to do something new with the knowledge I’d learned at Bastyr. I knew that what I wanted to do had to do with natural medicine, aromatherapy, Chinese medicine or something along those lines—I just wasn’t sure what it was yet. Alex bought me a $50 soap-making kit online and the rest is history. We started spending all of our free time making clay-based natural soap, and Alex helped me take photographs of it. We launched our original shop on Etsy in 2011 and sold out of everything very quickly that first holiday season. We also started selling our soap at the Fremont Sunday Market in Seattle. We decided early on that we wanted everything to be 100% natural, plant-based and cruelty-free, so we named the line Herbivore Botanicals to represent our values and the brand was born. We still formulate all of our products in our kitchen. We are also the designers behind the brand and have created every label and box ourselves. We are still based out of Seattle and now have nearly 50 incredible employees helping to run our day-to-day operations, hand-making the products with care and shipping them out to far corners of the world.
You were in Hawaii sourcing ingredients. What did you find there?
Alex: We are actually still here and the journey has just begun! So far we are super curious about awapuhi—ginger—plant and think it could be an amazing ingredient. We also discovered kukui nut oil, which is grown in abundance here, and it’s become a key ingredient in our Lapis facial oil. It’s super high in naturally occurring linoleic acid, making it excellent for blemish-prone skin.
What are some natural ingredients you’re really excited about right now?
Julia: We are loving blue tansy oil right now. It’s such an incredible essential oil for balancing oily skin types and can be found in our Lapis Facial Oil and, of course, our Blue Tansy Resurfacing Mask. It’s also such a beautiful, natural shade of deep blue—truly a unique one-of-a-kind oil.
Alex: We are also loving virgin coconut oil—it’s already a key ingredient in our Coco Rose line and we are working on something brand-new featuring it. Look for it this summer if all goes according to plan!
What is an ingredient that you discovered in a unique way?
Julia: Coconut milk. We really wanted to make a milk bath that was hydrating and luxurious, and as a vegan, cruelty-free brand our options seemed limited since regular cow’s milk was off the table. So we decided to get creative and started experimenting with powdered coconut milk as the key ingredient for the milk bath. We fell in love with it right away—not only is it vegan and cruelty-free, but it also smells incredible and hydrates like a dream. You can find it in our Coconut Milk Bath Soak.
Have you been surprised by the effect of a particular ingredient?
Alex: Tourmaline gemstone powder! When we found that we could get micronized tourmaline powder from Japan, we had to try it. We love gemstones and after mixing some with water into a paste and applying it to our hands, we found that it was a very effective brightening agent. It also had a warming effect we weren’t expecting due to the negative ions released when rubbed into the skin. You can find tourmaline gemstone powder in our Brighten Mask.
What are some of the biggest mistakes people make with skin-care products and routines?
Julia: Using too many products at once. We get a lot of emails from people saying that something in their routine is clogging their pores, but it can be hard to pinpoint what it is when using 10 products a day from multiple brands. I think it’s best to build your skin-care routine slowly by adding one new product at a time and seeing how your skin handles it. That way if something isn’t working, it’s much easier to tell what it is.
Tell us about your favorite ways to use your oils and your salts.
Alex: Our facial oils, though marketed toward facial care, are really great multi-use oils. Julia likes to use Orchid Facial Oil as a deep hydrating hair oil and/or light perfume. I like using Phoenix Facial Oil as a super moisturizing body oil—it’s perfect for those pesky little bumps that sometimes show up on the back of your arms during cold winter months, or anywhere you may need a little extra hydration.
SHOP: Herbivore Botanicals
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