Q & A :
It's so nice to have you join us in our Spotlight, Garima. You are the newcomer to our all natural beauty family, but you are no newcomer to all-natural beauty! Please give us some background on how you came to be where you are today, doing what you love to do.
I've always been a plant person. I grew up in Hawaii, and went to college in California, and then lived all over the world before settling up here in the Rocky Mountains. Everywhere I lived, I gardened and made things from plants. In fact my first "job" was growing marigolds and selling them around the neighborhood. I was 5. I studied botany in college, in Santa Barbara, and then worked for the Forest Service in central California, mapping and photographing rare and endangered plants.
I got my massage license, and made my first massage oils. I traveled to Findhorn to see their wonders, and then to Germany to teach massage. I lived in India for many years learning meditation, and I worked in a library as a bookbinder.
I lived on a farm in Aspen for several years, planting trees and expansive gardens, and solar heating a greenhouse. Then on to an Echinacea farm here on the opposite slope of the Rockies. The air is really dry at this altitude, and I started making my own hand cream while farming. Others whom I worked with were always borrowing my jar, because it really healed and softened their hands. Eventually they needed their own jars, and then asked for other products, like face creams.
Why I make my products? Well, I wasn't intending to do this. I was just making things for myself. I made the hand cream for the farm work, and then I turned 40, and thought I should start putting something on my face. But when I looked around, I saw mostly chemicals and colorants. And then I found some contained ingredients that sounded delicious to put on my skin. But I am a person who likes to do things myself, not to buy things. It's my personal creativity, to make things. So I started experimenting on myself and my friends. But I had always intended it just for myself. But friends begged me, and needed more things, and needed their own bottles. So it all just came about, turning into a business by itself.
So after 11 years, I now have a full line of body care products, which I make all myself. I grow almost all of the herbs here in my organic garden in the Rockies, and buy organic and pesticide-free oils and butters from wonderful little ethical companies all over. There's a lot of that info on my website. (Click on the link to see these resources)
One of my other passions is flower essences. I make my own, and love having them in my products. That way my products contain the spirit of the herbs I grow here.
What is your philosophy when it comes to why and how you make your products?
I decided to always have the intention, while making these products, to use the highest quality ingredients, as if I were still just making them for myself. And also to focus on individual beauty, to bring out a person's true beauty, at whatever age, and not to focus on looking younger. And all the obsessions that brings out. Older people have their own beauty, and a wisdom in their faces and bodies, and I want my products to honor and nourish that age and wisdom.
I've tried to base my business on what will grow here in my garden in the Rocky Mountains, so you won't find a lot of exotic never-before-heard-of ingredients. This is a wonderful climate for lavender, Chamomile, Calendula, Roses, Dandelions, Nettles, Peppermint, Comfrey, Thyme, Fennel, Echinacea, Plantain, Anise, Spearmint, and Horsetail. So I focus on those. And then I buy a few that come from other climates, like Cinnamon and Orange peel for the Deep Heat Rice Pillows.
I love having my own business. I always choose the best quality ingredients I can find, and there's no one above my saying we can't afford it! I use almost all glass containers, mostly cobalt blue. And even though they are harder to find, they are wonderful for products that contain real essential oils. The products last longer, and don't pick up any plastic residues.
I also understand that you teach. Please tell us what subjects you teach, and where?
I've taught at several schools in the area. The first one was the Rocky Mountain Center for Botanical Studies, in Boulder, which is now closed. I taught field identification of wild plants, and I was amazed at how many people know nothing about plants, but want to learn. For ten years, I took dozens of groups of students all over the mountains and plains, collecting plants and weeds, making herbariums, and listing uses. Then I started getting asked to teach other subjects, like organic gardening and how to make skin care products.
It is such a joy for me to teach anything about plants. I feel myself tuning in to another world, in a way softer, but also hardier than people! And as schools keep changing their locations and curriculum, I just flow along. I learn so much by teaching, both from the students and from plants.
At the moment, I teach Botany at Southwest Acupuncture College in Boulder, Organic Gardening and Medicine Making Classes at Seven Bowls School of Nutrition in Longmont, and how to make massage oils and liniments at Healing Spirit Massage School in Boulder.
One thing I'd like to teach in the future is nutrition. I find it amazingly helpful for all kinds of skin problems, and I think the combination of eating well and using natural skin care products is much better than just one or the other.
What do you think that the average person is not "getting" about using harmful chemicals for grooming every day?
Everything you put onto your skin is absorbed into it. I know you've all heard that before, but do you really understand it? I once read a story of a small boy who drank a chemical, completely destroying his esophagus. He had no way of eating. Olive oil was massaged into his skin daily, to nourish him. And this was his only nourishment for about 10 years, until the technology was available to build him a new esophagus. So he was subsisting on what was absorbed through his skin alone! Does that give you a better picture?
Some of us eat really healthy food, and then put petroleum products on our skin. These not only dry our skin and throw off the beneficial cultures that live there, but they also can go into our bloodstreams. If you have ever tried truly natural skin care products on your face and body, you know. They feel so good, they feel silky and nourishing. They absorb easily, and don't wash off like a film sitting on the surface or clogging the pores. They moisturize, they make your skin radiant and alive. Anyone who has tried them knows it is definitely worth it.
Sometimes I give demos at stores in my area. There are people who understand natural products and why herbs are so valuable, but there are also those who are new to all this. One time a woman asked me why organic natural ingredients would be used for creams. "I thought chemicals were better because they don't go bad."
And there are people who are very attracted to expensive packaging. I always tried to package my products simply, so that the major cost goes into the ingredients, but sometimes people ask for something more fancy.
I get lots of requests for whatever is the fad of the moment. People see things on TV, and come to me saying they heard that's the only thing that will work on their skin. I don't have a TV, so I don't see any of these ads, fortunately.
Please tell us about your most popular product and what you'd like to share with us about using all-natural beauty products?
My best selling product is Almond Face Cleanser. Rather than having separate products for oily and dry skin, I've made one cleanser that helps to balance both extremes. Our skin likes to have natural oils on it. When we constantly remove these oils with soaps, it sets us up for overproduction of oils. And the imbalance begins. We use more and more soap, harsher cleansers, and our skin keeps trying to compensate. If those who have oily skin back off on these and use a moisturizing cleanser for a few days, they will be amazed at how fast their skin improves. Many people have thanked me for showing them how to do this.
And for those with dry skin, of which there are many here in the Rocky Mountains, the opposite is true. The skin loves to have oils on it, but if you constantly add oils day and night, you will slow down your natural oil production. And you will add more oils, and the imbalance begins. Also, many oils used in unnatural skin care products are solvent extracted. There will usually be residues in the oil, which will further dry your skin. And if there are chemicals, well then, no amount of moisturizer will feel like enough to counteract the dryness.
I usually recommend that people use my moisturizing Almond Cleanser day and night, and then only use a moisturizer in the day. If you avoid moisturizers at night, you give your skin a chance to balance its own oil production.
One other tip: Often people don't make time for masks and steams, and rely solely on cleansers and moisturizers. I am a great believer in the benefits of masks, packs, and steams, and they make your skin glow. You can put a mask on when you are in the tub, or even 15 minutes before you shower. And for anyone who has never done a facial steam, you will be amazed at how refreshed your face feels afterwards. I find steams most valuable in the winter, when you don't perspire as much, and the pores respond well to a deep cleansing.
My latest new product is Wild Cherry Rejuvenative Serum, made with chokecherries from my own yard! Chokecherries are both bitter and sweet, and have very gentle fruit acids that are a wonderful aid in exfoliating our faces. This serum also contains wildflower honey, to further soften and nourish your face. It's super juicy, and great for those who need a little extra moisture.
Starting any business is filled with bumps along the road. What bumps have you come across while starting your all-natural beauty business? What is the best piece of advice that you would share with someone starting their own all-natural beauty business?
I guess one thing is that bottle sizes and caps are constantly changing. And ingredients are sometimes not available. Plastic prices went up drastically for a few years, and now glass is on the rise. And due to the war, my supplier for shea butter from a women's farming co-op in Uganda was out of shea for about 5 months. You can learn a lot about the world by owning a business like this!
What would you like to see for the future of your company?
I hope to always remain a small company, so I can continue to grow herbs and know all my suppliers and buyers intimately. I love so many aspects of having my own herbal business. Maybe in the future I will have apprentices who want to learn this skin care making from beginning to end!
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