How to Use Your Skincare Business to Help the Planet (and Its Inhabitants!)

One of the things I love the most about my work is helping budding skincare entrepreneurs start, or grow their own herbal skincare business. For me, working hard to build someone else’s dream just didn’t fit with who I am. I have not one, but two successful skincare businesses now, and there is nothing more I love than to teach other “unemployable” people what I know. I do that in my Create Your Skincare Professional Edition online course.

What’s been the most inspiring to me is how so many of my students have used the businesses they build in CYS Pro to make an impact locally and globally. They consistently find ways to support causes that are near and dear to them, and make purchasing decisions with the safety and dignity of humans, plants, and animals in mind.

I’ve also begun to realize how personally, I have always felt drawn to support businesses that were community-oriented (I am that person who shops at the co-op that sources much of their produce and meat locally, even though it is more expensive than the supermarkets), or that give back to a larger, global cause.

My own skincare philosophy (which I use personally and teach in Create Your Skincare) ?is all about quality herbal skincare ingredients, small batches, customization wherever possible, and NOT mass production. I developed this because unfortunately, mass production always negatively affects quality, freshness, and the overall energetics of the products. While I do advocate for and teach safe natural preservation methods, I also prefer to that products are as fresh and close to harvest as possible–which definitely means smaller batches. But even before I shifted to this mentality (which resulted from years of frustration with greenwashing and the fact that it’s still OK in the United States to use toxic chemicals in products we use daily), I chose to purchase from companies with a cause.

Your skincare business absolutely needs to support your family and livelihood.

But it’s also important that while you are building your skincare business and setting up a legacy for your family, you do so with the understanding that all of our actions as humans affect all other beings on the planet. We might not realize it, but the purchasing and marketing decisions we make affect animals, plants, people, water, air, soil, and other aspects of life on Earth.

Herbal skincare is always better for the environment than skincare made from synthetic ingredients which require the use of non-renewable natural resources (such as petroleum), and a great deal of power to manufacture them. However, there’s also an ugly side to the herbal industry. Due to the growth of both the herbal skincare AND herbal/dietary supplement industries, many of our precious medicinal plants are now at risk, or endangered. This is something I learned about for the first time a few years ago, when Rosemary Gladstar introduced me to United Plant Savers at the MidAtlantic Women’s Herbal Conference. I’ve been a member ever since, and I consistently check their journal and website for updates.

Rachael Pontillo and Rosemary Gladstar
Me with the legendary Rosemary Gladstar

There are three ways you can use your skincare business to contribute to medicinal plant conservation, and protect the plants so that they are available for future generations.

The first thing is to never purchase wild-harvested herbs.

Wild-harvested means that the plants have been taken from the wild, without regard for how much is left, what effect it has on other plants in that environment, or replanting. Instead, look for the terms “ethically harvested,” or “organically grown.” If you do find an herbal supplier that uses the term “wild-harvested,” ask what they mean by that.

Second, you can grow many of your own herbs for use in skincare yourself.

Whether your focus is on local, native herbs, or you like something a bit more exotic, it’s so easy to grow your own organic plants to use as ingredients in your herbal products. I started my herbal skincare garden with one of those 4×4 garden square kits, and just a few perennials in my backyard, and have added to it over the years. I use my herbs to make infusions, infused/macerated oils, facial steams, grind them up to use in masks, and also use them for compresses and poultices.

Third, you can donate a percentage of your sales to a non-profit organization whose mission is to conserve these precious plants.

One of my Create Your Skincare Professional Edition graduates, Kathy Ashley, of Sovereign Luxury Performance Skincare, donates a percentage of her sales to Rainforest Alliance.

Another important–but not often talked about–issue is human trafficking.

This is something that I’ve had awareness for years, because back in the day when I worked for The Body Shop, they donated a percentage of their proceeds to the Somaly Mam Foundation, which aims to eradicate slavery and empower its survivors. Tasha Hetke, of Native2Nature Skincare (read her Create Your Skincare Story HERE), who donates a percentage of sales to help end sex trafficking through two different non-profit organizations.

Human trafficking isn’t just about sex slavery. Victims of human trafficking are also used to harvest plants and mine minerals for various industries, often in highly unsafe conditions, and with no pay. We’ve recently had discussions both in my free Handmade Skincare Enthusiasts group and in our private student group last semester about slaves (often children) being used to mine minerals used in cosmetics. Is it possible to find ethical mica, and other minerals used for coloring skincare and color cosmetics? The good news is that when I did a little digging, three out of the four US-based suppliers I questioned responded that they either guarantee that their minerals are ethically mined, or use synthetic minerals.

You might be wondering why you’d want to use synthetic minerals in natural skincare products?

You may not know this about me, but I am a gemologist (it was my “pregnancy project” with my first baby). I don’t have a problem using synthetic minerals in cosmetics. We are not using them for therapeutic purposes, and the chemical composition is identical to the natural. When purchasing, you want the term “synthetic,” not “simulated or simulant.” The latter two are completely fake–made with plastics, cheap metals, etc.

A true synthetic uses a lab to basically mimic, but greatly speed up the process (heat, cooling, pressure, etc) and conditions necessary for naturally occurring elements to form minerals in the earth. The elements themselves are the same, and the minerals that come out of the process are the same. All that’s changed is the conditions and speed of growth, and amount of controls in place. I would much prefer this to questionably sourced micas or oxides. So if you want to use mica, iron oxides, and other minerals for your skincare products or color cosmetics, please do your homework and purchase either ethically sourced or synthetic minerals.

Finally, we must talk about Fair Trade.

Many of the precious oils, butters, teas, and other ingredients harvested and produced around the world come from small villages whose residents rely on their sales for their local economy. Many of these cooperatives (such as argan oil, from the Berber women in Morocco) are run by women. Unfortunately, these plants and the people who harvest and process them have been exploited by opportunistic large companies who don’t pay them fairly for their labor or the quality of their products, and overharvest their land. Fortunately there are many non-profit organizations that work to ensure safe labor practices, fair pay, and protect the people, plants and land.

It’s also important to buy authentic and indigenous when possible, because when larger companies produce knock off versions of indigenous products, not only are the products not authentic, but consumers don’t know the difference. So the only one who wins is the big corporation. The indigenous producers don’t get paid for their efforts, precious traditions are diluted, and the consumer gets a mediocre product. This is something Tammie Umbel spoke about at length about black soap in the Herbal Skincare Summit.

Here’s one way I’m giving back:

I did not have cash flow AT ALL when I started my first business. But what I did have was passion, ambition, and determination that I would do whatever I could to make this thing real, and make it something that helps people in a big way, supports my family, and also gives back.?And I’ll be honest. I definitely could have reached my first six figures sooner if I’d had a little financial nudge along the way. I had the creativity, knowledge, and hustle–but not the cash. So my trial and error period was a bit longer.

Enter the Create Your Skincare Pro Scholarship CompetitionI decided to offer the Create Your Skincare Spring 2019 Scholarship Competition because I know that there are many other women who want to do amazing things with their skincare business too–but they just did not have the funds to cover tuition, ingredients, and supplies.

This Scholarship Competition is one way I can give back with a little nudge, and it?s also my hope that it activates the same passion, drive, and commitment within you, and inspires you to GO FOR IT, win or lose.

And by the way, there’s no way to lose with this Competition!

By entering, you’ll automatically win 10% off, if you’re not one of the winners of the 3 main prizes. That’s a $400 nudge! Create Your Skincare Professional Edition starts again soon! I hope you apply for one of our scholarships.

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2 thoughts on “How to Use Your Skincare Business to Help the Planet (and Its Inhabitants!)”

  1. Rachael: thanks for covering this important topic. Every choice we make, no matter how seemingly small, affects the whole–a reminder that we can all make a difference!

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