Clean Skincare Founders Share the Nourishing Benefits of Natural Ingredients
All about the local brands blending beauty and wellness
By Darcie Duttweiler
When most of us were growing up, we had to rely on beauty magazines to learn about skincare. Forget about TikTok or YouTube tutorials, let alone learning more about the ingredients that went into your favorite cosmetic or face wash. Nowadays, everyone is much more aware and informed about what they’re putting inside their body as well as on top of it, which is why “clean” or natural skincare is having such a moment. And, while the United States skincare and beauty industry is far behind its European counterparts, several local companies are hoping to spread awareness of natural ingredients and the gorgeous results they produce.
Photos by Stellina Sampouli
For Raeka Panda skincare is personal.
Not only do many of her products utilize ingredients that her mother and grandmother taught her to use, but they also have Ayurvedic properties that have been utilized in India for more than 5,000 years.
When Panda lost her grandmother in 2015, she sought to connect with her by using the same ingredients from the kitchen her grandmother slathered on her while she was growing up. That tinkering, with turmeric and cardamom and other various spices and herbs, led to her hobby of making beauty products and eventually not only researching the various properties of what those ingredients can do but also the ingredients in the modern skincare she was using. This deep dive into the world of clean beauty (and discovering the higher standards of which European countries adhere to) led Panda to switch gears from law student to entrepreneur.
“I felt like I had a mission to bring clean ingredients with unique South Asian influences to the forefront,” Panda explains.
In 2017, she launched Raeka Beauty with the world’s first turmeric peel off mask before expanding to several other oils, face washes and serums. Panda uses clean and natural ingredients and tries to keep the ingredient list to a minimum to make it easier for skin to absorb the product and also bans parabens, synthetic fragrances and sulfates. The products are crafted by women in empowering cooperatives, where they are paid living wages, and everything is packaged with eco-friendly materials.
And, yes, many of her tinctures do indeed include turmeric.
“In Indian culture, it’s very popular to use turmeric paste — it’s the answer to everything,” she laughs.
Panda describes her skincare as the “new generation of Ayurveda,” in which she pays homage to the traditional methods of using these ingredients — typically used in a raw form — and combines them with modern skincare methods to create her products.
“I feel so blessed to be able to incorporate things I grew up with and share that with so many people,” Panda says.
While there are no new products announced just yet, Panda is hard at work on branding her line and creating new packaging in the near future.
The sleek and minimal packaging of the disco skincare line is so aesthetically attractive and inviting, women may not realize it was created specifically for men, and that’s just what founder Benjamin Smith had in mind when he created his business in 2019.
“We want to be the company where the female partners steal their male partner’s skincare products,” he explains.
Smith was lucky to have Dr. Eva Simmons O’Brien as a family friend growing up. The renowned dermatologist taught him how to take care of his skin by regularly using a cleanser, moisturizer and a sunscreen. But he found he was often using lines that were made specifically for women, and, even worse, many drugstore products that had harmful chemicals in them.
So when Smith sold his two boutique gyms in 2018 and was looking for something new, he knew he wanted to fill the gap in the market that excluded men, but he also wanted to use clean and natural ingredients and speak to customers in a fun and modern way by using unisex packaging.
“Skincare brands usually have very masculine positioning and are either black or royal blue, so at the outset we decided to go against the grain, no pun intended,” Smith laughs.
Smith teamed up with Simmons O’Brien to formulate the disco line, which upon launch, offered seven products to provide a full system for men looking to get into taking care of their skin. Smith explains that roughly only 20 percent of men use skincare regularly, and he wanted disco to be a one-stop-shop for customers.
It’s also important to him to use a minimal ingredient count and focus on active and natural ingredients, like aloe, charcoal, tea tree oil and more. He wanted to use less harmful and toxic ingredients as he’s always been mindful of the environment around him, especially what he puts into his body or onto his skin. That’s why the line uses natural scents, including organic eucalyptus oil, which gives the products a tingly feeling and a spa-like aroma that helped name the body wash on GQ’s list of the best grooming awards of 2020.
In addition to launching at several new retailers in 2022, including Target, Smith plans to introduce a handful of new products this year, like a daily skin supplement, overnight blemish patches and 2-in-1 shampoo and conditioner.
Photos by Jasmin Porter
Back in her home state of Oregon, ex folk singer-songwriter Raina Rose used to spend her summers teaching teenagers all about native forest plants growing near the coast. It was during these summer months of foraging and practicing the healing matters of these flora and herbs that she became fascinated in the natural uses of these everyday plants.
“It was magical to learn that you can mash up a bracken fern and put it on a bug bite to make it feel better,” Rose says.
Fast forward to fall of 2016, and Rose was back in Austin after a 10-day tour that took her away from her husband and two sons, Emmett and Benny, who had just turned two years old, and only netted her $500. Donald Trump was just elected president, and the singer knew she had to do something else.
“I needed to do something with my hands in order to feel okay in a world that felt insane, so I just kind of started creating body butters and salves and selling them on Etsy,” Rose explains.
So, Rose got to work making tinctures and oils in a gifted stand-up mixture, and when actress and fellow musician Megan Mullally, who Rose’s husband works with, posted about Folk Potions’ Magic Face Oil on her Instagram in 2017, the business exploded, and Rose has been happily fulfilling orders ever since.
“People tell me they really love the products, and it’s so meaningful that something I’m doing is helping someone,” Rose says.
In addition to Rose’s herbalism past, she especially wanted to create products that she could feel good putting onto her kids’ skin, so she focuses on organic and natural ingredients, including herbs, pure essential oils and beeswax. She calls Folk Potions “slow skincare” because it takes roughly six weeks to make her products, as the plant materials infuse through cold maceration.
While people like Mullally swear by the Magic Face Oil for their skin, Rose reminds people that her products are not “anti-aging.”
“My personal philosophy is that aging is a privilege, and all of my products are made with the idea that aging is a beautiful process,” she explains. “Caring for your skin is about feeling good as opposed to denying the aging process. We all get to grow old, and that’s beautiful.”
Photos by Paige Newton
While Vivian Robinson always had sensitive skin and was cautious about what she put on her face, it wasn’t until she and husband John became grandparents that they became very diligent about the things they were introducing into their bodies and onto their skin. When John retired from his job in microbiology-based animal nutrition, the couple began researching science-based skincare formulations that would nourish and protect skin in natural and healthy ways.
In December 2020, the Robinson’s launched skincare line Blü Fern with their double cleansing system and a botanical facial oil. The line exclusively focuses on protecting the microbiome, the microbial community of our skin composed of bacteria, fungi and viruses. Their philosophy is to do no harm to the skin or the environment.
Vivian says many “clean” skincare lines can still disrupt our body’s natural defenses, and Blü Fern’s approach is to establish an environment where natural microbial inhabitants can thrive while being permitted to perform their purposes. Their skincare line uses natural ingredients, such as algae extracts, rosehip oil, green tea, chamomile, papaya seed oil and many others, to protect that balance and help to nourish the skin, with no artificial fragrances or synthetic chemicals.
“It’s great for sensitive skin,” Vivian explains. “People don’t tell you that you should stay away from artificial fragrances if you have sensitive skin, so we’re very conscious about that, and all of our products are non-irritating.”
In addition to their quest to protect skin naturally, the Robinsons also give back to the nature around them and donate some of their proceeds to organizations dear to their hearts, like The Trail Foundation, Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center and 1% for the Planet.
“We wanted that connection to the places we love, and we wanted to support organizations that we feel are vital to the city and so tied to our communities,” Vivian says.
The couple recently launched their latest product, the Blubiome Stem Cell Repair Cream, which restores skin tone and hydrates, which is especially important in the dry winter months.