earth tu face

Out of Office: Earth Tu Face

Sarah Buscho & Marina Storm are herbalists and the founders of Earth Tu Face, a purely plant-based 100% natural skincare line that is free of toxins and synthetic compounds.

Q / Hi Sarah and Marina!!! How did the idea for Earth Tu Face come about?
A / Marina and I are both herbalists and we went to a program in Berkeley to become clinical Western herbalists using plants as medicine. We started in 2007 together on that. The company started coming together in 2009 under a different name and broader heading, and we came together because we were the only two herbalists in our program with vast medicinal gardens that we were making products from: tinctures, teas, medicine, and also topical products for beauty and healing. When I say gardens you think of a tiny plot of land, but we had almost an acre between us that was all used so that was actually quite huge for herbs, and in California you have a year-round growing season which is nice.  We came together not really knowing that we would ever have a beauty company, but I’d say it was a happy accident! 🙂 We realized there was a need for something truly green, not just for people but also for the environment, and that there wasn’t really anything else like it in the marketplace.

Q / How did you move into the beauty sector?
A / We thought we would be working more with clients as herbalists on health issues, but found that there really was a huge gap following the food movement for non-GMO, organic, truly healthy beauty products that were made in the United States using sustainable, non-toxic packaging. I still don’t think there is a beauty company out there thinking as critically as we do about the the people using their products and the environment on so many levels. We use food-grade organic ingredients straight from the earth and anything we don’t personally mix ourselves, we still hand-make with an apothecary in Oakland. We’re just really crazy about the planet, which is where our name came from. 🙂 We all have the earth to face at the end of the day. It’s our everything…

Q / What would you say has been the most difficult part about sticking to your sustainable, organic, good for the earth model of business?
A / There is nothing truly difficult about sticking to it. It is more a matter of integrity, which is why we started in the first place. It’s why we’re here and what we do and the main reason that we started the brand in the first place, but I think the most difficult thing is the fact that many people don’t appreciate the quality. People want things quickly at rock bottom prices and they don’t know how detrimental that is to the environment or what it costs to produce responsibly, so the system is a bit faulty that way. Making skincare products in the U.S. costs ten times as much as making them in China. People think that they are getting a good deal buying items made across the world because they have a low price tag, but really they are getting a terrible deal because of the cost to the planet.

Q / What would you say is most problematic about the beauty industry as it currently stands?  It seems like you are really tackling the system head-on without compromise, and I’m curious how that plays into the luxury sector.
A / Our ingredient sourcing alone pushed us into the luxury category. Things like organic rose petals, jasmine, and precious oils are definitely a luxury experience, but it’s something that everyone deserves. Even at the highest price points, many products are completely made with chemicals, most of which are incredibly cheap to make. Packaging is also a huge concern, people are buying incredibly expensive beauty items in plastic bottles that will stay on the planet forever and those bottles are also leaching chemicals into the products themselves and making consumers sick. Regulations have just become so lax that it’s hard to even tell which products are good for you, especially in regards to many companies that brand themselves as “natural” simply as a buzzword. Luxury products tend to focus on short term results rather than the impact they’ll have on the user’s long term health and wellness, which is why they often focus on buzzwords and “miracle” chemicals, but there is no forced accountability in the U.S. at all.

Q / How would you say this lack of regulation affects companies that are truly trying to be all-natural, organic, and sustainable?
A /  There are many companies using organic ingredients, but often times they are just thrown together, and part of what gives the natural beauty industry a bad name is that many products are not as effective because the people making them don’t really know what they are doing. The beauty and food industries are one in the same. Our skin is an organ and we need to think about it the same way we think about the rest of our body. The are no harsh, detrimental, cancer-causing foods that would cause long term health benefits if you ate them, so why would you think letting your skin absorb those chemicals is any better?  We get so many people writing to us about how Earth Tu Face products have changed their skin, and it’s sad to think about how little people have come to expect from their beauty and skincare products instead of getting something that’s truly nourishing.  We get more testimonials about our oils getting people off acne treatments that anything else. Oils!!! People are conditioned by the beauty industry to be terrified of them for no good reason.

Q / What you’re talking about is a huge issue for consumers as well. I constantly feel like I’m looking at both ends of the spectrum when I shop. Brands are either pushing some sort of “miracle” mystery chemical formula, or you have someone telling you to just rub coconut oil all over yourself. There don’t seem to be many happy mediums that also account for environmental concerns.  What is your development process like?
A / When we launched Earth Tu Face, we really pared down what we were doing to the best of the best so that we wouldn’t overwhelm people with options, but we usually have about 30-50 projects in process. We’re always mixing new products to try on ourselves and share with our friends and staff, and that’s really the easiest and most fun part of the business that comes naturally to us and is very inspiring. Having said that, years of working with plants and in a clinic with patients really helped us to develop great products, and if we could do that every day that’d be the ideal. Then there are all the less riveting aspects of development, packaging concerns, shelf-life, shipping etc. There are so many details that you don’t even consider until you have to.

Q / How do you manage your work routine and schedule? Is there anything that keeps you grounded and focused?
A / Instilling strict health boundaries from the get go to prevent burnout was really important because owning your own business truly can take up all of your time. It’s like having a newborn that you’re in charge of constantly needing you. How we deal with it, and we’re getting better and better at this, is by doing something like building in a hike almost every day that we do together. That way, we can be bouncing ideas off each other while still moving our bodies and getting outside. It essentially functions as our “conference room” and whenever we want to take that time we’ll go outside, which seemed monumental at first but now it’s almost non-negotiable.  We also keep a lot of good, delicious healthy food around for snacking because we are not on the “no eating” train, and we also drink a lot of great teas and tonics from our gardens. Keeping a healthy lifestyle and not giving in to stress is so important. We also don’t work on the weekends unless we are out of town at a show or event.  We definitely are most focused in our apothecary creating, but we also get so many of our ideas moving outside. Our entire company is inspired by nature and depends on it to exist, so being outdoors really connects us to our mission and allows us to hatch plans and make clear decisions.

“The beauty and food industries are one in the same. Our skin is an organ and we need to think about it the same way we think about the rest of our body. The are no harsh, detrimental, cancer-causing foods that would cause long term health benefits if you ate them, so why would you think letting your skin absorb those chemicals is any better?”

Q / Is it ever difficult to balance the company and your friendship when everything is so intertwined?
A / We are more like sisters and that’s a great thing, it all happened so quickly. We bonded over our gardens and became best friends through work, so our relationship is really balanced that way and it has lasted ever since. We spend an inordinate amount of time together as business life partners, we obviously have other partners in our normal lives but we are either with each other or speaking nearly every day. We don’t spend as much time together on the weekend unless we’ve made plans, but we still hang out for fun!  We don’t get sick of each other (it’s really weird) and getting to hang out all day doing what we love is amazing.

Q / How integral is living in California to the work you produce?
A / We both were born and raised in California and that really informs our values and aesthetic. It wouldn’t be the same without the sense of place we feel here. Growing up in the Bay area, we really admired Alice Waters and Chez Panisse in pioneering the farm-to-table food movement, and we both had family members that were really involved in farmer’s markets and the local food movement here long before it was trendy, so we really feel like we were born with those values.

Q / What has been the most exciting thing about the way your business has found such success over the past few years? Anything that you are looking forward to?
A / We really feel like the more chemical beauty products we replace in people’s homes and on the shelves, the better it is for everything being washed down the drain and going back to the earth, so it’s really our goal for there to be a big switch to products that are non-toxic, made from the earth, and in harmony with the eco-system that we live in. Because this is our passion, it feels so personal and important to us that almost everything seems exciting. We want to be ambassadors for the earth and health of people, so watching the steps toward a beauty revolution is exciting in itself. Working with other people in our field who are trying to move toward this same goal is also really satisfying, and seeing the reactions of our friends and family.  Enacting and watching changes happen in our industry is so exciting because that’s why we are here so it’s really incredible.

“We really feel like the more chemical beauty products we replace in people’s homes and on the shelves, the better it is for everything being washed down the drain and going back to the earth…Enacting and watching changes happen in our industry is so exciting because that’s why we are here so it’s really incredible.”

Interview & Photography
Catherine Litke

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