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Farm to Face

by Emily Barth Isler

Clean beauty disruptor brands embrace science and tech to meet consumer demand for products that promise accessibility, longevity, sustainability.

When the concept of “Clean Beauty” was first introduced into the mainstream, the prevailing image was that of a brand founder mixing oils and herbs in their home kitchen, selling products at farmers markets and local boutiques. While that version of clean beauty still exists, many parts of the industry have had to scale up to meet the consumers’ demands for more accessible products, longer shelf lives, and better diversity representation of the world we actually live in. In addition to fancy, sustainable packaging, Ecocert- certified labs, and luxury department store distribution, clean beauty has embraced science and technology in a big way. While the original thinking behind clean beauty was that plant ingredients are always best, and synthetic ingredients are to be avoided, that thinking—along with so much else!—has evolved in the past few years.

Still, at the root of clean, sustainable, eco-friendly beauty is “the farm,” a term that is sometimes meant more literally than others, but always refers to the use of real plants and ingredients from the earth that are found to be equally good for our skin and for the planet. Are there brands out there that still actually grow things on farms and use them in their products? Absolutely! And the myriad things they are doing to protect the health of the earth is more important than ever. Farm-to-face beauty encapsulates the very essence of why the “where and how” of an ingredient’s production is just as important as what it actually is.

Regenerative agriculture—the practice which prioritizes the health of the land and soil while farming—“promotes the health of degraded soils by restoring their organic carbon.”



Jeannie Jarnot, founder and CEO, Beauty Heroes, founded Blue Beauty, a movement she started in 2018 to recognize companies that were looking to act beyond minimizing their impact on the environment and working to be regenerative in their processes. She was inspired by brands which were investing in initiatives like regenerative farming, reforestation, environmental offsets beyond their own production and innovation that was pushing the industry to become beyond sustainable.

“Of course, the most sustainable thing to do is to consume less,” Jarnot says. “But the reality is that we are going to continue to buy shampoo, deodorant, shaving cream and moisturizer, and all the other things we use in our day-to-day lives. It’s better to buy products from brands that have made environmental impact and progress as a part of their business model.”

True Botanicals founder Hillary Peterson explains her brand’s commitment to sustainability in terms of prioritizing environmental welfare. “We are very excited about the power of our sourcing decisions to have a positive impact on human and environmental health. For example, regenerative farming not only yields the most nutrient-dense ingredients, it can also have a significant impact on our ability to reverse global warming.”

Regenerative agriculture—the practice which prioritizes the health of the land and soil while farming—“promotes the health of degraded soils by restoring their organic carbon,” according to EarthDay.org. “Regenerative agriculture sequesters atmospheric carbon dioxide, reversing industrial agriculture’s contributions to climate change.”

According to a white paper published in 2020 by Rodale Institute, the global leader in regenerative organic agriculture, “shifting both crop and pasture management globally to regenerative systems is a powerful combination that could draw down more than 100 percent of annual C02 emissions, pulling carbon from the atmosphere and storing it in the soil.”

Tata Harper is another brand that not only utilizes regenerative agriculture, but has brought much attention to it by centering the brand’s own farm as a key piece of what makes its products fresh, safe, and beneficial. “Regenerative farming is incredibly important to us as a brand that values sustainability because it allows us to contribute to the health of
our soil and water, as well as the overall wellbeing of the planet,” said the brand in a statement. “We pride ourselves in the actions we take to be more sustainable as a brand and using safe farming methods is one of the major ways for us to care for our planet. Conventional farming practices use synthetic pesticides, which can harm land because it causes biodiversity loss, soil erosion and increased water pollution. That is why we solely use regenerative farming techniques, to ensure we are helping the planet, not hurting it. By prioritizing our oil health, we can be certain our products are the most effective and sustainable as possible for our clients.”

Honua Hawaiian Skincare is doing regenerative work in Hawaii, collaborating with local farms and farmers. “Being born into Hawaiian culture, where taking care of the land is our kuleana, or our innate responsibility, definitely impacts the way I operate Honua Skincare,” says founder and formulator Kapua Browning. “In Hawaiian, ‘āina or land means ‘that which feeds,’ so we are taught at a young age to take care of our land that takes care of and feeds us! We as a family
and a company, are truly committed to giving back to our ‘āina (land) by helping to reforest and restore our farms, streams, and coastlines and are mindful of our entire ecosystem when it comes to ingredient sourcing methods. We support sustainable farmers that understand their partnership with nature and who actively replenish so they can keep our plants thriving for centuries to come.”


Another piece of the farm-to-face ethos includes embracing “slow beauty,” or the fact that using plants as ingredients and making products in small batches or by hand is going to mean that the process will inherently take longer. On the other hand, it also produces more nutrient-dense products. Vintner’s Daughter, a brand that is celebrating its 10-year anniversary this year and only just released a third product to its cult-status lineup, is a wonderful example of sustainable, slow beauty. By using every part of the plant in its formulations, honoring the process of product creation without shortcuts, and making a herculean effort to incur less waste, the brand is able to put forth a more effective product that consumers appreciate as such. The company encourages consumers to focus on quality over quantity. Says founder April Gargiulo, “by using better products you can use fewer products.” Its Active Botanical Serum takes three weeks to produce, and every bottle of Active Botanical Essence takes five weeks of active formulation time. In contrast, the industry average for products made the conventional way is three hours.

Vintner’s Daughter is Climate Neutral Certified and has offset more than 3,700 metric tons of carbon emissions through forest protection efforts in partnership with The Conservation Fund. The brand also gives two percent of revenue to charities that positively impact women
and children around the world. “We want to have this extraordinarily positive impact on our community’s skin, their lives and our world,” says Gargiulo.

FāTH Skincare founder Faith Appleton emphasizes the connection between environmental wellbeing and personal wellbeing. “Our own health cannot exist without the health of our soil and our planet. I started FāTH with the belief that connection to nature is vital for wellness, and we practice that every day on the farm.” Appleton started the brand with decades of horticulture expertise, and the company’s own farm is one of the oldest farmsteads in the country, so they are familiar with conservation efforts such as soil restoration and cover crops that encourage biodiversity.

“Our own health cannot exist without the health of our soil and our planet. I started FāTH with the belief that connection to nature is vital for wellness, and we practice that every day on the farm.”

–Faith Appleton, FāTH Skincare founder


And it’s not just the literal farms that are used for natural sourcing. The oceans are a big part of sourcing for many natural brands. Sustainability has been at the forefront of beauty brand OSEA since its founding in 1996. The brand recently became the first-ever beauty brand to become Ocean Positive, partnering with SeaTrees to plant and protect coastal ecosystems and have a positive impact on the ocean. “As a seaweed-based skincare brand, healthy oceans are crucial to the protection of our planet,” says Melissa Palmer, CEO & cofounder of OSEA.

This emphasis on environmentally conscious beauty and ingredient-focused formulation has also led to an increase in brands returning to their founders’ roots, as well as their agricultural practices and ideologies. “A lot of cultures around the world have been using the ingredients that we now deem as ‘clean’ for centuries,” says Gianne Doherty, cofounder and Chief Glow Officer of Organic Bath Co. Traditional Chinese Medicine, African ingredients, and Ayurveda are inspirations for some of the big trends we’re seeing in beauty right now. Ranavat founder Michelle Ranavat says it makes perfect sense that Ayurveda and clean beauty would be a good match. “Ayurveda itself is an ingredient-driven science and practice and we love leading with groundbreaking formulations that have a noticeable impact on the skin and hair.”

Christina Funke Tegbe, CEO and founder of 54 Thrones describes how African traditions and ingredients fit so synergistically with the tenets of clean beauty. “[54 Thrones] is inspired by traditional African rituals and practices rooted in community, the power of healing, celebration and creating beauty from the inside out. Ingredients are pure, botanical and ethically sourced from what we identify as the birthplace of clean beauty, Africa. The development of these products are done sustainably, at a fair wage and devoid of harm to both humans and animals.”

By land or by sea, brands that source ingredients from plants are at the forefront of understanding and educating consumers about how the way we farm and harvest impacts not just the quality of the products we will get, but the overall health and safety of our natural resources. The more closely we can connect the farms to the things we apply to our faces, the better off the planet will be for generations to come.

One cannot adequately embrace the idea of Farm-to-Face beauty without considering packaging. Here are the ways some brands we love are making sure that their impact on the planet is positive when it comes to packaging.

  • Vegan, cruelty-free makeup brand Axiology went plastic-free in 2022. Founder Ericka Rodriguez said in a statement: “The beauty industry has a huge waste problem. Axiology will no longer contribute to the 120 billion units of packaging waste the industry creates every year. We’re focused on selling our plastic-free Lip-to-Lid Balmies and excited to continue to innovate makeup that doesn’t harm people or the planet.”

  • Ursa Major is one of the first Plastic Negative clean skincare brands. In partnership with rePurpose Global, they remove two plastic bottles from the environment for every bottle they sell.

  • More and more brands are creating refillable products to reduce the amount of waste created by their use. Kjaer Weis is one of the pioneers of this concept, with its stunning, keepsake silver compacts that can be used over and over, as well as its customizable, travel-friendly makeup palettes that ensure less waste by allowing consumers to only buy what they’ll actually use. When a customer does buy makeup from Kjaer Weis to put in a compact or kit, it comes in fully compostable packaging and in a recyclable metal tin.

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