WORDS: KATE WEINER
IMAGE: NAOMI HUOBER
Beauty rituals are so important to me. I love luxuriating in a face mask at the end of a long day and massaging soothing oils into my skin in the morning. These opportunities to take care of my self are a reminder that my wellbeing matters and that my beauty—the way I feel when I'm at peace in my body—is a gift that I give to others. I am a better educator, writer, and advocate when I am nourished. And for me, the everyday ritual of taking care of my skin is just that.
I've written before about navigating aesthetics and cultivating a sustainable self-care routine. When we nourish our body—through the food we eat, the spaces we inhabit, and the rituals we cultivate—we are growing our capacity to nourish others. So all of this is to say that if you, like me, love to lavish your skin, it doesn't have to be a superficial endeavor. With the right intention, it really is a ripe opportunity to give your sweet self some extra love.
That said, the mainstream skincare industry is toxic. From plastic packaging that pollutes our precious waterways to products clogged with chemicals, it can be difficult to find low-carbon options for feeding your skin. I'm particularly frustrated by the bevy of products that invent problems precisely to sell their solutions. You really don't need much to heal your skin (hell, everything I do is already extra) so keep it to a couple of self-care tools that bring you joy.
My own ritual comprises a facial oil for the morning, a mud mask for after sweaty treks, and a homemade calendula moisturizer for keeping my skin sane during these dry winter months. Although I love to make my own, I also relish in a select few plant-based products from rad makers whose sourcing and packaging I can get behind.
Enter Apoterra. I first discovered Apoterra when I lived in San Diego and was searching for a product that wasn't entirely packaged in plastic (not so easy). Their luscious hibiscus mud mask—bottled in a reusable amber jar— has been a healing staple of mine for the last year. But what particularly got me hooked was the Apoterra batch system that lets you look up the country of origin and certification for every one of their products. Inspired by Apoterra's commitment to transparency, environmental sustainability, and accountability, I connected with Founder Dominique Caron recently to talk about interweaving herbalism into her work and developing deeper relationships with her suppliers. My takeaway? That every company—big and small—needs to look at the whole cycle.
KATE WEINER: What inspired you to create Apoterra?
DOMINIQUE CARON: For a long time, I struggled to find products that worked for my skin. [I created Apoterra] when I was really starting to get into environmentalism and be health conscious. Curiosity about what was in my food transferred to a curiosity about what was in my skincare products. [I realized] that my standards of environmentalism and safety weren't being met. And there really wasn't anything out there that did meet those standards that wasn't extremely expensive.
I especially got curious about foraging and herbal medicine. I started studying herbal medicine and [eventually] became a certified herbal therapist. I was working in film at the time and thought maybe I can make a business out of this. Working in film was my dream, but the hours were incredibly long, I didn't get to pick what kind of projects I worked on, and I wanted to find something that not only gave me more control over my life but also helped give back by healing the environment and helping people.
KW: What does sustainability look like in the context of your company?
DC: To me [sustainability] is about the whole cycle. We use natural ingredients rather than petroleum-based ingredients. We care about packaging and whether or not our ingredients are being sustainability sourced. There are many organic ingredients out there that are being cultivated in a way that's not sustainable, either because the plant won't be available in ten or twenty years [because of over harvesting] or because it's destroying a habitat and harming wildlife, such as palm oil in Malaysia.
It's also important to understand that [sustainability] isn't black and white. How ingredients are grown and where they are grown—that matters. How you package your products, and how that packaging is being disposed of—that matters, too. You have to pay attention to the whole cycle.
It's also important to understand that sustainability isn't black and white. How ingredients are grown and where they are grown—that matters. How you package your products, and how that packaging is being disposed of—that matters, too. You have to pay attention to the whole cycle.
It's very difficult to be totally green. We package in glass because it's easier to recycle glass and it doesn't harm the ocean the way plastic does [glass is inert]. And although there are some things I wish we could make out of a biodegradable material, that's not available to us yet [given the scale of our company]. Those are products that we hope to get custom made in the future, however.
KW: How do your herbalist studies shape your work?
DC: I love working with raw herbs! From my herbalism teaching, I learned to create my own infusions and extracts as well as to understand the best substrate for certain plants. There are a lot of poor quality extracts on the market that are put in products but don't actually have any effect. Through my teachings I learned to not only identify a good quality extract, but also how to make them.
KW: How do you hope to grow Apoterra?
DC: As we grow, I would love to definitely change our packaging to minimize our environmental footprint. I would love to foster more direct relationships with the farmers who grow our ingredients and be able to tell their stories. We have our batch number system which tells you where the ingredients were from and when they were harvested. Right now, you can learn where your coconut oil came from Brazil but we don't yet have an image of the farm so I'd love to be able to tell more of that story.