We caught up with founder & herbalist Sarah Busco to learn more about the conception of Earth tu Face and why she was drawn to the restorative force of plants as the focal point of her brand.
How did your passions for herbs and plant-based beauty begin?
I grew up around plants. My dad believed it was important to grow our own food organically as much as possible. He is a Capricorn with endless energy and took this concept really seriously. He and my mom shared a love of nature and the outdoors. I spend my childhood playing in our garden and learning to grow and weed alongside my father.
I always had an interest in herbalism and holistic healing and I loved western medicine as well, I still do, but I feel like there is a time and place for each. I focused on studying indigenous medicine in my undergraduate at UC Santa Cruz and how it is being affected by globalisation. I worked with a Mayan healer for three months in the middle of the Yucatan and then I spent three months working for an organisation of indigenous doctors in San Cristobal De La Casa in Chiapas making efforts to support indigenous medicine. They were both such amazing experiences. I am a western herbalist and have studied a lot of health and healing modalities that have gone into making the product. The best inspiration and ideas come from nature where nothing is wasted and every step leads into something else. Every “waste” component is picked up and used by something else in the ecosystem. I have always been passionate about the healing power of plants on the skin and in the body.
Earth Tu Face is plant based, organic and edible. We have gardens in San Rafael where we grow organic roses, lavender buds and calendula for our two face masks. Half of the products in the Earth Tu Face line are still hand-made in our apothecary in Oakland each week. The other half is made in a mix and fill facility in California where we send ingredients, packaging, labels where we make our recipes in bigger numbers.
What were the first products you ever formulated?
Actually the Face Balm was the very first product I formulated followed by our Body Butter. They exist unchanged in our current line.
What makes you stand out compared to other natural skincare brands?
I think we are one of the most lean, mean and green skincare lines out there right now in terms of what we source and use and what we don’t use. Earth Tu Face memorializes our values: the products are all natural, organic and utilize food-grade ingredients in packaging that is recyclable or compostable, we use entirely US made packaging and California made products. We are about to roll out a series of campaigns that connect individual products to non profit organizations to donate a portion of the sales ongoing to causes we stand with. For the holidays we always give back a portion of our sales. This year for our holiday contributions we are giving to Green Peace. Our products are not just organic and responsibly packaged and marketed. They are “honest” in that we don’t use fillers, we don’t water the products down, we don’t add chemicals to emulsify or preserve the products, and we don’t add anything that doesn’t fit with our values-conscious business philosophy. Meaning we do not use endangered plants or plants who’s population’s are at risk. We are palm oil free. And we keep a long shelf life because we formulate with shelf stable cold pressed oils, non GMO sunflower derived vitamin E and essential oils that naturally preserve (among other things).
What are your favourite ingredients to work with?
Dirt! Nature! Our garden is where I’m most creative; the natural world is my greatest inspiration. Having the garden keeps me close to the source of my inspiration, the soil, the earth, and nature. I can constantly experiment with our ingredients, so that our line is expanded continuously. I love working with botanicals straight from the ground and essential oils. Right now I’m playing with topical formulations with cannabis extracts for skin, muscles and joints. (We don’t grow it). But we do harvest organic: Lavender buds, rose petals and calendula flowers, which are incorporated into our two face masks.
Are there any difficulties working with natural and organic ingredients?
Yes, there are. The challenging aspects that stand out have to do with educating the consumer without overwhelming the consumer with information. It is important to get your messaging just right in order to tell your story, explain your products and ethos. It is about educating the consumer without bombarding them with information. For example we find that people are accustomed to a pricing model that works for huge brands that largely don’t use specialized botanical ingredients. When you work with rare, precious, organic, pure plant ingredients and you make things in special containers and small-batch the costs are drastically different from start to finish. It is akin to hiring a woodworker to make a piece of furniture instead of buying one that is made by the thousand. We work on explaining what is better about our ingredients, formulation, packaging, and how it is earth friendly. That informs the cost of the finished products. We also try to get our philosophy out into the world without being too soapboxy about it.
Is Earth tu Face suitable for all skin types?
Yes it is. Everything is designed to work for everyone with one exception: Our Face Balm is a more hydrating formula than our Skin Serums. People with dryer skin are best suited for our Balm. The products are gentle, healthful and effective for the people who use them and for the planet. They are designed for everyone’s skin and people with sensitive skin often find relief because they can use the whole line. My skin sensitivities led me to create products a decade ago. We use no nut oils whatsoever and only one nonreactive seed oil (sesame) in one product (our Face Balm). We use no: soy, gluten, argan, shea, or almond ingredients because they can trigger reactions. Our Face Wash is a staple as are our Face Balm and Serums. They help with redness, irritation, eczema, psoriasis and clear allergic reactions from other products. People with sensitive skin have great success with our line in general.
Your products have a very long shelf life for natural products, what do you include to achieve this?
In regards to preservatives, we took a multiple prong approach. In all of our products except for the lotion we don’t use water, so it’s not a breeding ground for bacteria and then the essential oils and the sunflower derived real Vitamin E keep them shelf stable. The products can last for a really long time, like three years or much longer.
Lotions are different. They’re a whipped oil and water, so they need emulsifiers and they need preservatives. We couldn’t get around that, so we use a food grade emulsifier commonly found in cheese and wine. We are playing with using rosemary extract moving forward, which is in some of our products and is a great preservative but is tricky in lotions.
The Earth Tu Face Honey + Coconut Mask and the powder clay mask neither have water and the shelf life of both is very stable – years and years. The honey mask will probably last thirty years or more! Honey is used for embalming. I mean, you can open up a jar of honey from 400 years ago and eat it and not get sick. Nothing can grow in there it’s so antibacterial. But I’m talking about raw honey, not adulterated. Once you heat it and break the bonds it’s not stable anymore. Oils are also more shelf stable when they are not adulterated and cold-pressed.
Aside from Earth tu Face skincare, what are your other beauty essentials?
I am a huge fan of Rahua hair products. They have helped my hair thickness and texture. I love the way the products are made, their ingredients and how well they work. Also, I’m a big bath taker so bath accessories are a favourite of mine. I linger in the tub fortified with absorbable magnesium (Ancient Minerals makes a great product) and botanicals. We make small batches of soaks with various botanicals from our garden that are available in our Oakland shop. When I paint my nails I go wild with colors and love the toxic free assortment from Floss Gloss. Big peaches, tangerines or turquoises are my favorites.
How would you like to see Earth tu Face grow over the next 5 years?
I would love for Earth Tu Face to keep growing. I want everyone to have access to green skincare, which is one reason we launched Cosmo Botanicals this year; It’s an organic line at a more accessible price point. It’s four products, but it’s basically a paired down version of our Earth Tu Face line. We want an answer to accessibility because it costs a lot to make products with the ingredients we use for Earth Tu Face, make them in California, either handmade or at a facility that is certified organic and somewhat small batch, so naturally the end price point is more than what most people can step into. But we wanted there to be a way for everybody to step into green beauty with a truly beautifully formulated product, so we created Cosmos Botanicals.
I just want things to keep expanding. I want to keep partnering with great businesses, and just keep getting the word out there that we are all environmentalists at heart because we all want a sustainable future for the planet, for the next generation and for each other. And that making good decisions for the planet and yourself with green beauty is one of the best things you can do for yourself and everyone.