A (very) little known fact about me: I went to school for Makeup Artistry when I was 18 and I worked as a makeup artist in Calgary at Sephora. A couple years later I moved to Victoria and my first job was at Gloss Beauty Bar, on Lower Johnson (where Little Gold is now!). The great thing about that job: I met my best friend. The worst: I had to care about these really terrible but beautifully packaged products we were selling people. Except I didn't know how terrible they were. Remember those lip venom glosses? Puffy, burnt looking lips were totally in. The thing is, regulations and labeling laws on the beauty industry are sooo far behind the food industry, which we all know is not exactly perfect. I remember one of the brand reps that came in from California to "educate" us at Sephora. He was boasting to us that what made their waterproof mascara better than everyone else's, was that they didn't use paint thinner. Insert terrified/shocked/disgusted emoji in here. So if that was an ingredient in beauty products, I wondered about skincare lines, you know, the products that are supposed to clean and be good for our skin after all that paint thinner we applied. Turns out, its not too different. So I switched my entire skincare regimen over to natural products, specifically Wildcraft, and I've never been happier with the way my skin feels, glows, and the makeup remover I use to take off my non-paint thinner mascara.
I was eager to interview Laura Whitaker, one of the three co-founders of Wildcraft, to answer some questions I had about their company, natural skincare in general, and their specific decision to identify with simplicity through their brand.
Britt: What products were you using before Wildcraft?
Laura: I’m pretty simplistic with my beauty routine and before Wildcraft, I admittedly don’t recall putting that much thought into my regime. To be completely honest I always kind of steered clear from the industry in general because I thought that the claims made by skin care companies were over inflated (read: total BS) and couldn’t get down with marketing messaging that said I should buy a product to be beautiful.
I’m definitely a hippie at heart so I would gravitate towards brands that I thought were more natural, such as Burt’s Bees, Aveda or Aveeno. While I tried my best to resist marketing tactics that used celebrity spokespeople and overstated claims, I wasn’t so clever when it came to the greenwashing tactics employed by companies. I falsely believed products to be more natural just because they said they used natural ingredients or had packaging with leaves on it.
What sparked you to start making your own?
As mentioned above, I was never that into beauty products so it’s funny that I ended up co-founding a skin care company. Food and cooking, on the other hand, have been a passion of mine for a very long time. I’ve always been interested in finding ways to eat whole or fresh ingredients and am genuinely inspired to create beautiful, healthy dishes with this approach.
This interest in cooking became more personal when my then boyfriend (now husband and Wildcraft business partner) started treating a very debilitating form of arthritis through adopting an anti-inflammatory diet. The life changing impact that this diet had on him was incredible and it demonstrated to us both the profound healing power that food can have on the body.
Around the same time that we were having our food awakening, my friend Jess (now Wildcraft business partner) started gifting me some of the natural skin care products that she had been creating in her kitchen for fun. These products were made from things like salt, sugar, sunflower oil, and citrus rinds. It really struck me that the ingredients were things that I would have previously thought of exclusively as food.
At that point it all kind of clicked for me: if the ingredients we put in our bodies can have profound positive or negative effects, why would it be any different for the ones we put on our body? On top of that I was never particularly inspired by my old products or their marketing claims and really felt like the natural products made my skin feel rejuvenated and restored just like healthy food.
What are the harmful ingredients that we should be watching out for on labels and why are they so commonly used (because of their benefits, costs, or some other reason?)
I tend to focus more on what’s goooood about natural products, and not what isn’t about traditional products. For me, the move to natural was more of a pull than a push. I was pulled towards natural because I loved how they made me feel and I loved that I could actually understand the ingredient lists. We started Wildcraft with the same mentality, focusing on making products that only contain ingredients that are high quality, plant based and timeworn, rather than trying to make traditional products that didn’t contain the ingredients with health or ethical concerns.
When we first started Wildcraft, I did a lot of reading to try and figure out why traditional skin care products can be so problematic and there was certainly enough there to make me want to steer clear for good - phthalates, formaldehyde, phenols, sodium laureth sulfate, coal tar, toxic dyes, and synthetic fragrances (known as “parfum”). These ingredients have been linked to many different illnesses, including cancer, and can cause negative skin reactions. On top of that, they’re not great for the planet either.
My understanding of why these ingredients are used is that they make products last longer, smell stronger and generally do the things that natural products don’t (and don’t need to either!).
I’ve never been one to change my behaviour because of scare tactics or someone telling me it’s not good for me. I change my behaviour because I’m motivated by a better option. Companies like Wildcraft provide an alternative to the mainstream garbage and will make your skin look and feel more happy and healthy than anything you’ve ever used before. In the end I think people need to be motivated to make a change from their own experience or intuition. If you’re reading this article and haven’t made the switch yet it might be a good catalyst to give a couple products a try!
What feedback have you been given or noticed about yourself since you have switched?
Since making the switch, my skin has become about a million times less dry and I find that it has a balmy/hydrated appearance. As someone who used to have straight up flakey skin in the winter (no matter how many moisturizers I would use) this has been a really wonderful change.
My skin looks better than before no doubt, but the most profound change with switching to natural is that it has taken my perception of skin care from something you need to do as part of a beauty regime to something that you get to do as part of your overall health and wellness practices. People often ask me, “Will this cream make my skin look 10 years younger?”, and I tell them, “Absolutely not and don’t believe anyone who attempts to sell you something like that”. What our products will do is make your skin look and feel incredibly healthy. I’m a fierce advocate for healthy skin for as many women (and men) as possible and at the end of the day that’s exactly what we’re selling.
Talk to me about simplicity at Wildcraft.
When we first set out to create Wildcraft, one of our core objectives was to be a more accessible alternative to the many luxury natural brands that we saw in the market. We’ve been able to achieve this by taking a consciously minimalist approach to our ingredient selection, and have incorporated this thinking throughout the brand. Our product development process starts with trying to work out what needs to be in the formulation for the product to serve its intended purpose. In our view, ingredients don’t have to be exotic or rare to be effective. For example, we choose local sources over foreign whenever possible and pride ourselves in using Ontario content in almost every product, such as organic sunflower oil, hemp seed oil and beeswax.
Eager for more on Natural skincare? Check out all Wildcrafts products in our shop or their website, and take a peek at the workshop we are hosting with a Victorian company, Miiko skincare, called Taste Your Skin's experience, where she goes even deeper into the ingredients and concepts of natural skincare. You'll leave with a product she made right in front of you, and nibble on some of the ingredients too!
Photos by RachaelAlexandra.co