Farm-to-face skin care: the niche brands to put on your clean beauty radar
‘You are what you eat’ is almost as familiar an expression as ‘Hello’ and ‘Goodbye.’ ‘You are what you put on your skin’ has not reached such common usage, but it’s making headway.
But what if we take it a step further? It’s not just what we put on our face and body, but how and where is it grown and the how and who of production. While some may misconstrue ‘farm to face’ as a catch-all phrase for organic or vegan products, its definition is intrinsically more specific. Farm-to-face or farm-to-skin products undergo a meticulous production process. They are always fundamentally organic, locally sourced and homegrown on the premises (usually farm-owned or run by the brand) from gestation to packaging. This allows for the freshest ingredients and highest level of purity and transparency, all while supporting local communities.
Clinical dermatologist Dr Enrizza P. Factor correlates an increase in consumer awareness with the growth of the industry. Now more than ever, consumers want complete transparency from their beauty brands. ‘They want to know all the ingredients, where they came from and how the product was manufactured,’ says Factor. ‘They want to know exactly what is in the formulas and how much of it—from acid potency to parabens to potential skin-aggravating agents. They want sustainable beauty products that align with their personal values and beliefs.’ This corroborates with not merely a desire for better products, but a holistic social and environmental awareness.
Consumer trend experts anticipate an identifiable movement beyond the niche market. Best-selling author David Levine, director of the Avant Guide Institute> and often dubbed the ‘guru of cool’, sees the direction as a natural evolution of the farm-to-table phenomenon. ‘I love the term farm to face because it piggybacks on the much better-known trends in eating,’ Levine explains. ‘As its availability becomes more accessible, more wellness-minded consumers will incorporate these products into their lifestyle and daily routine.’ Levine observes that this is part of larger social phenomena. ‘The reason farm to face is growing in popularity is because it is part of one of the biggest mega-trends of our time: wellness. People are looking for “clean” products that make them look and feel better.’
As the movement gains momentum, there is an expanding scope of brands that range from luxury-priced players to single proprietor operations, with an increasing availability at major retailers. Whether it’s high-end or affordably high-minded, we’ve compiled a shortlist of some of the genre’s most purposeful brands and compelling back stories from Hawai‘i to Sicily and points in between.
Born and raised amid the majesty of the Canadian landscape, brand founder Laura Whitaker knew the best things in life come from nature. A Haudenosaunee and member of the Mohawk nation, Whitaker developed Wildcraft with an ethos of minimalism, simplicity and purity.
With its origins in Whitaker’s kitchen sink, Wildcraft is still handmade in small batches. Dedicated not only to sustainability by using plastic-free and low waste packaging, but to maintaining affordability and accessibility. As a partner with 1% for the Planet, Wildcraft gives back to the environment and everyday people who desire niche quality and authenticity minus the high price point. ‘We’re going to keep pushing ourselves to be more environmentally friendly. This is just the beginning for us,’ comments Whitaker.
Whitaker takes a minimalist and conscientious approach to the brand, never making false promises that a product has miraculous results. Wildcraft simply takes time-honoured, plant-based materials packaged in beautifully designed containers and makes them accessible to as many people as possible.
Not far from Canada, Laurie Miller grew up in rural New York spending summers in a log cabin and winters near a 500-acre park. Inspired by an aunt with a deep knowledge of medicinal herbs and plants, Laurie spent her teens reading books on natural skin care and mixing her own hair and skin products from foraged plants.
As a young woman living in Kauai, Miller immersed herself in the study of botanical properties and conservation. After the purchase and restoration of Crown Hill Ranch in San Diego with her husband, the Millers established the Nani Pua farm on which they grow some of the ingredients for the 1960 Ethnobotanical Face Serum.
Committed to addressing all skin conditions with natural extracts, the 1960 Ethnobotanical Face Serum is a luxury elixir with superior performance. Searching the world for the most beneficial oils, Nani Pua (Hawai‘ian for beautiful flower) created a lavishly light face oil for all skin types. Three years in the making, the nutrient-rich serum is comprised of 15 carefully selected vital botanical extracts to calm, balance and nurture even the most comprised skin.
Housed in a recyclable glass vessel, Nani Pua supports organic farmers globally and creates lasting relationships with growers to source the finest oils available. The brand has several give-back initiatives in the San Diego community, supporting organic farms, food banks, at-risk children and families, homeless shelters, and more.
Irene Forte Skincare
Irene Forte has cherished memories of her childhood exploring Italy’s profuse landscape. As the wellness consultant of Rocco Forte Hotels and an advisory board member of the Global Wellness Summit, Forte has always advocated for a holistic approach to skin care. Arriving in Sicily for the first time in 2003, she became enchanted with the bountiful area that would become the Verdura Resort in 2009.
Taking full advantage of an on-site organic farm, Forte plunged deeply into the world of natural and holistic ingredients and wellness, as well as the rich traditions of the region. When she realized the bounty at her disposal was optimum for the exceptional products, Forte developed her eponymous skin care line, with Verdura farm as its heart and centre. Forte then turned to the renowned pharmacologist, Dr Francesca Ferri of EffegiLab in Trento. Together they created a product line that distils the sun-soaked affluence of Sicilian plant extracts into formulations that are scientifically sophisticated and offer the Mediterranean diet for your skin.
As a result, Irene Forte proudly presents the New Natural: a line of 26 clean, natural products with formulations guided by science that are handmade in Italy in small batches. Each of the approximate 75 active ingredients has been chosen to work in synergy with one another and complement the body’s natural biochemistry.
More Hawai‘ian island goodness. Made with the aloha spirit in one of the most biodiverse places on the planet, Hanalei was created in Hawai‘i with a profound respect for the diversity of the island’s resources. Founders Vixa and Alice partnered with local experts and growers to develop blends of Hawai‘ian botanical extracts into nutrient-rich, efficacious formulas. The Aloha Nui Nutrient Complex marries three of these super botanicals with skin care actives proven to restore, hydrate and balance.
Hanalei is a proud partner of the homegrown Akamai Foundation, a non-profit organization committed to cultivating highly skilled and experienced individuals for today’s highly-competitive job market.
High in the Atlas Mountains of Morocco, the regenerative power from the seeds of the argan tree is passed down from generation to generation. Brand founders Bachir and Jennifer Abba began their enterprise in 2012 on a farm in the city of Essaouira, the argan capital of the world. Working with the local community and the healing women of the mountains, Morgan Cosmetics is the leading purveyor of argan products, known globally for their deeply moisturizing, antioxidant and therapeutic properties. All Morgan products are cold-pressed to order, with minimal processing to ensure integrity and efficacy. Bachir and Jennifer are committed to the continued social, economic and educational growth of the people and of the preservation of argan forests. With over 60 SKUs, Bachir and Jennifer Abba have a hands-on approach in every level of production.
Not exactly farm to face, Upcircle is best described as trash bin to skin. No, it’s not a misstatement or exaggeration. Ingeniously founded by William and Anna Brightman, a sibling dynamic duo from London, Upcircle has changed the meaning of dumpster diving forever. Foraging discarded coffee grinds, chai spices and fruit stones from some of the best restaurants and grocers in town, William and Anna let nothing go to waste, especially if it feeds the skin. Rather, they have an award-winning brand founded on the principle of sustainability and social responsibility while making effective, cosmetically pleasing products. To date, Upcircle has upcycled 350 tons of waste, saving the planet from putting more waste into landfills and repurposing for the greater good. All packaging is 99 per cent plastic-free with plastic-free refill options for the remaining one per cent. Upcircle Beauty is committed to supporting organizations like Akt, Refuge and BLAM with donations and paid partnerships.