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Interview with Herbalist and Skin care Specialist

Herbalist and Sequoia Beauty

Just before the holidays, I was busy searching out great new natural brands to bring to you. And I had a lot of fancy plans about how often I was going to write after the holidays. And then my acting auditions picked up. And I actually started booking a few things. And my life became a whirlwind of activity. But today I have some down time to write and I’m excited to tell you about a small, handcrafted, natural brand I love called Sequoia Beauty.

I was drawn in by the impressive ingredients list and the lovely packaging, but the proof is in the using. At an HBP reader’s suggestion, I contacted Herbalist and skin care specialist, Laurel Shaffer and asked for products. I’ll break down exactly what I tried at the end of this article, but I can say overall I really enjoyed the line. As usual, I want to give you more info than just a simple product review. I want you to know where the ingredients are sourced, what’s Laurel’s background and why you should buy it.

I called Laurel and we chatted for a few… Here’s what I found out.

HBP: Your line boasts a lot of natural, farm fresh ingredients. How well do the benefits of the fruits/herbs last once they’re in product? You know how fresh juice is supposed to be drank in a very short time (a matter of hours) or most of the nutrients are lost? How does that translate with skin care?

Laurel: That is a great question!  I don’t use any juices… so using herbs is really quite different from that.  The integrity of plant constituents are different for every single plant, that really only herbalists would be trained on.  A quality product will have highly active plants, because there is something that is preserving the integrity of those antioxidants.

In our case Honey, Jojoba Oil, Vegetable Glycerine, Grain Alcohol, Apple Cider Vinegar are all mediums that will extract desired properties of a plant and preserve those properties so that we can work them into formulas without their quality being diminished. We also use the whole plant. The benefit of using the whole plant means we’re not doing crazy stuff with them.

That said, most skin care companies heat their ingredients to very high temperatures, and douse them with all kinds of chemicals… I believe that actually does – as you were saying cause them to lose their nutrients.  We look at every single ingredient differently, according to how to best preserve the constituents we are looking to preserve.  For example, St Johns Wort and Chickweed are two common ingredients that are only good when raw.  So as an herbalist, I know those ingredients have to be put into their extracting medium while they are still raw for the most benefit.

Honey Berry Enzyme Mask

HBP: You sound really knowledgable for someone who’s only had a beauty line for three years. Were you a hippie chick mixing and creating your own potions before you started all of this?

Laurel: I totally didn’t grow up a hippie. I didn’t learn about herbs until my early twenties and I was fascinated. A nutritionist prescribed some herbs for me and that started me on that path. I’d always loved skin care and all of that. They started to come together. I was using so called organic products and I didn’t like what I was seeing on the labels. I was seeing chemicals that I didn’t understand why they were there. I wanted to create a line of really organic products.

Herbalist and Sequoia Beauty founder, Laurel Shaffer

Herbalist and Sequoia Beauty founder, Laurel Shaffer

Although Sequoia Beauty is only three years old, I’ve been making products for years now. I studied herbal medicine for three years and I was formulating during that time. I actually moved to Northern California just to study herbal medicine at a school in Sonoma. I loved it.

HBP: You either grow your own ingredients or source them from local (California) farms, which you list on your site. I love that you tell customers exactly where the ingredients come from. And most of them are certified organic – flowers, herbs, hydosols, cold-pressed organic oils. No nasty stuff. I love it! Are you ever tempted to put in the newest “it” ingredient just because it’s a hot seller?

Laurel: No. My choices are made on efficacy, not trends. All plants are medicine when used properly. You have to know that and know how to use it. My education taught me about the physiology of the body. I know what kind of herb I want to use to rapidly reproduce cells, and repair DNA of cells and many other things.

HBP: What about preservatives? That’s a hot topic these days amongst consumers who want natural products.

Laurel: Luckily, most of our products don’t need preservatives because they’re oil based and their antioxidant content is so high that they take care of each other and keep each other from going rancid. Oils are amazing when they are really, really pure.

HBP: But your cleansers and creams are water-based.

Laurel: The cleansers and creams use preservatives. And I’m really happy with what I’m using. I’ve researched it until I’m blue in the face. It’s the only certified organic , anti-bacterial preservative on the market. And it’s very expensive. It is basically a citrus extract (rind) and an organic vegetable glycerine. We have to get it from Canada.

Herbalist and Sequoia Beauty founder, Laurel Shaffer

HBP: How fresh are your products?

Laurel: We make fresh bashes weekly with our most popular products, so you’re going to get a really fresh product.

*I tried the Honey Berry Enzyme Mask and it was DIVINE. There were strawberry seeds and bits in it and raw royal jelly.
The Almond Mineral Exfoliant is a dry scrub (gives a longer shelf life). You add water (or your favorite fruit juice) to the mix and apply. It’s wonderful and all my dead skin was vanished. The Firm & Tighten Toner was great for my dry, maturing skin. I appreciate how gentle the formula is. No stinging at all. The Hydrate & Renew Cream Cleanser was my least favorite product.

Although it felt soft and creamy and it was not drying at all, when I went over my face with a toner from another brand, I lifted an entire cotton ball’s worth of foundation. I need a cleanser that removes makeup, as well. If you don’t wear makeup, this cleanser will probably do the trick for you.

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