By Deanna Pai. Photos: Hannah Choi/Allure.
Even though it's becoming more difficult with each passing minute to agree on anything (thanks, 2017) one undebatable truth survives: Herbivore Botanicals is the shit. The skin-care line has come a long way since its Etsy days back in 2011, and that's not a big surprise, considering how much we love its innovative (and Instagram-friendly) products. Seriously, multiple Allure editors have waxed poetic about the brand's Lapis Facial Oil, Moon Fruit Superfruit Night Treatment, and Coco Rose Body Polish. Clearly, we can't get enough — which is why we went to Herbivore Botanicals co-founder Julia Wills with all of our questions.
1. It all started with soap.
Seriously. Alex Kummerow, Wills's husband and Herbivore Botanicals co-founder, bought her a soap-making starter kit — and she was immediately hooked. Around that time — circa 2011 — she quit her job (kismet?) and continued to make soap in their Seattle kitchen like NBD. "I just loved making it," she tells Allure. "Everyone I knew thought I'd lost my mind for at least the first year, but I was happy. I knew I'd found something I loved doing, so I just went with it." Once they had more soap on their hands than they could possibly use, they began selling it at their local farmer's market and on Etsy. And so the Bamboo Charcoal Bar was a born — and soon became a hit. Fun fact: It's still a bestseller to this day.
2. Their brand story is like a beauty fairytale.
Speaking of Etsy, that's what put the brand on the beauty map. (Their shop on the site still exists, although it's not currently selling products. Not surprisingly, it has five stars, 13,555 sales, and more than 4,000 reviews.) After a year of selling suds-makers online, both Anthropologie and Urban Outfitters reached out to Wills through an Etsy "convo," which is Etsy-speak for email. A few years later, they received a very important phone call. "Sephora called us one morning while we were making breakfast to let us know they were going to launch Herbivore," recalls Wills. "I got off the phone and cried."
3. The ingredients are so natural that, sometimes, they run out.
Herbivore isn't one of those brands that calls themselves natural but is really only "sort of" natural. (Though we're not pointing fingers here.) Since the brand's ingredients can't exactly be created on-demand as they would in a lab — the downside of Mother Nature — they actually have to discontinue products if they run out of something. That was the case with their Hinoki Cypress Bath Soak. "We were unable to find large enough supplies of the Hinoki cypress oil needed for it," says Wills. "It was my mom's favorite, so we did make her a small batch for Christmas."
4. Hawaii is a major source of inspiration for the products.
Wills and her husband spend a lot of time on the Hawaiian island of Kauai. It's more of a work vacation than an actual vacation, but the couple certainly doesn't mind. "We use a lot of tropical ingredients, like coconut, hibiscus, jasmine, orchid, and pineapple in our products, so it helps to be here when we're creating new formulas," she explains. They also discover new ingredients there, like kukui nut oil, a nourishing, essential fatty acid-packed extract that eventually earned a spot in their Lapis Facial Oil.
5. Their soap is still handmade...by Wills's father.
Herbivore Botanicals might be in the big leagues in terms of retailers and popularity, but they still manage to keep it all in the family. "These days, my dad makes all of our soap," says Wills. "In 2016, he did upwards of 50,000 bars of soap single-handedly," she says. (If you're interested, that's more than 136 per day.) He was a big supporter of the brand from the very beginning, when he helped his daughter pack orders and fill bottles.
6. They listen to customers' requests.
You ask, Herbivore answers. The brand gets requests all the time, according to Wills, and she takes all of them seriously. Back in 2011, they began making a clay soap, which took off in their Etsy shop. Naturally, they began receiving requests for other facial products with similar ingredients — toners, masks, the works — which is how the Pink Clay and Blue Clay masks came to be. "Right now, we're getting a lot of requests for an under-eye product," says Wills. Hint, hint. Wink, wink.
7. They're expanding beyond skin care.
Finally, the beauty gods have answered our prayers. Next up for Herbivore: A complexion product. "I don't want to give away too much, but it's sort of a skin care-meets-makeup hybrid," says Wills. But it won't be, say, your average foundation. Wills is much more interested on actually improving skin instead of just covering up imperfections, so fans should expect it to be just as powerful — but also just as natural — as the rest of the brand's products.
This story originally appeared on Allure.
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