I was particularly fascinated by the fact that Teague and Sarah are involved in every step of the production, so I decided to post a Q&A with Sarah. I almost wish I had asked more questions because this is so interesting to me! I hope you will also enjoy reading them.
My personal favourite of the Wild Hill products so far are the Nootka Rose Cleansing Clay, which is gently exfoliating, and the Rose Geranium Toner. You can read what Sarah has to say about hydrosols below, but I too love them, particularly in summer. We recently went through a bit of a heatwave, which was early for May/June, and carrying the toner in my bag and spritzing my face and neck was so refreshing. It smells incredible and if it has a tightening effect, all the better! Plus Geoff has been really into collecting scented geraniums lately, so it makes me think of him, which is nice.
“Begin to realize that beauty is a ritual of self-care, and that skincare is a form of self-love.”
What made you decide to start a natural skincare line?
I have always had a keen interest in herbalism, and after "retiring" from the world of baking and pastry, I worked in health food stores for several years, which furthered this interest. I was, and remain, fascinated by plant therapy vs pharmaceuticals, and what herbalists call the entourage effect. Plant therapy works differently from pharmaceuticals in that rather than isolating different molecules and compounds, plant medicine in herbalist traditions trusts nature putting all these tiny bits of compounds together, and tries to deliver the plant in the most whole form they can. A few years ago I took a workshop with Portland Apothecary in Washington State, and there the amongst the oil extracts and herb vinegars, I encountered my first botanical distillation. After that my husband Teague and I both knew what we wanted to do on our property, and we began building up the farm and studying natural skincare. I traveled to San Francisco and spent some time with an ethnobotanist who is well known for producing excellent hydrosols and advising natural skincare lines, and from this education the line developed into what it is. Locally I am very grateful to Dr. Ryan Drum for both his writings and personal advice on the use of local seaweeds and herbs for skincare and health.
Tell us about your farm.
Wild Hill Farm is 5 acres on hilly terrain set on the side of East Sooke Park, on the southern tip of Vancouver Island. This 3000 acre park borders our farm on two sides, so things really do feel very wild here. We raise a small flock of heritage ducks and chickens for pastured eggs, have a small orchard of mostly apples and pears, and grow rose geranium, lemon verbena, thyme, sage, rosemary, comfrey and calendula for skincare. Most of the herbs thrive here with nothing more than compost, lama manure, fresh seaweed mulch, and a bit of lime in winter. We do have a 40 foot greenhouse for the verbena and geranium, heat lovers that they are. On a wet and cold spring day, the greenhouse is my favorite place to be. The smell of the herbs and earth in there is so enlivening. By growing our herbs organically and producing skincare with them, we hope to both bring people a relationship to these wonderful plant allies.
What do you feel sets Wild Hill Botanicals apart from other natural beauty brands (I find the natural beauty market to be quite supportive! I hope that's been your experience)?
Absolutely supported. There is currently lots of growth in this industry and room to move at the moment. Basically we are taking back an industry that has been polluted. We all know someone who has battled cancer, and it doesn't take much time on google to educate yourself on endocrine disruptors, bio-accumulation, and persistent contaminants. We all stand to benefit by simplifying our lives of these things. The Canadian government has a hot-list of banned ingredients in cosmetics, but sadly it does not match the standards of the EU, and many more ingredients should be banned than are at the moment. So small companies are bringing this needed change to Canada, and we are very excited to be a part of this group of entrepreneurs. Many large companies advertise the botanicals in their products. Yet I was surprised to learn that the majority of ingredients, especially herbal extracts that are available from suppliers being used for "natural" skincare are highly refined. Thus a brand might advertise their use of plant extracts, yet the reality is unless you have control over this step of production, whatever might have been a plant ingredient at the outset has been boiled, bleached, and clarified to the point of being unrecognizable. Here at Wild Hill, our goal is to deliver as whole a plant therapy as possible to people, and their skin. Whole means we grow and process almost all of the herbs we use ourselves, and make all our extracts ourselves. From wild rose glycerite to nettle tincture to hydrosols and double-infused oil infusions, we do it all because it's the best way we know to deliver potent herbal skincare, and also because we just love doing it.
What are your personal favourite products from your line?
They're all my favourites! The products I use most would be the Rose Geranium Toner and our Blackberry Serum and Wild Rose Neroli cream. Really, I'm a hydrosol nut. They uplift the spirit. They're plant medicine. They regulate skin pH, helping skin stay a little on the acidic side. They tone and tighten. Mist, and mist often, I like to say. I keep a bottle on me wherever I go, and when I need a little a pick-me up I close my eyes, mist, and breathe deeply. It feels amazing. When it comes to moisturizers, I go back and forth between the serum and the cream. It kind of depends on the day. Our serum absorbs very quickly, that was important to me. It also has a really interesting blend of oils that I fell in love with while formulating- they're all either healing, anti-microbial or anti-aging, and the arnica extract is a huge boost. I love our cream for the rose hydrosol and rosemary hydrosols, the cocktail of precious oils, the honey and wild rose extract, and of course rose and neroli essential oils which are so helpful to sensitive, drier skin. It feels so luxurious and also like a throwback—your mother's mother's cream, something like that.
What is your best piece of skin care advice?
Begin to realize that beauty is a ritual of self-care, and that skincare is a form of self-love. Be cautious of sunscreens, even the titanium/zinc ones. Minimize makeup. Hydrate yourself, buy the best food you can afford, be sparing with soap, eat lots of greens that are as fresh as possible, and if skin is overly dry or breaking out, use organic honey on the skin and do some gut healing/dietary adjustments to mend it up. Vitality and health are quickly and easily read by humans, no amount of makeup can fake it (sorry!). Your skin is your body's largest organ. It breathes and absorbs what is placed on it. In your skincare, look to support your skin's functions- namely breath-ability, detoxing, and retaining moisture. Yes, it comes down to more than looks, but the more we support the primary functions of our skin, the more beautiful it will look.
Check out Wild Hill Botanicals here. Stockists here.