In my hunt for healthy skincare brands, there are some that stand out in their commitment to sustainability and transparency. Nelum Botanics is certainly one that rises to the top. Let’s just say: mind blown.
I had the honor of chatting with the founder and creator of the line, Klara Ibarra, over the phone in a ‘Hub Sesh‘, and I was so impressed by her authenticity and the impact she’s making in the creation of her skincare line that I wanted to share her vision with you. What really struck me was her determination to not only talk the talk—but live it.
The following excerpt from Facebook was the first encounter I had with Klara, and I think you’ll see why I’m in awe of her dedication. On April 3, 2016, this is what she asked the Green Beauty Insiders group on Facebook:
Hello everyone. I am the owner of Nelum Botanics, a holistic skincare line. All my products are made with botanicals that are grown under eco-friendly conditions and ethically produced; I do this for two reasons but for the purpose of this post, I just want share what I do as it connects with my passion for sustainable development. I designed a Forest Garden Project to solve the hunger problem in a community in Kenya. You can read all about it here. In short, it’s a holistic way to allow the Chemolingot community to gain food sovereignty while also greening the environment. We will begin implementation this summer and are trying to raise 14K. Nelum Botanics will be contributing too. I would be forever grateful for your support. For donations of $100 + I will send you a sticker that you can post on your website letting everyone know that you are a proud contributor to fighting hunger. Thank you everyone….
Unreal. #amiright Yet this passage is a true reflection of who she is and what she stands for.
After reading about her efforts to empower communities through permaculture, I knew that this was a person and a brand that I wanted to get behind. I don’t know too many people who are as devoted to eliminating world hunger and who are literally digging in the trenches in order to get it done, rather than sending funds to random organizations. (I’m not knocking donations, which is pretty much all I ever do, but you know what I mean. Klara puts her body, mind, and spirit into this work.)
The “beauty” category dilemma
You may not have heard about Nelum Botanics before, but I believe there’s a reason for it. Klara recently had an epiphany that helped her understand why she was holding back in the industry. Not many skincare founders struggle with the “beauty and cosmetics” category, yet Klara had some issues to overcome with her conception of commercialized beauty.
She explained to me in our chat and in this candid post on her blog that she had a hard time being pigeonholed as doing beauty-related work, because she associated it with greed and capitalism and not as a valuable contribution. She was also disturbed by marketing tactics that drive consumer sales in the beauty world with a message of not being good enough or feeling less than.
Recently, she has learned to stay focused on her original mission that’s driven by her love of herbalism and her reverence of the earth and its creations. In doing so, it reenergized her ultimate goal: to formulate healthy products infused with the most efficacious ingredients that nature has to offer. Her creations offer the antidote to the denatured ones found in most stores.
Since this is something that I struggle with in writing a blog that’s largely focused on beauty, I identify with her dilemma completely. However, it didn’t take long for me to see that there was so much more to her message than merely introducing another brand to the highly saturated space. Actually, a small business like hers is a welcome addition on so many levels, not least of all the intention behind it.
Rather than have me spell it out for you, I felt that her own words would carry her message the strongest. Fortunately, Klara took some time out of her busy schedule as an entrepreneur and a dedicated volunteer, as well as being a mom of a little one. Truthfully, I don’t know how she does it all!
Q & A with Nelum Botanics Founder Klara Ibarra
Q: What motivated you to create Nelum Botanics?
I was always, since I can remember, fascinated by the healing wonders of nature. And it really bothered me that people didn’t see it or believe it, and instead turned to artificial products to beautify their skin—not only are these things toxic for the body, but they are toxic to the environment.
I also felt that if people could see how amazing nature’s healing abilities were, then they would take better care of it; they would slow down and appreciate it. Starting Nelum Botanics was my way to show people the healing wonders of nature.
It was my way of doing something I loved, while also being able to raise my kids and support sustainable development initiatives.
Q: What is the significance of the name “Nelum Botanics”? What does it mean?
It was the flower of my childhood memories in Sri Lanka. It was also the flower that my godmother referenced when she was telling me to be strong despite the struggles I was facing: the lotus grows beautifully despite (or maybe because of) the muddy waters she lives in. The botanical name is nelumbo nucifera. Nelumbo is also lotus in Singhala, my long lost mother tongue. Nelum Botanics represents my heart & soul, and everything I cherish.
Q: How do you feel that your work contributes to the eco-conscious beauty space and what changes do you hope to see in natural beauty in the next few years?
I would like to think that I contribute by not only making more natural products available to people, but by offering products that are actually eco-friendly (as a buyer, I hate being forced to buy plastic and hidden ingredients that pollute our water), while also contributing to a greater cause so that we are all a part of the effort. As importantly, I feel that I am contributing to the eco-conscious beauty space by adding a deeper element to beauty: for me, it’s not about beauty through pretention—there is already too much pressure in that venue.
For me it’s about helping people feel beautiful—healthy and radiant—through the use of therapeutic products that have a meaning and purpose for the physical self and for the world around us.
Q: What has been challenging for you in starting a skincare business?
Well, at the time that I started my business, I became a mother. AND THAT WAS SOOO HARD! After that, I think that the biggest challenges have been a) having to wear all the hats, b) having to know everything about running a successful business and c) having to find people who shared my vision/ passion to help me. It has truly been a sharp learning curve through trial and error. I’m still riding that curve because there are some areas that I just find very intimidating such as marketing, or trying to get over my guilt trip, which you Sarita, really helped me get over.
Q: You are dedicated to altruistic work. Can you tell us about the work you’re doing in Kenya and hope to do in Sri Lanka, your country of origin?
I don’t know if it’s really altruistic… I think it’s more about contributing to socio-economic development in a different way than what is proposed by mainstream agendas—agendas that cripple people and/or destroy the environment. I work with communities that are facing hunger to help identify the causes and find both sustainable and empowering solutions for those affected. In Kenya—as I would do here in the USA, or anywhere else—I started a permaculture project to recondition infertile soil and grow a forest garden. A forest garden needs no outside input and very little human intervention. It’s an organic, affordable, and promising way to green the environment while bringing food abundance and food sovereignty to communities. We are also working with men and women to start small businesses from what they harvest. Most of the plant material that is used in my products come from similar projects where the plants are organically grown and fairly-traded to support small farmers.
What’s the best way to use the products in your line? Any special tips or combinations that work very well?
For the Rosehip & Chamomile Body Oil and Graceful Face Elixir, I recommend using them after washing, when skin is a bit damp. The reason for this is because it helps absorption of the various nutrients in these products. It also helps lock in some of the water, which is good to do if your skin is dehydrated. I no longer have dehydrated skin but what I used to do, and still do because I love the effects, is spraying myself with an Aqua Vitae—a floral mist with nutrients that are not oil soluble—and then applying the Body Oil or Elixir. If you do this, you don’t necessarily have to have damp skin.
Aside from your skincare line, are there any other brands that you use and love? Please share a few of them here.
Tell us about some of the outstanding and unique ingredients that you use.
There are so many oils I use; oils are my thing simply because they radiate with nature’s energy and contain so much of the medicinal properties of the plant. Oils, when harvested and processed properly, are silky, soothing, and sensual. As importantly, they are vibrant with vitamins and minerals, making an excellent source of food for the skin! My only condition is that they are sustainably grown, cold pressed, and do not clog pores.
Every oil used is carefully selected for its specific property that will mix with other ingredients in such ways to enhance its performance and provide the ultimate benefits to your skin. Kalahari, Kiwi, and Thistle are three examples of oils I use that are simply breathtaking in what it has to offer.
Kiwi seed oil, Actinidia chinesis is used in the Kiwi Mandarin baby oil. Kiwi is one of the riches sources of Omega 6 + 3 with the perfect ratio of 3:1, which is a critical criteria for the body to process and benefit from these essential fatty acids. Kiwi oil is non-greasy, easily absorbed, rich in vitamins C & E, and rich in minerals potassium and magnesium. Potassium helps skin balance its pH and remain supple, while magnesium allows vitamin C to act as an effective antioxidant. Do you see why I love this? And the combinations I create enhances these benefits tremendously!
Kalahari Citrullus vilgaris is another favorite! Kalahari is melon indigenous to the Kalahari Desert. This sweet fruit produces seeds that are excellent for troubled skin because of its hight content of the zinc mineral, which helps heal wounds. Kalahari is an excellent source of vitamin B, as well. Best of all—at least for those with large pores—it helps dissolve excess sebum that gets trapped while also reducing the size of the pores.
Lastly, for today, is Thistle Silybum marianum. I use this in my Botanical Cleansing Elixir blend along with Kalahari because it is beautifully light and rich in antioxidants and vitamin E. As a cleanser that can be left on the skin—if one prefers—it provides ultimate nourishment and helps repair skin that has been affected by pollution, stress, and grime. Even if rinsed off, it leaves behind a soft subtle trace of its nourishing properties that will continue to benefit your skin.
Are you as inspired as I am to making sure this brand continues contributing to the beauty space? You can follow, like, support, and connect with Nelum Botanics here: