Before the dawn of parabens and sulfates, plants and herbs were the foundation of one’s grooming and medicinal rituals. The ancient Greeks achieved the perfect cheek and lip stains by mashing up berries or beets. It’s rumored that Cleopatra moisturized with hemp seed oil and Marie Antoinette kept her hands soft by sleeping in gloves containing a mixture of rose water, wax, and sweet almond oil. And aside from being the first civilization to provide mandatory education for all children, the ancient Aztecs also practiced medicine using many plants and herbs, known for their healing properties. But as science progressed, so did the ingredients in your moisturizer. And while we owe it to science for now knowing that rubbing lead all over your face will kill you (shout out to Queen Elizabeth I), do we really need that many preservatives and synthetics if we want our bodies to feel and smell good?
More and more people are finding this not to be the case. Many people are trading in their synthetic staples and returning to a more natural approach. Additionally, ideas of beauty and self-care have become more spiritual and meditative, as opposed to solely cosmetic. And companies are responding to people’s desire for a more personalized approach to beauty, that is catered specifically to one’s intimate self-care needs for their interior and exterior well-being instead of for the gaze of others.
Heart Grown Wild is one of those brands with the intent “to bring that connection to the outside world into your daily self-care routines.” We spoke with the all-natural, plant-based beauty brand’s founder, creator, herbalist and alchemist, SantaLena Groves, about Heart Grown Wild’s synthesis of nature and beauty as well as how she implements her creativity with alchemy. Plus, she gives some invaluable advice when it comes to achieving your goals. You can shop Heart Grown Wild’s luscious serums and herbal products at BUST’s Holiday Craftacular, at the Brooklyn Expo Center on December 8 and 9, and take two workshops taught by Groves: Plant Extraction 101 and Brains + Beauty: Plant Synergy Of CBD And Green Beauty.
What inspired you to start Heart Grown Wild?
My story started during my previous career as a social worker. My background is predominately in mental health social work, specializing in trauma. I was very passionate about helping those I worked with access tunnels of light in the dark through trauma informed practices—most specifically, grounding. At the most basic level, grounding involves the five senses—taste, touch, smell, sight, and hearing. This is one of the many reasons that nature can be therapeutic. If you picture a landscape in nature, and place yourself there—you can imagine how many of the senses can be engaged. For me, I was inspired to take a really nourishing beauty product, like luscious massage oil, or a face mask—and transform it into a portal to a landscape in nature. My intention was for each bottle to evoke a lush forest, or a field of flowers to help others feel at home within their body through the magic of plants and places that resonate for people in nature. This realization came especially when I used to live in a predominately urban environment, finding solace in evergreen oil, made me feel like I could escape the concrete jungle to the place where I felt most at peace-on a forest path, in the trees. I also recognized that there are many toxic//trendy ingredients in formulations oversaturated with unsustainable doses of essential oils. I wanted to create a line that not only evoked beautiful landscapes in nature, but was a formulated effectively in a smart, sustainable and synergistic way. I am a total bookworm, so everything I do—although mostly intuitive—has to answer all my “whys” as a measure of quality assurance. I can be a bit obsessive about knowing all the details.
What’s your self-care routine after you wake up and before you go to bed?
In the morning, I wake up at 5am before my husband heads to work and he brings me coffee—it’s a sacred time that has become a sweet daily ritual despite the early hour. Once he leaves, I start my morning skincare ritual by cleansing with Azul CBD Serum, removing it with a warm washcloth, and following up with Prism of the Sun toner with a daily serum right over top. If I feel particularly tired or sluggish, I start the morning with one of our face steams and a honey mask, while I get my house/apothecary space in order. Next, I light candles, make a quiet breakfast, burn cedar, and get to work. It varies—sometimes I get to start the day with movement outside, but being a boss typically means I have to get right to it. I think it’s important to acknowledge that we may have to negotiate time for ourselves—we can’t always wake up with the perfect morning routine. If your day rolls out with a bang, carve out a few minutes and then plan for a serious wind-down that night.
My ideal nighttime routine usually involves a bath. Baths are a serious ritual for me—it’s all about setting the stage. I make sure the room is clean, create a little altar of fresh flowers and pieces of nature from a sunset woods walk, light candles, and have a warm cup of tea or a glass of wine. I use that time to send intentions out into the world starting inward and working outward. I also use this time to release patterns or habits that weigh on me. On a heavy day, I will follow up my bath with In the Trees CBD Massage Oil, or Prism of the Sun CBD Massage Oil. The whole plant infusion of the evergreens containing the terpene limonene alongside the high quality source of Elmore Mountain Therapeutics CBD that we add helps the stress melt away. Limonene is anti-inflammatory which can help with pain in the body and stress relief—it’s the best bedtime routine.
There are so many chemicals in a lot of cosmetics that are currently on the market. Would you say more people are thinking about the active ingredients in their products and what they’re doing to their skin and hair?
I think some people are all in, and some people are comfortable making healthy swaps for things that they use on a more regular basis. The trend is definitely growing, and I think women in particular are paying close attention. Chemicals, preservatives, and fragrances disrupt our endocrine system, resulting in an increase in women having difficulty with hormones and fertility. Our skin is the largest organ on our body, so what we put on it matters. The beauty industry is one of the least regulated, and unfortunately companies have not been held accountable to safe practices. As a consumer, seeing the words Natural/Organic matters. It’s important that a consumer is educated to read their labels though— despite a company branding itself as “clean,” that may not be the case. For anyone interested in a cleaner product, reading labels and knowing your source is key. The more informed you are as a consumer, the better you can make a decision.
Speaking of ingredients, there are so many wonderful plants and herbs listed in your products. For those of us that are new to plant and herbal skincare, is there a basic guide you would recommend for learning what plant/herb does what?
There is so much information available. My go-to books are The Herbal Medicine-Maker’s Handbook by James Green and Body into Balance by Marie Noel Groves. If you really want to take a deep dive into plant benefits, look at their terpene composition. Terpenes are a big part of what gives plants therapeutic properties, and it’s rarely talked about. I think it’s especially important to pay attention to terpenes as the CBD in the green beauty industry continues to grow. When you start pulling up literature on terpenes like limonene, linalool, a-bisaboolol and see plants that contain these compounds, be prepared for your mind to be blown. Paying close attention to this has changed my entire outlook and reaffirmed that our formulations over the past few years are synergistically aligned.
Some of your products, like the facial steams, offer spiritual benefits in addition to skincare. Do you consider self-care and grooming to be a spiritual practice?
Personally, I do. Part of my intention was to weave the practice of ritual into self-care routines we come into contact with almost every day. Access is really important for most people, and trying to schedule a yoga class or even a massage can feel daunting—despite this being the first thing that comes to mind, these aren’t the only gateways to a spiritual practice of self-care. Spirituality/self care really starts with you and your relationship with yourself—that way we can best show up in the world. Taking time to slow down, engage our senses and ground into our body is a great place to start. Adding plants into the equation creates a co-regulative space—plants are healing all on their own for so many reasons.
Producing hair and skincare products sounds like it would be very procedural and scientific. How do you find ways to make it creative?
My process, although scientific, comes from a place of creativity. Each formula was inspired by a personal connection to a landscape or a plant- so that memory translates to every batch I make. It’s a ritual all on its own, and my measuring bowls are like modern day cauldrons. I mix them and watch the alchemy of things blend together, whispering intentions into each vessel. From start to finish it is a ritual—from setting the stage, building my altar for the day, marveling at the alchemy of the distillation process, to shaking each infusion. It’s all energy going towards creating something magical. Process for me, although meticulous, feels very in tune with the magic of creation happening all around us.
What advice do you have for people when it comes to setting and achieving goals?
Keep going and don’t knock the hustle. If it’s a goal that’s really important to you, don’t let spiritual bypassing get in the way of the work that is necessary. Often we see “success” marketed through a scope of privilege—it can look pretty and perfectly balanced. In reality, privilege isn’t accessible to all of us, and working towards what you want can look disheveled at times. That’s okay. Be prepared to push past your comfort zones, and be willing to give it your all. When I start to feel burned out or tired, I always come back to the same question: “Am I going to regret not putting everything into this”? If the answer is yes, I know what I need to do. Break things down into small, digestible bites if things get overwhelming and you feel like you bit off more than you can chew. Each task completed, no matter how small, will keep you going in the right direction. One of my favorite quotes that help me stick to goals is by Adrienne Maree Brown: “What you pay attention to grows.” The work we put in is like tending to a garden: the more we tend to it, the more the garden will flourish—and you have to get your hands dirty. Pay attention to the things that are pushing you in the right direction, and try not to get stuck on the challenges that come along the way. Just keep going.
Tell us about what you’ll be doing at the Craftacular.
At the Craftacular, I will be covering two of my passions that go hand in hand with what I create: Plant extractions, and CBD and terpenes. It is my vision to grow my business to help inspire/share with others more sustainable methods of creating green beauty products and also inspire people to become knowledgeable versus following trends.
Learn more about SantaLena and Heart Grown Wild at heartgrownwild.com.
Join us at the BUST Craftacular and the School For Creative Living 11a.m.-7p.m. on Saturday, December 8 and Sunday, December 9 at Brooklyn Expo center. Admission is free; learn more and purchase class tickets here.
Photos courtesy SantaLena Groves
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