Having recently relocated from Sydney to the Gold Coast, I was pleasantly surprised to find Earth and Skin nestled in Mudgeeraba nearby. A day spa & store offering "luxurious beauty treatments and products with an environmental conscience", all vegan and cruelty-free.
My interest piqued and determined to discover more, I connected with Earth and Skin owner and founder, Louisa Hollenberg for her take on all things vegan skin care, industry trends and brand ethos.
What is the origin story for Earth and Skin, and what is the key driver behind your push to bring it to life?
After being touched by personal health issues and my mother suffering from breast cancer - I decided to research why the rates of cancer, fertility issues, allergies and obesity are higher now than any time in history. I was shocked to learn that the beauty and cosmetics industry is largely unregulated and use of toxic ingredients linked to these and other health issues is commonplace.
I decided to reduce my personal toxic load and looked for ways to reduce exposure for my young family. When I couldn't find an expert on the Gold Coast to give me advice about effective skin products she could trust, I decided to leave behind my career in dentistry and open Earth and Skin.
Since opening in 2014, I am so proud to have helped treat and educate over 5000 women about issues in toxin exposure and sustainable beauty. Did you always know that you’d be focused on cruelty-free & vegan beauty in your business? What were your considerations in this decision?
While I was always against animal testing, I started the business not knowing anything about vegan beauty. My focus was on bringing quality toxin free treatments and products to people but I soon discovered that many of my clients were seeking vegan products too. Most of the products we stocked were vegan apart from some lip balms that contained bees wax or one exfoliant that contained a milk powder. All our products were cruelty-free so it was easy to provide our vegan clients with options.
Do you find there is an increasing awareness and demand for vegan & cruelty free beauty and skincare from your client base?
It definitely feels to me like more and more people are becoming aware of the damaging effects our fast paced life have on the environment. Social media has created a platform for public awareness so the younger generations are aware of these issues more now than ever before.
I feel that the more people talk about it the more awareness is created. A big thing for me is that every time I buy something, I am conscious that it is a vote into how I want the world to be. Buying from small local companies who are considerate of the environment and sustainability means that I am supporting that way of life. If we all stopped buying plastic, they would stop making it.
What are the challenges in maintaining a cruelty free & vegan brand?
Greenwashing is our biggest challenge. As people become more aware of toxins and animal products in skincare and makeup they look to make a change but quite often are misled by false marketing. It is difficult to know whether a brand is authentic or not and often big companies are preying on peoples desire to do good by making vague claims or hiding their financial interests which are often in direct conflict with the claims they are making on their products.
We get approached by skincare companies all the time who want to be on our shelves but we are very strict with the products we stock. We research the ingredients, where they are sourced, the background of the company and the effectiveness of the products. We often say no to an entire brand because of one ingredient. Our clients know they can trust anything we stock as we only stock products we have used ourselves and that match our ethos.
What are your skin or makeup bag must-haves?
Lips and a hydrating spray. I carry around all sorts of lip products in my handbag. I am a sucker for a new colour lipstick to suit my mood or a new outfit. Hydrating sprays are incredible for adding a bit of dewiness to the skin. They help set your makeup and provide hydration in dryer environments such as air conditioning or on a flight.
What is your favourite vegan powerhouse ingredient?
I absolutely love hyaluronic acid - the vegan variety of course! Unfortunately lots of HA is derived from Rooster Combs which is both cruel and unnecessary. Our HA is derived from plant based fermentation process. HA holds more than 1000 times its molecular weight in water. HA is a must have for anyone wanting to promote skin hydration.
For someone who hasn’t yet explored vegan skincare & cosmetics, what is a good first step to begin this journey?
Come and see us of course - haha. I would say get educated and don't believe the marketing hype. We love using ewg.org as a guide on skincare ingredients. They have a huge database of skincare products and individual ingredients and are an unbiased source of information.
Make sure your research is science based as there is a lot of misinformation out there on Google.
Have you come across any common misconceptions about vegan skincare?
There is a misconception that vegan means cruelty free. Unfortunately this is not the case. Many big brands are aware of the rise in a plant based lifestyle and are using that driver as a marketing tool. Animal testing is still being practiced so it pays to do the research rather than assuming. Any brand that sells their products in China must do testing on animals. That rules many brands out. Learn the different names for products and if you aren't sure, ask. Any company that is doing the right thing would be more than happy to give you the information you look for.
What’s next for Earth and Skin?
Earth and Skin are always finding ways to educate people about toxin free beauty and show the world that we can have luxurious, effective treatments and products without compromising our health, animal welfare or the environment. I am currently writing a book called 'Clean Skin in a Dirty World' it is a busy woman's guide to toxin free skincare and how to enjoy simply beautiful skin for life. In the book I explain what to look for when choosing toxin free products and easy time saving ways to care for every skin type. I also delve into mindfulness techniques for busy women and there is a recipe section for making your own face products.
I am at the end of the writing and am about to start the editing, publishing stage. Stay tuned - I hope to have it available by the end of this year. I am also recording the first episode of my new podcast tomorrow, called 'Clean Skin in a Dirty World' which delves into all things beauty and sustainability. I cant wait to launch both of these projects!
Thank you for sharing with us Louisa - you can find Earth and Skin located online at www.earthandskin.com.au or visit their spa at 2 Regency Pl, Mudgeeraba, Queensland, and connect with Louisa and her team on Instagram.
Editors note: since publishing, Louisa's book "Clean Skin in a Dirty World" is now available via the link here.