Your answer to healthy skin, when you're not really a skincare person 😎
Behind the Badass Botanicals: Supplier Transparency from Soil to Surf+Slope

By Mercedes Pepper

Behind the Badass Botanicals: Supplier Transparency from Soil to Surf+Slope

You deserve to know where Nation Botanics' plant ingredients come from.

‘Cause knowing not only what you're putting on your face, but also where it's from, is one of Nation Botanics' core values.

Unfortunately, the beauty industry is rampant with greenwashing and has a severe lack of transparency. Companies can make claims about being local, sustainable, and good for the environment, etc. without having to disclose or show how - it’s largely unregulated. If you’re buying skin care products with these green ingredient claims, you deserve to know where these raw materials coming from and why. To learn more and understand why I’m so passionate about this topic, read a previous post “Is Your Skincare Really Locally Grown?”

Nation Botanics’ - and my - other values are: 

1) Using power plant ingredients native to North America. 

They’ve been used for centuries in traditional skin remedies, yet are often overlooked (I’m not going to get into why here since it’s complicated with links to colonialism). Also, plants that grow in their native environment help sustain our ecosystem. Plus, they typically require fewer resources to flourish because they’re in their natural habitat.

2) Sourcing from farmers in North America.

Doing so champions one of the lowest ingredient carbon footprints in skincare while at the same time supporting local farmer livelihoods. 

Supporting Local Farmers for Raw Materials

I know the importance of local farmers. They're vital to our local economies, food systems, communities, and environment.

I'm also passionate about helping farmers due to my background in labor for economic growth, growing up on an old apple ranch, and having farmer friends.

Do you know that farming is seriously hard work with increasingly very little pay? 

Yet, we need local farmers for our 1) local economies and communities; 2) these ecosystems to thrive; and 3) for food security. Food security here means having reliable access to food vs. having everything trucked from afar or imported. 

We need to keep our local farming communities alive!

Nation Botanics partners with many small businesses and farmers because I’m all about supporting local farmers’ livelihoods! 

 

The Reality of Sourcing Locally Grown Plant Ingredients

My initial vision for Nation Botanics was to only source all raw materials from small local farmers and not your traditional cosmetic ingredient supplier. 

Yet, I discovered the many challenges of doing so, whether for big, well-funded businesses or small businesses such as mine (Nation Botanics).

Challenges include:

  • The sheer quantity needed for specific types of plant materials, say to press a seed oil.
  • Paying more for testing each small batch of plant ingredients. I know because I pay a third-party lab to test small farmer-sourced ingredients for safety. 
  • Not being able to get the amount of plant ingredients you need to make your product year round because they're seasonal. That means they’re not consistently available because they’re made once a year.

These challenges aren't deal breakers, but they cost extra time and money, and some of these limitations can hinder the sustainability of your business.

Not to mention, there are some specific ingredients that only higher-end technologies can make. And really, only larger companies have access to these technologies and equipment.

So, to provide you with only the best plant-powered skincare, Nation Botanics partners with a select few larger companies.

 

The Value of High-Tech Labs for Natural Cosmetic Ingredients

As you know, Nation Botanics is all about celebrating and leveraging the power of plants for your skin. However, it can be hard to extract from some plants their full nutrients and benefits for your skin.

This is where modern science can enhance the traditional remedies of plants.

Bringing out the best of nature for your skin. 

Labs today can create some of the highest quality plant-based skincare ingredients. Or commonly known as cosmetic ingredients. 

I’m talking beyond the tried-and-true methods of pressing plant seeds for oil, distilling essential oils, or extracting plant nutrients with tinctures. Those methods work and are great for some ingredients and plants!

But, modern technology can extract the beneficial properties of a grown plant and convert them into a better ingredient for your skin.

There are a few plant ingredients in Surf+Slope Revitalizing Serum and Nourishing Moisturizer that need labs' top-notch technology to create.

Surf+Slope blends modern science and technology with native plant power. 

It’s pretty impossible to create a high-end, results-focused skincare product that only uses ingredients from small local farms. 

I tried it. And while one can still make a good product, its potential and efficacy can be limited. 

Since Nation Botanics’ goal with Surf+Slope is to help you get your healthiest skin easily, I made some exceptions while staying true to the overall mission.

I mean, hey, 98% of Surf+Slope is from plants that grow wild in North America, 94% of the formula’s ingredients benefit sun-kissed or sun-exposed skin, and 92% of ingredients are grown by farmers in North America. And eco-friendly recycled packaging (custom boxes, shipping materials, etc) is from nearby suppliers in the Mountain West. that Further, Surf+Slope is adaptive and customizable to your skin’s changing needs and acts like a multivitamin for your skin. I’d say that’s pretty damn good and surpasses what’s on the market otherwise.  

Side note: labs are also creating synthetic plant ingredients and cultured plant ingredients (like lab-grown meat) that many plant-based skincare companies use. Some of them are great, but Nation Botanics doesn't use any of these, and this is an entirely different convo we're not going to get into, yet!

 

Doing the Supplier Due Diligence

When founding Nation Botanics, I learned that many skincare companies don't provide ingredients or handle their supply chain... Their contract manufacturer does... 

It’s easier to manage production when all cosmetic ingredient suppliers - many from around the world - are handled by the manufacturing facility (then they can also charge more). 

Companies would rather focus on other business aspects than managing their supply chain. Let the formulators formulate without considering where the ingredients will come from for the finished cosmetics or personal care products.

So, often a skincare company doesn't know the true origins of each ingredient they use or who they're really purchasing it from! 

Cosmetic ingredient suppliers aren’t really known when it comes to personal care products. 

This was and is unacceptable to me.

As a result, Surf+Slope's formulation process took more time than it would have if I skipped the step of cosmetic ingredient supplier due diligence. 

It took about four years to create Surf+Slope’s unique and effective formula with a visible supply chain to do good. I carefully pinpointed the best native plant ingredients for your skin and then paired them with quality, ethical, and local suppliers.  

There is a large selection of cosmetic ingredient suppliers and small farm suppliers to choose from. So to narrow this wide range of options I started an excel sheet. 

My ingredient Excel sheet is wild–I’m talking over 500 rows of plant-natural ingredients with associated cosmetic ingredient suppliers! 

It includes the basics, but I also took into consideration:

  1. Where the ingredients are grown (not just made in some cases)
  2. Businesses' social, environmental, and ethical practices (AKA corporate social responsibility or CSR)
  3. Whether the supplier is a  grower and manufacturer of the plant ingredient or merely a distributor

Luckily, I love to research and have done similar research in the past vetting CSR.

While interning, for instance, I did due diligence reports on potential energy and extractive companies the United Nations Development Programme Private Sector Division could partner with.

Analyzing all the facets of potential partnerships comes naturally to me. 

Plus, I believe in working with others rather than trying to reinvent the wheel. This is known as a systems change approach. 

It was time-consuming to do "background checks" on small farms and larger corporate cosmetic ingredient suppliers for the 27 plant ingredients needed to make Surf+Slope, but it was worth it! 

Not every supplier made the cut. 

Those that did are exceptional and provide an incredible, quality ingredient that makes Surf+Slope as good as it can be. 

Nation Botanics’ 17 Cosmetic Ingredient Suppliers 

To give you the specifics, at the time of writing, Nation Botanics partners with 17 suppliers for the 27 plant ingredients (derived from 22 plants) needed to make Surf+Slope. 

This may seem like a lot of suppliers, but it’s actually a small number compared to other skincare companies where just one product can contain over 30 different ingredients.

These 17 suppliers consist of a few larger companies, such as Evonik, as well as smaller farmer cooperatives, such as Alaska Rhodiola. So, not all are your classic cosmetic ingredient suppliers. 

Want to learn more about our partnership with Evonik? Stay tuned for our next blog post on our partnership and what ingredients I get from them and why. 

 

Summary

Nation Botanics is committed to transparency and prioritizes sourcing from local farmers and small businesses to ensure you get the highest quality skin care products without compromising values. 

Partnerships with a select few larger cosmetic ingredient suppliers ensures access to top-notch plant ingredients that need higher-tech processing methods. 

Surf+Slope Revitalizing Serum and Nourishing Moisturizer is the perfect blend of modern science and native plant power for your skin.

Balancing local sourcing and strategic partnerships allows Nation Botanics to deliver effective, ethical skincare while supporting local economies and sustainable practices.

The three founding values - ingredient traceability and transparency, using native North American plants, and sourcing from local farmers - make Surf+Slope a leader in skincare that does real good beyond your face!

Note: I will be making posts about Nation Botanics’ other farmer suppliers in the coming months because I’m going to take the risk of disclosing my supply chain. The local North American businesses that make up my supply chain would benefit greatly. They may prosper, and I might fail. Failing would suck for me - and your face! - but helping other businesses to thrive is for the greater good…