Exploring the roots of beauty's current buzzword.
Forget organic. “Wild-crafted” and “wild-harvested” are cropping up as the new buzzwords in beauty. Brands such as iSun from Colorado’s San Juan Mountains, and Juniper Ridge from Berkeley, California, tout benefits including increased purity and better efficacy thanks to a higher concentration of naturally occurring antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and nutrients.
Technically speaking, these terms refer to ingredients found and collected in their native, natural habitats, as opposed to grown by farmers or gardeners. “Wild-harvested” describes the way herbs and plants are gathered; “wild-crafted” refers to the process of blending them. For Los Angeles' African Botanics skincare line, collection processes are rooted in cultural traditions. Their polyphenol- and antioxidant-rich rooibos tea—used in their Marula Resurrection Eye Creme to smooth, refine, even pigmentation and aid tissue regeneration—grows high in South Africa’s Cedarberg mountains and is gathered by locals who cut off the shrub’s twigs, bruise the leaves with hammers and let them ferment before drying in the sun.
iSun’s founder uses a proprietary selection process based on crop yields, measuring vibrations and quality to decide which living plant extracts to mix into serums with the mineral-rich Ormus spring water she hand-collects from the mouth of a high-altitude cavern.
Proponents of wild ingredients believe that benefits seem to be purer and more potent when wild-harvested. Jodi Shays, owner of Queen Bee Salon & Spa in Los Angeles, explains, “the life-force energy from wild-harvested plants is most in harmony with our bodies and ideally compatible with our skin. It is impossible to not feel happy when you smell or apply them.”
There are real medical benefits as well. “A wild-harvested ingredient in its pure state can be highly nutritious for the skin as it has not been processed over time…[it retains] its nutritious value, whether it is high in minerals, essential fatty acids or antioxidants,” explains Shereene Idriss, MD of Wexler Dermatology. The downside, she adds, is that due to lax regulations, products using these ingredients are not all created equal, especially if they use preservatives or artificial fragrance, which can lead to allergic dermatitis.
Few realize that the “purity” of organic skincare can be dubious. “Certified organic growers are permitted to use certain chemicals up until three months before harvest, at which time they must cease their use,” Shays points out. “By that time, any chemical used has already traveled through the whole plant and trace amounts can be found.” Basically, you may think you’re getting a pure product, when in fact it may be riddled with pesticides.
While there may not be actual medical proof of wild formulas’ superiority, there are no health reasons not to explore them, says Idriss. “Wild-harvested ingredients will make consumers more aware of the components and origins of their skincare products.” But, she adds, it’s important to remember their efficacy is determined by the individual properties of the ingredients making up the formula. “As with any trend, many products will emerge claiming to use wild-harvested ingredients. Consumers will need to educate themselves and understand what each actually contains,” she says.
Beyond the topical, it’s the spiritual and energy benefits that perhaps make the movement most appealing to early devotees: Says Hall Newbegin, owner of Juniper Ridge, “Anything that gets people to interact with nature and the more primitive parts of themselves can only be a good thing.”