Alex Kummerow is the co-founder of Herbivore Botanicals. Like so many on the West Coast this year, Alex just moved to the island of Kauai. We can’t say we’re surprised to find that Alex is after a deeper connection to nature, as his products have accomplished that for so many skincare devotees on their journey to ‘detox’ their personal care routines with natural products.
Herbivore is on the shortlist of skincare brands who really brought clean beauty into the mainstream over the last decade. Blame it on their eye-catching graphic packaging if you will, but it’s the cult-obsession natural formulas that have given the brand staying power.
We talked to Alex about his journey with Herbivore, what’s next in clean beauty, and his recent move to the Hawaiian Islands below…
Herbivore in a nutshell: A pioneering brand in the clean beauty category with a focus on active botanicals and a sensorial experience.
Herbivore product that would convert anyone: Our Lapis Facial Oil sparks intrigue with its natural deep blue hue derived from the blue tansy flower and works wonders to clear blemishes, reduce redness, and give the skin a fresh dewy look. I remember spending countless hours on the bench formulating this one to get it just right and it is my personal favorite to this day.
My take on wellness: Wellness is a balance of mind and body health. I think as a society we focus a lot on exercise and a clean lifestyle but where I see us falling short is mental capacity, awareness and dealing with societal pressures. There is this ‘grind mentality’ and pressure to be successful that is slowly breaking us down.
For many years I overworked myself, and though I took good care of my body, I suffered. I couldn’t say no to an opportunity and I would beat myself up if I wasn’t working hard around the clock. Taking a step back from the grind for a better life-work balance to me was more powerful than any exercise routine or diet modification I have ever made.
the Health need that inspired you to build the brand: Though Herbivore was started out of a love to create and a passion for plants, I was amazed to find that my eczema, which I had been struggling with for years, completely went into remission after using our initial products. I had tried so many OTC treatments to no avail. It was at this moment that I truly understood a less is more philosophy when it comes to the skin and to include only high-quality and naturally-sourced ingredients in our formulas.
Aesthetic has played such a huge role in clean beauty going big. Agreed? Talk to us about that… I like to think that we played a part in this movement. When we started our journey in beauty, skincare felt so sterile and uninspired. Products were designed in a way that felt like something you would want to throw in a drawer where nobody would see it. We wanted to make something beautiful that someone would be excited to use and display. It was about creating an elevated experience beyond the benefits that would please each and every one of the senses.
we are devoted to the Blue Tansy Mask! Anything you’d like to say about the product? I remember getting my hands on Blue Tansy oil almost ten years ago. It had not yet hit the US market and we had to have it imported in from Morocco where it natively grows. We had been experimenting with a few different blue oils which contain a powerful anti-inflammatory component, azuline, when formulating Blue Tansy mask and Lapis oil. They were all quite impressive with their performance but when we received the blue tansy oil, we knew it would be a game changer. It reduces redness and calms the skin like nobody’s business!
And the new eye cream. There are so many eye creams out there, why this formula? Our new Moon Dew eye cream contains anti-aging powerhouse bakuchiol which is an ingredient that shares the same performance data as retinol. The best part is that bakuchiol is gentle enough to use around the eyes but retinol is not. It has been helping a lot of people with crows feet, puffiness and even dark circles. The reviews have been awesome — I’m very proud with how Moon Dew turned out.
Other wellness products you’re a big fan of: I’ve recently been using Cult + King’s Hair Tonik which is a lightweight leave-in conditioner and treatment that leaves your scalp with a minty tingle. It’s so refreshing before bed on hot Hawaii nights.
What inspired the move to Kauai? After spending my whole adulthood in Seattle, I was ready to try something new. I had been coming to Kauai for about four years prior to moving here in the winters to formulate products. There is just so much plant life that one can not help but be inspired. When the pandemic hit, we decided we should go remote with the company. We hired talent in LA, SF and NYC and one day it hit me that I could live anywhere I want. I took the plunge and left everything I knew, just to be surrounded by plants.
So many of our West Coast friends have moved to Hawaii as well. What do you think this is all about, really? It is a place that truly allows you to slow down. Pair that with organic farmers markets seven days a week, spiritually rich communities, and the ability to be active outdoors 365 days a year and you have something really unique. Apparently, when people from the West Coast come here, although they initially see it as their idea of Eden, ultimately they do not last more than a year — they get island fever and want to be back in the hustle of the mainland.
Best/worst part of Kauai so far: The best part of living on Kauai is the beauty I get to experience every single day. It gives me such an appreciation for our beautiful planet and ignites the fire within me to do what I can to continue to create change through environmentally conscious initiatives. I’m expecting a baby in a few short weeks and I can not wait to spend as much time as I can with them outdoors and to share my love for nature with them.
The worst part has to be a toss up between the giant centipedes, which I do appreciate until they are in the house, and how early everything closes.
What are your thoughts on the clean beauty space currently? Are you concerned about green washing? Do you think the movement will become the new norm? I do believe that clean beauty is here to stay. Now that we know the dangers of the many ingredients used in previous decades, I do not believe that we will go back to using dangerous toxins on our bodies.
I do see green washing happening in the beauty space today. The reality is that high quality, clean ingredients are expensive for brands to use and formulate with. Some companies do not want to pay that premium to maximize profits. I often see it in trend-focused brands that target Gen Z with marketing around clean and sustainable missions while packaged in plastic bottles and underselling competitors by 50%. Use your gut when questioning a brand’s integrity, you are probably right.
Important trends in skincare + wellness: We have always chosen to use natural ingredients when formulating our products which means ingredients derived from natural sources whether that be plants or minerals, not synthetically made in a lab. We feel confident in the safety of the ingredients that we use and the biocompatibility these ingredients have with our body seeing that we too are from nature. That said, I am excited to see technology evolving to create bioidentical synthetics that perfectly mimic these ingredients found in nature and made through sustainable manufacturing practices. This could minimize the footprint on the natural world and reduce the amount of resources used to bring these ingredients from plant to product. I am still deep in research about these processes but I am open to anything if it is safe for our customers and better for the planet.