I’m with the brand: The Herb Farm

I’m with the brand: The Herb Farm

Botanical beauty

Text: Angelyn Kwek

It’s time to clear out your bathroom counters and switch up your skincare, because farm-to-face is the new-in beauty bounty you need

Trendspotting beauty buffs might have noticed organic formulations slowly but surely creeping up onto the scene, but it's all-natural label The Herb Farm that has an undisputed leg-up in the game. Touted as New Zealand's best-kept beauty secret, the brand has been around since 1993, founded by herbalist Lynn Kirkland when she embarked on a quest to find a cure from nature for her son's recurring illness. This defining moment led to Kirkland expanding on her homemade tinctures to grow an effective beauty brand pledged to 100 per cent natural ingredients, entirely handcrafted with love and care from plant to product at their complex in Manawatu, NZ.

With its holistic point of view, it's no surprise that the family-based enterprise has won over their native country, what with the increasing awareness and decisive shift to healthy living. Today, The Herb Farm is also chaired by second-generation Kirklands — Lynn's daughter Sarah Cowan, who co-runs the brand as managing director. No stranger to beauty herself as a former model whose career saw her globehopping across continents, including a stint where she lived in Singapore, Cowan now returns to our sunny isle to bring the botanical goodness of The Herb Farm to our shores.

The Herb Farm

For those already in the know, we totally feel your excitement but if you're just wading into the 'all-natural and green' pool, we've got you covered by sitting down with Cowan for the inside word on herbalism 101 — and why converting to The Herb Farm is quite possibly the best skincare investment you'll make.

1. Tell us more about herbology and how this field of study is the science behind The Herb Farm.
Herbology, or herbalism, is a traditional way of healing and beautifying and it's been around for thousands of years. People use plants to heal and to look after themselves, and that knowledge was passed down from generation to generation. When Lynn studied herbalism, she learned about all that knowledge but also as with times of progress, science has come in and tested these plants and these herbs and discovered what they can do and kind of confirmed the knowledge that was passed down. So for us now, it's a real blend of Lynn's knowledge — you know, generational knowledge — that's now also backed up by science, and that's the basis of The Herb Farm and our products.

2. There's the belief that natural remedies have extremely short shelf lives as they have no preservatives, which causes most folks to stick to commercial and drugstore skincare. How is The Herb Farm addressing this issue?
I guess probably looking back about ten years it was more of an issue. But certainly with the advances in research, there are some really effective natural preservatives now and we use these in our products. All of our products have between 18 and 24 months shelf life. In most natural products, even using natural preservatives can achieve that if they're manufactured in the correct way. So it's certainly not such an issue now, and the additional benefit of natural products is that they're really fresh and active — if a product's been sitting on the shelf for five years, then there's probably not a lot of activity going on in there. So it's best to use fresh and with the new preservatives that are around now, we can achieve some good shelf lives.

The Herb Farm

3. Who are The Herb Farm customers? Are the natural formulations suitable for everyone?
We find The Herb Farm customer is usually quite educated, quite savvy about natural alternatives and is quite interested in using natural products on their skin, or has a holistic view about natural life. That includes what they're eating and what they're exposing themselves to. In terms of the product suitability, yes, generally we find that they're suitable for everyone. But nowadays people do seem to have allergies or sensitivities, so occasionally every skincare is going to have someone it's not going to work for. And if you do have known sensitivities, we always recommend patch testing before you use it but we rarely have any issues. The benefit with our products is that we have them by skin type, so we can a range for normal/sensitive skin, a range for oily and combination, and that means you can select the products which will be more suitable for you.

4. What is the difference between the efficacies of The Herb Farm versus other organic brands in the market?
Every brand has their differences; for us, we've been around for 24 years now so we know our products work. They've been tested, people have tried them, we've a loyal customer base, and also our formulations are unique to us. So my mum Lynn Kirkland formulates all our products — she uses her knowledge of how this ingredient is going to work in synergy with this ingredient, and together they create a highly effective product, which are purely our formulations that no one else has or is able to replicate. 

Another brand difference is that we make them ourselves. We actually handcraft them at our destination, so we have full control over the whole process of making the products — and they're truly natural. We go to great lengths to make sure that when we say they're 100 per cent natural, that means that every ingredient is plant-derived. There's nothing synthetic or chemical; everything is from a plant origin.

The Herb Farm

5. What are the top three must-haves?
Well, we all have different skin types... but I guess I can tell you about my top three (laughs). I use from our normal/sensitive range the Rose Face Cream, and I've used it since I was a teenager and I just love it. The Rejuvenating Facial Mist, which you use after cleansing to help tone the skin but also throughout the day to re-hydrate the skin. It's also amazing for travelling — I always have it on the plane with me. The mist has pure absolute rose oil, which is one of the most expensive oils in the world, so when you use it, it smells like you're in a rose garden!

And then the Radiance Serum; it's a really good skin pick-me-up if your skin's tired or stressed. Also, it's great for evening out pigmentation and reducing redness. I often use it, though not everyday, but I use it whenever my skin's feeling a bit tired. It's packed with seven wonder herbs: It's got kiwi, kiwi seeds, grapeseed extracts and New Zealand seaweed extract as well, so it's very soothing but these ingredients have also been shown to help even out the skin tone and brighten the skin.

6. As a former model that has experienced wearing various commercial beauty brands during your career, can you share how your skin reacted to using naturally derived products compared to chemically formulated ones?
I think that when I was modelling and using a lot of... you know, you don't get to choose what goes on your face, I found that my skin was okay in the short-term but in long-term you start seeing the effects of it. Whether it might be small pimples or dryness; just a general lack of good health, I think. And I took The Herb Farm products — I wasn't involved with the business at that stage but mum used to send them to me — and I was always really pleased to get the makeup off and the products on. I think through my modelling days, I came to realise it's about simplicity. Sometimes less is more and letting your skin breathe lets it get back to its natural balance, rather than trying to force it to be a certain way cause in the long-term it often backfires. 

7. What advice do you have for people who are making the switch to natural skincare formulas? For instance, are there certification labels or specific ingredients to look out for?
Yes, definitely! It can be a bit daunting when you start researching and there's a lot of what we call 'greenwashing' that goes on in the industry, which is using marketing to make a product look natural where in fact it might only have one organic ingredient and everything else is parabens. But people are getting quite savvy now, so we always recommend reading the ingredients label. We produce a '10 Nasties to Avoid' wallet card, so you can keep it in your wallet and use that as a reference to avoid the top ten nasties. You know, it's about getting to know what those are and that's the great thing with Google, because you can research ingredients. You can also ask the companies. If you're not sure about something or a brand, ask the company. By the response you get, you'll soon know whether they're honest, open and truthful. I feel it's about finding a company or a brand that you really feel a good connection with — you feel that they're trustworthy, and then it's sort of going from there. It takes a bit of research to start with but it's well worth it in the long-term.

8. In just over two decades, The Herb Farm has grown extensively to include everything from therapeutic remedies to hair and body products, and a line for mothers and babies; what other directives are down the pipeline? Will there be a makeup range in the future?
Well, it's not on the cards at this point. We have 55 products and my mum Lynn does all the product development stuff — she also looks after my children, which is awesome (laughs) — and we try to innovate two to three products every year. We talk to our customers and we find out what they need, what the market niches are and then use that to start developing a product. This year, for example, we're in the process of developing a sunscreen and there's also one other product... but I can't talk about it. It's top secret!

But really, it's important for us to be innovative and because we're a small company, we can be quite agile and respond to the market quickly.

9. Seeing as the range is so broad, what particular products will be making its way to Singapore?
We've got nine products making their way to Singapore. We've got the oily and combination skincare — the cleanser, the facial mist and the face cream — and then the normal/sensitive skincare with the same three product types. We've also got our Radiance Serum, which was the one I talked about before, our Revitalising Face Mask, and our Rejuvenating Eye Gel. So all these are what we're initially launching with but we'll listen to the market and you know, see how we can expand the range and what we offer.

The Herb Farm retails at selected Watsons stores. Discover and connect with the brand here.