With some things, the thinking that local is better is just second nature: produce, honey, seafood... basically anything you can eat tastes better if it comes from within driving distance – which, for Rhode Island, is maybe 15 miles or so, right?
The point is, living where we do, we don’t have to question it. If a restaurant is serving fish that isn’t straight from our coastline, that restaurant isn’t going to last very long around here. It just goes without saying. Local is better.
That locavore mindset, however, does not necessarily extend beyond what goes in your body to what goes on it. Oysters come from Poppasquash Point and strawberries come from Four Town Farm, but skin care comes from… Target? You might be surprised to learn that there are many local beauty brands grown straight from the ground up in the East Bay that are inspired by this unique corner of the world – not just in composition, but in quality, too.
Around this time, when we’re all thinking about new beginnings, maybe it’s time to reconsider our skin care. After all, the best self-care rituals are the ones that nourish you inside and out. Here are some beauty brands made with love in the East Bay.
Barbara LoMonaco started her career by learning about self-care around the world – so it was only a natural extension that she would end up founding her own skincare line. “I’m a cultural anthropologist by training, and have studied and taught on health and healing practices in many cultures,” she says. It was learning about a new healing modality that inspired her to start formulating products. “My horse got an injury on his leg that wasn’t healing well, and my vet suggested Manuka honey from bees native to New Zealand who pollinate the Manuka bush,” Barbara explains. “There is clinical evidence that honey has tremendous antibacterial and healing properties. When I noticed how well Lincoln healed, I started experimenting with homemade skin care.” Her friends started asking for products, so she enrolled in skincare formulation classes, and the rest is history. She sold her first product in summer of 2018, and now sells her line of 30 products in five local retail locations.
Barbara’s habit of learning from the world around her influences Honey + Vine, too. She lives on a farm in Tiverton with her horse, three goats, three cats, and two dogs (“and a stray turkey,” she adds). Caring for her animals and exploring her surroundings plays a role in formulating her products. “My natural environment is a huge source of inspiration,” she says.
“I developed a scent for a body butter called Weetamoo for the woods behind my house, where I ride my horse and hike with my goats, and one called Farmcoast that was inspired when I was kayaking on the Sakonnet in Tiverton,” Barbara explains. Her connection with the East Bay also inspired her to incorporate unusual elements into her formulations. “I was beachcombing and it inspired me to include sea kelp bioferment in other products,” she says, “which is a great non-oil moisturizer.”
When she’s not at work infusing oils with locally grown herbs and flowers like mugwort, birch bark, and calendula, Barbara is hosting Apothecary Nights, which are home skincare parties, and hosting the Make(Her) Space podcast, which features female entrepreneurs. That connection to community is what keeps the creative juices flowing. “My fabulous customers and friends often tell me about a product they wish I would develop,” she says, “and so that inspires quite a bit of formulation.”
Natalie Thompson didn’t start out with the intention to create a skincare line. She just wanted to help her infant son, Peyton, who developed skin issues shortly after he was born. “I wanted to take a natural approach to healing his full-body eczema and dermatitis issues,” she says. “It felt counterintuitive to cover his body in heavy petroleum and paraben-laden steroids. He was a pure, clean slate. I didn’t want him to start his life off being exposed to such harsh chemicals.”
Once she formulated products that helped heal Peyton’s skin, Natalie realized that there “must be other people out there seeking the same solutions.” Shortly after, The Peyton Co. was born. Now, her skincare boutique and spa on Child Street in Warren offers gentle skincare solutions that she works to keep as affordable as possible. “People shouldn’t have to choose between what is safe and effective, and what is affordable.”
The Peyton Co.’s products, which are totally vegan and mostly sourced from local, organic farms, have been featured recently in British Vogue. The line includes everything from gentle cleansers and moisturizers to Hyaluronic Acid serum and lash growth serum. The Beauty Factory, the in-house spa at The Peyton Co., offers natural facials, waxing, and nail services, including CBD-infused treatments. The forthcoming Raw Beauty Bar will offer treatments from a menu that changes daily, according to what’s in season.
“I am constantly seeking inspiration from the world around me, from elements of the land and sea, from artists, and from food trends,” Natalie says. “The East Bay is rich in inspiration. I couldn’t ever find myself in an area that speaks to my heart more than here. This is where we are meant to be.”
When Brenda Brock started selling her face and body products at a farmstand in 1999, she was growing all the plants and herbs she used at a friend’s organic farm in Portsmouth, and hand-making her all-natural, botanically-infused potions from a little box of handwritten recipe cards. Fast forward 20 years, and Farmaesthetics has made a huge splash in beauty and fashion magazines, and is now sold all over the world, including in a brand-new Farmaesthetics hotel spa that’s about to open in the Hamptons at Topping Rose House, in addition to their flagship boutique and Spa at Castle Hill, both in Newport. Some things, though, have stayed exactly the same.
“I have always grown herbs and flowers in my Aquidneck Island home garden,” Brenda says. “I grow almost everything I use,” like black hollyhocks, roses, hyssop, rue, yarrow, echinacea, peony, nigella, lavender, thyme, and geraniums, many of which go straight to the Farmaesthetics R&D kitchen and form the basis for her products. “They’re all very inspirational ingredients for informing my formulations. Planting and ending them, and watching them grow, is the absolute best way to learn about herbs.”
Farmaesthetics begins and ends with plants, harnessing their healing powers to create gentle but effective face creams, body serums, face and body washes, masks, exfoliants, and more. Brenda uses the healing properties of nettle to treat skin irritations, lemon balm, and lavender to soothe the nerves, rose to fight aging, grapefruit and sweet orange to energize and lift. Last year’s big release was Watercress Eye Serum, designed to go over makeup as a midday re-moisturizer. This year, body scrubs and a few other still-secret releases are coming down the pipeline.
Though now most of what goes into the bottle comes from sustainable farm co-ops, Farmaesthetics still tries to use as much Rhode Island-grown product as possible. “We love the lavender from Beachwood Center for Wellbeing in South County,” Brenda says, “and Little State Flower Farm,” where she sources petals that go into limited-edition skin tonics. “We have a great climate here, and sandy soil that supports a lot of herbs.”