Mary Kearns grew up in a very environmentally conscious household. Her mother was into organic cooking and being “green” long before it was the latest and the coolest. “I was so embarrassed,” Mary says, recalling her school lunches wrapped in waxed paper, instead of plastic bags like the other kids had. “But now I’m thankful that I was made aware of these issues so early.”
Her mother’s awareness and activism has paid off. Mary Kearns is now the owner and founder of Herban Lifestyle, an all-natural bath and body product line made in Falls Church, Virginia. Herban Lifestyle is certified member of Green America, a signer of the Compact for Safe Cosmetics, and an Environmental Protection Agency Green Power Partner. Herban Lifestyle products are all handcrafted by Mary, using only organic, fair trade and/or ethically wildcrafted herbs and essential oils. Additionally, Herban Lifestyle labels are all printed on recycled paper with vegetable inks, and Mary only uses packing and shipping materials that are recycled, recyclable or biodegradable.
When I met with Mary to talk with her about her business and her inspirations for creating green and sustainable body products, I was thrilled when she offered to show me how one of her most popular products was made. I even got to choose the scent! My love for all things citrus led me to pick the tangerine dreamsicle lip balm.
Using one of her own recipes, Mary led me through the process of making her lip balms. The process was surprisingly simple, but definitely an exercise in patience and precision. After I decided on tangerine, Mary showed me her (extremely well organized) storage room, where we gathered all the necessary ingredients. The first step was melting the beeswax, which comes from Mary’s all-natural supplier in a big, honeycomb-shaped slab.
After the beeswax is melted, the other ingredients are added, including jojoba oil, organic shea butter and organic olive oil, which all play the role of moisturizer. To achieve the delicious tangerine dreamsicle scent, organic tangerine essential oil and organic vanilla extract are added to the mix. Mary uses a ceramic double boiler to melt her ingredients, because certain types of metal react poorly with certain oils. When everything is completely blended, the mixture is ready to be poured into the lip balm containers, which have been cleaned, sterilized and dried.
The jojoba oil and shea butter give the mixture it’s soft golden color, not the tangerine essential oil. While the lip balms cooled, a dreamy and sweet citrus-y scent filled the entire room. It was easy for me to understand why Mary finds making her delightful goodies so relaxing!
An interest in aromatherapy is what first prompted Mary to make her own body products. Back in the late ’90s, she subscribed to a body product of-the-month club, and soon became interested in experimenting beyond the simple recipes that were sent to her. She also became intrigued by the therapeutic and healing properties of essential oils and herbs, and how to combine them to achieve the greatest result.
Life eventually led her away from her initial endeavor to make and sell natural body products, but her interest in herbalism and making skin care products had not diminished. When she found herself living in the DC area and beginning formal herbalism studies, she knew the time was right.
Mary opened her Herban Lifestyle Etsy shop in May of 2008, and now has nearly thirty different products, all made from the highest quality natural and organic ingredients. Her favorite items to make are the body balms, and her favorite scent to use is lavender, although her line includes a variety of mild essential oils.
One of her most popular items is her Fuzzy Soap, which is handmade, organic soap wrapped up in vegetable-dyed, hand-carded wool. The wool is wet-felted to cling to the bar of soap, creating a built-in holder that is exfoliating as well as naturally anti-bacterial. The day I visited Mary, she had several that were nearly ready for packaging, after laying out to dry for several days.
Mary’s product line also includes natural and organic products for men. The Herban Lifestyle MAN grooming kit was featured in Etsy’s Valentine’s Day gift guide for LXTV in New York, and continues to be a popular item with new and returning customers.
Although green business practices and using all-natural and organic ingredients are major priorities for Mary, she has found that not all her customers are drawn to Herban Lifestyle for those reasons. “Some people just like quality body products that smell nice.” She certainly has that market cornered.