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Almost Raw: Skincare without the chemicals

grove apotheca

Local plant-based skin care line Grove Apotheca’s most popular product, all-natural deodorant.

In an age of obsession with local, all-natural, organic groceries, as well as a newfound attentiveness to eating healthy, it’s no wonder that some are taking the next logical step: They’re searching for natural, plant-based, chemical-free skin products.

Amber Grove started Grove Apotheca with the intent to create products that contain plants in “the most natural state,” she says. “They haven’t been broken down in a laboratory and turned into something unrecognizable … what I call overly refined things – the junk food of the natural world.”

Grove’s line made its debut in stores in New Orleans last month; currently, the full line is available at Feet First and ZukaBaby on Magazine Street. More information about retail locations also can be found on the company’s Facebook page. So far, says the entrepreneur, the most popular product has been the all-natural deodorant, which boasts only four ingredients.

“When I’m formulating [a product], I’m thinking what’s the purpose of that product,” explains Grove. “Figure out a few of the best quality ingredients that will achieve that [goal] and then that’s it. Don’t mess with it. It’s simple.”

And simple is what the line strives to be. All ingredients are used in their most pure, unrefined state, which Grove calls her “Almost Raw Standard.” After finding disappointment in existing natural products boasting purity and results, Grove — in a very resourceful, New Orleans state of mind – says she made a snap decision to make the kind of skin-care goods she did not see on local shelves.

“The first thing I made was a lotion. It was okay. But after making that lotion, it was basically, I guess, the Alice in Wonderland kind of falling down a tunnel and being fascinated … I was like, you know what? This is it. I want to do this. I want to bring products to people that really truly are fresh, botanical based, and at a price point that isn’t crazy.”

After testing recipe after recipe on herself, as well as willing friends and family, Grove has begun marketing her products to the public. Because hers is a small business (emphasis on the small; Grove Apotheca currently boasts one employee, founder and owner Amber Grove), quality control is more easily attainable in comparison to large corporations.

“My philosophy,” says Grove, “is this promise that I will source the best quality botanicals that will be the freshest that I can find. Free of contaminants as much as possible. And then I will use those in my products and when those products arrive for the consumer they’re still very fresh.”

Grove offers five daily products in her line: a lip butter, the wildly popular deodorant, a sea scrub, face serum, and a cream that comes in two scents. In the future, she hopes to expand her line to encompass hair products and liquids, such as lotions and toners. For now, those products remain on the horizon, pending the success of her current products and the expansion of her company.

The purity of skin products is of concern for their effects on humans, as well as the environment. Grove says her transition to a healthy lifestyle has been a gradual one, and that she doesn’t live in a pure, chemical-free darkness — she still uses cosmetics and other commercialized products, like the rest of us. For her, it has been a gentle transition, one healthier product at a time.

“You begin to find out the problems with processed food, you begin to expand that philosophy,” explains Grove. “As if what goes on your skin and in your hair has no effect on you systemically. It does.”

But, like the freshest of produce, raw plant-based skin care products have their own best sell-by deadline. Grove gives an approximate shelf life of six months for any given product, although her detailed packaging gives an overview of expiration dates as well as ingredients in each product. Grove advises that consumers be aware of their products’ freshness — any changes in color or consistency are concerning and indicate the product has most likely expired. It’s the one downside of creating products without the use of chemical preservatives, which are what keep bottled creams in stores impervious even to a zombie apocalypse.

Being a one-woman start-up business can be a scary endeavor, but Grove credits New Orleans, in part, for her courage.

“The enthusiasm and love in this city is awesome,” says Grove. “There is such a support network as far as helping entrepreneurs. There really is infrastructure here in this city … as well as mentoring and business services. I have the comfort of knowing I can access those things, and they will help me out.”

Grove has immense faith in her products.

“Consumers who buy them come back,” she says proudly. “They believe in what I’m doing, but also because they [the products] work.”






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