True Botanicals founder Hillary Peterson (center), with Laura Dern (left) and Zazie Beetz (right)
Hillary Peterson founded True Botanicals in 2014 after a battle with thyroid cancer inspired her to create a skincare brand that cared as much about health as it does about efficacy. A former Levi’s executive, Peterson was frustrated with the beauty industry, and the fact that conventional products can be loaded with known carcinogens and endocrine disruptors, and consumers aren’t aware of what they are putting on their skin, and ultimately into their bodies. In just five years, the company has grown from startup to big beauty contender, with a band of celebrity activists and stakeholders in the company including Olivia Wilde, Laura Dern and Zazie Beetz. True Botanicals collection of products are certified MADE SAFE, by a non-profit organization that screens ingredients for over 5,000 known toxic ingredients.
“When you believe as strongly as we do in what we are doing–and I know because we are able to prove that you don’t need to risk unnecessary exposure to toxins in order to get results–how do you reach as many people as possible?” Hillary Peterson said. “So many people are still using the equivalent of junk food on their skin, products that could sit on a shelf for years and are full of toxins. It’s a disconnect in the same way you wouldn’t want to eat a Twinkie, why would you want to put the equivalent of that on your skin. How do we help more people to understand that truth?”
The company initially launched with ten products out of their San Francisco office, all designed to help cells regenerate using antioxidants and essential fatty acids, made with high quality and well sourced ingredients. However, when she first launched, Peterson had a hard time breaking into the cabinets of top beauty editors.
“Everyone was polite, and listening to our mission of non-toxic beauty, but clearly not that interested,” Peterson said. “But once we started sharing results from our clinical trials, peoples’ ears really perked up.”
True Botanicals has conducted their own clinical trials comparing the results of their line to Crème de la Mer, and their data showed that they dramatically outperformed the industry stalwart.
“Something I realized early early on was that people don’t just wake up and go ‘I want to go buy some non-toxic products for my skin because I have acne,’” Peterson said. “They want results. I felt that in order to change our industry in the way that I want to–and at a size that can really impact how other brands are thinking about their ingredients–then we need to deliver results first and foremost.”
After launching with both wholesale partners including Follain and Auberge Hotels, and their own website, True Botanicals has recently pulled back their retail distribution, and is focusing solely on being a direct-to-consumer business. Peterson said the inspiration to pull back on their wholesale operation is so that they can have more impactful relationships and product building data from being in direct contact with their customers. Peterson shared their recent top product was a result of having conversations with True Botanicals customers who were desperate for a product with enhanced moisturizing capabilities.
“We developed our Moisture Lock Overnight Mask which just won Allure Best in Beauty, and sold out twice when we launched,” Peterson said. “Clearly their was pent up demand, and we are so glad we listened to our customers and developed a product for them.”
For True Botanicals, part of their pillars to success to date have been their clear mission, products with results, contact with consumers, and having inspiring celebrity partners including Olivia Wilde, who joined the company two years ago as their chief brand activist.
“It was incredible to see how she helped expand our reach,” Peterson said. “She had found the product, used it and loved it even before we had ever connected with her. Because she is such and authentic and incredible activist in her own right, I think it had a lot of influence with people and the impact was powerful.”
Recently Zazie Beetz and Laura Dern have both joined the company as a brand activists, and all three celebrity partners have received equity in the company in lieu of being paid spokespeople for True Botanicals.
“Laura Dern found our collection on her own through her makeup artist who had suffered from Lyme and chronic inflammation, and though that process learned that she had formaldehyde in her system,” Peterson said. “We are exposed to really insane stuff. Why would you risk unnecessary exposure to toxins when we can use what heals our skin instead of harms our skin?”
While Peterson is not holding her breath that the United States government will pass legislation to make beauty products more safe for consumers, she is hopeful to continue to positively impact her customers lives with True Botanicals.
“When I started True Botanicals, nobody was talking skincare products, and how what goes on your skin goes into your body. In so many parts of our country today that is so true, that people really don’t understand the connection to exposure to toxins and your toxic load and at some point when that really starts to breakdown your overall health and wellness. I remember looking at my products I was insulted, that these were t