Just when you thought your certified fair-trade, organic products were as good as it gets, a new standard emerges that takes green living even a step further: “wildcrafted.” The term borrows from the world of herbal medicine, where it’s been used to describe the practice of forgoing farm or greenhouse cultivation to sustainably collect herbs and plants from natural habitats. Beauty brands are now using the keyword to describe homegrown formula ingredients collected with the same careful and considerate care.While wildcrafted ingredients can’t be “certified organic” under current guidelines, the process basically ensures that ingredients are inherently organic. “Wildcrafted plants are indigenous, and organic in the sense of being pure and untouched by toxins or pollutants,” said Brandy Monique, founder of the small-batch FIG+YARROW beauty line that is made out of her Denver studio. Her Herbal Steams ($22 each) blend colorful bouquets of wild botanicals for purifying and calming aromatherapy treatments.
The brand Juniper Ridge, which distills scents from plants, bark, moss and tree trimmings found while hiking through the backcountry, is bringing wildcrafting to the masses with products carried by retailer Nordstrom this season. “The process can look pretty ridiculous at times – we go camping and crawl around in mountain meadows – and spend whiskey-fueled hours arguing over the scent of a wind sweeping over a glacier,” explained Obi Kaufmann, chief storyteller at Juniper Ridge. Meanwhile, Pritte uses wildcrafting in its organic skin therapy line, including a chemical-free sunless tanner made with freshly-picked chaga mushroom.But how will these small batch brands maintain sustainability if their products become runaway successes? “That’s the wildcrafter’s dilemma – nature has its limits!” says Monique. Perhaps they should ask two massive brands – The Body Shop and Origins – who don’t use the term “wildcrafting” in their marketing just yet, but have been sustainably gathering ingredients in similar fashion for some time. Currently, the Body Shop draws nectar from wildflowers in Ethiopia for its moisturizing Honeymania range, while Origins gathers an extract that falls naturally from the leaves and bark of Ghana’s Anogeissus tree for its Plantscription Anti-Aging Power Serum.The kicker? This nouveau trend is basically how all grooming products were made a couple hundred years ago.