Getting to the Root of the Icelandic skincare line’s origins…
This post comes from our darling bud, Carlen Altman.
Hi Dear Free People Reader,
It’s your friend, Carlen Altman. I hope you’ve been well. Guess what day it is today? …Still guessing? Well, it’s my birthday! (I can’t believe you forgot! I will forgive you just this time, only if you read the entirety of this article and immediately buy everything mentioned… just kidding… or AM I?)
In all sincerity, I am half embarrassed/half excited to tell you that, this morning, to celebrate my birthday, I decided to make a visionboard of all the things I hope to achieve for this year. I’m not quite sure if this is against the “Universal rules of visionboard making” but I will take the risk and share with you some of of my hopes and dreams for this year… Here it goes:
1. Peace to all beings on Earth 2. a trip to Iceland, and 3. clear, healthy skin.
The Universe works in mysterious ways as, less than 12 hours since making this visionboard I am now sincerely closer to 2 (and a little bit of 3) of those wishes — all through my unexpected introduction to my new friend, Gigja Wesneski, founder of Root Science, an organic skincare line which sources many of its unusually powerful ingredients in Gigja’s native country of… (you guessed it,) Iceland.
Read on to see what Gigja had to tell me during our candid interview….
1. Tell me about Root Science. What inspired you to start a line of natural skin care and what is your dream (for the company and/or your life and/or our planet)?
It was a series of serendipitous events that led me to discover my true passion: organic skin care. But before I jump into how Root Science came to fruition, I feel inclined to open up about something I rarely talk about, the real catalyst that pushed me onto this path.
My mother passed away from brain cancer when I was only 14, and it was a major wake-up call for my family. We tossed all toxic cleaning supplies and foods, and started to “green up” most areas of our life.
It didn’t happen overnight, it was years in the making, and it was then my interest in organic living sparked. My mom’s passing made me reassess what I was putting in my body, but I totally neglected the products I was putting on my body.
It wasn’t until ten years later when my younger sister was struggling with severe acne and rosacea that I started to re-evaluate the beauty products we were using. My sister had tried every conventional and prescription option on the market, which only worsened her condition (and come to find out were filled with toxic/carcinogenic ingredients).
When I searched for natural products that were highly effective, they just didn’t exist. Left with no options, I took it upon myself to start researching natural acne solutions. I stumbled upon a wealth of “superfood” skin healing ingredients and started making “healing potions”.
After a year of trial and error, with my sister as my test subject, her acne began to heal, her scars faded, redness subsided, and to my surprise, my healing potions worked! After four years of making my formulas for family and friends, with absolutely no intention of turning it into a business, the demand grew, and organically morphed into what is now called, Root Science.
Eight years later, with Root Science in full swing, my dream is to inspire people to really think about what they put on their body and not just what they put in their body. I want to further the clean beauty revolution that is currently gaining momentum and raise the bar for beauty ingredients — making it commonplace for beauty products to be clean, healthy and effective.
As for my passions outside Root Science, I aspire to wake up every day knowing I’ve made a positive impact on someone else’s life.
I was born with wanderlust, so traveling the world is very important to my happiness as well — whether it’s for the simple pleasure of experiencing international cuisine, sourcing ingredients for Root Science, or giving back through charitable work.
2. Thank you so much for opening up about your difficult life experience. I am so inspired by the fact you took a devastating circumstance and channeled it into something wonderful. In your opinion, what makes the skincare products of Root Science different than any other natural skin care company out there?
What really sets Root Science apart from other natural skin care companies is our extremely high standard for quality, skin-nourishing ingredients. Simply put, we are very particular when it comes to sourcing our ingredients, and we do not budge on quality, regardless of price.
We strongly believe quality goes hand in hand with efficacy and results. The higher the quality, the more nutrient dense the ingredients, the better the results are for our clients.
Beyond the importance of offering quality products, it is our team’s integrity that sets us apart, something that is often rare to find in the beauty industry. Because Root Science was a serendipitous happening, our mission has never been to be the biggest, fastest growing company out there.
At the core of Root Science is a small team of people who wake up every day with a desire to make a change, to help people.
We have been in business since 2014 and in the last 2 years there have been opportunities to lower our costs through less expensive/lesser quality ingredients, dilute our products with synthetics/water, or jump on color/scent trends; however, we have chosen not to waiver from our mission: to make the highest quality, result driven, natural skin care available — products that work and are good for your skin and overall health.
3. You describe your line as a “topical multivitamin”. Tell me about some of your ingredients and what they do.
All of our ingredients are chosen for their inherent nutrient content, and we seek to use only the most nutrient dense ingredients available. Each product is packed with vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, and fatty acids — all critical components for maintaining healthy skin.
For instance, seabuckthorn oil is renown for its restorative properties on skin, bringing relief to conditions such as acne, eczema, extremely sensitive skin, and soothing skin that has been exposed to radiation or burns. This nutrient powerhouse contains vitamins A and E, trace minerals, plant sterols, and essential fatty acids.
Another nutrient powerhouse we use in all of our serum formulas is tamanu oil, which has been studied for its astonishing wound healing effects on burns, acne and scarring – it has been shown to dramatically improve healing time and minimize appearance.
Tamanu oil contains anti-inflammatory and antibiotic properties, which fuel its ability to renew and protect skin. These are just two of the nearly hundred ingredients we use, but believe me, the ingredient nerd in me could ramble on for days.
4. What can you share about Iceland that makes it so special? I hope to visit one day soon. Where should I go? (P.S. I promise not to step on any of the native plants, of course)
Iceland is special to me because it’s one of the very few places in the world where you can feel totally safe, and where you can experience powerful, raw, unspoiled nature in solitude.
Iceland is unique because the land is stark yet strikingly beautiful, and it’s impossible not to be inspired by the elements. I am very proud that this small island of only 300,000 has been an incubator for so many talented musicians, artists and artisans; and feel very proud and grateful to have been born and raised there.
My recommendation for anyone planning a trip is to rent a car and drive around the country, so you can experience firsthand the variety of vistas and landscapes — including thousand-year-old lava fields, geysers, waterfalls, glaciers, hot springs, and the charming fishing villages that line the coast.
I recently drove around the country for the first time, and stumbled upon the most adorable little town four hours north of Reykjavik, called Hofsos. They have a community pool (very common in all Icelandic communities) that overlooks the Atlantic Ocean — it was incredible. I felt like I was swimming on the edge of the world. There aren’t many tourists there, either. I highly recommend it!
5. I am concerned with both acne and wrinkles (fun!) What type of skincare/lifestyle routine would you suggest for my situation? Should my routine change during each season?
Keep your routine simple. Eat healthy (an anti-inflammatory diet is great for acne and wrinkles), minimize stress, sleep more, exercise, and use organic, nutrient dense skin care. Ok, maybe that doesn’t sound so simple; just take baby steps, and trust that all good things take time. Start by committing to one product line that works for your skins needs.
I think the biggest mistake anyone can make is using too many products and from various companies. You never know if the formulas will work well together, or know which products are working and not working for you.
Look at skin care the same way you would your diet — the cleaner, the simpler, the better the results. Consistency is key!
A good routine involves cleansing in the morning and evening (using a gentle, non-stripping cleanser), exfoliating one to two times per week, masking once a week and moisturizing in the morning and evening.
There are no “diet pills” aka short cuts in skin care. Overnight transformation is unrealistic and typically comes with unhealthy side effects.
Don’t forget that great skin starts on a cellular level, so you must feed your skin from the inside. Meaning you can’t eat pizza and cookies all day and expect your skin care products to do all the work. Eat a healthy, vitamin-rich, colorful diet, filled with skin plumping fats and proteins. I’m a huge proponent of eating healthy fats! Avocados, almonds, cashews, hemp seeds and chia seeds are some of my favorites for when I’m on the go.
As far as acne is concerned, please don’t dry out your skin! One of the biggest myths out there is that you need to dry out your skin when dealing with acne, and that oil is your enemy. Yes, highly processed oils, aka mineral oils, are not good; however, organic, minimally processed plant based oils work on acne and wrinkles, hand-in-hand.
A good oil based serum such as Root Science’s Youth Serum, works to counteract acne aggressors such as excess oil production. In addition, it’s antibacterial properties keep acne-causing bacteria at bay. The EFA’s (Essential Fatty Acids) and vitamins inherent in Root Science’s botanical formulas will help delay signs of aging and plump the skin, minimizing the appearance of existing lines.
As the seasons change, adjust your routine to meet the needs of your skin. In the winter months you may only need to mask every two weeks, in addition to opting for a richer, more hydrating serum.
On days where you don’t wear any makeup, give your skin a break and don’t use anything at all, let your skin breath and rebalance itself. When temperatures rise and humidity increases, opt for a lighter moisturizer and resume masking once a week.
6. What is the importance of packaging your products in dark-tinted glass bottles? Due to the natural ingredients, should I refrigerate your products?
The dark-tinted glass, which is actually violet glass, was chosen for its ability to naturally preserve the ingredients within by blocking the full spectrum of visible light — with the exception of the violet component, which has been studied for both its protective and enhancement effect on organic material.
In other words, the violet glass bottles help to extend and enhance the potency of our products. This powerful combination slows the degradation of natural ingredients, making natural products last longer and maintain their potency. In addition, we take steps to ensure that our products stay fresh and potent, by using pumps instead of droppers, thus protecting our serums from oxidation, and introduction of bacteria.
We also do not add water to any of our products, as water is a breeding ground for bacteria. Our exfoliant and masks are powder based, and all of our serums are plant oil based. You do not need to refrigerate any of our products as they contain natural forms of preservatives such as vitamin E. We also work with ingredients that have a shelf life of at least one to two years. Crucial to our product freshness and potency is our unique standard of manufacturing.
We produce our products in micro batches bi-weekly, to ensure our customers are receiving the freshest products possible. We also recommend, that our customers use our products within 6 months of opening, again, for optimal freshness and potency — a good rule of thumb to follow when it comes to your beauty products, whether they are natural or not.
7. You mention on your website that you had your winning recipes for Root Science for a few years but that the business of Root Science really took off once you met your business partner. Do you have any suggestions for aspiring business owners out there who want to take their brands from the kitchen/home office to the next level?
My best advice is to partner with someone who possesses traits that compliment yours, and build a team that has a variety of strengths — in effect building a dream team. In our case, I’m the dreamer, formulator, and lover of all things skin care, whereas, my business partner ensures that Root Science is a well-oiled machine, managing all the business aspects.
The glue that holds us together is our shared creativity and vision — from the packaging, to the website, to our overall mission. Make sure that the people you partner with share your core passion and drive, as this keeps the business moving in the right direction.
8. What is the most important piece of advice you’ve ever received?
The one piece of advice that has helped me through both my personal and business life is to be authentic in everything you do. When starting an organic skin care line, there were several preconceived notions as to what natural skin care should smell and look like, but I had to stay true to myself, to my vision – and our collection is an authentic reflection of that.
Thank you for these inspiring answers, Gigja! Not only have I (and hopefully my Free People friends reading this!) learned about the power of Root Science, but also have a better idea of ways to take care of our bodies (both physical and planetary!) Oh Iceland, here I come! Happy birthday to me! (And happy day to you wherever you are, reading this!)