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Bethany McDaniel of Primally Pure

The essential skincare brand founder on how real food and real ingredients transformed her life — and her career.

The founder of natural skincare brand Primally Pure, Bethany McDaniel is a walking example of how ‘you are what you eat’ and ‘what goes on, goes in’. Having struggled with problematic skin from a young age, Bethany found no relief from using mainstream beauty products. It wasn’t until she started on the Paleo Diet that Bethany “discovered the power of eating real food”. Doing so subsequently inspired her to refresh her beauty routine with products made from “real, recognisable ingredients”. And that’s how her skin blossomed — truly, it practically sparkles.

Living with her husband, Jeff (one of the owners of California-based family farm, Primal Pastures which specialises in pasture-raised chicken and lamb) and his family on the farm, Bethany helps run the business while crafting skincare products for face, body, men (beard oils!) and baby. Fuss-free and prettily packaged in glass bottles or BPA-free plastic tubes, the label’s offerings are made with naturally derived components; tallow from grass-fed cows; locally sourced hydrosols, and more.

“At Primally Pure, we try our best to make conscious decisions about the products we create,” says Bethany. And we believe she’s got the formula right.

You started experimenting with creating your own products before you officially launched Primally Pure. How exactly were you doing this and what did you formulate?

Yes! I began formulating products in my kitchen with no experience in aromatherapy or chemistry, and with no intentions of starting a company. Deodorant was what I started with. At the time, I was using a paste made with baking soda and coconut oil. I wanted my husband to ditch his antiperspirant and adopt the same method I was using, but he didn’t like the idea of using a paste. So I assigned myself the task of creating a natural and effective deodorant in stick form.

How did you learn to formulate your products?

Trial and error ­­— lots of it! I attempted hundreds of different deodorant formulations before finally getting it right.

What were some of the mainstream products you used to use that did more harm than good, and what were the effects?

The Complexion Mist, made with hints of rose and mint

I struggled with acne throughout junior high, high school and college. Every time I saw a commercial for the latest and greatest product from mainstream brands like Neutrogena, Clean & Clear etc, I was always hopeful that THIS was going to be just what my skin needed. When those didn’t work, I turned to prescription creams and ointments prescribed to me by dermatologists. Not only did these products not work, but they left my skin dry, peeling, red and extremely sensitive to sunlight (not ideal considering I was a swimmer/lifeguard throughout high school).

“Eating real food has improved my skin, immune system, seasonal allergies, mood and more.”

What are the key ways in which your diet has changed, and do you really feel a physical difference?

I really, really do. I can’t stress that enough. About five and a half years ago, I discovered the Paleo Diet through my husband’s family and haven’t looked back since. Eating real food has improved my skin, immune system, seasonal allergies, mood and more.

My family also owns Primal Pastures (a farm that sells beyond organic, pasture-raised chicken, beef, lamb, and pork). Consuming healthy and responsibly raised meats has been huge.

Tell us about the first product you created when you started selling them on your family farm’s website.

The first product I started selling on the Primal Pastures website was Outdoor Lotion, which was basically sunscreen, but I couldn’t call it that because it hadn’t gone through the proper certification process that the FDA requires of sunscreen products. I actually don’t even sell the product anymore because of that! But I sold that product first because I had written a blogpost on sun exposure that people seemed to really like and I was already making Outdoor Lotion for myself and family members at the time, so my husband and brother in-law encouraged me to start selling it.

After getting positive feedback from farm customers, I rolled out the next wave of products (deodorant, lip balm and body butter).

Tell us about your process of ingredient sourcing, and how you ensure that they are of the highest quality.

When sourcing a new ingredient, we first do a meticulous search of the web to see what our options are. We look for things like organic and fair trade certifications, reviews, location of supplier etc, and order samples to see what works best in each particular product. We also touch base with suppliers via telephone or in-person whenever possible. Over the last two years, we’ve developed lasting relationships with many of our suppliers and have witnessed first-hand the production methods of certain ingredients, such as our locally-sourced USDA certified organic rose hydrosol.

In your Fancy Face serum, you’ve thoughtfully prepared a version for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding and excluded neem oil, thyme essential oil, cypress essential oil, and carrot seed essential oil from its formula. How are these ingredients harmful for pregnant or breastfeeding women?

As a new mom, I understand how important it is to make sure that every ingredient you’re using is safe for you and your little one. However, there isn’t a whole lot of research out there on the safety of carrier/essential oils during pregnancy. Most are generally recognised as safe, while others are somewhat questionable.

Some of the ingredients listed above have the potential to be problematic for pregnant/nursing women when taken internally or when used excessively, but are most likely okay to use in smaller amounts. However, we still made the decision to omit those “questionable oils” from our Fancy Face serum as a precaution.

Primally Pure’s luscious body oils which come in a variety of scents and rich hues

We love seeing products made with natural and potent ingredients that show up in vibrant colours, like your body oils. Can you tell us more about the Blue Yarrow one?

I love how colourful nature can be. There are so many artificial colorants out there. Not only are these toxic and harmful, but they are also not nearly as beautiful as real colours found in nature. We try to incorporate colour into our products whenever it makes sense.

The blue yarrow essential oil found in our body oil is one of the most potent anti-inflammatory oils on the planet, making it ideal for treating inflamed and irritated skin.

If our skin starts getting congested from using facial oils, what would you recommend we do?

We carefully select facial oils with essential fatty acid profiles that won’t clog pores and have found congestion to be very rare with our products. But if congestion does occur, we recommend discontinuing use of the oil and switching to something like our Complexion Mists. These mists are made with organic hydrosols, organic vegetable glycerine, and a small amount of organic witch hazel. They provide deep hydration and nourishment for the skin, and can be used throughout the day for a refreshing pick-me-up!

What does conscious beauty mean to you?

Conscious beauty means taking every aspect of a product (how ingredients are sourced, safety of ingredients, sustainability of packaging etc) into consideration when making and using it. It’s being aware of the possible repercussions of doing things the easy way, and choosing a narrower path that ends up being more beneficial for everyone involved.

At Primally Pure, we try our best to make conscious decisions about the products we create — only using natural and non-toxic ingredients; selecting ingredients that were farmed organically (better for consumers and for the farmers growing the ingredients) and at a fair wage, and using sustainable packaging whenever possible.

“Conscious beauty means taking every aspect of a product into consideration when making and using it.”

Images courtesy of Primally Pure