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Elysse Crabtree of Wabi-Sabi Botanicals

The founder of luxury earth-to-skin beauty on self-care, the ingredients she’s addicted to and empowering consumers to make a social impact through their purchases.

Before Wabi-Sabi Botanicals, we’d never heard of ingredients like sacha inchi, ximenia and temu lewak. But in a typical day, these names are just part and parcel of the effort and research that goes into creating beauty and lifestyle products for founder Elysse Crabtree.

Wild harvested, organic and unrefined, Elysse swears by these magical discoveries sourced from the far corners of the world; all of which are cherry-picked based on their performance, sustainability and effectiveness. Elysse chanced upon temu lewak, for instance, while she was living in Bali. Also known as Javanese ginger, the antibacterial and anti-inflammatory plant is useful in neutralising toxins and counteracting free radicals.

Wabi-Sabi is also doing more for the environment and for women, leading by example for others to follow. For one, 10 per cent of its monthly profits go to Kiva micro-loans for women in developing countries. These micro-loans financially empower these women to go on and pursue their own professional dreams. The company also ensures that its co-operatives and artisans, most of which are female, are paid fair wages. In other words, by supporting Wabi-Sabi, you can make a social impact through your dollars, easy.

Having launched Wabi-Sabi Botanicals after a difficult time in her life, Elysse advocates for self-care above and beyond all else. Her offerings are simple and raw, bottled in exquisite gold print bottles and holistic in every sense of the word. And by carving out a niche in the conscious beauty market with her admirable approach to society and sustainability, the brand proves to be more than just a skincare collection.

What does “Wabi-Sabi” mean?

Very simply, Wabi-Sabi is a Zen Buddhist phrase that represents the philosophy that there is beauty in imperfection and value in simplicity.

Wabi Sabi Botanicals

You said that Wabi-Sabi Botanicals was born from your decision to take your physical, emotional and spiritual health into your own hands. How has internalising self-care rituals and beauty, in particular, helped you?

Incorporating self-loving moments into my life has completely shifted the way I think and feel about myself. Four years ago, self-care was not a part of my life. I don’t think I knew what self-care was! Today, self-care is kind of a buzzword used to sell skincare, and while part of my self-care absolutely involves caring for my skin, it goes way beyond that for me. I define self-care as being kind and compassionate towards self, so my self-care rituals can involve meditating, cooking a healthy meal, taking a walk outdoors, reading a book, or a number of other things. Any esteemed act that leads to a greater sense of ‘okayness’ with myself and greater self-love, I consider self-care.

Which product is your absolute favourite, why and what are your favourite ways of using it?

My favourite product has to be the Formule Intensif no. 1 Light Reveal Facial Oil. It’s a beautiful, simple formula that produces stunning results overnight. The ingredients — andiroba infused with Amazonian guarana berries, buriti, pequi, and sea buckthorn fruit — are so vibrant and nutrient-dense. It has no added fragrance or essential oils, yet it has this beautiful, fruity floral scent from the raw pequi oil. I use it regularly as an overnight brightening mask and wake up with glowing, more evenly toned skin every time.

Please talk us through the products below, their key ingredients which contribute to its effectiveness, the skin types they are best suited for, and the optimal ways to use them:

Light Reveal: Light Reveal is a concentrated brightening and hyperpigmentation treatment. It was inspired by our former best seller, the BUDHI Eye Nectar but instead of using coffee fruit, I opted for guarana fruit as guarana’s main active component, caffeine is three times more concentrated than in coffee. Caffeine is one of the few natural actives that’s been extensively researched for its skin benefits. It’s particularly suited for the eye area as it’s effective at lightening, depuffing, tightening and brightening the skin. I personally use this product all over my face as an overnight mask because I love the brightening effect. I should probably note that Light Reveal has a beautiful, vibrant red-orange tint. It has the same nutrients — carotenes — in it that give carrots their orange colour.

Balancing Act: I would say that Balancing Act is the most versatile of the five treatment serums. It’s ultra gentle with only three ingredients: guava, sacha inchi, and starflower. These oils contain high levels of soothing omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, making this treatment ideal for imbalanced or acne-prone skin.

Balancing Act is actually our bestseller, and our customers have found so many different ways to use it as a makeup primer, added to their foundation; as a gentle eye makeup remover, or applied to the T-zone to reduce sebum production. This is another one of my personal favourites and fits easily and beautifully into any routine.

Age Gracefully: Age Gracefully is a powerful, anti-ageing treatment that contains one of my favourite ingredients, cacay. Cacay is still somewhat unknown in the green beauty world, yet it contains three times more naturally-occurring retinol as rosehip seed oil, and is one of the most sustainable ingredients on the planet.

Age Gracefully also contains pure, raw acai fruit oil and green coffee oil, which give the serum this beautiful liquid emerald green colour. The formula is great for smoothing out fine lines over time or for delaying and preventing premature signs of ageing before they happen.

“Wabi-Sabi is a Zen Buddhist phrase that represents the philosophy that there is beauty in imperfection and value in simplicity.”

Wabi Sabi Botanicals trio

Moisture Boost: Moisture Boost is formulated to deeply moisturise skin that’s been affected by seasonal or environmental dryness. This treatment is perfect for cold or windy climates where skin tends to be dry, flaky and irritated. Moisture Boost contains naturally-occurring squalane from amaranth seed, rather than isolated squalane. I opted to use a squalene-rich whole plant as nutrients are more bioavailable when served whole with the other naturally-occurring nutrients and actives found in that plant.

Moisture Boost also contains Ximenia oil, an ingredient we source from a women’s co-operative in Namibia. This oil is unlike any other I’ve worked with. It’s very thick, and contains over 70 per cent omega-9 fatty acids. It’s a beautiful ingredient and one that empowers the women who produce it.

Blemish Correct: Blemish Correct targets inflammation caused by acne, as well as active breakouts and blemishes. If used regularly over time, it can assist in preventing recurrences. It contains four powerful ingredients — two that are especially adept at detoxifying and scavenging for damaging free radicals (milk thistle and white mustard seed) and two which contain high levels of anti-inflammatory actives (sandalwood seed and temu lawak.) The most unique of these is probably temu lawak, an ingredient I discovered while living in Bali. Temu lawak contains up to 90 per cent curcumenes, which are proven to be exceptionally healing and anti-inflammatory both internally and externally.

Wabi Sabi Formula Intensive

Are there any ingredients you love that you have yet to use in your formulations?

Yes! So many. I am very conscious and selective about the ingredients I approve for our formulations so I don’t have every ingredient at my disposal. With that said, there are a few ingredients I really can’t wait to share in future products. I don’t want to give too much away, but there is a pure hydrosol, a very rare type of frankincense, that will soon be featured. There are also a few raw oils and powders which will just blow everyone away. Everything about them is just addictive.

We love your packaging. Do the gold motifs have symbolic meanings?

They do. Each of the motifs is hand-drawn and inspired by a pattern found in nature. If you look closely, each motif represents the function of the product it adorns.

Why is it important to you to uphold social responsibility and female empowerment with Wabi-Sabi Botanicals?

I believe businesses — especially successful, profitable businesses — have a responsibility and obligation to serve the customers and communities that have made them successful. For Wabi-Sabi Botanicals, that means serving women around the world, from the working women that produce our ingredients, to the women that use our products, to women who don’t have access to the same opportunities you and I do. I also just personally feel called to serve, celebrate and empower women. I have been so empowered by my own journey from self-care and entrepreneurship, to self-love that I feel compelled to share it. Every woman is worthy and deserving.

Why aren’t more brands, especially large corporations, enabling consumers to implement social change through their purchases?

I actually see more businesses moving in this direction, becoming more socially responsible and incorporating a give-back or social impact component into their business model. Social enterprise is the future of business. It’s no longer okay with consumers that corporations generate billions or millions of dollars in revenue and do nothing to serve or give back. It’s no longer acceptable to produce products in a way that’s irresponsible, damaging or abusive to those who produce the products, to animals or to the environment. We are moving towards a more spiritually enlightened humanity and businesses are following suit. The businesses that don’t won’t be around in 10 or 20 years.

What does conscious beauty mean to you?

Conscious beauty, to me, is making conscientious, loving decisions that support my own wellbeing and the wellbeing of others. This might mean supporting and purchasing from eco-conscious companies, giving back to esteemed causes, lifting up other women by investing in their dreams or eating a plant-based diet. Conscious beauty requires a level of work and awareness, a desire to live, be and do better for the benefit of all.

Images courtesy of Wabi-Sabi Botanicals