I have never truly suffered from acne, but I have also never been completely confident about my complexion. If I’m lucky, I can go a week or two without giving it much thought—but that’s rare.
Okay, I have a confession: I love picking my skin. But, despite a few bad habits, for the most part, I have always treated my skin fairly well, drinking plenty of water, exercising, eating a healthy diet and, of course, washing my face and moisturizing daily. And I have tried every product under the sun from ProActiv to Murad. You’d think my face would look close to perfect, but I’m usually left with disappointment and dry skin.
At least I was until, at No. 6 Boutique here in New York City, I came across Province Apothecary, an all natural handcrafted aromatherapy skincare line. Afterward, I researched the brand online and learned that the founder, Julie Clark, was based in Toronto—my hometown. I reached out to her and booked her “Custom Facial” during a trip home. Though I vowed not to touch my face until I got there, I still somehow wound up in Julie’s chair with a larger than life zit on my chin.
More than anything, Julie helped me understand my skin: why it acts out and how to prevent and properly respond to problems without causing harm. For instance, she told me that I have sensitive skin, so I should avoid using foaming cleansers and rough exfoliates because these will only strip natural oils and, in turn, make me break out. I need to be using essential oils and natural ingredients: organic plant oil serum, oil cleaner and oatmeal exfoliator.
I am lucky to have found Julie Clark and Province Apothecary; she serves as a mentor and teacher, helping me restore natural radiance to my skin. Here, she shares what inspired her to study holistic health and stresses the importance of choosing sustainable ingredients:
Taylor McEwan: What inspired you to study holistic health and aromatherapy?
Julie Clark: My skin inspired me! I have so many allergies and I couldn't find anything on the market that would heal my sensitive and irritated skin. I started reading about essential oils and made my own skincare products based on recipes from books that I took out from the library. I wasn't happy with the results and felt like I needed to find a teacher and mentor. After some research, I signed up for a great school in Toronto called, The Institute of Aromatherapy, and left New York to pursue aromatherapy in Canada. After studying there for a year and a half, I started working towards another aromatherapy degree at Healing Fragrances School of Aromatherapy, also in the Toronto area. I then started giving friends and family facial treatments and made products for them, as well. Before I knew it, I was putting my products in stores.
Taylor: What is the ingredient you could not live without?
JC: Vitamin E. I put it in every product. I love it for its amazing healing and wonderful preservative properties. I constantly use different raw materials and essential oils, but Vitamin E is in everything!
Taylor: You source all of your ingredients locally in Toronto and around Canada. In your experience, what is the biggest challenge in trying to procure natural ingredients and minimize environmental impact?
JC: One of the biggest challenges I faced was finding organic, raw materials within the country. It was easier to get organic sunflower oil from the Netherlands than Canada, I quickly found out. So I started looking for smaller companies and distributors within Canada. Also, I started donating proceeds of sales to the Canadian Growers Organization in order to support local growers.
Excess packaging has also been a huge challenge. Raw materials are generally packed in lots of plastic. I try to minimize my packaging waste by not offering boxes for my products. Still, I was ending up with so much waste from the materials I purchased. Through conscious consuming, I was able to minimize some of my manufacturing waste last year, which makes me so happy. I am working towards shrinking it even more this year.
Taylor: Has choosing sustainable ingredients and products always been important to you?
JC: Historically, it was not, but now it definitely is. When I first started studying aromatherapy, my teacher used the most diluted, cheapest, cosmetic-grade raw materials. Our beeswax was white and in pellet form. After I left school, I started researching and trying different grades of products and experimenting with organic and raw materials. I was floored by the difference in quality and potency of the unprocessed materials. For example, I used pure, organic rose hip oil and had a reaction from it: the raw oil was so strong and pure that it caused my skin to regenerate too quickly. But, once I diluted the rose hip with other carrier oils, the results were spectacular. It helps reduces scars, stretch marks and regenerates skin cells far better than anything I had experienced with non-organic materials. This is the reason I insist on using organic and wild-crafted raw materials: I want to offer my clients and customers the best quality products.
Taylor: How do you integrate your work and personal daily routine?
JC: Province Apothecary is my life. I have been doing this full-time for the past year and my life has completely changed in the best way. I have become a healthier person. My philosophy of removing harsh chemicals from all my beauty products has now become an important part of selecting and preparing the food I eat and the cleaning supplies I use. As a holistic health practitioner, I am always offering advice on being healthier and happier to others, so it is important to practice what I preach. I try to exercise, meditate and take time for myself daily, so that I can be a healthier person. If you want beautiful skin, you must understand how much your internal health influences your external beauty.
Taylor: How do you find inspiration?
JC: I gather so much of my inspiration from my clients and from the weather and seasons. I love seeing clients daily because everyone’s skin is so different; I really enjoy blending custom products to meet the needs of different skin types. I started seeing a lot of clients with cystic acne and developed Province Apothecary’s Clear Skin Serum for them. It helps reduce redness, inflammation and infection, as well as stop the pitting and squeezing that will cause those pimples to becoming a bigger problem and a long-lasting scar. I developed the Oil Cleanser to help my dry skin during our cold Canadian winters and realized it was a great cleanser for all seasons. I also developed the Face Balm for our winters to lock in that elusive moisture and protect the skin against cold weather dryness.
Taylor: Can you recall any moment when a scent or ingredient has sparked a memory or reminded you of something you had otherwise forgotten?
JC: One of my favorite memories, triggered by rose essential oil, is standing at my grandmother’s makeup table. She had lace doilies under everything and I loved smelling all her creams and perfumes and running my fingers over her fancy hairbrushes. I love how scent is so closely tied to memory.
Taylor: What does happiness mean to you?
JC: Enjoying Life! Being happy and excited to wake up and face the next day.
Taylor: What does it mean to you to Live The Process?
JC: Living day by day in harmony with life and health. I make sure I take time for myself by meditating and exercising and having fun with friends. I try not to let stress get the better of me. I nourish my body with good foods and nourish my skin with good oils.
--Taylor McEwan. During her time studying Art History and Studio Art at New York University, Toronto native Taylor McEwan began her apprenticeship as a studio intern with a prominent New York-based jewelry designer, where she found a visceral appreciation for the craft of jewelry-making and the dedication and passion required to run a studio. Upon graduating from NYU in 2011, Taylor accepted a position at a prominent fashion and lifestyle boutique PR company in New York. She now resides in Brooklyn, and continues to spend her personal time further developing her skills as a jewelry designer.