Farm-to-Face: Province Apothecary
Julie Clark, founder of Province Apothecary, started formulating natural and organic skincare to treat her own skin. She had eczema from a young age and grew frustrated with the medicated creams she was using. So she began researching botanical cosmetic treatments and blending them in her kitchen...and the rest is history.
Walking into the Province Apothecary boutique, and its Holistic Skincare Clinic one block away, feels like being transported to another era. It’s part old-world apothecary, part of-the-moment wellness haven.
The old-world part: the skincare and wellness products are hand-blended in small batches, often using local produce and seasonal ingredients. PA sources its organic, wildcrafted ingredients from each of the Canadian provinces (hence its name), working with small farms and companies that meet PA's ethical standards. Ingredients such as:
- seaweed from Nova Scotia,
- maple syrup from Quebec,
- sunflower oil from Ontario,
- beeswax from Alberta,
- lentil flour from Manitoba,
- raspberry oil and glacial clay from British Columbia.
The modern part: each PA product is made using current knowledge of the cosmetic potential of plants. Julie received formal training in Aromatherapy, Holistic Health and Esthetics, which is why her products are not only safe and pure but also highly effective. There are options for all skin types and some exceptional remedies for sensitive or eczema-prone skin. It doesn’t stop at skincare: there’s a Beard Oil, a Hangover Remedy, and even a Sex Oil. Talk about all bases covered.
Above: me with Natalie Sischy, Province Apothecary's VP sales + operations, at the opening of PA's stunning new Shop + Workshop at 1518 Dundas St W, Toronto.
From its humble beginnings in Julie’s kitchen, Province Apothecary has grown into a force to be reckoned with in the green beauty world. In addition to its Toronto shop, its devotees can find PA products at Credo Beauty in NYC and San Francisco, as well as The Detox Market in Toronto. At the Indie Beauty Expo in NYC this past August, fans were lined up three rows deep in front of PA’s display of its signature dark blue bottles and coveted wellness products.
Despite the brand's growing and well-deserved renown, Julie and her team are just as excited and passionate about their mission as they were at the very start. I was lucky to sit down with Julie and ask her my most burning questions about PA and her approach to green beauty. Here’s our Q&A - I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!
Above: Julie performing "The Custom" Organic Facial on a client at Province Apothecary's Holistic Skincare Clinic at 1554 Dundas St W, Toronto.
Keu: Have you always been interested in aromatherapy and holistic health, or did you have a lightbulb moment that led you to create PA?
Julie: I’ve always had skincare issues, I have had eczema since I was a baby. When I was young, I always wanted to be a dermatologist but then went the more artist way in my early 20’s. In my 20’s I became tired of the never ending medication cycle I was in and thought that there must be a natural way to heal my eczema. This led me down the path I'm on. I studied holistic health, aromatherapy and now medical herbalism. I have always had a feeling that there was another way to heal my skin (besides using cortisone cream). I'm still hungry for more knowledge and it’s the driving force behind PA.
Keu: Your brand is a poster child for the local and sustainable movements: you source organic, wildcrafted ingredients from each of the Canadian provinces, and hand-blend them to create your products. Was it always your intention to create products using locally available ingredients?
Julie: Yes, I try to live and eat locally and I am really interested in the ingredients our ancestors would have used on their skin. We have very extreme weather here - extremely humid in the summer and dry and cold in the winter. I wanted to tap into the ingredients we can find around us and make products out of them. Also, I wanted to support our local economy. I wanted people to truly understand the ingredients in our products and to get excited about the amazing ingredients we have in our country.
For more info about the ingredients in Province Apothecary products, check out Blending the wilds of Canada into pure botanical products.
Keu: I love your Custom Face Serums! The concept of customized skincare is so empowering. What kind of research and study went into finding the right combinations of oils, plant extracts and other ingredients to develop the products? Do you follow a specific protocol when assessing a person's skin needs?
Julie: My background in aromatherapy and aesthetics led me to making custom serums. It's my favourite product we offer! It's so special. I think everyone needs custom serums that change with the seasons.
I've studied plant ingredients - oils, essential oils, flower waters - for over 7 years and I rarely blend the same blend for anyone. Everyone is so different and it just depends on what they need. I have the knowledge of all the plant ingredients and then I listen to what and how a person is talking about their skin and blend accordingly. We can blend for the body (topically) and the mind. We have a list of questions that we always ask to find out about the person and their skin. Its almost like being a detective.
Keu: I got the Heal Eczema Kit for my husband who gets ravaged by eczema. He loves how it soothes and treats his flare-ups. And he's amazed that an all-natural product is more effective than his old standby drugstore eczema cream. What other PA products have elicited this kind of "Wow, I can't believe it works as well as my conventional product" reaction?
Julie: Our new Clear Skin Advanced Spot Serum blew me away when I first started blending it and using it. I love turmeric essential oil as much as I love using turmeric spice in all my cooking. This is an amazingly effective, but gentle spot treatment that helps heal cystic pimples.
30 ml (CAN $78.00) Click here for more info and to buy.
Our Full Brow Serum is also a "Wow" product. It actually works and helps promote hair growth. I love the power of plants!
30ml (CAN $36.00) Click here for more info and to buy.
Province Apothecary is true farm-to-face beauty. I feel lucky and proud that it was born right in my hometown. And now that retailers all over Canada, the US and online are clamoring to carry their products, green beauty lovers everywhere can enjoy PA's biodynamic blends.
Province Apothecary is giving Keu readers a special 15% discount on its products and treatments. Click here to purchase and be sure to use code KEUPA at checkout. Don't forget to tell me all about your experience with the PA products and services - I love to hear what you think!
Coming up this week on Keu: reviews of my favorite Province Apothecary products.