Over the past couple years, clean beauty has transitioned from a buzzy phrase to a topic of global concern. There is a collective shift in consciousness happening in the clean beauty space; the dangers of an unregulated skincare market are being brought to the fore (with everyone from Gwyneth Paltrow to Miranda Kerr chiming in). And increasingly, light is shed on the hazardous chemicals hiding in shampoos, face creams, and lip balms.
The ethos of clean beauty states that skincare should be nutrient-dense food for the skin. But when we rely on other companies to craft the products we use unquestioningly, trust becomes the key—that every ingredient used is non-toxic, and properly and safely sourced.
The California-based skincare guru Josh Rosebrook has seemed to crack the code, finding the balance with his organic, transformative brand—which relies on the natural powers of plants. His products, including the coveted Vital Balm Cream, are made in small batches using organic, nutrient-dense plants, and bottled in environmentally friendly glass jars. While Rosebrook relies solely on word-of-mouth advertising (he doesn’t even enlist influencers), the efficacy of his line has made it to the ears of celebs like Alanis Morissette and clean beauty devotee Emma Watson, who swears by it. “I found a place for myself that I truly loved,” Rosebrook said last week. “Helping guide people on what to use for their skin and hair and why.”
Growing up in Portland, Oregon in the Eighties, Josh Rosebrook earned his street cred as the self-appointed local hairdresser. “I would style other kids’ hair who lived in my neighborhood,” he said. “Making people beautiful became survival for me as a kid.” In 1999, after graduating from cosmetology school, Rosebrook moved to Los Angeles where he secured apprenticeships working for top stylists in Beverly Hills salons. As a low-paid assistant, he found it tricky to afford the products he needed to take care of his skin, so Rosebrook started making his own in his kitchen. He had no real intention of selling them, at first. “But my clients started commenting on how great my skin looked and asked what products I was using,” he said. The answer was his kitchen-crafted cacao mask, which was in such high demand that he launched his namesake line with the mask as his hero product in 2009, followed by creams, serums, and haircare in 2011. In June, he will unveil his first toner, an alcohol-free collagen boosting elixir comprised of sea kelp, Irish moss, and glycolic acid.
Here, Rosebrook gives his tips and tricks on how we can keep our skin in top shape as we remain indoors.
What kinds of hair and skincare problems can we expect to potentially arise as we're continuously at home?
Whenever our routine changes, our health, and ultimately our skin, will go through a shift as well. Whether or not the change shows up in our skin or health directly correlates to the current strength of our immune system and our body's adaptability when faced with a new set of conditions.
Increased time indoors usually means less activity and movement, so skin circulation can become stagnate. Increasing the heart rate for a sustained period of time is essential for skin health and improves skin hydration. Topically, product formulations that activate the skin will assist in stimulating blood flow in the dermis and increase circulation. This activation process results in oxygenated, brighter skin with improved skin function, and appearance. The Cacao Antioxidant Mask is our activating and purifying facial treatment.
What extra steps do we need to take?
Listen to your skin and ask it what it needs. Do not approach your skin motivated by fear. Support your skin and offer it the nourishment, actives, and protection it needs to stay healthy, balanced, and to continue slowing the aging process.
Monitoring and supporting your skin hydration and moisturizing effectively is key to proper skin function. Regular, gentle exfoliation appropriate for your skin type is imperative. The right combination of actives, from anti-inflammatory to antioxidant-rich plant extracts to acids, vitamin C and retinoids must be considered. Always wear SPF (even indoors) and reapply after two hours.
What is the most important step of our skincare routines now?
They all support the efficacy of each other. Skin changes as we age and we require new solutions in how we approach our skin health. The top slot always belongs to SPF to offset the decline of the skin and protect the health, integrity, and structure of their complexion. Proper exfoliation and effective hydrating and moisturizing are essential keys to preserving your beauty as well.
Most of us forego hair masks for the sake of time. Are hair masks necessary now?
Yes, for several reasons. Unfortunately, most people do not protect their hair as much as they should, and many people leave the responsibility of their hair up to their stylists and hair specialists. Restoring vital fatty acids to the hair shaft is essential and the easiest thing to do to help protect the hair and maintain its shine and manageability. Easily accessible at-home oil treatments include grapeseed oil, olive, sesame, and coconut. Experiment with adding just a bit, evenly dispersed, directly throughout your hair. Also, try leaving in a bit of your conditioner to the mid-shaft and ends of your hair.
More and more we hear about cacao as a powerful ingredient for our bodies. Does it actually help and why?
I’ve been formulating with cacao for fifteen years. Cacao contains powerful flavonoid antioxidants, which are skincare superheroes, and can help slow the aging process by delivering photoprotective, brightening, and firming support to the skin structure. Cacao is also dense with anti-inflammatory, rich, skin-supporting minerals, and other potent phytonutrients. Studies have shown that bioactive compounds of cacao have a positive impact on skin health related to diseases, such as psoriasis, acne, and wound healing, and by neutralizing oxidative stress, a major factor of skin deterioration and premature aging.
Are facial sprays effective as a quick mid-day hydrating technique?
Facial mists applied incorrectly—without a moisturizer followed or tap water overused—can contribute to skin dehydration. This is not about facial mists not being effective, but well-formulated hydrators must be followed with a moisturizer. Water isn’t moisturizing, so unless the barrier is reinforced immediately with a moisturizer, transepidermal water loss will occur—meaning dehydration. That’s why sprays should be used before serums, balms, oils, and creams, and not alone.
There have been complaints about chronically dry skin during this time. How do we fix this?
If your skin is chronically dehydrated, something is missing. Just being indoors is not going to dry skin out—it’s usually tied to something else. It can be associated with ineffective products, lack of exercise, poor diet, internal dehydration, sun overexposure, or age-related chemistry change in the skin.
Assess what might be out of balance—there’s always something. It can be excessive alcohol consumption, too much sodium, or processed foods.
Start by simplifying your diet and go back to the basics. For me, it’s steamed vegetables, quinoa, and tempeh, tofu, or beans. Drink clean, spring water, and get back on a regular, daily routine. Topically, my Hydrating Accelerator, Hydration Boost Concentrate, Advanced Hydration Mask, and Vital Balm Cream all work together to restore and protect skin hydration and moisturizing function.
Proper exfoliation is key as well. Many times, people have dead surface skin that they mistake as dryness. Though the skin may also be dry, dead skin cells do not hold moisture so the skin can appear chronically dry, when, in actuality, it’s in need of proper exfoliation first.
What is the advantage of formulating ingredients in-house as you do? Why is this “better” and more effective?
Everything is better fresh. We make every single extract and each product of ours monthly, sometimes twice monthly. This is our way of controlling and delivering the highest performance, results-driven products on the market, and how we guarantee their value and worth to the consumer. This is something I committed to with my formulations from the very beginning. Plant constituents are delicate, live, and active, so professionally produced plant extracts made in-house are extremely important and offer unparalleled benefits over products with conventional, pre-made, source-unknown extracts. Our herbalist oversees the process and there are delicate methods required to extract the necessary constituents of each plant. It’s very rare for a skin and haircare company to have this level of control over the individual extracts and their active potency. We have strong, long-term relationships with our organic plant suppliers and farmers who offer us the freshest raw materials to create our plant-based products.
For those who want immediate gratification, are there any beneficial items we might find in our pantries or refrigerators that we can be putting on our faces and bodies right now?
A DIY body scrub is going to offer the most for your investment. Mix honey, oil (olive, coconut, etc.), with a sugar or salt for the abrasive element. When it comes to facial masks, I would reach for high-grade Manuka honey or white clay. Other than that, fruits and vegetables rarely effectively penetrate the skin, which is why cosmetic formulation is so important for the efficacy of a product. Just because you smash something on your face doesn’t mean the constituents within the plant matter are impacting it. This is why extraction and cosmetic formulation are so important—molecularly, that’s how you get the micronutrients to penetrate your skin.
A lot of people find that oils dry out their skin rather than hydrate it. Why is that, and is there one oil we can count on to restore our skin?
Ultimately, oils don’t really hydrate—water hydrates. Oils are occlusive agents that trap hydration in skin and thereby cause skin hydration to increase. Many times, the skin is dehydrated, which is a lack of water in the skin, and people apply oils trying to rehydrate their skin, which doesn’t work—they’re dehydrated and don’t know it. That is why layering an effective aloe-water based mist before oils, balms, and creams is an effective approach. So, it’s not that the oils aren’t working, it’s that the diagnosis is incorrect.
What natural oils are most conducive to repairing?
Hundreds, actually, but we don’t need all of them. Many oils contain nutrient density that can offer antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and other trace benefits to the skin. This is one way oils literally nourish the skin. Oil is made up of fatty acids, waxes, triglycerides, and mimic the skin’s sebum. Sebum secretes from the pores to moisturize and protect the skin. When we apply oils, we are helping balance and protect the skin. When the skin is properly protected, this accelerates its own healing and repair. Moisturizing with oil speeds skin healing through the enhanced protective barrier reinforcement.
Some of my favorites that have proven scientific benefit to support skin, scalp, and hair are hemp seed, jojoba, grapeseed, rosehip seed, argan, and marula oils.