Long before moisturizer could be purchased at convenience stores, or anti-wrinkle eye cream cost upward of $100, Indigenous people created their own skincare and cosmetic products with minerals, oils and plants harvested from Mother Earth.
For centuries, Aborigines in Australia have used emu oil as a natural sunscreen, and today scientific studies prove it soothes skin and reduces inflammation thanks to its essential fatty acids. Aboriginal women also first discovered the ability of yarrow extract to prevent stretch marks. Now yarrow-based hydrating creams are marketed to pregnant women to rub on their bellies. Many ingredients in modern day beauty and makeup products, like the Aloe Vera used in makeup remover, the jojoba in face moisturizers, and the Yucca used in firming facial serums were discovered (and used) by Native elders hundreds of years ago.
Generations later, the Indigenous beauty secrets of our ancestors are still proving effective. Thus, Indigenous-made skincare and cosmetic products deserve a place in our makeup bags and medicine cabinets. Here are 7 of the biggest and best Native-owned beauty companies worthy of global attention.
1. Native Touch
A line of award-winning soaps, scrubs, bath salts, moisturizing rubs and lip balm created by husband and wife Joseph and Laralyn RiverWind, nationally acclaimed NAMA-winning recording artists. Native Touch makes skin-care products for men, women, pets and tattoos, and according to the website, are 100 percent natural and vegan (no dyes, perfumes, beeswax or preservatives). Co-founder Laralyn, an herbal biologist who formulates Native Touch products in Andrews, North Carolina, said: “Our elders teach us that if you can’t eat it, you shouldn’t put it on your body. … the philosophy that inspires us to make quality, affordable, natural products you can feel safe to use.” (shop.nativetouch.us)
2. Sister Sky
Owned by real-life sisters Monica Simeon and Marina TurningRobe, Sister Sky makes herbal lotions, shampoos, conditioners and body washes on Spokane tribal land in Washington. They write on their website, “Our vision is to share Native American herbal wisdom in an authentic and respectful manner, promoting health, wellness and sustainability for ourselves, our communities and our planet.” Products are made with a variety of curative, healing plants used in ancient Native American medicine, such as sweet grass, cedar, yarrow, chamomile and hibiscus. (www.sistersky.com)
3. Medicine of the People
Inspired by her Navajo father who taught her how to gather and prepare medicinal herbs, Virginia Boone and her partner Leonard Marcus started Medicine of the People in 1995. They sell herbal balms, lotions, teas, massage oils and tinctures made from native plants to help heal a variety of conditions, such as burns, cuts, arthritis, sore muscles, stress and eczema. Their products are sold mostly at powwows, Native American conferences, museums, casinos and health food stores. “People are starving for this, they’re starving for a connection to the earth,” Boone said. “Medicine of the People makes them feel there’s somebody out there who has that connection. It’s a healing for their spirit.” (medicine-of-the-people.myshopify.com)
4. Native Naturals
Owned by an enrolled member of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe of North Dakota, Native Naturals manufactures an American Indian Spa Line of lotions, shampoos, conditioners, scrubs and oils made from plants that, according to ancient wisdom, have special healing powers: tobacco, sage, sweetgrass and cedar. Native Naturals says that their products were created “for those who want to connect more fully with the world of plants and spirits; to reconnect with the source that deeply feeds us – to bring mind, body and spirit into perfect balance.” (www.nativenaturals.com)
5. Native Wisdom
A family-run skin-care company started by a native named Jennifer Wolf, who worked as a chemist for the Food and Drug Administration and performed extensive research on herbal products. According to the website, their body butters and lotions contain beautifying ingredients used by indigenous cultures from all over the world, such as blueberry and pomegranate extracts and honey. They are free of parabens, phthalate and sulfates, and housed in recyclable containers. “As Native Americans, it was important to us to look to Mother Earth for answers on how to create natural products safe and exquisite enough for the whole family,” said Wolf. (nativewisdombeauty.com)
6. Mother Earth Essentials
A 100 percent Indigenous-owned company based in Alberta, Canada, that makes cleansers, lotions, oils, scrubs, creams, soaps, balms, medicinal tea blends, soy candles at “affordable prices.” Their emphasis is on using natural, sustainable ingredients from Mother Earth to help protect Mother Earth. A portion of their tea profits are used to fund culture camps on aboriginal land to promote and preserve traditional knowledge and culture for indigenous youth. (www.motherearthessentials.ca)
7. Kamamak Cosmetics
A mineral-based color cosmetics company that is 100 percent aboriginal-owned, headquartered in British Columbia. They manufacture colorful eyes shadows, lipsticks, creams, blushes and face powders that include gentle ingredients such as lanolin, Vitamin E, mica, grapefruit seed extract and jojoba oils. The website says that Kamamak products are “infused with the native culture of north America—a modern, fun, sophisticated, take on cosmetic art.” (www.kamamakcosmetics.com)