Written by Adrienne Harvitz
Wellness Educator, Marketing Strategist, Writer
Marie Reyes, the founder of La Bohemia Natural, is a generational herbalist, and medical scientist, currently pursuing a graduate degree in Medical Engineering. An avid traveler who speaks 4 languages and practices the art of flamenco dance, she is also a lover of cultures of the world. La Bohemia Natural is the fusion of her passions for science, healing, beauty, and a life well lived. Read on to learn more about her journey as an entrepreneur in the creation of LBN.
So let’s start at the beginning, how did La Bohemia get started?
When I started the line I was working on permaculture farming, and serving on a couple committees to start Rail Yards Market – I was making things for myself out of necessity based on my own health issues. Then people started asking me to make things for them, and encouraged me to sell them. Our local farmer’s market asked me to develop the line and sell it there, too. So I was like, “Sure, let’s try this!”
Did you feel at all nervous about entering the competitive and saturated beauty industry?
I never felt like it was daunting to get started on a skin care line. I just had the skills to do it, and did. Then the demand just kept growing. I never had to put money into the business for the first few years, I was basically making products to order, and making back those expenses and a profit margin in sales, then I would use that to get more inventory and make more. It was a very organic beginning.
I already had an avenue to get the product to buyers through the local farmer’s markets. I then started doing private parties and other local events. For example, I was invited to plant powered vegan events, UNM’s Christmas show, and Flamenco Works performances. I was able to make product in a room in my house that I turned into a lab. It worked. I just used what I had. I guess that’s how we do it in NM! Bill Gates started in a garage in ABQ, too!
What inspired you to create the line?
Auto-immune disease set me on a path to be very aware of what I put in and on my body. I had to be aware of the symptoms of my underlying condition – I had so many symptoms – issues with my weight, my hormones, my digestion, skin issues, and allergies. Eventually I was diagnosed with celiac disease and other autoimmune problems.
When I found out I had Celiac I went gluten free. My body freaked out and I started to get better, but I had a lot of other problems too. I had lactose intolerance and severe allergies, my skin began to turn colors and become inflamed and have signs of psoriasis. I became even more aware of everything I was eating etc.
I had to become more aware of my personal care products too. I was getting canker sores – when my immune system was attacking the tissue in my mouth. I figured out that a chemical in my toothpaste was triggering it, sodium laureth sulfate. I had to become aware of so much.
It was a drastic change for my quality of life – to become so aware. Once I had already been doing research on nutrition and the ingredients in the food I ate for about a year, I personally decided to make my own skin care products to have this same care with the things I put on my body, because I have to live in it, we all do, right? Just like I had become used to doing with food, I started reading product labels. 8 years later after making those changes, here we are!
In my research, I found that I knew what a lot of the ingredients were because of my background in chemistry and molecular medicine. Some things were very shocking. I discovered that a lot of the ingredients in many mainstream products actually contribute to skin conditions by causing irritation and inflammation. Some of the ingredients in particular are bio-accumulative (they stay in your system and in your body and have different levels of toxicity).
I had heard of these things before, but when I started to look deeper at what was really in the things I was putting on my skin, I didn’t want to use them anymore. I realized I didn’t want things like anti-freeze in my skincare products. This junk has no business being in or on our bodies – if you knew what it was, you wouldn’t even touch it!
Many manufacturing processes use solvents that can absolutely get into food products, but if it’s not a main ingredient it isn’t on the label. I am pretty opposed to anything processed because of that. The body does not take well to those hydrocarbons and chemicals. When beauty products are made in large quantities, they use the same processing tactics, resulting in unlabeled toxins in the products.
At La Bohemia, we create our products in small batches, using ingredients we absolutely know are safe, I can guarantee a product that is non-toxic to people and the environment. I started making the line using passed down knowledge of traditional medicine and herb harvesting from my own family, fuding that generational wisdom with my modern chemistry background in a home lab. Everything we sell started from these humble beginnings.
La Bohemia has everything you need, and nothing you don’t, for healthy, natural radiance.
Everything we use is research backed by medical research from around the world.
You won’t find synthetics on our labels, only pure, evidence based, plant derived goodness.
Can you share more about what you learned about toxic ingredients in beauty products?
Transdermal absorption is the problem. Our skin is a great barrier for protecting a lot of things from entering the body, but it lets a lot of things into the body as well. A lot of synthetic products that are created in the laboratory contain things our bodies have not seen before – so we do not have defenses against or even recognize them as toxins.
Our skin is good at recognizing things it is used to, but with particles that it doesn’t recognize, such as synthetics that we did not evolve with, the body may absorb them at a fast rate or slow rate resulting in a multitude of problems and reactions. Your body naturally may want to mount a defense against them, fore example, when people get bouts of eczema and psoriasis. Absorption rates and reactions can be determined in medical laboratory research.
In medicine, you have to do clinical trials that take years. But that is not true in the cosmetic industry, the industry is not regulated, the FDA does not monitor them, and that research is not funded. Cosmetic and beauty product companies will not necessarily take the time to do that research because they do not have to, and often because they don’t care to. They don’t care about their products putting toxins into your body or the environment, they don’t care about testing to determine that, and the FDA isn’t monitoring it. Things can easily release untested products, and they do harm to people and the environment.
Over time, yes some things come to be known to be toxic and then there are class action suits – but it takes a long time for people to realize it when something is causing problems for them. It’s not obvious or quickly discovered. The case of talcum powder additives causing ovarian cancer is a prime example. It’s very easy for people to end up using toxins without knowing it.
How did you create the product line up that you have today?
So the premise of the products at La Bohemia is that we use things in their natural state. Bodies can recognize it, nature can recognize it, and it’s all biodegradable-naturally. We don’t use any harsh solvents or things that are synthetic or would be harmful or able to break down for other organisms as well.
We do use colloidal silver in our products. We know that because of the size of the particles of colloidal silver it won’t absorb or accumulate into our system, but can stay on the surface of the skin to kill harmful bacteria in the biofilm on the skin. We are using natural and science backed formulas, that we test thoroughly and approve.
What I like is that we don’t have a 20 product daily face care regimen – we have a 3 step process that will take care of you – with a few options to supplement as you like. I am the kind of person that is really busy, and I don’t have time for a ton of products. Our product line has everything you need, and nothing you don’t.
Many other beauty product lines have so many products, many that we don’t really need, can you debunk some of the myths and marketing ploys of the beauty industry?
One of the biggest marketing ploys are skin types. All skin needs is 1. Cleansing 2. Toning and 3. Moisturizing 4. Exfoliation. The base regimen is pretty much standard for all skin. There are things you can do if you feel like you are extra dry or something, but the variation is not so much that you should need twenty different products.
Rather than skin types, you like to think of the state of balance of the skin. The skin, like all systems of body, is constantly seeking homeostasis – a state of balance. Our systems are always seeking balance. We all have a range that our ideal state is within. Our products help all skin find this happy place, or balanced state.
Can you tell us more about what is in your product line up?
We have our basic skincare trio line, featuring the rose or lavender clay bar, our rose water toner, and our rose face oil. People can choose their face bar based on preference. The rose clay bar features geranium and charcoal. The lavender clay bar features lavender extract – it’s gentle. Both of these are for the cleansing step. I also really recommend the use of a washcloth to increase lather, gently stimulating the skin and to aid exfoliation, remove dead skin, and reveal new cells. Exfoliation helps the cleanser penetrate the dermal layers and reach any fungus or bacteria that could be growing on the skin. We have colloidal silver on both bars, which gives extra protection as an anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial on the surface of the skin without penetrating the skin too much.
We also have our charcoal skin care trio line for skin that is more out of balance. Charcoal offers deep extracting and purifying properties that will clear up bacteria or excess oil production, and help the skin restore its own natural state of balance. Some people prefer it for all the time use, and others use it when dealing with issues like acne, inflammation, redness, oiliness, or other qualities that they do not desire in their complexion. This line has a soap and oil with an earthy scent profile, appealing to all genders.
The rosewater toner is the middle step in both skin care trio lines. It is a great moisturizer, evens out your skin tone and draws moisture from the air to your face, which we all need but especially in arid climates like New Mexico. The Rose hydrosol is imported from Bulgaria, they are known to have the best rose products in the world, certified organic. It’s extracted with steam, and this is the base of the product. Then we add rose geranium, and coconut glycerine. We have started putting hyaluronic acid in it, a natural compound that is produced in the body in the joints and serves to rebuild collagen and elastin. On the dermis, it has a plumping effect and helps with wrinkles, and is sometimes called a non -nvasive botox. It’s anti-aging, but needs to be used continuously for the full effects. You can also use it on the ends of your hair, and as a make-up setter. It does a lot of things for you! It’s my favorite product to be honest.
We recommend using the toner as a step after cleansing under your oil, but you can use it again as a final spritz to set your makeup or for a refreshing pick me up anytime.
The face oil is great – none of our products are pore clogging – that’s an important consideration. We chose the oils in the formula based on the size of the molecules. Products made with coconut oil are not good for the face, for example because it’s too big at the molecular level and can cause the pores to expand creating large pores-which people really don’t like on their face. We also have neroli and tea tree extract, known for both skin benefits and antibacterial effects. We source Neroli directly from India and Australia for tea tree. Rosehip seed oil is grown domestically. You will notice that there is some coconut oil in our formula, but it has been separated at the molecular level so it is non comedogenic, that means it doesn’t clog pores the way raw coconut oil does – it’s not what you find on the shelf at the grocery store – and it is absorbable by the skin.
We do have a few extra goodies, too.
We have variety of face masks that people can use for extra moisture and exfoliation and a few times a week. It is great for people with acne or who want an extra anti-aging boost.
We have a new line coming out of cosmetics called Belle Ame – it will be using all plant extracts, very natural as well, and complementary to the skin care line. We will have some lip color and eyeliners, simple things like that. I am working with a chemical engineer on that product, she is a local and does modeling in addition to working as an engineer.
I am also working on an eye cream to reduce swelling and discoloration around the eyes, and support anti-aging on the delicate skin around the eyes. This is to treat people who have medical conditions or other reasons that they deal with these symptoms.
Foundation, powder and concealer are major culprits in causing large pores and break outs. We are not planning to develop these products, but instead encourage taking care of your skin with the skin care line so they are not needed.
Are there any frequently asked questions about LBN that you would like to address?
A lot of times people are afraid to use a bar-based soap for a facial cleanser, they think it would be too drying. Our cleansers are not. When you switch product lines there is always a transition period of 1-2 weeks. Sometimes the skin can be shocked. We definitely encourage people to give their skin a chance, give it some time, and allow the body to adjust. As far as the cleansing steps. We actually add luxurious plant oils back into the formulation, so there is immediately moisture in the product ready and available to go back into the skin. Any cleanser will be drying at first, because it is formulated to remove dirt and oil. This is why additional moisturizing should be used with any cleansing regimen.
Why do you love La Bohemia products, and why should people try it out?
Our motto is: “Taking care of your skin is better than covering it up.” If you have good skin care you shouldn’t need to worry about blemished or uneven skin tone or undereye circles, and then you won’t need make-up. We want our customers to have a natural, radiant complexion and feel confident in the skin they are in!
Thank you, Marie! You are amazing!!!