Talking with An herbalist who makes Earth-friendly skin care products

Name: Sarah Buscho
Age: 34
City: Oakland
Position: Co-founder of Earth Tu Face


J.: You were going to become a nurse practitioner and then became an herbalist. How did that happen?

Sarah Buscho: I was going to do both. I had always wanted to be an herbalist, and I wanted to become a nurse practitioner with a holistic approach. I love science and I love nature, and this was a perfect blending of the two. I am especially interested in natural herbs and medicines that help the body heal itself.

J.: You began growing herbs on a plot of land formerly used by Alice Waters, Chez Panisse owner and an advocate of locally grown food. How does she inspire what you’re doing?

SB: We have one plot in San Rafael and another one in Concord. The one in San Rafael was [formerly used] to grow exclusively for Chez Panisse. … When [the grower] retired after 18 years, the landowner knew I was becoming an herbalist and wanted me to take over the space. I took on the challenge. At that point, I got together with Marina [Storm, her business partner], and we sold medicinal plants to local herbalists. Usually they buy their products from far away, and we wanted to apply the same local values about food to our herbs. We started a product line, which eventually became Earth Tu Face.

Sarah Buscho

J.: How did you decide to start a skin care line?


SB: It was a happy accident. Marina and I were in our last year of herbalist school and started making handcrafted products, and they just kind of got their own momentum. Stores took them right away. … A lot of our products have herbs directly from our garden. We also infuse our herbs into oils that we use in seasonal salves or body creams or butters that we sell at the shows we do.

J.: Your products are 100 percent food grade; you’ve even used your body butter to make pancakes. Were they good?

SB: Yeah, they were really good, but probably too expensive to make all the time.

J.: Why is it important that your products are food grade?

SB: Many cosmetic companies use natural things like potatoes, but by the time you’re using those products, they’ve been so heavily processed, they don’t feel natural anymore. It’s also important that our products are good for the outdoors, so you can swim in rivers, or use while backpacking. Every single product of ours is safe when it washes into the ocean or rivers.

J.: Where did you grow up and what was your Jewish upbringing?

SB: I was born in San Francisco, but grew up in San Rafael. I went to Brandeis Hillel Day School in Marin, and was bat mitzvahed and confirmed at Congregation Rodef Sholom.

Does Judaism influence how you think about the environment or your business?

SB: A lot of Jewish holidays mimic nature and the seasons, and I naturally was in tune because of that but also because my parents are avid nature lovers. My dad has a gigantic farm where I grew up, and he has grown most of his own food since the ’70s. We also obviously believe in Jewish values. Right now we’re donating 10 percent of every sale through our website to two wonderful organizations, Women’s Voices for the Earth and the Bioneers Foundation.

J.: Beauty products take an enormous toll on the landfill, with most of their packaging not recyclable. What does your company do to help alleviate this?

SB: We are so anti-trash that we do not want another plastic tube floating in the ocean. Our tubes biodegrade in six months, I’ve done it in my own compost. We also use glass for people to keep and use in the kitchen for spices or what have you. Our labels peel off and leave no residue, and they are recyclable, too. A lot of people are into natural products for themselves, but don’t think about the packaging. Packaging matters, as it often ends up in our soil and waterways, and what’s the point of eating organic and using natural products if you’re going to leave a trail of trash behind you?

“Talking with …” focuses on local Jews who are doing things we find interesting. Send suggestions to [email protected]

Alix Wall
Alix Wall

Alix Wall is a contributing editor to J. She is also the founder of the Illuminoshi: The Not-So-Secret Society of Bay Area Jewish Food Professionals and is writer/producer of a documentary-in-progress called "The Lonely Child."