Aromatherapy and Skincare: Inspire Health Inside and Out with Dr. Sarah Villafranco (founder, Osmia Skincare)

Essential Oils for Skincare & Wellness

Dr. Sarah Villafranco founded Osmia Skincare in 2012, and has grown this natural, indie brand into a team of over 20 people over the past 11 years!  Osmia is a beautiful brand with a magnetic founder, and this podcast episode is your official invitation into the Osmia experience... stay tuned for the description of the bee nest around the mid way point in this episode for a little extra inspo for your day 🤗

Here's a link to those bee nests.

Follow Osmia Skincare:

Full transcript (spelling errors will be found below... transcript is thanks to AI Glasp plug in and has not been edited thoroughly because Rain Organica's a 1 woman with a day job show!


Brandy:  Today I'd like to welcome Sarah Villafranco the founder of Osmia Skincare to the show Sarah thank you so much for being here yeah thanks for having me would you mind starting off just sharing a little bit about Osmia?

Sarah:  Yeah so we are a natural skincare brand based outside of Aspen Colorado and our mission is really just healthier happier skin um we um try to use sort of Nature's simplest most powerful ingredients to get great results for people even with pretty tricky skin conditions like dermatitis, eczema, and acne.

I spent, in my previous career, 10 years as an emergency room physician and I think that education, training, and practice sort of allowed me to get this really cool perspective on health and wellness and how we can participate in our own health in sort of a joyful way and that's really what we try to do with the brand.

Brandy: So starting off with Osmia Skincare have you always been soaps and lotions and all of it or did it start off more slowly?

Sarah:  I tend to be like an All or Nothing kind of girl.


Sarah:  and so I started the company after really I took a class making soap and I so that was the first thing I learned to do and it was right after my mom died and my second daughter was born so I was in this like grief hormonal Perfect Storm situation and I just I've been practicing medicine for 10 years and I felt... I left medicine.

I still love medicine, but I felt like I was working in a pretty broken system and I was sort of having to do a lot of things that didn't make all that much sense to me and so I I like needed to do something different just to shake up my brain and have some creative outlet and so I took a class making soap and then that was I mean it was like a that you know instant brain chemistry switch for me where I loved the hard science of soap making like if you don't get the chemistry right you end up with what I like to call not soap.

And so that chemistry is sort of non-negotiable and I love that piece of it but then there's so much Artistry to be woven into soap and it can be so much more than a mundane thing that you use in your shower so then once I kind of dialed in the soap making and got to where I had a bunch of soap things that I loved at that point I was deep into the research about ingredients and really pretty stunned at what I was finding about the stuff we're using on our skin every day so then I thought well I'm not going to launch a brand until I can kind of cover someone head to toe in healthy ingredients and so by the time we launched and by the way I do not recommend this for anybody starting a brand I had like 30 skus when I launched.

And, it's just it was bananas I mean just it's crazy to try to grow a brand when you have that many at the start.  We have 50 something now I mean it's it's nuts we're actually like starting to pull some excuse back because it's just it's too hard to support such a broad distribution especially because we make most of the products ourselves so it's just um yeah I recommend starting smaller than I did but but yes I started the whole thing.


Brandy:  You brought up two pieces of this conversation that I very much would like to get into over the course of this episode:

1) one of those being elevating beyond the mundane and then the

2) second one being the ingredients

and so maybe we'll start out with the ingredients piece of what were you finding  that are in all of these mass-produced lotions.


Sarah:  Yeah, so a couple of things like there's a lot of fear-mongering going on out there and I want to say that I'm not really interested in that because you know I didn't start the brand to take advantage of a bunch of like buzzwords and start throwing the word non-toxic around and not know what it means right so I dug in really hard during the early days to figure out where there was science and or emerging science and so if you um look on our packaging let's see one of our boxes right here but if you look on our packaging you'll see something called The Tox Screen and I use that term because it's a term we used in the emergency room so someone comes in they're sort of


um non-communicative or seem to be intoxicated in one way or another we don't know what's in their system we run what's called a talk screen right and that tells us do they have benzodiazepines do they have opiates do they have you know marijuana do they have alcohol like what do they have in their system well we kind of know what we're working with we I took it on our packaging to be like here are the things you're not going to find in our um products just so that it's like a quick like let me scan this okay and


they're like I think there's seven ingredients there so I these are the ones that I chose I chose:

  • parabens
  • phthalates
  • petrochemicals
  • ethoxylated ingredients
  • synthetic fragrance
  • synthetic color and
  • sulfates
so those are the the seven things now the places that after 10 years of being in this business now the places that I think I see the most compelling evidence either in scientific studies or in my observation um which I count because it's 10 years of observing people with skin issues now um the places that I think are the most


important are parabens from a scientific standpoint and um ethoxylates from an environmental standpoint and sulfates from a skin irritation standpoint and synthetic fragrance as well for the irritation both skin irritation and just general um systemic irritation those are those are sort of the things where I'm like okay your eczema is not getting better until you get rid of synthetic fragrance and um sodium oral sodium laureth sulfate it's just not going to happen like it might it might get a little better but


as long as you are continuing to assault it on a daily basis by wearing clothing that you've washed and tied it's not going away yeah and I love what you just said about that because I think in my own health Journey it was it was tackling these little pieces it was doing all the glamor work without necessarily getting to the core of the issue so I really love that you mentioned that um with I think just anyone listening the ingredient that you or the class of ingredients that you just listed that maybe they're


not as familiar with would be a phospholates yeah so I'm sorry it's such a dorky like scientific word but it's um it's essentially anything that has been ethoxalated and what basically you have a skincare ingredient let's say it's something that I mean a really really common one is phenoxyethanol so phenoxyethanol is a preservative that's very effective preservative and I want to be clear I think skin care if it has a water component must be preserved I'm not an anti-preservative person because


that's dangerous right it has to be preserved but it can be done so with pretty healthy ingredients and I'm also not saying phenoxyethanol is going to give you cancer so I want to be clear about that too but phenoxyethanol is an ethoxylated petrochemical so it falls out of our formulas for those two reasons not so much because there's been a a ton of sort of scientific evidence showing that it causes disease in humans particularly but to your question about ethoxates it's just me it's been treated whatever


the ingredient is it's been treated with ethylene oxide (a gas) which is by the way a carcinogen.  The process of ethoxylation causes essentially a byproduct of of something called 1,4-dioxane and 1,4-dioxane is a contaminant in most water sources most groundwater at this point um and it has not it's maybe a carcinogen and definitely a mutagen meaning it causes mutations in smaller species like um fish and frogs and stuff and I kind of really care about the little creatures we share the Earth with um and so that's really the reason that


we don't use it is just because of the environmental contamination aspect of ethoxylation.

Brandy: okay yeah thank you for explaining that and I also feel like in addition to those that you listed um you are the brand itself goes beyond that in assessing ingredients just score their bioaccumulation as well and for instance here I'm thinking specifically about EDTA yeah I mean it just hasn't it hasn't it never there are certain things that like didn't even come into my thinking to use right like so there's some stuff that's


like not in our tox screen that you know that isn't shown on our packaging but that just didn't even occur to me to be used because I was like okay like what why would I there's yeah there's just so many better options out there so um like silicones that that type of stuff like right like I just I don't feel the need to use them and so yeah there is a whole lot of ingredients that we leave behind but um you know not more just because I didn't really have interest in them okay and I mean and yes I'm sure that I just


didn't I didn't find the evidence to be like so the seven that I chose I had like hard studies that kind of made me feel like this is a you know non-negotiable the other stuff was more like junk food I was like yeah when I put like that does nothing for me does nothing for the formulation does nothing for your skin why would I put it in yeah ah yes and so the equating your skin care products to diet this is actually one of the things that I love to do and I love that parallel that you just drew there by you know equating


silicones to junk food that's it's very it's quite a beautiful analogy it's a simple analogy I mean it's it's a car you put junky fuel in you're gonna get junky performance and it happens with your nutrition and it happens with your skin too yeah so one of the kind of expanding Beyond because one of the things that osmia skin care is known for is helping people with perioral dermatitis and maybe can we maybe talk about your passion for I mean it is fans Beyond period or oral dermatitis however it's just


um it's just the fact that you know that is definitely one that you have so much literature on your website and like so much passion for in this shows up in social media and other places as well so let's talk about that for a few minutes sure and you know the reason I'm passionate one of the reasons I'm passionate is because I have it right so of course like a lot of skin care brand Founders they're trying to solve a problem for themselves uh ultimately we're all selfish and vain to some


degree and you know I mean I didn't I hated having this situation on my face that just made me feel so uncomfortable and yes it's you know first world problems or whatever you want to call it but the fact is if you're interacting with people every day with a skin condition that's really really noticeable and you can tell people are kind of looking away or trying not to look at that part of your face or what it just undermines your sense of who you are and you start to redefine yourself in a way that doesn't feel true and


that's why I really like identify with people who are struggling with this condition so um the and the truth of um how I got onto making mine go away was that it was a bit of an accident um I was out to make a beautiful bar of black soap that's like I remember growing up and my friend uh Stacy's mom who is this super Posh woman who had that cool gray streak in her hair and she smoked like the really long cigarettes and she just was like this I don't know really interesting character she used to use this bar of soap by erno


Laszlo do you remember that bar no it's like a 47 bar of soap but it's pitch black um and by the way filled with a lot of ingredients that I would not use in a bar soap but I always loved it was sort of Sexy and I was like I want to make a cool sexy bar of black soap so I did and I made our black clay facial soap and I started using it and saw my dermatitis start to settle down for the first time in years despite having tried truly I mean the whole straight up Western Derm root and the you know being olive oil


and powdered sugar on it I tried everything and so when I saw my dermatitis started to go away I was like oh is it the soap so I stopped and it came back started and it went away again and then I realized like okay this is there's a cause and effect here and then I started just passing out chips of black clay facial soap to random people on the street I was like hi do you see that redness around your nose and your smile lines that's called perioral dermatitis would you like to try this bar of soap that I formulated and just kept getting


more and more feedback from people who were like wow this is actually helping and if you look on our you know our site now there's like over a thousand reviews of that one little bar um from people who have really seen a difference in their skin why does it work probably um Dead Sea mud is is my guess it's hugely rich in minerals and in Sulfur and sulfur is both anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial and I think it just takes things down a notch so um so when I then when I figured that out then I thought okay well I had been


testing every like oil known to the planet on my face because I wanted to know exactly how each one sat on your skin and how it penetrated and how long it lasted and kind of you know be able to really understand how these oils felt so that I could use them in combination in a way that made a lot of sense but it turns out PD does not like oils at all and so I realized the more water-based things I was using on my skin the happier my skin got and that's when I developed purely simple face cream um as a you know sort of it's not water


but it's aloe which is water soluble as the main ingredient it has a lower percentage of oils than most creams have and so that's why that product seems to help dermatitis in a lot of cases as well so and then like I said I mean you have to make other lifestyle changes and that's the piece that's sometimes really hard to get people onto especially if they don't have much of an interest in natural stuff right like if they're full on I love chemicals I'll put gas on my face if you tell me it will make me


look younger like there's and sometimes those folks end up with pd2 and they don't want to give up their laundry detergent or their perfume or their um shampoo and conditioner and I'm like you got it you have to make all of the changes if you want to not struggle with this for the next two decades of your life like if you want it not to come back every single time it has an opportunity to yeah yeah let's kind of switch gears and talk about the word osmia yeah also a nerdy medical reference um and it was pre-covered I started the


company in 2012. and I was looking for um something that you know was a word that was sort of nice to say and was a little different and I was looking through medical words and I came across the word anosmia which is the inability to smell and people know that now because of coven um if you're pregnant you often have hyperosmia where you can smell things from a mile away um sometimes certain brain conditions can cause a situation called parasmia which is an altered sense of smell where you smell like truck fumes or cigarettes


or something but there wasn't a word that was just osmia the only place it existed is as a genus of B so there are osmia bees which if you have time to Google osmia bee nests they create their nests out of flower petals and they're the most beautiful pieces of art you'll ever see in the animal kingdom it's so cool um anyway but that's what it means is really like I wanted it to mean a sense of smell because I was very invested in the smell component of a lot of our products and I also wanted it to pull


back a step and mean a sense of your life and just like let our products remind you to drop in and just be in that moment for a second and then go to the feed the dog and get to work and deal with screaming kids and whatever but like if you can take that one second to be and be there for yourself great I this the first time I heard about the bees Sarah I think this just adds a whole nother layer to that word for your brand yeah that's beautiful um so okay speaking of osmia what you just said that was profound


like I'm over here about ready to cry quite honestly that was beautiful um um and with the osna products because that fragrance is such a signature of the brand and here when we're talking fragrance of course we're talking those essential oil blends and this Aroma therapeutic part of the brand um I mean really from osnia's all the way from your seasonal uh limited edition whether this is the CR whether whatever whatever that looks like whatever form it takes whether it's the Soaps your Craft series whatever


um how I guess what inspired you to really start those Craft series you know I think um I think it's just a celebration of the seasons you know um I live in a place where we have four seasons granted the winter is the longest of all of them but um we have four seasons and um I'm pretty tapped into the the smells that go along with each I always happen right like that petrichor after a summer rain or the smell of um you know Earth as it's coming out from under snow um in the last three days I've watched


snow melt and crocuses Bloom on our property and and it's about to dump some more snow so I feel bad for the courses um but you know those things the the sense of smell that sort of it it connects us so instantly to things right and like the um here's yet another nerdy medical thing so your olfactory nerve which is your the nerve with which you smell is the only one of our 12 cranial nerves that is actually exposed to the external environment so inside your nose there's something called the cripper form plate


and the nerve endings of the olfactory nerves stick down through this plate and they actually contact the air and there are no other cranial nerves that do that and the way I think of it is it's sort of like it's like the expressway into your brain so these you know the receptors at the end of the the olfactory nerve come in contact with these Aroma molecules and they get on the the HOV v Lane and they just zoom right into you know the sort of emotion and uh memory zones of your brain um which are very tied also into sort of


what like lizard brain Primal stuff right and that's why like you can walk into a room and all of a sudden be thinking about your grandmother and not know why and then eventually someone like hands you something that is like or you see a stack of Fresh Cedar Wood and you realize that cedar smell is was your grandmother's closet and you like you didn't even know what was going on it happened so fast that you were just remembering your grandmother and you weren't sure why right and so the power of that was


always really clear to me and so um and so so then I also like I have my own memory of my childhood my mom was a lawyer in Washington DC and she was a partner in law firm at a time when they did not make accommodations for women to become partners and so um you know she's trying to have babies and be a partner and just working incessantly and so hard and I didn't see her that much as a kid but when I when she was home I'd sit like in the bathroom while she was doing her routine and I remember her using


um Clarins oils Clarins facial oils which you know contain a lot of ingredients now that I wouldn't use but back then we're sort of more on the natural side and actually did use some essential oils um and I remember seeing her slow down like I could see she could start her routine and then when she would smell I could see her just stop and like inhale and slow everything down as she would put these oils on her face I know and I kind of I saw that the power of that as well so I think that's why my fascination


with scent you know wove itself into our formulas although we also have a lot of unscented products for people who are super sensitive and just can't handle any smell which is a thing um well there okay there are so many directions that I I want to take this um in the interest of time just maybe kind of um pulling back for a second uh actually I want to ask one more question about the oh my therapy side um because you have spent quite a bit of time researching all of these different smells and how they impact the body I


mean you you talk about Dr Robert tisserand and some other like renowned people within the aromatherapy space so let's let's talk about that just a little bit in more detail for a few minutes yeah I mean I think um a few years back and I posted a reel on our Instagram about this I don't know a year or two ago there was an article in the New York Times um it said something like our essential oils in skin care killing your skin or something like that I can't remember the exact title but and it was about


um people using products with essential oils and having really terrible skin reactions which can happen right um but like reading about this specific products you know like one was like a peppermint face mask and I'm like well yeah mint on your face who I want to know right and yeah you know another one was I can't remember what it was somebody who I I can't remember what the examples were but there were like two or three examples where in this article I'm like well okay essential oils are medicine


and if you want to use them willy-nilly and just put a bunch of crap in a in a formula because it smells good together yeah they're going to be consequences and so you know I I think using them properly and in the right concentrations and combinations they're super powerful and potentially really helpful and are there still people who can't tolerate them yes absolutely there are but I think it's really really important to educate yourself a lot of these essential oils have dermal maximums which but I mean that's just saran's


book right there um um I look every time I create a Craft series every time I create anything I'm looking at dermal maximums and I'm looking at safety and pregnancy and I'm looking at any other you know there's a couple where if you have history of a seizure disorder you really shouldn't be using this essential oil Etc so I mean it's really important to to look that stuff up and to to know it um and and so yeah I think it's that's a piece about the a lot of them smaller Brands started by people who


don't have a scientific background and who um are really passionate about plants and and that's a beautiful thing but you you have to be a scientist when it comes to skin care formulations because you can cause a lot of trouble for people yeah and thank you for bringing out pregnancy because that was something else that I wanted to talk about so this is something else that Bosnia skin care does a great job of listing out which essential oils are safe for use during pregnancy you have several blog posts on this and it's


something that you talk about and then in addition you mentioned that you have an entire fragrance-free lines um for people who are sensitive to Smells for any reason right for the pregnancy piece of it by heck well by the time you started osmia you'd already had both of both of your daughters was it something that you started for any of your friends someone that worked at osme or just with the knowing that um you know this is what pregnant women are going to be interested in yeah and not only that I know that um


when you after you've had a baby you you want to be careful about what you're using especially if you're going to have a lot of you know which hopefully you are going to have a lot of contact with the baby you know babies systems are pretty like labile and fragile for six to 12 months so they really shouldn't have any essential oils in their lives for that first year-ish some people start you know after six months but I think it's really important to be able to have products that moms can use on


themselves and use on their babies and just not worry about it because there's like enough during that time it's enough to worry about it's enough to try to sleep is your milk coming in and is the baby pooping and I mean it's like enough you shouldn't have to think about what you're putting on your skin and the stuff they send you home from the hospital with is like I just I just can't believe we're still sending people home with that stuff it's like shocking to me but it's a


little behind the times yeah maybe we'll catch up um okay is there any let's see so we talk about talking about pregnancy and postpartum and so yeah it sounds like during that postpartum period it's just it's best to avoid any kind of essential oil at all yeah I mean look if you um let's say you are in a good pattern and you put the baby to bed and you want to take a shower and you want to put some night body oil or something with a little bit of lavender and help you sleep through the night you're probably fine by the


morning to nurse again and that kind of stuff I think you've got to weave a little common sense into it there's no hard science on any of it and even within the essential oil expert Community there is disagreement right so like a traditional Chinese medicine practitioner might say something different than an aromatherapist might say something different than Robert tisaron right and so that I tried in our blog post about essential oils during pregnancy I tried to like synthesize the the how can I bring this all into one


point of view because it's it's a little tricky but there's very there are a few essential oils like Penny Royal and Birch that just should not be used by pregnancy or by pregnant people ever for any reason because of the chance of it causing a miscarriage or loss of the pregnancy and so um but they're just they're so few and the rest of it is kind of like just doing the best we can with the information we have um so you know I guess I just I say you know if you want to err on the side of safety and not worry about anything


then you know six months to a year of no scent in your products and that's going to include your hair care and your laundry detergent please please please everybody change your laundry detergent and not just to something or other free and clear right let's change it to something that doesn't have SLS in it also so you got to get rid of the fragrance and the SLS so your little baby doesn't have eczema and all kinds of dermatitis and little rashes okay as we start to wrap up is there anything that we haven't talked about that you'd


like talk about hmm um you know I sort of was looking a little over your your background and it's um I guess I would ask you how do you stay um hopeful because like within my own little Echo chamber like you know our 45 000 followers on Instagram and our you know loyal customer base who all like are signed up to to use healthier ingredients and save the planet and um and help themselves get out of their skin condition whatever it is and and they're willing to like invest financially emotionally energetically in


making changes but then like it's like you take one lap through any major airport and you're assaulted with so many synthetic scents and so people with um just such an array of people using products that you know are just so terrible for the world and their health and sometimes like after 10 years in the industry like I'm I'm still here with my little megaphone like you know trying to spread the word but it's like sometimes it feels really hard to make change and um to get people on board to help


themselves so I guess I'm asking you how you stay hopeful about that and um if you have any and because you work in a world that is linked to um chemicals right um and so yeah I just any thoughts you could share about about how we continue to share education and create create meaningful change in a way that feels positive and good to people um that's a great question Sarah so I think part of it is yes my day job is in Pharma and I myself have had this incredible just looking back over the history of my life


I've had my own incredible transformation from where I started as very much reliant on Western medicine from the get-go like from from birth I my mom had to have a C-section the umbilical was wrapped around my neck twice um so I was very very reliant on Western for the first I would say four Decades of my life and very much let myself be gaslighted by what um Western medicine can provide and here I'm not saying that Western medicine she thrown out with the bath water but um there's also this huge divide between


where Western science is which is so much farther ahead than Western medicine and where Western medicine is and then there's also all of the money that comes into play but what it what keeps me hopeful is Grassroots movements it's people like Matt Mike Gaskins who wrote In The Name of the pill just talking about the dangers of birth control and really bringing that to light and it's looking back and thinking about where I was and where I am now um in my own life and having that as as something that I can really connect to


and say it's like I have had my own Awakening and I think that Awakening is possible for each and every person on the planet and it looks very different for every single one of us I know my sister is still in the throes of sleep I feel like she's very much anesthetized now um to you know what to just yeah where we are what these what this sea of chemicals is doing um to our bodies and to our environment into a world um but then just also connecting with other people and seeing that seeing the path that other people have


blazed um the path of their own Awakening I think it keeps me helpful thank you for that yeah I mean I'm not walking around like Eeyore you know saying yeah but like once in a while I just get surprised where I'm like wow like I said with a you know a friend of mine came home from the hospital and had a baby and she had the you know I'm not gonna drop brand names but she had like this baby wash and I just was like okay like really it's like yeah wow and so sometimes I just get caught off guard by the ways in which we have stayed the


same um but I'll keep singing my song and you know hope I it it's just I think it's just hard like um as a small brand that doesn't have like a ton of funding to feel like you can move the needle and it's such an important needle to move and I'm so grateful for people who are out there you know in all areas Mark Hyman and you know Casey means and like all these people who are um sort of calling medicine out for like wait guys this doesn't it really doesn't make sense how we practice which is why


I left the ER right because I was like this doesn't this doesn't actually make a lot of sense we're not talking to people what they're eating we're not talking to them about how they're managing stress we're not talking to them about getting outside and moving like this is literally the fundamental building blocks of of human health and the absence of those things will result in disease period end of story and so how are we not talking about it and like I got more and more frustrated with that which is


why I left so I feel like there is a movement happening at least in medicine but I feel like this skin care piece is kind of like a sad little hitchhiker you know along for the ride and I'm hoping we can stay along for the ride and that the general awareness that's growing um about you know nutrition will kind of naturally fall into place for people um when it comes to skin care as well because ingredients are ingredients whether they're in or on um so yeah I think there are good things happening but it's just it does


sometimes feel like you're sort of yelling into the void and that can be that can be frustrating especially I guess the other piece that's frustrating is just when when Brands come in and do the whole green Washi thing um right we are so clean and we're non-toxic and we're this and we're that and I'm over here going like sorry um you're not though like you're you're not you're actually just lying and that's really frustrating a small brand that's like been really trying to do


things right and tell the truth from day one um and so that and that kind of stuff like whatever that's just the way of the world I get it um but sometimes it's a bummer yeah and I totally agree um I think what you mentioned with the nutrition piece and you're hoping skincare will tag along for me I had the exact opposite story for me it's always been the skincare first and then it it's what you said earlier in the conversation it's not just your skincare it's not just your diet it's everything


that's going into your body so it was me taking a hard look at oh yeah but I'm still taking hormonal birth control like ha could that be causing some eyebrow problems and you know is this it's this huge piece but it took all of these other things that took all of these other changes it took all of this other like it was it was an evolution of the mind it wasn't just waking up one day and being like okay it's all it's all clean and you know my life's right now or or whatever right yeah


um it's a good word for it yeah there was something else as you were talking that I thought about but it's escaped me already so yeah well welcome to my perimenopausal brain that's normal way it'll come back you can email me all right how can people connect with you um our website which is Osmia Skincare.


And that's our handle on all social platforms obvious skin care so okay those places

Brandy: okay awesome thank you so much for your time Sarah.

Sarah:  Thanks Brandy! I appreciate it and it was nice to chat with you in person instead of just seeing you on tick tock

Brandy:  yeah same here it was very nice to talk with you in person instead of watching IG stories

Sarah:  yeah exactly all right have a great rest of your week thanks for having me thank you


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