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I am a baby-less woman, but I’ve always loved the company California Baby. It all started for me many years ago on a stroll around Larchmont Beauty, LA’s hippest Beauty depo. I asked one of their super friendly staff “what can I buy with Calendula in it?” (as I recently discovered the joys of this wonder herb). He took me directly to the kid section and pointed to their Calendula Cream. “No, no, for me, not a baby” I said. He said “I know what you meant, trust me! You’ll love it.” And I did…
Flash forward many years and many jars of cream later, and everything I’ve learned about this California, female owned, natural, for-more-than just-babies company makes me love it even more. I was delighted at the chance to speak to the gorgeous owner Jessica Iclisoy about her amazing line. (Seriously, look at that photo! Doesn’t it make you want to be healthy?)
And a quick shout out for their online magazine which is an amazing intro to not just the line, but the philosophy and lifestyle behind it. You’ll find tips from Jessica, articles on sustainable living, natural skin care and alternative therapies. It is a wealth of information for anyone already living or hoping to begin a more natural way of life.
wht: When and why did you develop California Baby?
Jessica: I started working on California Baby in 1990 right after the birth of my first son, Ian. Before my pregnancy, I became a vegetarian, starting eating organically and converted my home into a natural non-toxic sanctuary. After my son was born, I was breast feeding him and needed reading material—because when your baby wants to eat, you stop whatever you are doing and feed them, which meant I had time on my hands and I was at the library a lot. I happened to picked up a chemical dictionary and started looking up the ingredients in his baby shampoo, which I had recently bought at a health food store. I found that it contained harsh cleansers such as sodium lauryl sulfate and synthetic fragrances. To say I was alarmed is an understatement; I immediately went about trying to create an alternative product using only pure essential oils and non-toxic cleansers. The research took me several years and California Baby went to market in 1995. I sold the first products to a neighborhood health food store and a few specialty stores; now California Baby is available at every Whole Foods market, Target and Babies R’ Us across the country!
Could you explain to our readers your views on the importance of using natural ingredients on your skin?
To me it’s a combo of natural and non-toxic/non-invasive. After all, poison ivy is natural, but of course none of us would want to use that on our skin—even if it was organic! What makes California Baby different is that we take things a lot further than most companies. We have always used organic and sustainably grown ingredients; way before anyone knew what organic was—so, for us, organic and sustainable is a given.
A few examples of how California Baby digs deeper is that we make sure our vegan oils are processed in a nut free facility (especially peanut). Also we only use the highest quality essential oils—not just “fragrance/cosmetic” quality, which are used simply for scent. Our essential oils actually have therapeutic value because of their quality and purity. Phthalates are found in synthetic fragrances and many times synthetics are added to essential oils—California Baby tests our oils to make sure they are synthetic and pesticide free; this adds to the cost but we think it is worth it.
What still appalls me is that there are companies that sell baby products (even in natural food stores) that use synthetic fragrances. I am always suspicious when I see vanilla on the label because commercially is always synthetic; I question whether these companies are testing their oils so things haven’t changed too much. I think people love California Baby because they intuitively understand the high level of quality that goes into each product.
Why is your line good for adults too?
Because adults have sensitive skin too! I created these products so I could have a skin care line I could use on my baby and myself. Many adults have sensitive skin and a lot of moms today are getting treatments like skin peels and they need a gentle non-irritating product, and California Baby is perfect because we offer a product for all needs. Our washes work great for facial cleansing because they are non-stripping; our creams are healing and help to repair irritated skin (especially eczema); our SPF products are non-chemical and do their job by sitting on top of the skin reflecting skin aging UV rays. Once adults try our products, they are pleasantly surprised that a baby product can be so effective and gentle at the same time.
We were thrilled to find California Baby in Target! Was that an exciting development for you?
Very exciting and very timely because, unfortunately, not every neighborhood has a Whole Foods—but every neighborhood has a Target. We were getting calls from customers telling us stories of having to drive hours to buy our products because they didn’t have a health food store nearby. California Baby was ready for wider distribution, and who doesn’t love to shop at Target?! It’s very hard not to walk out of that store without something cool and unexpected. We think the Target image fits with ours and does not compete with Whole Foods, which is our roots—they compliment each other because they are both great and exciting places to shop. And with the recent addition of Babies R’ Us, which has a terrific gift registry, our customers will no longer have to drive hours to find their California Baby favorites.
What products do you reccommend for adults? And what are your favorite products for kids?
I think every mom should be using our SPF18 daily (SPF30 on hikes and at the beach) and our Calendula cream nightly. Protect your skin with a non-chemical sunscreen by day and soothe and repair at night. That’s my arsenal and I’m pretty skin obsessed. My favorite products for kids are the hand cleanser because we all how important washing hands is to staying healthy. Washing hands is like brushing your teeth—it’s a thankless job but you got to do it. I feel California Baby hand cleansers with their bright and fun packaging motivate kids to want to wash their hands and because our cleanser is mild and non-drying, this will keep them coming back because it feels good.
Any new products in the works?
I always have new products in the works—it’s the finalizing that’s the trick! I don’t like to rush new products simply for the sake of new. California Baby products have to offer value to my customers. I’ve been working on diaper wipes for years; I’m close to final and hopefully will have them out soon. We are adding larger bulk sizes as part of our Reduce, Reuse Recycle brand promise. Buying 1 bulk gallon of shampoo reduces about 15 bottles of the regular size. That’s pretty powerful.
(and I want to personally suggest to Jessica a line for pets, for those of us with fur covered babies! ~S)
And no we heart this interview is complete without a few fun questions from our potluck vault…
Me in a nutshell (describe yourself): Passionate, impatient and hopeful.
You can have front row concert tickets to see anyone, who do you choose? Any way I answer this question I’m in trouble: if I don’t say Oasis, my older son would question my sanity; my younger son would lobby for 50 Cent; my husband is smart so he would stay out of it. I’d have to say David Bowie in his Ziggy Stardust days.
Favorite TV show(s): I love nature shows! Anything with animals, even bugs, I love the whole cycle of life and am in awe of how animals behave instinctively. I try to incorporate how animals raise their offspring into my life. For instance, did you know that when a “teenage horse” behaves badly the mother will ignore him using her body to freeze him out the herd temporarily? This is her way of saying that the behavior is not okay. I see that and think, ignore your kid’s bad behavior instead of reinforcing it with negative attention. Brilliant.
My favorite room in my house and why: Bathroom because that’s where the bath tub is. I don’t feel complete without a daily soak with either our bubble bath, drops of essential oils added to the water or bath salts. This is where I recharge my creative energy. It’s also a laboratory for me—I’m constantly testing new products and new essential oil blends.
Thanks so much to Jessica for the inside look into her brilliant, natural line. If you’ve tried California Baby, let us know your thoughts. And if you haven’t, get thee to a retailer right now!