If you’re tired of the cold and winter, leave it Barbara Jacques, founder of Jacq’s Organics to provide you with a dose of positivity and Florida warmth. Her vibrant attitude and passion for green beauty shine through her brand and this interview. Barbara shares with us her inspiring journey, how to keep things real and why a solid formulation can do wonders.
Could you tell us more about the story of Jacq’s Organics ?
5 years ago, my husband and I decided to start a family. A month later after we found out I was pregnant, I was told I had a tumor in my ovaries. It was not due to an unhealthy lifestyle – I ate well, shopped local at farmer’s market, natural food stores and I exercised daily. I was leading a green lifestyle and considered myself a conscious consumer. However, the lesson I learned is that just because something is sold in a natural food store/farmers market doesn’t mean that is ‘strictly’ good for you. For instance, I was not aware at the time that tofu and chickpeas were mimicking estrogen hormones, thus feeding rumors. It was wake up call and made me gain consciousness of what I was putting inside my body.
During my pregnancy, I was put on bedrest. Every time I’d ask questions to my doctor, he would express his doubts as he was not sure what to do, so they monitored me and recommended not to do anything too strenuous. My illness was hereditary, my mom had some ovarian issues, but I was trying to figure out what provoked it. I started researching online and I came across the systematic effect of skincare on your overall health. I had stopped chemically processing my hair eight years prior to the diagnosis. I was already familiar the parabens and silicones back then, I knew how to avoid them in haircare, but I just did not make the link with food and cosmetics. I was not aware of how harmful they could be until I started researching. I ordered books on skin care and became obsessed with learning about myself. Somehow, this was also my way of healing because doctors wouldn’t provide me enough information, so educating myself, gathering knowledge helped me in my healing journey.
I remember going to Whole Foods and spending an hour on the beauty aisle, reading the back of each product, with my sheet of what to avoid in hand, and realizing that it was not necessarily green. That’s when my husband suggested that I start making my own skincare since I had been doing my own haircare since college. I initially shrugged it off because I thought it would be too much work to take on, but then I took the leap. I started researching on soaps and scrubs and it was such a joyful process, not to mention a distraction and coping mechanism in regards to what I was going through. I love beauty products, I used to work at a Nordstrom beauty department during college which fueled my obsession with makeup. I had boxes of makeup everywhere, under my bed, in my closet, in the bathroom, on the counter, the dresser, even an emergency makeup bag under my car seat (laughs). Friends would come to my house to get ready: I’d do their makeup and hair. I had everything: MAC, Estee Lauder, Clinique, NARS, Chanel, Laura Mercier and the list goes on. I still love makeup but not on that level anymore. Learning about cosmetics was my way of not giving up on my obsession per se, but find another – and healthier – way to indulge.
I had a communications degree and I wanted to work in my field and give back to the community. My intention was not to start a business but to deal with my pregnancy. I only told my aunt and my brother what I was sick. Nobody else knew I was still digesting the news. Being pregnant is such a joyous moment in life, being diagnosed with a tumor at the same time was terrible. I could not enjoy my pregnancy with so much going on, but I kept it all in. That’s when I was confronted with a choice: do I choose to let this control my life or do I choose to live? I chose to live. As a result, I proactively started making formulations, by first following the recipes from books then I started tweaking and playing around. Family and friends that would come by were wondering why I had all that soap in my kitchen. They knew I was already a bit quirky so they were not that surprised when they learned that I was making my own products (laughs). They would ask if I had something for eczema, acne and other skin woes and every time, I’d go back doing my research and formulate something.
My parents are from the Caribbean, Haiti. Most Caribbean people love aloe vera and roots. So I’d call my mother in law and elderly acquaintances I knew to ask them what they used back in the days and why. I would utilize what my family used ages ago. My mom and my aunt would make me drink carrot juice to get rid of the blemishes on my skin. I’d integrate all these ingredients into my products. My obsession with formulating soaps and lotions products was so big that it took a part of the house. I had to buy storage for it. That’s when my husband told me that we could not keep all this soap/lotions at home and that I had to sell it to the farmer’s market, but I initially declined that idea: my mom was an entrepreneur in import/export. During slow season, she’d buy things in bulk and ship them to the Caribbean. During the slow season, we’d have to go the farmers market early in the morning and sell the products she had. I saw what she went through and as an immigrant, I did not want this to happen again. I got an education and my plan was to work in a company.
At first, I started giving everything away for different occasions, such as Christmas and anniversaries. People were stunned to receive a soap as a gift (laughs). Then I got surgery: my daughter was born, my tumor removed and I was at home trying to recover. I wanted to get a part-time job at a company managing community events. I still had all this soap and even when a local newspaper wrote an article about me, it did not feel like a business to me. The CEO of that company saw that article about me and told me that it did not sound like a hobby, but a proper business. I got more comfortable sharing my story. I would manage a lot of community events and she would make me share my story. The more I shared it, the more I realized that many women were going through the same struggles, getting sick for the sake of looking cute. We were suffering in silence. These women had lupus, ovarian issues, and other ailments, but they were not ready to share their stories. I realized then that my story was bigger than me and that I needed to share it with women. Eventually, I sold at the farmers’ market because I just had too much soap. I sold a lot that day and that’s when I realized that I had to sell it. I had no logo, no packaging. I loved what I did – it was therapeutic – and I just kept coming with new stuff. My husband suggested making a website. That’s when I got the logo and launched the company. The more my business grew, the more I realized the impact it had.
Overall it’s been a life-changing and eye-opening experience. Working at an office, for a great cause was my goal but after seeing how fragile life was I realized that my place was somewhere else.
It’s been now 4 years since the creation of Jacq’s Organics; what has been the most challenging aspect of being a skincare formulator.
Now is an amazing time for green beauty, it’s been gaining popularity and awareness. Back then, it almost felt like a small tribe/community. There are a lot of innovation going on in green beauty and while this is great, I also feel like this remains the most challenging aspect. Personally, I’m trying to figure out how to be innovative while staying true to the ingredients I use. While working on my new collection, I was thinking of ways to remain exciting, asking myself how to take it to the next level without resorting to a really industrialized and chemical-laden process. The point is to stay true and organic without selling out. Like a coin, there’s the good and the bad.
You previously mentioning loving using roots but what would be your favorite ingredient?
Tough one! I’m looking at my ingredients sitting on the table as we speak (laughs). There’s a huge misconception about the do’s and don’t’s in skincare. It’s not just the ingredient, the formulation matters too. Grapeseed oil is good for oily skin, but just because it says so in a manual doesn’t mean it’s the only thing you can use. There’s so much room to play with when it comes to ingredients. There are some products that work specifically for one type but some ingredients are also universal. If you have a specific skin issue, there are several options. If you find a good formulator who can make it happen, you’d be surprised at how amazing some ingredients are. I feel like I had to prove that. For instance, some were skeptical about the use of orange in our skincare products but once they tried our revitalizing sweet orange serum, they were sold. If you perfect your formulation, it will be good enough for most skin types.
So according to you, it’s not that much about the ingredient itself, but more about the formulation? Also, what are your thoughts on coconut oil?
Yes. For instance, I love glycerin, especially for conditioning my hair in this Miami weather, but when it comes to skincare, I’m taking my precautions as glycerin provides a greaseball effect. However, I’m learning that with the right formulation and right testing, you could make it work.
Coconut oil is overused, I feel like a lot of companies use it in the wrong way, applying pure coconut oil on the skin is tricky. If you can cook with pure coconut oil, why would you put it straight on your skin? To me, it lacks sense. I did a workshop where some college girls asked me what types of oils they could use as a moisturizer, and if they could applying them straight from the bottle/jar. I told them no: using one pure oil will not cut it, there’s a reason they are mixed with other oils (base oil and essentials oils) to target a specific skin type. I understand that you cannot pay for a 65 dollar serum but don’t use pure coconut oil or olive oil on your skin just because you’ve read it somewhere or someone else is doing it. I don’t care if it praised in the cult press, it just makes no sense. Coconut oil feels like a huge marketing gimmick right now, it’s trendy. When you go outside, use a sunscreen, not pure coconut oil.
What’s your skincare routine like at the moment?
Easy and simple. For my morning skincare, I use our rosemary and lime face cleanser and follow up with our balancing carrot seed face serum. In the AM, I don’t feel like I need to tone. I have oily-combination skin, with some sensitivities. At night, if I’m wearing makeup, I’ll use an oil or if I’m really lazy, I’ll our shea butter as my makeup remover and wash my face with our cleanser, tone it with our balancing carrot con leche toner. I’m in love with that toner. I usually skip moisturizer when I cleanse with oil because when you use an oil-based product to remove your makeup you don’t necessarily need an oil afterward. I occasionally exfoliate/mask, but because I’m a busy mom, I no longer have time to play around or enjoy a full pampering session.What I’ve learned since switching to green products is that my skin can no longer tolerate conventional products. Less is more. I don’t use an eye serum. I’m not concerned about aging right now, I focus on moisturizing. I look forward to aging gracefully. I see older women and I love how they carry those beautiful wrinkles. I just don’t believe on those crazy expectations to look youthful at 70. I think age spots are beautiful. Personally, I embrace it.
I agree with your outlook on aging, sometimes it does feel like this anti-aging obsession is even one of the main factors leading to consume more potentially harmful products. If we look at conventional anti-aging cosmetics, the ingredients are certainly not glorious.
Yes! I’m a believer that if you take good care of your skin while you’re young, aging won’t feel like a problem. How many times have you talked to a beautiful woman and were astounded once she gave her age? Most of them take great care of it early on. Sleeping with makeup is not an option, even though I got to admit that with bedtime stories, I can fall asleep with my makeup on (laughs). That being said, I’m not hard on myself because I take great care of my skin. I was a beauty product junkie, but the more I take care of my skin, the less makeup I feel like wearing. If I want to apply a bit of bronzer on that’s fine, but it’s not that serious anymore.
How do you unwind when things get stressful.
I’m learning to re -unwind. I got so consumed by work and raising my daughter, that I kind of lost myself in the process. One thing I like to do is turning on music and dance, just like a 10-year-old. I try not to take myself seriously. Dancing is infectious…I remember on Saturday mornings, my mom would turn on the music – loud – and we’d dance. I’m perpetuating that tradition. My daughter is used to dancing now. It’s a good way to escape the reality, dancing boosts your endorphins and makes you forget it all.
I used to love going to the beach. I don’t live far from the beach, so before going to work, I would sit on the sand, meditate, without falling asleep (laughs). I would also swim in the ocean water, which is extremely cleansing.
What I’ve also been doing is counting my blessings: every morning on my way to my daughter’s school, my daughter and I dance on our way to school and we find 5 things that we’re grateful for. Sometimes, you can’t even find 5 things, but my daughter has told me to look for the little things. She’s 5 years old, she’s grateful for the sun, so I’ve been learning to be grateful for the sun. I love palm trees, people spend thousands of money to come here just for them (laughs). So I’m grateful for the palm trees.
Last but not least, baths. I love them and they are the reason why I’m holding on to our bath bombs. They are therapeutic, my daughter loves them since I made them for her as a way to enjoy bath time. Essential oils Epsom salts, just soaking it up, laying in the tub, relaxing, turning off the brain and just enjoy a nice long quiet bath.
Can you tell us one exclusive info about the new collection?
We’re from South Florida, so we’re focusing on sourcing local fruits and products. It also helps with keeping the community sustainable and environmental-friendly. So the collection will incorporate tropical ingredients, including flowers and roots that will make the collection unique and exciting.
People would be surprised to know that…
I’m a big kid at heart. Goofy and shy at the same time.
Green hunter, wellness junkie and pun maker on the website, I'm on a journey towards a kinder and healthier life. @lizthegreenspirit on Instagram.