Skintelligent Design: Daron Hope practices herbal alchemy with EarthTonics.

Hope, James and Privett at the EarthTonics Apothecary.

By Nancy D. Lackey Shaffer | Photos by Viktor Budnik

The skin is the largest organ in the human body, and it is a miraculous thing. It is one of the primary ways we experience the world, providing tremendous sensory input through touch. It also serves as our first line of defense against harmful organisms, prevents dehydration, helps regulate body temperature, produces hormones, aids metabolism and has the capacity to heal.

Taking care of our skin is a big part of self care, for reasons that go way beyond aesthetics. And for Daron Hope, the founder of EarthTonics Botanical Skincare, self care begins with the healing power of nature and its ability to stimulate “your skin’s innate healing intelligence.”

BOTANICAL ALCHEMISTS Daron Hope, Brendan Willing James and Marty Privett are the team behind EarthTonics.

Natural BEAUTY

Ojai-based EarthTonics offers a line of nourishing products designed to give skin the nutrients it requires and the love it deserves. Made by hand in Hope’s Ojai studio, they rely largely on naturally derived ingredients to get the job done: flowers and mushrooms, roots and leaves, hydrosols…every single drop derived from plant-based components.

“These are precious potions — pure nature,” Hope explained.
It’s an ethos instilled in her from a young age. Her father owned a health food store in Santa Barbara called Hope and Hagen’s, while her mother “was a vegetarian with a love affair with natural remedies.”

“My family understood that organic was very important and that the toxins we expose ourselves to accumulate over time,” said Hope.

Growing up in Ojai, Hope recalled being “just a barefoot kid running around, picking weeds and making pretend potions.”

Eventually, those “pretend potions” developed into the real thing. As a teenager, she struggled with her own skin, which was sensitive, reactive and prone to breakouts. She turned to homemade, synthetic-free components for relief. By age 18, she was making her own skincare products. They were so effective that friends and family noticed, and asked Hope to make some of these skin treats for them as well.

“That’s when I recognized that there was a demand for this.”

MAGIC IN A BOTTLE Daron Hope sprays on the light, lovely and nourishing Botanical Toning Mist for an additional dose of skin-supporting nutrients.

Skincare BEGINS WITH Self Care

She started small — in her home kitchen, as a matter of fact, making products that she’d sell at the farmers market. By referrals and word of mouth, her customer base expanded.
“After getting started with manufacturing, I wanted to understand better how the skin functions, so that I could make my products most effective,” she said.
EarthTonics began around 2008; Hope became a licensed aesthetician in 2010-11, and set about refining her product line. Using her own creams, oils and serums on clients enabled her to demonstrate first hand the many benefits love, care and plant-based products could bring to the skin.

“Something I learned early on, your skin and nervous system develop in tandem,” Hope said.

“When you take a moment to touch your skin with devotion, it’s very healing for our spirit and nervous system.”

Her “love affair with herbology” combined with a mindful approach to skincare was transformative, for Hope and her clients. And not just on the outside.

“When you’re confident in your skin, you can express yourself,” she explained. “You move more fully in the world.”

According to Hope, EarthTonics has grown “slowly and organically.” Some years ago she made the company her full-time endeavor, and operated out of a space in Meiners Oaks for a while. In 2022 she opened a studio and storefront — which she calls an Apothecary and Refill Shop — on Bryant Circle in Ojai. And while she doesn’t give facials anymore, she still loves helping customers find the right products…and observing how they benefit from them.

“It’s been beautiful to see over the years people who’ve never given much attention to their skin, and having this self-care renaissance. And I love how people get excited about the results.

NATURAL CHEMISTRY Oils, herbs, infusions and other plant-based ingredients come together to create EarthTonics Botanical Skincare.

Exquisite Simplicity

So that’s the who and why of EarthTonics. How about the what?

“All products are focused on the idea of simplicity,” Hope said. “Skincare is so easy to complicate.”
It is her philosophy that what skin really needs is “bioavailable nutrients and a lot of love.” Her basic routine is a total of three steps: A gentle cleanse, an infusion of nutrients and maintaining the skin’s natural barrier — which will, in essence, “support the skin’s innate ability to heal.”

“The skin barrier is our body’s first line of defense,” she explained. “Skin has a whole flora to it and natural oils. It’s naturally acidic, with a pH in the 5-6 range. And it helps our skin function.”
The cardamon cream cleanser, for example, is exceptionally gentle and “microbiome friendly,” with fruit enzymes to smooth and tone and herbs that moisturize and balance. (It also smells delicious.)

Follow that up with a few pumps of the lightweight but luxurious and oh-so-nourishing Immortelle Mushroom Mylk, made from five different medicinal mushrooms.

The Apothecary doubles as a refill shop, where Hope and Privett will happily restock your glass containers for zero-waste skincare.

“They are incredibly anti-inflammatory. When skin is inflamed, they’ll quell that fire,” Hope said, adding that the serum simultaneously calms redness, supports elasticity, helps with breakouts and moisturizers. All in one silky substance.

For a little more nourishment, the botanical toning mist hydrates and refreshes, and balances the skin’s pH. It’s made from herb and flower essences, including orange blossom, rose, holy basil and chaga mushroom, distilled as hydrosols, which carry a plant’s therapeutic properties in a way that’s biologically easy for the skin to absorb. Same with the facial oil, which is deeply conditioning yet featherlight on the skin…and a great way to add more moisture if needed.

These are just a few of Hope’s offerings, which include moisturizers, body oils, a nontoxic deodorant and even a special tonic developed for breast tissue. EarthTonics products are designed for all skin types — although truthfully, Hope doesn’t really categorize skin by “types.” She has found that most people have skin that either produces more oil or less oil; “anything else is just an experience you are having.” And thus, EarthTonics is readily adaptable to whatever the skin needs.

And for those not sure where to start, pop into the shop and ask the creator herself. “One reason we wanted to have the shop is so that people could come in and get advice on what will work best.”

Decadent products for face and body make skin look and feel beautiful.

Earth First

“Earth” is right in the name, and Hope’s all-natural approach is tied more closely to the land than the lab. All the love she pours into skincare is mirrored in her manufacturing process, which is designed to be gentle to the planet, too.

“Everything we work with is fair trade and organic,” Hope attested. “We source some products locally, and some herbs from Oregon (because some things don’t grow well here). We work with Sweet Mountaintop Farm [on Rincon Mountain] for our hydrosol distillation, and our shea butter comes from a women’s co-op in Mali.”

The company gives back to the planet directly, too: For every tonic purchased, EarthTonics plants a tree through Trees for the Future, a nonprofit organization focused on land restoration in developing communities around the world.

The Discovery Travel Kit includes sample sizes of several EarthTonics products.

Hope and her team — Production Manager Marty Privett and husband Brendan Willing James — prepare, blend, pour, package and label everything by hand at the apothecary. Most of the equipment is similar to what one would find in a kitchen: a large immersion blender, double boilers, piping bags, pitchers. The products come in lovely glass containers, which she’ll happily refill for customers.

“So many people in our community are interested in zero waste,” Hope said. “That has been a fun evolution.”

Hope isn’t sure how EarthTonics will evolve further — but there’s no question that her skincare line has been embraced by the community. More and more customers are showing up at her space for these delightful concoctions that are guaranteed to make skin look and feel beautiful.

“I think people really respond to our ethos: slowing down with your skincare,” Hope said. “These products are made with love from the essence of Mother Earth. They’re designed not just to heal the skin, but to heal our relationship with our skin.”

EarthTonics Botanical Skincare Apothecary and Refill Shop
416 Bryant Circle, Unit O, Ojai