As an editor of horticulture books at Timber Press in Portland, Ore., for eight years, Juree Sondker learned a thing or two about plants. But she didn’t fully understand their power — until she edited JJ Purcell’s “The Herbal Apothecary.” “I was always interested in taking herbs internally, but I had never thought about their topical uses,” Sondker says. Working with Purcell, a highly regarded naturopath, Sondker got a crash course in foraging and distilling natural remedies to cure everything from muscle aches to insomnia. The postscript to completing the manuscript: Sondker applied her extensive knowledge of the plant kingdom into Horticulture Skin Care, her own beauty company, which launched recently. Her first offering is Plant Potion, a natural serum composed of 14 different essential oils to firm and hydrate the skin.
“The formula has a lot of actives, like rosehip, pomegranate and baobab, which promote cell turnover and have high doses of vitamins A and C,” Sondker explains. “Then I balanced it out with nourishing oils, like calendula and borage seed, so the serum is both healing and active.” The final blend, she says, is the “equivalent of a green smoothie — super powerful but natural.”
Creating the right formula wasn’t entirely different from her day job, in fact. “Editors need to be incredible researchers, to seek out answers from everywhere,” says Sondker, who adds that much of the process involved researching “the most powerful plants to apply topically.” The initial batches went to family and friends, including Lisa and Samantha Jones, the co-owners of Pigeon Toe Ceramics in Portland. “When they wanted to carry it in their boutique, I thought, ‘I better form a LLC and do this thing for real.’”
To that end, Sondker is taking a few months off from editing to garden full time. “I’m working on a face mask next, which will have an even more powerful concentration of the superfoods found in Plant Potion,” she says. To keep up with demand, Sondker sources ingredients from sustainable growers and suppliers (nearby Mountain Rose Herbs is a favorite) but still grows a small supply in her backyard, where a small plot is filled with herbaceous perennial borders and resembles what she calls a “modern meadow.”
Here, Sondker shares with T how to make a revitalizing summer face mask, using homegrown ingredients.
Superfood Face Mask
Cucumbers are high in vitamins A and C, as well as silica, so they really are a superfood for your skin. Rosemary and calendula are both healing and anti-inflammatory, and the honey is incredibly clarifying and moisturizing. As a special boost, I sometimes add four to five drops of Plant Potion, but any favorite serum will work.
1/2 cucumber, peeled
1 to 2 teaspoons raw, local honey
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary leaves
1 teaspoon calendula oil* (or Extra-Virgin Olive Oil)
1. Mix all the ingredients in a blender to form a creamy consistency.
2. Rub the concoction on your face and neck, and leave on for 20 to 30 minutes, ideally when taking a bath so the steam can help the ingredients absorb.
3. Wash off.
*If you’d like to make your own calendula-infused oil: Place six to eight ounces of dried calendula flowers in a clean, dry 16-ounce glass jar and cover with Extra-Virgin Olive Oil until the jar is almost full. Put the jar in a sunny place to infuse for three to four weeks. Drain the petals from the oil with cheesecloth and return to the jar. This amazing oil will keep for 10 to 12 months, when stored out of direct sunlight.