Brand Profile and Interview with Lydia Diaz of WEBA Naturals

After trying many conventional products to soothe and heal her dry, sensitive skin, and finding that nothing worked, she discovered the reason for this was that she had developed an extreme chemical sensitivity.  All of the ingredients used in mainstream personal care products were making her feel miserable and causing her watery eyes and headaches.  Upon making the switch to all natural products, these symptoms disappeared.

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After this discovery, she began her journey into the world of herbal remedies, plant-based treatments and ancient practices.  Formulating products in her kitchen and sharing them with family and friends led to the business she has created today.  Lydia not only focuses on sourcing wonderful ingredients, she is also passionate about giving back to her community and is striving for a zero-waste manufacturing process.

Lydia is so kindly sharing her story on The Greenly Guide today.  In addition to sharing more about herself and her brand, she has also very generously provided a discount code that can be used on their website!  Now through April 5, 2017, enter the code ‘thegreenlyguide15‘ to receive 15% off your order!  Please read on below for the full interview with Lydia, founder of WEBA Naturals.

The Greenly Guide: After experiencing chemical sensitivities to the products you were using, you eventually turned to creating your own products. As a therapist by training, coming from a very different profession, can you share a little about your background with natural products, how you began formulating and any training you have?

Lydia: After realizing that I could no longer use certain products, I began researching this phenomenon. I learned that I was not alone. I found terms like “Extreme chemical sensitivity” and “Toxicant-induced loss of tolerance (TILT), which has been misunderstood among many professionals. I also realized that I did not experience the same reactions to naturally-produced, plant-based ingredients. I began spending years researching formularies, consulting with cosmetic chemists, attending webinars, and reading anything that I could get my hands on. Everything from aromatherapy and herbal medicine to ayurveda and wild edibles were fair game. I am always learning, and continue to do so to this day. The rest is history.

WEBA Naturals Product layout

The Greenly Guide: WEBA stands for ‘whole earth body actives’ which you have stated guides your decision to provide the highest quality ingredients that are good for us and our planet. Can you talk a little about your ingredients and how you source them?

Lydia: The first rule of thumb is to make certain that wild-harvested essential oils are not endangered or “rare.” I try to ask the right questions when expanding our supply chain so that I can feel good about adding that ingredient to our products. I try hard to source products that are made locally or in the U.S.A., but it isn’t always possible. Most of the oils and butters that we use are sourced in Europe, Africa, and Asia, for example. These products provide real wages to many poor communities in these countries and are a major source of income. Many of our botanicals, however, are grown in the U.S. organically and sustainably, so we buy from them.

The Greenly Guide: On the topic of ingredients, do you have a favorite ingredient that you work with and include in your products? What about any difficult to work with ingredients you have used?

Lydia: It can be difficult to choose one favorite; I have so many. My favorite essential oil is lavender for its healing properties and its relaxing scent. A favorite emollient is shea butter. The only ingredients that I find challenging is the sodium hydroxide that I use to create the bar soaps. Care must be taken with it, as it is a very strong base.

WEBA Naturals Organic French Lavender Sachet
Organic French Lavender Sachet

The Greenly Guide: You have mentioned the importance of simplicity and minimalism within your line, and using multi-purpose products to reduce the number of items a person needs in their collection. Can you share some of the different ways your products can be utilized?

Lydia: All of the bar soaps are “3-in-1” soaps – that is, they are suitable for cleansing, shaving, and shampooing. The secret is in the rich, creamy lather they produce. In fact, ounce for ounce, bar soaps cost less than shower gels. My husband, Marvin, uses nothing else. We like to use the tea tree/oatmeal soap on our dog, Millie. Our balms have as many as ten uses –beard balm, cuticle oil, lip balm, anti-itch salve and everything in between. The lavender balm is also effective against mosquitoes. The Dry Oil is not only effective against frizzy hair and flyaways, but it’s a great massage oil and after-shower oil.

The Greenly Guide: I loved reading about your avoidance of the controversial ingredient palm oil. For those who may not be aware, can you briefly explain why you omit this ingredient and why that was important to you?

Lydia: I first read about the problems with palm oil on the Rainforest Action Network website. “Conflict” palm oil is grown primarily in Indonesia and Malasia, where rainforests are being clear-cut to accommodate this product. It is found in everything from food to feed to cosmetics and skincare. As a result, many native species like the Orangutan, which is now near extinction, are displaced. This is also responsible for many human rights abuses, including child labor practices. I decided early on that my business would not be a contributor to this problem. The butters that I use to substitute it are more expensive, but I feel that it is worth it.  While many big players in the palm oil industry have committed to buying certified sustainable palm oil, we have a long way to go before a total commitment to rainforest-free palm oil can be achieved. I hope that it happens.

WEBA Naturals “Relax” Botanical Handmade Bar Soap
“Relax” Botanical Handmade Bar Soap

The Greenly Guide: For someone who may be viewing your brand for the first time, what are your more popular items that you would suggest someone try to get a taste of what WEBA Naturals has to offer?

Lydia: The first bar soap that I made – “Relax” – is still my most popular item. If you pair that with the Lavender/Tea Tree Body Balm, you have a complete skincare system. Pairing the sugar scrub with the dry oil is also a good combination for normal to dry skin.

The Greenly Guide: In your manufacturing, you strive for a zero-waste process to reduce your impact on the environment. Can you explain a little about the practices you use to achieve this in your production?

Lydia: “Zero-waste” embodies two principles; using what you have and using less than you need to. I engage in both. For example, instead of buying packaging for my shipments I utilize re-used and recycled cardboard boxes and used/recycled paper. I never use bubble wrap or peanuts that don’t degrade. I re-batch our soap ends and mold them into bars that we donate to a local food bank. I re-use and recycle all glass and plastic bottles. My paper towels are recycled unbleached paper or I use cotton towels. Every ingredient is biodegradable. As a result, there is very little that ends up in the trash. While I can’t always control what suppliers send me, I can certainly control what goes out.

WEBA Naturals Awaken Body Smoother
Awaken Body Smoother

The Greenly Guide: In addition to your efforts to reduce your footprint on our planet, you are also passionate about giving back. Can you talk about how you are using WEBA Naturals to support your community?

Lydia: Since I began the business 3 years ago, I’ve given back by donating soap to a local food pantry. I also donate 3-4 gift baskets/year to local charities for their fundraisers. I try to stick to local small businesses when I need professional business services like graphic design and photography. I hire local crafters to make our accessories (sachets and washcloths). I also buy from local businesses. I feel that it’s important for small businesses to support each other given the current retail climate.

The Greenly Guide: What are your goals for WEBA Naturals in 2017, and what new things can we expect from you in the future?

Lydia: I’m always looking for opportunities to partner with businesses that are doing good. I’m hoping to collaborate with a local animal shelter to create a balm that can be used to soothe paw and skin problems. I’m hoping to roll out an ayurvedic deodorant, an oil cleanser, and a few serums. It’s an ambitious undertaking, but I like to aim high.  I will also be doing tabling events later this year, including one at a NYC college for Earth Day. I’d also like to hold a few workshops. I’m excited to see what the future brings for WEBA in 2017 and beyond.

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