Rosie Holehouse is the founder of Red Fox Botanicals, a company whose mission it is to bring you exceptional quality organic and sustainable skincare. She discusses her long journey to healing her skin, what she’s learned about skincare from ancient cultures, and the challenges of being 98% plastic free.
By Lina Konovalov
Lina: Hey Rosie! I understand that your journey towards creating herbal medicines was inspired by your own struggles with skin sensitivities. You travelled to different communities to learn about possible solutions. Can you talk a bit about the inner — and literal — journeys that led to Red Fox Botanicals?
Rosie: It’s been quite a journey. I started out having problem skin at an early age and was put on Accutane, a really strong acne medication. I had terrible side effects from it, and as soon as I stopped it would come back. When I was 18 I [started travelling], and lived in Corfu, a Greek island, where I saw the women using very simple ingredients for their skin. I started delving more into alternative measures. I then met my partner who was studying Chinese medicine, and after two weeks of herbs my acne just went away. It was amazing. After this journey, I started seeing results, and I never wanted another teen to go through what I had to go through. So, Red Fox Botanicals now is an accumulation of all that experience, from my Western medicine experience, to travelling and learning about ancient beauty practices. This is what I want to bring to the people here: simple skincare that even Cleopatra would have been proud of.
Lina: I also struggled with acne – still do – and also took prescription drugs for it. Those helped but I figured they were probably wrecking my body on the inside. Now I’m examining my life piece by piece, even my pillows, to see how it all plays a role in my skin. When I factor in the whole picture, it gets better.
Rosie Absolutely! Your skin tells a story, and is a reflection of what is going on on the inside. You can put the best skin care on your face, but if you aren’t eating well, sleeping well, not exercising, and your gut biome is not happy, then those creams won’t do a lot.
Lina: Do you still practice as a nurse? How has your experience in nursing impacted your approach to health?
Rosie: I’m a non-practicing nurse right now, because I wanted to be a full-time mom. I was working as an RN in different areas and learned a lot about that system. I’ve also on top of that learned a lot about ayurveda and Chinese medicine and the ancient medical systems. For me, I align more with those. I know there is a place for Western medicine and I’m happy I have that background, so when people talk to me and give me their medical diagnoses like acne, psoriasis, rosacea, I can really talk to them about what that means. But in terms of using it now, I am definitely more aligned with natural healing modalities.
Lina: So coming back to Red Fox Botanicals, how would you describe your product line?
Rosie: Our motto is “if you can’t eat it, it shouldn’t go on your skin,” just as Cleopatra would have done with her milk baths and her honey. For me, the closer to nature, the better. It’s the purest ingredients, and I have researched them for years. Doing my Masters in Science and Nursing taught me to be a very discerning researcher. It’s made with love, and the intention to really help heal, protect, and nourish the skin.
Lina: Are there any specific ailments or conditions you aim to target with your products?
Rosie: My passion is definitely acne and oily skin. I love being a detective when people come to me with their stories of eczema, psoriasis, etcetera. I call myself a bit of a mad scientist in that way. Anything to do with skin, our largest organ, I’m so passionate about.
Lina: It’s great that you are targeting things that really plague people and affect their mental health. You come from this unique understanding having suffered from it yourself. Another really unique thing about your company is that you have made a commitment to using sustainable practices. What are some of those practices, and what are some of the challenges you face when trying to operate a business from an ethics and sustainability perspective?
Rosie: It’s been a road of struggles. It took me a few years to even find the labels I’m using now that are on recycled craft. I’ve had people say, “Why can’t you use plastic? It will last longer!” And I say, “I’m sorry, I’m so proud to be 98% plastic free.” It’s tricky. I can’t please everyone, but it is really important to me that everything is biodegradable. Everything comes in glass or aluminum so that it’s recyclable. Even better, I always encourage people to send their bottles back and get a discount on their next product. When I started Red Fox Botanicals in 2016, I knew I didn’t want a company that was going to be bringing in more garbage and more problems for the earth. I’m very mindful of where everything comes from, and I try to source local as much as possible.
Lina: Speaking of your packaging, you have your label with the Red Fox, and I wanted to know, where does the name Red Fox come from?
Rosie: The name came to me ten years before starting the company. We had taken in a woman who had been living on the streets to give her a safe place and help her heal. She got cleaned up and had a beautiful year and then she ended up slipping back into her addiction. Eventually she died. It was so traumatic. After she passed, we had a ceremony to remember her. In my mind, I was like “How are you? Can you show yourself?”, and all of a sudden I had a red fox come to me. I laughed, because she was smart, clever, a little sneaky, and funny! I thought “Of course you’re a red fox on the other side.” We had a beautiful connection. She always loved the products I’d made, and I said that when I start my skincare company, I will dedicate it to you. So it’s very much dedicated to her and to the women who struggle. A part of that is for Red Fox to give back a portion of the proceeds to women living on the streets.
Lina: Thanks for sharing that. She definitely lives on with you through this product. You saw her inner beauty, and that’s what you’re calling in to deliver to those in need.
Rosie: Thank you for saying that. It reminds me that Red Fox Botanicals isn’t just about the skincare. It’s so important for me to help empower women to help see their own inner beauty. You have the inner beauty and the outer beauty – you can never have true beauty without them both.
Lina: Back to the lighter stuff – which product would you recommend for those new to the world of skin care?
Rosie: My lineage of skincare making is all about nourishing the skin, not drying it. A lot of the foaming cleansers strip your face of oils, and then you have to put all your oils back on. People are used to foam and feeling squeaky clean, but you actually don’t want that. I would say start with a cream cleanser and get used to having something feel different. It will still be so effective and still clean your skin. The one I make is a rose jojoba – anyone with the most sensitive skin could use it. Ideally, start with the Glow Bundle. That’s the cleanser, the rose geranium toner, and the moisturizer. Once you have natural skincare products, you can never go back to a drugstore brand.
Lina: I used those foaming gel cleansers, and recently switched over to oil cleansing. My skin feels much more relaxed and supple, not stripped and sterile. Skincare is super trendy right now, and I think it’s great that people are starting to pay attention to their self care and the quality of products that they’re buying. That said, what does the future have in store for Red Fox Botanicals?
Rosie: I’m excited because I have some products coming – I too have been working on an oil cleanser and perfecting the recipe. Also helping educate people to look at skincare in a new way. It’s ironic, because it’s not new. It’s ancient. I have workshops that talk about wisdom pieces for beautiful skin, everything from sleeping to exercise and eating. It’s also really important for me to empower women to make their own product, so you don’t have to rely on companies.
Lina: We would love to have you at the Sentinel soon to host those amazing workshops. Thanks so much for chatting with me, Rosie.
Red Fox Botanicals products will be available in the Sentinel store in 2021.