Hillary Peterson is one mom of three proving that beauty is more than skin deep. The entrepreneur has made it her mission to disrupt the beauty industry and bring safe and effective skincare products to women everywhere. After she was diagnosed with thyroid cancer, she took a closer look at her most beloved personal products only to realize that they all had one thing in common: their ingredients contained toxins. Understanding that what goes on your skin goes into your body, she threw herself into an eight year study of botanicals and their healing powers, consulting with the world’s leading green chemists and sustainability experts. Her ultimate goal being to formulate transformative skincare products that wouldn’t compromise peoples’ health or the environment.
Like all women trying to balance a demanding career with motherhood, Peterson admits that time can be a limited resource, ‘Trying to nurture a business and a family at the same time is incredibly challenging. So, I look at my responsibilities at home and figure out what I can outsource.”
We caught up with the founder of True Botanicals about her tips on everything from growing a mission based business to the benefits of deep breaths, all while moving a hundred miles a minute.
What was the impetus for starting True Botanicals? Was there something specific you felt was missing from the marketplace?
My thyroid cancer diagnosis in my early thirties really made me pause and take inventory of everything in my life and how it was impacting my wellness. It was during this period that I discovered the alarming amount of endocrine disruptors in most personal care products, including the ones in my own bathroom that I just assumed were safe. I knew that I—and everyone else—deserved better. True Botanicals sprung from a desire to have products that were nontoxic and high-performing — a combination that was missing on the market—and a belief that you can and deserve to have both of those things.
Prior to launching True Botanicals, did you use many non-toxic products? Was that a priority for you?
Yes, I immediately made nontoxic products a priority after recovering from thyroid cancer.
How would you describe the True Botanicals customer?
First and foremost, our customers are looking for results. But they don’t want to compromise health in order to get them.
What do you feel differentiates your line from others?
That the products truly work and that they pass the most stringent safety guidelines. We test our products in third party clinical trials to ensure that they do what we say they do. In addition, the line is certified by Made Safe®—it’s the only certification that we know of that looks at every single ingredient, and anything that might be in that ingredient, ensuring that it’s safe for you and the planet.
What are your goals for the brand?
To benefit our customers, the farmers who grow our ingredients, and the planet. And to prove to other companies that there is a real demand for mission-driven businesses that make great products, in hopes that they’ll follow suit. Being part of this movement is incredibly rewarding.
As a busy working mom, what is your best advice for other working moms trying to strike that balance between work and family? What is your biggest challenge?
Trying to nurture a business and a family at the same time is incredibly challenging. So, I look at my responsibilities at home and figure out what I can outsource. I learned that from my mom—to this day, I hear her asking me “what will make this easier on you?” I need to either get help or figure out what I can remove from my to-do list. It can often feel like everything has to be taken care of immediately—with an exclamation point!—but that’s very rarely true.
What do you do to carve out time for yourself? Meditation / Exercise / Nights out with girlfriends, etc?
For me, I stay grounded with little moments. One day, that might just be taking my morning coffee by our window seat, another day it could be meditating at sunset. I also try and move my body in some way every day—when I have less time, as is the case right now, I go for a neighborhood run or simply walk to work. The ultimate, though, is when I can take a long hike or a bike ride with my husband.
What is your beauty routine? How long does it take you to get ready in the morning?
I’m pretty fast in the morning! My routine is, unsurprisingly, very skincare-focused. I wash my face with just water and spritz on the Renew Nutrient Mist. Then, I apply our Clear Pure Radiance Oil—putting it on while skin is still wet from the mist helps it sink in. I finish with a generous application of the Sheer Coverage SPF 20; it has just enough of a tint to even out my complexion without making it look like I’ve got on a bunch of foundation. If it’s a makeup kind of day, then I’ll do Well People blush and mascara, RMS Beauty Living Luminizer along my cheekbones, and a swipe of Ilia Lip Conditioner in Arabian Nights.
With less time to get ready in the morning, what is your go-to look in order to look chic and put together for a full day and possible evening events?
I generally wear jeans but pair them with shoes, a top, and a sweater or jacket that manage to dress them up so the outfit is more versatile.
What are your wardrobe essentials? Do you have a daily uniform?
I keep it very simple, as described above. I often top it off with either a cozy sweater or suede jacket.
What is the most valuable thing motherhood has taught you?
That I do not need have to have all of the answers. And that love is really all that matters.
What has been the most surprising thing about becoming a mother?
How much my kids have taught me. My childhood left me with the perception that your parents are the teachers and in my experience, my kids have been the most amazing teachers.
What are your 5 must-haves?
How would you describe your personal style?
Classic, simple, comfortable. I just got rid of every pair of shoes that I had that were not comfortable.
What was it like starting / running a newer business with children?
It has been so fun to have them be a part of it from the start. They were all in school by the time I started working full time again so we all worked together in the evenings- them on homework and me catching up on email. It has been a lot of fun and they are all very supportive.
What have been the biggest milestones / challenges of building a brand?
Hiring the right team to help scale our brand has been critical and it takes a lot of time and effort to get that right. We work with an amazing group of talented people who feel passionate about our mission so all of that effort is really paying off.
Olivia Wilde, Chief Brand Activist at True Botanicals
As a business owner, how did pregnancy affect you? Did you take a maternity leave?
I had terrible morning sickness when I was pregnant with twins and working at Levi’s. It is amazing to me what women endure at times like that. I literally got sick in a trash can on the side of a stage and then made a presentation to 500 people. Overall, I think the distraction of work was a great thing. I was not working during my second pregnancy, but I was home taking care of twins. I am not sure what was easier. Either way, the first trimester was tough on me and I am not sure that it really mattered where I was.
If any, what changes did you make to your work hours/life in order to create more time with your kids?
When my kids were younger, I was able to work when they were at school and then I would pick them up from school. I really loved being able to do that. As they got older things ramped up at work and now I am working full, full-time. I really appreciate that I was able to have flexibility when they were younger. That was one of the reasons that I wanted to have my own business.
What has been the biggest change to your professional life since welcoming your kids?
Until I had kids, I did not realize that it was such a luxury to work whenever I wanted. Since the day that the first two arrived, I have needed to prioritize what matters most each day so that I do not expect more than what is possible from myself.
As a mom, which age do you think has been most challenging in terms of finding enough time & energy to balance everything? i.e. Newborn, toddler, teens, etc.
I took time off when I had young children because I really wanted to have that time with them. As they got older, it became a lot easier easier to work more hours. I have been lucky to work in the town where my kids go to school because in high school, it was nice to be around.
Did many of your friends have kids at the same time and if not, how did you find a community for support, activities, etc?
I met an amazing group through mutual friends who were all having kids at the same time and we are all still dear friends. Raising kids together has been such a bonding experience.
What does your typical day look like? Schedule-wise.
I’m up at 6am and then I exercise and have breakfast before I head off for work for the day. When I get home, I cook dinner and eat with my family, soak in a Dead Sea salt bath, and read about a paragraph in my book of the moment before I fall asleep. It takes a long time for me to get through a book these days!
What if any noticeable changes did you find from switching to non-toxic products?
I have actually never had products work for me in the way that True Botanicals products do. So I would say that the biggest change is that my skin has never looked better and I am glad that toxins are not required for healthy skin.
How do you balance your time between work, your kids and nurturing yourself?
I think that with my personality, work and my kids are not the issue because they always come first for me. Over the past few years, I have been working on taking equally good care of myself because it is so important.
What are some of your specific gadgets, organizational tools or aids that help maintain a stress-free work/family balance?
Prioritizing is the single most important thing that helps me keep it together and be present, whether that be in a meeting at work or spending time at home, cooking a meal with one of my children. That, plus deep breaths. When in doubt: just breathe.
To what do you attribute your strong work ethic? What do you hope your children learn from watching you work & run your business?
I come from a family of entrepreneurial immigrants—I think I couldn’t help but pick up on and mirror their drive and determination. I hope that my kids learn from me exactly what I learned from my parents and grandparents: anything is possible.